KARAT Members

Mohammad Al-bataineh, DVM, MS, PhD

Division/Institute: Renal-Electrolyte
Mentor: Tom Kleyman, MD
Career Development Award:  NIDDK K01

Research

Dr. Al-bataineh is a DVM-PhD scientist, who studies epithelial transport physiology and kidney pathophysiology. His research studies the mechanism of metabolic regulation of cellular, organ and body homeostasis through cell surface expression of epithelial membrane transporters. Presently, Dr. Al-bataineh is interested in understanding the acute and chronic effects of the cell surface sensor Mucin 1 (MUC1) during metabolic stress conditions, such as ischemia-reperfusion injury (IRI) and acid-base disorders. In his training and research projects, Dr. Al-bataineh has employed both animal and cell culture model systems and developed expertise in renal physiology, and kidney histology, microscopy, and pathophysiology. He has spearheaded several significant research projects resulting in publications in high-impact journals such as Nature Chemical Biology, Journal of Proteome Research, and American Journal of Physiology. Dr. Al-bataineh has been PI on two NIH grants (NRSA, and K01), and one pharmaceutical fellowship award (SANOFI). He has received several awards from national societies, including the Epithelial Transport Group of the American Physiological Society (APS), and the Steve Hebert Award Session of the Experimental Biology (EB). Beyond his research success, Dr. Al-bataineh has been fortunate to obtain a wide-range of teaching experiences. He has had the opportunity to teach a variety of courses (with Labs) including Human Physiology, Animal Physiology, and Pharmacology. Moreover, he has supervised a post-doctoral scholar in addition to many students and research Lab technicians. Dr. Al-bataineh also serves as a reviewer in different Journals and currently he serves in the editorial board of the Frontiers Journal in Renal and Epithelial Physiology.

William Bain, MD

Division/Institute: Pulmonary, Allergy and CCM
Mentor: Janet Lee, MD / Jessica Bon Field, MD, MS
Career Development Award:  VA Mentored Research Scientist Development Award

 

Research

Dr. Bain’s research goal is to improve understanding of how the lung interacts with and employs cellular and humoral elements of innate immunity to combat pathogens and manage injury. He is currently focused upon two research questions. First, how do platelets and platelet factors attenuate lung injury during pathogen-mediated lung injury with particular attention to the role of platelet released factors in providing protection to alveolar epithelium? Second, what are mechanisms by which alternative complement pathway function supports host defense and patient survival during critical illness with acute respiratory failure?

Ian Barbash, MD, MS

Division/Institute: Pulmonary, Allergy and CCM
Mentor:
Jeremy Kahn, MD, MS
Career Development Award:  AHRQ K08

 

Research

Dr. Barbash is a health services researcher focused on the intersection of health policy and critical care delivery and outcomes; in this work he uses large datasets derived from administrative claims and electronic health records. His K08, funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, examines the effect of Medicare’s SEP-1 sepsis bundle reporting policy on sepsis treatment and outcomes. He is also involved in clinical administrative and quality improvement activities in the UPMC Health System, which both inform and are informed by his health services research.

Mehret Birru-Talabi, MD, PhD

Division/Institute: Rheumatology
Mentor:
Sonya Borrero, MD, MS
Career Development Award:  NIAMS K23

 

Research

Mehret Birru Talabi, MD PhD is a physician investigator in rheumatology and clinical immunology. She is a graduate of Kenyon College, and received her MD, PhD in Epidemiology, and internal medicine and rheumatology subspecialty training at the University of Pittsburgh and at UPMC. Her research focuses on the intersection of rheumatology and women’s health, with a specific interest in enhancing reproductive outcomes among people with rheumatic diseases. She is an Assistant Dean and Co-Director of the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) in the School of Medicine and is the associate program director of the UPMC rheumatology fellowship. 

Cary Boyd-Shiwarski, MD, PhD

Division/Institute: Renal-Electrolyte
Mentors: Arohan Subramanya, MD / Tom Kleyman, MD
Career Development Award:  NIDDK K08

 

Research

As a physician-scientist, Dr. Boyd-Shiwarski’s research focuses on the role of dietary potassium in hypertension and chronic kidney disease. Deficiencies in dietary potassium are known to increase blood pressure and increase the progression of chronic kidney disease (CKD). Unfortunately, there are large gaps in scientific knowledge regarding how and why potassium deficiency leads to hypertension and CKD. This project focuses on the effect of potassium depletion at the molecular level, studying potassium sensing and handling by the kidney. Her laboratory has identified a complex of WNK (with-no-lysine) kinases that form signaling microdomains in the kidney during potassium depletion and refers to these complexes as “WNK bodies”. In recent years, there has been a growing appreciation that the cytosol can demix into distinct microdomains, to concentrate and control biological processes. Thus, the WNK bodies appear to represent a new type of “biomolecular condensate” that concentrates WNK-dependent signaling processes in the kidney in response to potassium depletion. The formation of the WNK body microdomain is dependent upon the expression of kidney-specific WNK1 (KS-WNK1). By studying mice that are unable to form WNK body complexes (KS-WNK1-/- mice), she is beginning to understand the role of WNK bodies during potassium disequilibrium.

Andrea Braganza Jardini, PhD

Division/Institute: Vascular Medicine Institute
Mentor:
Sruti Shiva, PhD
Career Development Award:  NHLBI K99/R00

Research

Dr. Braganza-Jardini’s research seeks to understand the role of the mitochondria and the ubiquitin-proteasome system (UPS) of platelets in aging. Andrea hypothesizes that aging induces changes in the expression of a key mitochondrial protein, mitofusin-1 (MFN1) than in turn produces increased mitochondrial reactive oxygen species (mtROS) and modulates the function of the UPS to enhance platelet activation and lead to an increased risk of thrombosis. In addition to studying the changes in these pathways in platelets from young and old human subjects, she has created a novel MFN1-/- platelet-specific mouse model from which she will isolate platelets and modulate their function to determine how loss of MFN1 directly affects platelet activation and aggregation. Andrea hopes that the results from these studies can be translationally used to treat and prevent age-related thrombosis.

Hailey Bulls, PhD

Division/Institute: General Internal Medicine
Mentors:
Yael Schenker, MD, MAS / Jessica Merlin, MD, PhD, MBA
Career Development Award:  Pitt CTSI KL2

Research

Hailey W. Bulls, PhD, joined the Section of Palliative Care & Medical Ethics as Assistant Professor in 2019. She completed her PhD in Medical/Clinical Psychology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, with a pre-doctoral internship at the James A. Haley VA and an R25-funded postdoctoral fellowship in Behavioral Oncology at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, FL. Broadly, Dr. Bulls’ current research focuses on 1) mitigating the impact of opioid stigma on cancer patients with pain; 2) early identification cancer patients at risk for pain and neuropathy; and 3) novel behavioral interventions to better manage pain. She was recently selected for the Clinical and Translational Science Scholars Program (KL2) in support of this research. Dr. Bulls also evaluates experimental models of pain sensitivity and modulation using actigraphy and quantitative sensory testing. In the clinic, Dr. Bulls specializes in cognitive-behavioral interventions for acute and chronic pain. Dr. Bulls is an active #AcademicTwitter user: follow her at @hwbulls. Outside of the office, she enjoys exploring her new city, traveling, kickboxing, eating soup dumplings, solving crossword puzzles, and cheering on the Florida Gators.

Lan Coffman, MD, PhD

Division/Institute: Hematology/Oncology
Mentor: Ronald J. Buckanovich, MD, PhD
Career Development Award:  NCI K08
Research

My research focuses on understanding and targeting the cancer supporting stromal tissues which are critical to the survival, growth and spread of ovarian cancer. Specifically, my lab studies a critical non-malignant component of the ovarian cancer microenvironment, the carcinoma-associated mesenchymal stem cell (CA-MSC). CA-MSCs are stromal progenitor cells which significantly increase cancer growth, enrich the cancer stem cell pool and increase chemotherapy resistance.
My lab studies how CA-MSCs are formed and develop tumor supporting properties. My lab also focuses on identifying important tumor cell:CA-MSC interactions which mediate CA-MSC’s pro-tumorigenic functions and have potential for translation into new therapeutic targets. Additionally, we study how CA-MSCs impact the development of ovarian cancer metastasis and the metastatic microenvironment.
The ultimate goal of my research is to translate novel laboratory findings into powerful therapeutic approaches for the prevention and treatment of ovarian cancer.

Paola Corti, PhD

Division/Institute: Vascular Medicine Institute
Mentor: Mark Gladwin, MD
Career Development Award:  AHA CDA

 

Research
Dr. Corti’s research interests focus on the function of cellular globins in vivo. Her group is working on defining the role of globins in zebrafish during embryonic development and heart regeneration. The recent discovery of an increasing number of heme proteins in vertebrates belonging to the globin family has opened a new research field aimed to understand their role and characterize their functions. These proteins are highly conserved and expressed in diverse organisms. In analogy with hemoglobin and myoglobin they can bind oxygen and other gaseous ligands but their physiological role in vivo is still unknown. Dr. Corti’s research indicates that these proteins can have many functions independent of oxygen transport and delivery, including the regulation of nitric oxide levels and adaptive responses to tissue injury. In her research, Dr. Corti combines heme protein and nitric oxide biology with the genetic engineering of zebrafish to study heme proteins function.

Matthew Culyba, MD, PhD

Division/Institute: Infectious Diseases
Mentor: Neil Clancy, MD
Career Development Award:  NIAID K08

 

Research
The Culyba Lab fuses molecular and biochemical methodologies with experimental microbial evolution to study mutational phenomena and bacterial adaptation. Mutation and gene transfer events are the source of heritable variation for evolution. These genome diversifying processes can range from being relatively site-specific in the genome to being nearly random. Furthermore, beyond the mutations themselves, the DNA damage and DNA repair events associated with mutagenesis can also be deleterious to the host and are subject to multiple levels of active regulation by cells. Understanding how microorganisms respond to their environments and control the rate and specificity of mutagenesis is the focus of the laboratory. Ongoing studies are aimed at elucidating the (i) molecular mechanisms which regulate mutational phenomena in bacteria during transitions to new environments, (ii) molecular specificity determinants of enzymes involved in mutational phenomena, and (iii) new methods for tracking and detecting mutations in populations of cells. Research projects in the lab are designed to inform a variety of pressing scientific challenges, including combating the crisis of antimicrobial resistance and building a comprehensive model of molecular evolution.

Marianela G. Dalghi, PhD

Division/Institute: Renal-Electrolyte
Mentor: Gerard Apodaca, PhD
Career Development Award:  Pittsburgh Center for Kidney Research P30

Research

Sensing and adapting to changes in the physical environment is vital for the integrity and function of cells, tissues and organs. My research focuses on understanding how the urinary bladder, and in particular the urothelium, senses the degree of tension in the bladder wall and communicates the filling state to underlying tissues and nerves. Despite the importance of proper mechanosensation for normal bladder function, there is little understanding of the urothelial mechanosensor(s) that initiate the mechanotransduction pathway(s). At the moment, I am exploring the role of mechanosensitive PIEZO and TMEM63 ion channels as bona fide urothelial mechanosensors, for which I use a wide range of techniques including conditional knockout mice. These allow us to assess the role of these channels at the cellular, tissue and organ levels as well as the impact on the voluntary voiding behavior of the animals.

Yvonne Eisele, PhD

Division/Institute: Cardiology/Aging Institute
Mentor:  external
Career Development Award:  NIA K99/R00

 

Research

Dr. Eisele’s research focuses on age-related protein misfolding disorders like Alzheimer’s disease and transthyretin-related amyloidoses. In these diseases, the misfolding of specific proteins on one hand leads to the loss of the normal function of these proteins, but on the other hands also to aberrant interactions of the misfolded proteins with normal cellular function, which ultimately leads to the degeneration of affected tissue. Therefore, Dr. Eisele investigates what factors favor protein misfolding, how exactly the misfolding occurs and what cytotoxic consequences arise from it. A particular focus is on so-called oligomers, i.e. smaller protein aggregates that are presumably particularly cytotoxic when formed. Ongoing projects focus on cardiac transthyretin-related amyloidosis, transthyretin-related cerebral amyloid angiopathy and delineating cytotoxic consequences of Abeta oligomers in the context of Alzheimer’s disease.

Utibe R. Essien, MD, MPH

Division/Institute: General Internal Medicine
Mentor: Michael Fine, MD, MSc
Career Development Award:  VA Mentored Research Scientist Development Award

Research
Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a common cardiac arrhythmia, affecting up to 1 million Veterans. AF increases the risk of stroke by 5-fold and is associated with higher rates of death. Oral anticoagulation reduces the risk of stroke in AF by 70%, yet such therapy is underutilized. Further, racial and ethnic disparities in anticoagulation for AF exist, despite a 2-fold higher risk of stroke among racial and ethnic minorities with this condition. This CDA will quantitatively assess the multilevel determinants of these disparities, qualitatively identify barriers to and facilitators of equitable anticoagulation for AF and use these findings to develop and pilot test implementation strategies to eliminate these disparities. Findings from our research will set the stage for a hybrid type 3 trial to broadly test the effectiveness of the pilot-tested implementation strategies on equitable anticoagulant initiation in Veterans with AF. Dr. Utibe Essien is a general internist and Core Investigator in the VA Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion and an Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh. The short-term goal of this CDA is to gain training and research experience in understanding and implementing strategies to reduce treatment disparities in Veterans with AF. This CDA will support his long-term goal of becoming an independent health services investigator focused on developing implementation strategies to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in the use of evidence-based medical therapies for patients with chronic cardiovascular diseases.

John Evankovich III, MD

Division/Institute: Pulmonary, Allergy and CCM
Mentor: Bill Chen, PhD
Career Development Award:  NHLBI K08

 

Research

Dr. Evankovich studies the molecular biology of lung injury. His laboratory is interested in the intersection of three molecular systems in the innate immune system, and how they influence inflammation and cell death pathways in the lung. The molecular systems are Damage Associated Molecular Patterns (DAMPs), DAMP Receptors, and the Ubiquitin/Proteasome System (UPS).

Dr. Evankovich’s prior work has identified how several novel DAMP/DAMP receptor pairs are processed for disposal in the UPS, and how this process can be manipulated to change subsequent cellular responses. For damaging responses, increasing targeted DAMP receptor disposal through the UPS could lessen organ damage; likewise, for protective DAMP/DAMP receptor pairs, reducing disposal in the UPS could be therapeutic to reduce injury.

Teaming with the Small Molecule Therapeutics Center, Dr. Evankovich’s future work aims to discover novel small molecules to disrupt these pathways and test in preclinical models of lung injury. He is also an Associate Member of the Aging Institute, where he focuses on the contribution of aging to innate immune responses in the lung.

Ning Feng, MD, PhD

Division/Institute: Cardiology/Vascular Medicine Institute
Mentors: Iain Scott, PhD / Toren Finkel, MD, PhD
Career Development Award:  NHLBI K08

 

Marc Gauthier, MD

Division/Institute: Pulmonary, Allergy and CCM
Mentors: Anuradha Ray, PhD / Sally Wenzel, MD
Career Development Award:  Parker B. Francis Foundation

 

Aditi Gurkar, PhD

Division/Institute: Geriatric Medicine/Aging Institute
Mentor: external
Career Development Award:  NIA K99/R00

 

Research

Our lab is interested in understanding how DNA damage and cellular senescence influence biological aging. We particularly focus on mechanisms by which DNA damage rewires metabolism to promote onset of age-related pathologies in post-mitotic tissues. The goal of my R00 project is to test the hypothesis that genotoxic stress in the nucleus triggers signaling events that result in accumulation of dysfunctional mitochondria, which in turn drives cellular senescence and aging. Find updates on our science @ agresearchlab.com and follow us @healthspan_AUG

Ghady Haidar, MD

Division/Institute: Infectious Diseases
Mentors: Neil Clancy, MD / Alison Morris, MD, MS
Career Development Award:  NIAID K23

 

Research

My research interest lies in infectious complications among immunocompromised hosts, primarily organ transplant recipients and patients with hematological malignancies. My K23 award focuses on the changes in the gut microbiome among lung or liver transplant recipients as they develop colonization or infection with multidrug-resistant organisms. My hope is to use this knowledge to conduct clinical trials of novel therapies such as fecal microbiota transplant or bacteriophages to treat drug-resistant organisms in these patients. I also have an interest in COVID-19 in this patient population, particularly oncology patients who are at risk for protracted SARS-CoV-2 replication and intra-host viral evolution.

Amber Johnson, MD, MBA

Division/Institute: Cardiology
Mentor: Jared Magnani, MD, MSc
Career Development Award:  NHLBI R33 (supplement)

 

Research
Dr Johnson’s research is at the interface of health equity, social determinants of health, and mobile health technology. She has used qualitative and survey methodology in her prior research to evaluate race and gender disparities in defibrillator utilization. As a K12 scholar, she conducted a pilot randomized control trial of a mobile health program for patients with heart failure. She is currently investigating culturally sensitive, community-based interventions for patients at risk for developing cardiovascular disease.

Charles Jonassaint, PhD, MHS

Division/Institute: General Internal Medicine
Mentors:
Career Development Award:  NHLBI K23

Georgios Kitsios, MD, PhD

Division/Institute: Pulmonary, Allergy and CCM
Mentors: Alison Morris, MD, MS / Bryan McVerry, MD
Career Development Award:  NHLBI K23

 

Research
My translational research focuses on the development of microbial DNA sequencing-based diagnostics for pneumonia and sepsis in the intensive care unit, to improve upon major deficiencies in sensitivity and timeliness of the current culture-dependent diagnostic paradigm. My work further examines the ability to define ARDS subphenotypes from lung microbiome profiles and host innate immune response to explain the clinical heterogeneity of the syndrome and allow for better targeting of interventions. I am also interested in the impact of the gut microbiome on critical illness outcomes and the use of microbial replacement therapies with fecal transplant for the eradication of multidrug-resistant organisms in chronically critically-ill patients.

Corrine Kliment, MD, PhD

Division/Institute: Pulmonary, Allergy and CCM
Mentor: Steven Shapiro, MD
Career Development Award:  NHLBI K08

 

Research

Dr. Kliment’s laboratory is interested in identifying new molecular pathways connecting mitochondrial dysfunction with epithelial and innate immune cell function in the pathogenesis of chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD) and pulmonary fibrosis to improve therapeutic options for patients. Our lab specifically studies the role of adenine nucleotide translocase (a canonical mitochondrial ADP/ATP transporter) in the airway and alveolar epithelium of the lung in the context of cigarette smoking-related lung disease and lung fibrosis. We want to better understand how, in health and disease, ANT regulates epithelial function through mitochondrial metabolism and cellular senescence. We have also found that ANT plays a role in airway epithelial homeostasis through surface hydration and the action of tiny motile cilia in the airway. We utilize a repertoire of relevant murine models of injury, molecular genetic approaches, in vitro biochemical assays, and human bio-samples to examine mitochondrial and cell homeostasis in the lung.

Carissa Low, PhD

Division/Institute: Hematology/Oncology
Mentor: John Jakcic, PhD
Career Development Award:  NCI K07
Research
Carissa A. Low, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Medicine, Psychology, and Biomedical Informatics and Director of the Mobile Sensing and Health Institute at the University of Pittsburgh (www.moshi.pitt.edu) and Adjunct Faculty in the Human-Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. Her research focuses on leveraging mobile technology for remote patient monitoring as well as delivery and personalization of behavioral interventions during and after cancer treatment. Her NCI Career Development Award aimed to design and test a just-in-time smartwatch intervention to reduce sedentary behavior before and after cancer surgery. Other work is aimed at using mobile sensors for real-time detection of severe symptoms or other significant health changes during chemotherapy, for self-management of fatigue and other treatment side effects, and to support family caregivers.

Ruya Liu, MD, PhD

Division/Institute: Endocrinology and Metabolism
Mentors: Toren Finkel, MD, PhD / Vijay Yechoor, MD
Career Development Award:  AHA CDA

 

Research

My research has focused on the molecular modulation of cardiomyocyte homeostasis and cardiac metabolism. My postgraduate research has been investigating the function of Tead1, a downstream effector of Hippo pathway, where I have identified the imperative roles of Tead1 in the maintenance of normal adult heart contractility. This effort utilized a cardiac-specific inducible Tead1 knock-out allele and demonstrated Tead1’s critical function in sarcoplasmic reticulum Calcium homeostasis (Liu et al., JCI Insight, 2017). In line with the crucial role of Hippo pathway in proliferation, I also demonstrated the requirement of Tead1 in modulating perinatal cardiomyocyte replication (Liu et al., PLos One, 2019). Subsequently, I discovered that mitochondrial dysfunction also underlies an important aspect regulated by Tead1 in the pathogenesis of cardiomyopathy (Liu et al., Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physio, 2020). By extension, my mechanistic studies of Tead1 and its regulation of mitochondrial quality control processes were funded by the American Heart Association’s Career Development Award in 2019 for a three-year period titled “Tead1 as a Novel Regulator of Mitochondrial Function in Cardiomyocytes”.

I started to build my own research team and establish my independent scientific career by exploring regulatory factors of Hippo pathway signaling and interactive factors of Tead1, which led to the discovery of a novel factor—C5x (unpublished). Using conditional C5x cardiomyocyte specific knockout mouse models, my team identified the surprisingly critical functionality of C5x as a modulator of cardiomyocyte turnover and heart size. Given my interests in cardiomyocyte cell cycle progression, hypertrophy, and regeneration, I hope to establish an independent research program based on studies of this novel factor and to explore its therapeutic potential in heart disease.

Jing Luo, MD, MPH

Division/Institute: General Internal Medicine
Mentor: Walid Gellad, MD, MPH
Career Development Award:  Pitt KL2 / NIDDK K23

 

Research

Dr. Luo’s research focuses on increasing patient access to affordable prescription drugs for patients with chronic diseases, such as diabetes mellitus. His NIDDK K23 Award seeks to determine the effect of cost-related medication restrictions on medication selection and adherence for patients with type 2 diabetes, using both qualitative and quantitative research methods (e.g. Optum). It will also develop a provider-facing educational outreach intervention to help improve evidence-based use of newer glucose lowering medications. Prior to starting his K23, he was supported by Pitt’s Clinical and Translational Science Scholar (KL2) program.

Nicolas Montalbetti

Division/Institute: Renal-Electrolyte
Mentors: Gerard Apodaca, PhD / Marcelo Carattino, PhD
Career Development Award:  Research Scholar Award / Urology Care Foundation
Research

My research focuses on how the interface between epithelium and sensory neurons regulates bladder homeostasis and activity, and how changes in the properties of these cells can result in organ malfunction. In particular, I am very interested in studying how bacterial infection of the bladder can affect urothelial homeostasis and permeability, and afferent sensory signaling. There is limited knowledge of the molecular mechanisms that drive voiding symptoms and pain in several pathologies that affect the lower urinary tract system. My overall plan is to use a combination of physiological, biochemical, pharmacological and molecular biology techniques to fill this knowledge gap.

Andrey Parkhitko, PhD

Division/Institute: Endocrinology/Aging Institute
Mentor: external
Career Development Award:  NIA K99/R00

 

Research
The main area of my research is to contribute to understanding the metabolic mechanisms of aging and age-related diseases. The goal is to understand basic mechanisms of age-dependent metabolic reprogramming and to translate these insights into a mammalian system and ultimately into humans. To achieve this goal, my lab primarily uses Drosophila as a model system because it offers exceptional genetic tools, has a relatively short lifespan, and includes established models for age-dependent diseases. We previously identified new regulators in the methionine metabolism pathway and the tyrosine degradation pathway as important regulators of health- and lifespan. Methionine and tyrosine metabolism pathways can be both targeted with FDA-approved drugs or drugs that are under current investigation for human application. This creates a strong rationale for translating these treatments to mammalian systems as anti-aging interventions or for the potential treatment of various age-related diseases. My lab is currently testing whether targeting methionine or tyrosine metabolism can delay different age-dependent manifestations in aged mice.

Tirthadipa Pradhan-Sundd, PhD

Division/Institute: Hematology/Oncology
Mentors: Mark Gladwin, MD
Career Development Award:  NIDDK K01

 

Research
Dr. Pradhan-Sundd’s research focuses on understanding the molecular mechanism of sickle cell hepatopathy. Hepatobiliary damage affects 10-40% of hospitalized sickle cell disease (SCD) patients, which is characterized by liver injury and cholestasis that can progress to fatal liver failure. The current treatment for hepatic crisis in SCD is primarily supportive, and the molecular mechanism is largely unknown. Her K01 award aims to understand the role of novel inflammatory and nuclear receptor signaling pathways that may serve as useful therapeutic targets for the future treatment of Sickle cell hepatobiliary injury.

Chethan Puttarajappa, MD

Division/Institute: Renal-Electrolyte
Mentors: Kenneth Smith, MD, MS / Sundaram Hariharan, MD
Career Development Award:  NIDDK K08

 

Research

Dr. Puttarajappa’s research is focused on evaluating the role of virtual HLA crossmatch for deceased donor kidney transplantation(DDKT). Several logistical issues complicate kidney allocation and organ placement, thereby increasing ischemia times and risk of organ discards. Dr. Puttarajappa is investigating the potential benefits of omitting a cell-based (physical) HLA crossmatch and proceeding to transplant surgery with just the result of a virtual HLA crossmatch. He is using a combination of transplant registry analysis, survey methodology and decision analysis to evaluate the impact of virtual HLA crossmatch on cold ischemia time and transplant outcomes, variation in practice across US transplant centers and the risks and benefits of using a virtual crossmatch strategy over a cell-based HLA crossmatch strategy. His other research interests include application of decision and cost-effectiveness analyses to transplantation and evaluating methods to reduce detrimental impact of modifiable post-transplant events such as late-onset CMV infection and immunosuppression non-adherence.

Thomas Radomski, MD, MS

Division/Institute: General Internal Medicine
Mentor: Walid Gellad, MD, MPH
Career Development Award:  NIA K23

 

Research

Dr. Radomski is an Assistant Professor of Medicine and Clinical & Translational Science within the Division of General Internal Medicine and Center for Pharmaceutical Policy & Prescribing. He is also affiliated with the Pittsburgh VA Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion as a Research Health Scientist. As a practicing general internist and health services researcher, Dr. Radomski’s research focuses on practical and scalable solutions to accurately measure and reduce the delivery of low-value care and how the receipt of care across multiple healthcare systems influences health service utilization, outcomes, and value. He is supported by a K23 Career Development Award from the National Institute on Aging and is also leading a major VA study to evaluate the use and cost of low-value health services by Veterans in VA and non-VA care settings. His research has been published in journals such as JAMA, the Annals of Internal Medicine, and the Journal of the American Geriatric Society. He also serves as the Director of Academic Programs in Clinical Research for the Institute for Clinical Research Education.

Evan Ray, MD, PhD

Division/Institute: Renal-Electrolyte
Mentor: Tom Kleyman, MD
Career Development Award:  NIDDK K08

 

Research

Our laboratory studies electrolyte balance in the body, including sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and acid/base. We are exploring the influence of these electrolytes on body fluid, blood pressure, bone health and immune function.

Keven Robinson, MD

Division/Institute: Pulmonary, Allergy and CCM
Mentor: John Alcorn, PhD
Career Development Award:  NHLBI K08

 

Research

Dr. Robinson’s research examines how influenza infection alters the host immune response and increases susceptibility to secondary bacterial and fungal infections in the lung. Specifically, influenza infection results in decreased production of the IL-1 family of cytokines in response to secondary staphylococcal pneumonia, affecting innate immune cell recruitment to the lung. She is actively investigating the mechanisms of decreased neutrophil recruitment to the lung during both post-influenza staphylococcal pneumonia and post-influenza invasive pulmonary aspergillosis.

Shari Rogal, MD, MPH

Division/Institute: Gastroenterology
Mentor: Kevin Kraemer, MD, MSc
Career Development Award:  NIDA K23

 

Research

Dr. Rogal is a gastroenterologist, transplant hepatologist, and implementation scientist. Her K23 work focuses on using Intervention Mapping to develop a patient-centered approach to pain self-management for people with cirrhosis. She also conducts national, mixed methods implementation work in the VA, developing novel methods for measuring and delivering data-driven combinations of implementation strategies to improve the quality and equity of healthcare. She serves as the co-developer and co-Director of the Pitt Dissemination and Implementation Science Collaborative (DISC), co-Director of the VA Implementation Core of the Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion and the Pitt CTSI’s IMPACT and Implementation Lab cores.

Jason Rose, MD, MBA

Division/Institute: Pulmonary, Allergy and CCM
Mentor: Mark Gladwin, MD
Career Development Award:  NHLBI K08

 

Research

Dr. Rose’s research interests focus on discovering and developing new human therapeutics. His group is working to identify and develop a novel carbon monoxide poisoning antidote. They are also characterizing the mechanisms of severe CO poisoning from a molecular basis and in novel animal models. Dr. Rose’s research focuses on studying the mitochondrial effects of carbon monoxide and our ability to reverse the toxicity of carbon monoxide in vitro. He also is interested in the clinical and pathological effects of other inhalational lung injuries, such as vaping (e-cigarette, or vaping product-use acute lung injury – EVALI) and halogen gas exposure. He is interested in the drug development process, including nonclinical toxicology, pharmacodynamic and pharmacokinetic assessment, drug manufacturing and clinical study design. Dr Rose also focuses on academic commercialization and innovation. Together with Drs Mark Gladwin and Jesus Tejero, he co-founded Globin Solutions Inc. (https://www.globinsolutions.com). He is co-inventor on eight patents and patent applications.

Jami Saloman, PhD

Division/Institute: Gastroenterology
Mentors: Dhiraj Yadav, MD, MPH / Brian Davis,PhD
Career Development Award:  NIDDK K01

Research

Dr. Saloman is a basic and translational researcher with diverse research focuses on the intersection between the peripheral nervous system and organ function, including under normal and pathological conditions such as pancreatitis, cancer, and chronic pain. Her K-related research is a two-pronged approach aimed at dissecting the underlying mechanisms contributing to the diverse pain patterns associated with chronic pancreatitis. She is utilizing patient recorded outcomes and biochemical analysis of serum in combination with her novel optogenetic animal model. The goal of these studies is to parse out signaling pathways that can be targeted for novel approaches to pain management. More information about her research can be found at salomanlab.pitt.edu.

Anita Saraf, MD, PhD

Division/Institute: Cardiology
Mentors: Toren Finkel MD, PhD and Bernhard Kuhn, MD
Career Development Award:  AHA
Research
My clinical and research interests are in congenital heart disease (CHD). While new surgical interventions have dramatically extended the lives of children with congenital heart disease, adults with CHD can have a higher burden of arrhythmia and heart failure, causing morbidity and mortality. These long-term consequences are even more evident in patients with complex congenital heart disease such as patients with univentricular physiology or Fontan circulation. My previous studies have shown that patients with Fontan circulation have a chronic proinflammatory profile that may be increasing the burden of arrhythmia and heart failure. While it is well accepted that genetic mutations drive CHD pathology, it is becoming more evident that these mutations are complex and involve multiple environmental factors. The impact of these mutations in a post-developmental heart is unknown. My research investigates the interaction between inflammation and genetic mutations associated with CHD in causing arrhythmias and heart failure. My laboratory uses induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) in combination with CRISPR/Cas9 to generate cell lines with unique complex mutations in NOTCH1, a transmembrane receptor implicated in numerous types of CHD. Using patient derived iPSCs with NOTCH1 mutations in combination with genetically engineered iPSCs, I am interested in identifying external factors such as inflammation, that can increase the propensity of arrhythmogenic calcium transients and decreased contractility. My long term goal is to identify novel drugs and therapies that can mitigate such detrimental physiologic sequalae.

Leslie Scheunemann, MD, MPH

Division/Institute: Geriatric Medicine
Mentors: Natalie Leland, PhD / Chip Reynolds, MD
Career Development Award:  AHRQ K08

 

Research

An Assistant Professor with dual training in geriatrics and pulmonary/critical care medicine, Dr. Scheunemann has an AHRQ-funded K08 to develop and pilot test a stakeholder-driven, telehealth-delivered transitional care intervention for rural-dwelling critical illness survivors and their family caregivers. She will use implementation science methods to adapt successful interventions from other fields to the post-ICU context, focusing on transitional care, family support and training, and rehabilitation. The goal of this research is to optimize quality, affordability, and access to care for vulnerable populations of critical illness survivors.

Craig Seaman, MD, MS

Division/Institute: Hematology/Oncology
Mentor: Margaret Ragni, MD, MPH
Career Development Award:  NHLBI K23

 

Research

My research focuses on the role of aging and aging-related conditions in hereditary bleeding disorders, specifically von Willebrand disease and hemophilia. My K23 award explores the effect of aging on von Willebrand factor levels and bleeding phenotype in von Willebrand disease.

Faraaz Shah, MD, MPH

Division/Institute: Pulmonary, Allergy and CCM
Mentors: Christopher O’Donnell, PhD / Bryan McVerry, MD
Career Development Award:  NIGMS K23

 

Research
Faraaz Shah is a translational physician-scientist in the Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care Medicine. His primary research interests are in understanding mechanisms underlying sepsis pathogenesis with the goal of improving recovery from critical illness. During his K23, he conducted a bench-to-bedside investigation the effects of early nutrition support on inflammation and glycemic control in the acute phase of sepsis through preclinical sepsis studies and a pilot single center clinical trial (the Study of Early Enteral Dextrose in Sepsis [SEEDS], Clinical Trials registration number: NCT03454087) which recently completed enrollment. He is a co-investigator on a recently awarded NIH-funded study applying precision medicine approaches for the administration of glucocorticoids in sepsis. He has served as the principal investigator for two COVID-19 clinical trials at the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System where he attends on clinical service.

Mark Snyder, MD

Division/Institute: Pulmonary, Allergy and CCM
Mentors: Fadi Lakkis, MD / John McDyer, MD
Career Development Award:  NHLBI K23

 

Research
The primary focus of Dr. Snyder’s research is on the role of the adaptive immune system in the development of chronic rejection after lung transplantation. Chronic rejection is a progressive airway disease which remains a major limiting factor to long term survival following lung transplantation. Imbalances in the suppression of the adaptive immune system, leading to acute rejection or infection, have been implicated in the pathogenesis of chronic rejection.

Recently, Dr. Snyder identified that lung donor memory T cells, the predominant cell in the adaptive immune system, survive following transplantation and persist for weeks to months in the recipient. Furthermore, this survival of donor T cells is associated with improved short-term outcomes. Additionally, they found that lung allograft-infiltrating, recipient-derived T cells which migrate to the lungs following transplantation take up residency within the lung. His lab is focusing on determining the function and specificity of these tissue-resident memory T cells and if they are contributing to chronic rejection.

In addition to lung transplantation, the Snyder lab is actively investigating the role of tissue resident memory T cells on pulmonary fibrosis and chronic airway inflammation in human lungs.

Wei Sun, MD

Division/Institute: Cardiology/Vascular Medicine Institute
Mentors: Stephen Chan, MD, PhD
Career Development Award:  AHA CDA

Dharendra Thapa, PhD

Division/Institute: Vascular Medicine Institute
Mentors: Iain Scott, PhD / Toren Finkel, MD, PhD
Career Development Award:  NHLBI K99/R00

 

Research

My research focuses on understanding the role of lysine acetylation, a reversible post-translational modification, in regulating cardiac mitochondrial protein functions. In particular, I seek to investigate the role played by a recently discovered mitochondrial acetyltransferase protein GCN5L1, which promotes lysine acetylation. The focus of my research revolves around understanding the role of GCN5L1 in regulating cardiac substrate utilization, redox homeostasis, mitochondrial bioenergetics, metabolism and autophagy in the aged heart. I hypothesize that GCN5L1 mediated acetylation of cardiac mitochondrial proteins regulates their function. Utilization of acetyl-proteomics coupled with LC-MS/MS will allow us to identify specific lysine sites that potentially regulate mitochondrial protein function and therefore overall cardiac function.

Holly Thomas, MD, MS

Division/Institute: General Internal Medicine
Mentors: Rebecca Thurston, PhD / Sonya Borrero, MD, MS
Career Development Award:  NIA K23

 

Research

Dr. Thomas seeks to conduct innovative, interdisciplinary, patient-centered clinical research that will improve the health and quality of life of women as they age. In particular, she is interested in understanding the physical and psychosocial factors that contribute to sexual dysfunction in midlife and older women and using this understanding to develop behavioral treatment options for this population.

Jeremy Tilstra, MD, PhD

Division/Institute: Rheumatology
Mentor: Mark Shlomchik, MD, PhD
Career Development Award:  NIAMS K08

 

Research
Dr. Tilstra is focusing on disease pathogenesis in lupus nephritis. He is exploring this phenomenon through several different veins of research. His initial studies examined the roll of Toll Like Receptor signaling on disease, first he focused on the cell-specific role of TLR9, and this was followed by examining the dynamic role of TLR signaling throughout the disease course. The other major focus of Dr. Tilstra’s work is evaluating the changes that occur between kidney tissue and inflammatory cells in lupus nephritis. In this work, he is exploring how both the infiltrating immune cells, specifically T cells, change after migrating from the periphery into the target organ, as well as how the target organ may alter infiltrating cell function after tissue invasion. The initial work on this research uncovered a novel finding that kidney-infiltrating T cells were not activated effector cells but in fact had an exhausted or suppressed phenotype. Further efforts on this work aim to uncover new therapeutic approaches for treating lupus nephritis and other systemic autoimmune diseases.

Giraldina Trevejo-Nunez, MD

Division/Institute: Infectious Diseases
Mentor: Sarah Gaffen, PhD
Career Development Award:  NHLBI K01

 

Research

 I am interested in the host-pathogen interaction during pneumonia. I use murine models of pneumonia with pathogens such as Klebsiella and Streptococcus pneumoniae. My first interest is the contribution of IL-22/IL-22R1 signaling in the lung epithelium to control infectious processes. A second interest is in the negative regulation of inflammation during pneumonia through the RNA binding protein Regnase-1. For that we are analyzing the effects of Regnase-1 deficiency in different lung populations during pneumonia.

J. Deanna Wilson, MD, MPH

Division/Institute: General Internal Medicine
Mentors: Jane Liebschutz, MD, MPH / Kevin Kraemer, MD, MSc
Career Development Award:  NIDA K23

Haodi Wu, PhD

Division/Institute: Cardiology/Vascular Medicine Institute
Mentor: external
Career Development Award:  NHLBI K99/R00

 

Research

My main research interests are to understand the molecular mechanisms underlying the development, disease, and senescence of heart cells, and to develop potential therapeutic strategies to rectify pathogenesis and aging in the heart. We utilize human induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSCs) platform and cutting-edge molecular, cellular, and physiological technologies to study the biology of heart cells in health and diseases, and to discover novel drugs and approaches for translational applications.

Joo Yoon, MD

Division/Institute: Pulmonary, Allergy and CCM
Mentors: Gilles Clermont, MD, MSc / Michael Pinsky, MD
Career Development Award:  NIGMS K23

 

Research
Dr. Yoon is a physician scientist, and an Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care Medicine. His research has been focused on developing machine learning (ML)-based complex prediction modeling on critically-ill patients in the intensive care unit (ICU). With a large ICU multigranular database, Dr. Yoon currently works on artificial intelligence (AI)-driven prediction of hemorrhage, shock, and development of resuscitation optimization algorithms, which can guide physician’s decision making strategy at bedside, or out-of-hospital setting. Under the K mentorship, he also plans to create an ecosystem for machine learning researchers in healthcare by contributing to develop data standardization and novel multicenter modeling process. From Jan 2021, Dr. Yoon has been serving as a NIH cardiovascular study section member for small business innovation research (SBIR) / small technology transfer research (STTR), to facilitate AI/ML device development and commercialization in healthcare.

Anna Zemke, MD, PhD

Division/Institute: Pulmonary, Allergy and CCM
Mentor: Jennifer Bomberger, PhD
Career Development Award:  NHLBI K23

 

Research

Dr. Anna Zemke is a physician-scientist in the Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Medicine.  Her research interest focuses on the host-pathogen biology of chronic airway infections.   She has two ongoing scientific projects.  First, chronic sinus disease affects almost all people with cystic fibrosis due to ongoing cycles of inflammation and chronic bacterial infections.  Dr. Zemke is PI of a two-site study determining the effect of the new highly effect corrector modulators on CF sinus disease symptoms and microbiology in individuals age 6 and up.  Second, Dr. Zemke will be conducting an observational cohort study on natural history and host-pathogen biology of tracheobronchitis in the Long-Term Acute Care population.

Manling Zhang, MD, MS

Division/Institute: Cardiology/Vascular Medicine Institute
Mentors: Iain Scott, PhD / Toren Finkel, MD, PhD
Career Development Award:  NHLBI K08

 

Research

Dr. Zhang is currently studying the mechanism of GCN5L1, a mitochondrial acetyltransferase, in enhancing cardiac bioenergetics through retrograde activation of PGC-1α signaling in response to hemodynamic stress or exercise using cardiac specific GCN5L1 deficient mice.   As a cardiologist subspecializing in advanced heart failure and transplantation, and as a basic scientist studying cardiomyocyte biology, Dr. Zhang’s long-term career goal is to become a physician scientist,  focusing on reciprocal regulation of cardiac epigenetics and metabolism regulation in heart failure and exercise to discover a more effective treatment for heart failure.