2022 Research Updates from the Division of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology

January 25, 2023

With a staff of award-winning physicians, researchers, and faculty, the Division of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology's research mission is to better understand arthritis, autoimmune, and other connective tissue diseases to improve diagnosis and therapies. Read about some of the research advances the Division has made throughout 2022.

COVID-19 Vaccination in Autoimmune Disease Survey Protocol

Rohit Aggarwal, MD, MS, collaborated with colleagues from other institutions to report the protocol of the “COVID-19 Vaccination in Autoimmune Diseases (COVAD)” study. The COVAD study consisted of a patient self-report survey that collected data on post-vaccination outcomes in patients with AIRD. The survey included 36 questions that asked about previous COVID-19 infection, vaccination status, short-term minor and major adverse effects, diagnosis and current symptom status, functional status, treatment history, and demographic information.

Outcomes of COVID-19 in Patients with Primary Systemic Vasculitis or Polymyalgia Rheumatica

Published in Lancet Rheumatology, investigators — including UPMC’s Sebastian Sattui, MD, MS — aimed to investigate factors associated with COVID-19 outcomes in patients with primary systemic vasculitis or polymyalgia rheumatica. 

Regnase-1 Deficiency Restrains Klebsiella pneumoniae Infectionby Regulation of a Type I Interferon Response

Felix Aggor, PhDPartha Biswas, BVSc, MVSc, PhD, and Sarah Gaffen, PhD, found that Regnase-1 (Reg1), a negative feedback regulator of IL-17 and LPS signaling, suppresses type I IFN signaling and thereby impairs resistance to Klebsiella pneumoniae (KP). These findings suggest that Reg1 could be therapeutically targeted in severe bacterial infections.

Optimizing Pregnancy and Reproductive Health Outcomes in RMDs

Mehret Birru Talabi, MD PhD, assistant professor of medicine, has conducted a series of research studies that assess pregnancy outcomes across individuals with rheumatic diseases (RMDs).

COVID-19 Vaccination Outcomes Among Patients with Dermatomyositis

Rohit Aggarwal, MD, MS, professor of medicine, collaborated with colleagues from other institutions to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccination among patients with dermatomyositis (DM) compared with patients with other systemic autoimmune diseases.

Developing a Reproductive Goals Decision Aid for Women with Cystic Fibrosis

A group of researchers - including Mehret Birru Talabi, MD, PhD - published an article in the Journal of Patient Experience describing measures of stakeholder engagement in developing a reproductive goals decision aid for women with CF called MyVoice:CF

UPMC and Pitt Rheumatology Systemic Sclerosis Center of Research Translation NIH P50 Grant – Renewal Will Support New Scleroderma Translational Investigations

Along with a group of multidisciplinary collaborators, principal investigator Robert Lafyatis, MD, director of the UPMC Scleroderma Center, has been awarded a new National Institutes of Health P50 grant entitled “Clinical-Translational Studies in Skin, Lung, and Vascular Complications in Systemic Sclerosis.”