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2023 Research and Clinical Updates from the Division of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology

February 1, 2024

With a staff of award-winning physicians, researchers, and faculty, the Division of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology's research explored myositis, vasculitis, systemic sclerosis, and more. Read about some of the research advances the Division has made throughout 2023, plus view research faculty spotlights and clinical news.

University of Pittsburgh Launches Groundbreaking Clinical Trial Revolutionizing Rare Diseases Myositis and Interstitial Lung Disease

The University of Pittsburgh recently launched a pioneering clinical trial, Myositis Interstitial Lung Disease (MINT), and recruited and enrolled its first patient. MINT is the first decentralized clinical trial of its kind in the nation and is funded through a $10 million grant from Boehringer Ingelheim. Rohit Aggarwal, MD, MS, is the principal investigator of the study.

UPMC Rheumatology Division Faculty Spotlight: Myositis Specialist Didem Saygin, MD

Clinician-scientist Didem Saygin, MD, is an assistant professor of Medicine in the Division of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology at UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. She joined the Division in July 2022 to continue her research program and clinical care of patients with rheumatologic disorders, specifically myositis, in the division’s Myositis Center of Excellence, one of the oldest and largest dedicated myositis centers in the United States.

New Multidisciplinary Clinic for Vasculitis Patients at UPMC

The UPMC Rheumatology/Renal Vasculitis Clinic is the product of a collaboration between Sebastian E. Sattui, MD, MS, assistant professor of Medicine and director of the UPMC Vasculitis Center, and Syeda B. Ahmad, MD, assistant professor of Medicine and medical director of the Glomerular Disease Clinic at UPMC.

‘Black Sheep’ of Helper T Cells May Hold Key to Precision Allergy Treatment

Nature Immunology study led by University of Pittsburgh and National Institutes of Health researchers sheds light on how a rare type of helper T cell, called Th9, can drive allergic disease, suggesting new precision medicine approaches to treating allergies in patients with high levels of Th9. Daniella Schwartz, MD, was senior author of the study.

New Research Suggests NK Cells, T Cells, Have Possible Role in Pathophysiology of Systemic Sclerosis Associated Interstitial Lung Disease

The study, published in the journal Rheumatology (Oxford) in June 2023, was led by Cristina M. Padilla, MD, clinical instructor and T32 postdoctoral research associate. Robert Lafyatis, MD, professor of medicine and director of the UPMC and University of Pittsburgh Scleroderma Center, was the study's senior author.

Autoimmunity Research Spotlight: Vladimir Liarski, MD, MS, and Translational Research in Idiopathic Inflammatory Myopathies

Vladimir Liarski, MD, MS, is an assistant professor of Medicine in the Division of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Dr. Liarski joined the Division in 2022. Before joining UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh, he conducted his research and clinical work at the University of Chicago.

Discordance Between Patient and Physician-Reported Disease Activity in Adult Idiopathic Inflammatory Myopathy

Faculty from the UPMC Division of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology published research that explores the discordance between the physician and patient global disease activity in one third of myositis patients, primarily driven by fatigue, pain, and physical activity. Didem Saygin, MD, was a co-author of this study.

How to Provide Sexual and Reproductive Health Care to Patients: Focus Groups With Rheumatologists and Rheumatology Advanced Practice Providers

A team of researchers, including Mehret Birru Talabi, MD, conducted focus groups with rheumatology providers to elicit solutions for overcoming barriers to sexual and reproductive health care. Providers identified many potential solutions and facilitators to enhancing this care that might serve as a foundation for intervention development.

UPMC Division of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology Research Grants

A number of faculty members received new grant funding this year to support a variety of research projects.