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For Immediate Release

Children’s Hospital Surgeon Receives Grant to Study Condition that Can Lead to Death of Premature Babies

Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh surgeon Jeffrey Upperman, MD, has received a four-year grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to study an intestinal condition that can be fatal to premature babies.

The $365,000 grant from the foundation’s Minority Medical Faculty Development Program will support Dr. Upperman’s research into the causes of gut barrier failure.

Failure of the gut barrier leads to inflammatory bowel disease and inflammation of the small intestine in 5 to 7 percent of all premature babies and causes death as often as 50 percent of the time.

“I’m honored that the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has recognized the importance of this research,” Dr. Upperman said. “This work may lead to better outcomes for the sickest of the premature babies and infants we see with severe intestinal diseases.”

Normally, the cells lining the intestine provide a semi-permeable barrier that allows nutrients to be absorbed while preventing larger, potentially toxic molecules or organisms from crossing into the bloodstream. A gut lining that is too permeable may play a key role in the systemic infections that can affect infants by allowing these toxic molecules to pass through.

Dr. Upperman’s four-year grant, which continues through 2006, will support his research into the role nitric oxide plays in gut barrier failure. Normal amounts of nitric oxide in a healthy child may help the gut barrier by killing unwanted bacteria. But sustained release of nitric oxide can injure intestinal cells and make the gut lining too permeable.

Dr. Upperman, a Plainfield, N.J. native, came to Children’s in 1999 from the New Jersey Medical School’s University Hospital. He received his undergraduate degree from Stanford University and completed graduate studies at Stanford and the New Jersey Medical School.

Find out about Children’s Hospital’s Pediatric Surgery Department.

Marc Lukasiak or Melanie Finnigan, 412-692-5016, or

Last Update
June 17, 2008
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Last Update
June 17, 2008