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Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC One of Only Two Sites in Nation To Study Severe Asthma in Children Through NIH Grant

Children’s Hospital selected to establish a pediatric Severe Asthma Research Program

Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC has been selected as one of only two pediatric centers in the nation to establish a federally funded Severe Asthma Research Program (SARP).

The goal of SARP, a National Institutes of Health-funded clinical trial, is to determine why some people cannot control their asthma symptoms even with the use of medications. Most people with mild to moderate asthma can control their symptoms with medications, but as many as 10 percent of asthmatics are considered to have a severe form of the disease, and medications such as inhaled corticosteroids do not always control symptoms and prevent attacks.

There are six adult SARP sites (including UPMC) across the country, and only two pediatric sites – Children’s Hospital and Emory HealthCare in Atlanta.

Children’s Hospital’s SARP will be led by Shean J. Aujla, MD, a pulmonologist in Children’s Hospital’s Division of Pulmonary Medicine, Allergy and Immunology. It is part of an adult SARP grant at UPMC that is under the leadership of Sally Wenzel, MD, director of UPMC’s Asthma and Allergic Diseases Research Center.

“Pittsburgh is fast becoming a national leader in the research and treatment of asthma and this grant will enable Children’s Hospital to play a key role in understanding why kids who are severe asthmatics don’t respond to treatment,” Dr. Aujla said. “By improved characterization of severe asthma, our goal is to improve treatment through this research so that severe asthmatics can prevent exacerbations and reduce the intensity and frequency of their symptoms, which can lead to missed school days, hospitalizations and in the most severe cases, even death.”

Children’s Hospital plans to enroll at least 20 children with asthma this year who will make three research clinic visits for the study. Subjects will receive allergy skin testing, blood work and a variety of lung function testing.  These comprehensive tests will allow Children’s Hospital’s pulmonology researchers and others to categorize differences between those with severe asthma and those with mild to moderate asthma.

Asthma is characterized by repeated wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and nighttime or early morning coughing. Every year, more than half of the estimated 22 million Americans (including 9 million children) diagnosed with asthma suffer at least one acute attack, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These flare-ups lead to approximately 2 million emergency room visits, 10 million outpatient visits and 100 million days of restricted activity every year.


Marc Lukasiak, 412-692-7919 or 412-692-5016,
Melanie Finnigan, 412-692-5502 or 412-692-5016,

Last Update
January 2, 2014
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Last Update
January 2, 2014