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For Immediate Release

World-Renowned Researchers at Children's Hospital Receive Nearly $9 Million in Federal Funding To Further Research Efforts

Department of Defense supports two researchers studying devastating childhood diseases

The United States Department of Defense has awarded two internationally recognized researchers from Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh nearly $9 million collectively to fund cutting-edge research into diabetes and muscular dystrophy.

The Children's researchers receiving Department of Defense (DOD) funding for fiscal year 2005 are Massimo Trucco, MD, director of the Division of Immunogenetics and Johnny Huard, PhD, director of the Growth and Development Laboratory.

Type 1 Diabetes and Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) are two devastating childhood illness for which much groundbreaking research is being done at Children's. It has been a mission of U.S. Rep. John Murtha, ranking member of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, to help Children's continue this research.

"We are extremely grateful to Congressman John Murtha, who supports Children's Hospital and helps make available this crucial funding so we can continue to advance important, potentially life-saving research," said Ronald L. Violi, president and CEO of Children's. "Congressman Murtha recognizes the cutting-edge research and health initiatives being done at Children's and the impact it has on those afflicted with these diseases. He continues to be an extraordinary friend to Children's and continues to help advance health care for all families across the country."

One of the world's leading diabetes researchers, Dr. Trucco, has been awarded $6 million to help fund his genetic and immunologic research, which has focused on several childhood diseases including Type 1, or juvenile, diabetes.

Dr. Trucco, an international leader in the field of immunogenetics, has pioneered numerous important studies and also maintains a federally funded national bone marrow repository within his lab.

With this funding, Dr. Trucco and his team will be able to continue their landmark research into improving the prediction of Type 1 diabetes and understanding and managing its complications. Building on his discovery in 2002 that Type 1 diabetes susceptibility may be genetic in nature and triggered by viruses, Dr. Trucco has obtained genetically engineered pig islet cells that may be transplanted into children with Type 1 diabetes. The transplantation of these insulin-producing cells could mean a cure for individuals without the risk of rejection.

Dr. Trucco's discoveries have lead to a better process for molecular typing for matching bone marrow donors and recipients; the ability to identify those at risk for diabetes; an understanding of the link between a common virus and Type 1 diabetes; and a potential cure for the pancreatic damage that causes insulin dependence.

The second Children's researcher, Dr. Huard, who is studying adult stem cell transplantation, gene therapy and other treatments to regenerate muscle, bone and tissue, has received $2.5 million in DOD funding. Dr. Huard and his team are focusing on a unique population of muscle-derived stem cells they discovered.

Dr. Huard and his researchers are using these stem cells to explore their potential to repair muscle damage, a treatment that may eventually lead to a cure for patients with DMD, a genetic disease which affects one in every 3,500 boys. DMD is the most common form of muscular dystrophy and patients with this disease often die in early adulthood.

Patients with DMD lack a protein called dystrophin, which gives muscle cells their structure. Dr. Huard and his team are exploring ways to deliver dystrophin to damaged muscle and halt the progress of DMD. However, the implications of Dr. Huard's stem cell research go well beyond DMD. His team has found that these muscle-derived stem cells are able to grow into blood, bone and cardiac cells. This ability, known as plasticity, means these cells may have the potential to repair damage to various tissues including muscle, bone and heart; produce blood needed for live-saving transfusions; and improve outcomes for transplant recipients.

Contacts:
Marc Lukasiak, 412-692-5016, Marc.Lukasiak@chp.edu
Melanie Finnigan, 412-692-5016, Melanie.Finnigan@chp.edu

Last Update
February 19, 2008
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Last Update
February 19, 2008
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