Research

The Henry L. Hillman Endowed Chair in Pediatric Immunology

In 1991, Massimo Trucco, MD, director of Immunogenetics at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, was named the first Hillman Professor of Pediatric Immunology. Dr. Trucco views immunologic diseases, including juvenile diabetes, as complex interactions—where environmental factors act on a genetic situation that, unknown to the patient, predisposes him or her to a particular disease.

He discovered in 1994 that an immune system component known as a superantigen might trigger insulin-dependent diabetes in many cases. But which virus was producing the superantigen? In 1998, he and his staff found compelling evidence that the common Coxsackievirus B could cause Type 1 diabetes in certain children. This discovery has been a significant step toward developing a diabetes vaccine.

In transplantation, the immunologic hurdle is the body’s tendency to reject donated cells. This makes it necessary to “match” donor and recipient, a lengthy and expensive process. However, Dr. Trucco’s lab is collaborating with the National Science Foundation Science & Technology Center at Carnegie-Mellon University to develop a new technology to make bone marrow matching faster and much less costly. Their approach uses submicron-size uniform latex particles (microspheres) bar-coded with fluorescent dyes and chemically altered so that they attach themselves to specific DNAs. Once attached, these microscopic markers enable scientists to visually identify matches. In preliminary trials, the approach proved not only feasible but also very efficient.

Dr. Trucco is hopeful that this new technology also can be applied to the realm of diabetes, enabling reliable screening for early signs of the illness, such as autoantibodies, in individuals considered genetically at-risk.

Last Update
November 19, 2009
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Last Update
November 19, 2009
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