Pitt Urology Department Opens Cooperative Research Center

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The Department of Urology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine has been awarded more than $7.7 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to create an O’Brien Urology Cooperative Research Center, tasked with investigating important factors involved with benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS), according to a press release from UPMC.

BPH, also known as an enlarged prostate, and LUTS are major medical problems affecting most elderly men and costing about $4 billion annually in treatment. The goals of the center are to identify new targets for developing novel preventative and therapeutic treatment approaches while attracting new investigators to the field of BPH.

“There is an urgent need for new approaches to prevent and treat BPH,” said Zhou Wang, PhD, professor and director of urological research in the Department of Urology and project leader. “Although BPH is generally not life-threatening, its treatment is associated with side effects and is very costly.”

The center also will establish an Administrative Core and Tissue Resource and Morphology Core (TRMC) to increase synergy and efficiency. The Administrative Core will provide administrative support through project review, pilot project selection and monitoring, as well as promote multi-institutional collaboration, enrich education and gather biostatistical analyses. TRMC will provide human tissue specimens, morphology support, and animal tissue processing and distribution. Wang will serve as Administrative Core director. Rajiv Dhir, MD, professor of pathology at Pitt and chief of pathology at UPMC Shadyside, will serve as TRMC director.

The research projects will focus on inflammation involved with BPH and LUTS. Along with Wang, they will be led by Naoki Yoshimura, MD, PhD, professor of urology, pharmacology and cell biology, and director of neuro-urological research at Pitt; and Donald DeFranco, PhD, professor and vice chair of medical education and associate dean for medical student research at Pitt.

The first project, led by Yoshimura, will address a key issue regarding the impact of prostatic inflammation on the nerve and urothelial systems that connect the prostate to the bladder, leading to bladder sensitization. The second, headed by Dr. Wang, will determine luminal epithelial cellular junctions in BPH specimens, the effect of inflammation on those junctions and the role of E-cadherin, an important protein with those junctions, in luminal epithelial permeability. DeFranco will lead the third project, which ultimately could lead to new approaches to enhance the efficacy of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in treatment and prevention of BPH and LUTS.

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