The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded a $7.7 million grant to the Department of Urology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine to fund the newest O’Brien Urology Cooperative Research Center.
The center will investigate key factors involved with benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS), two major problems affecting many older men and costing around $4 billion a year to treat.
University of Pittsburgh researchers aim to identify new targets for developing preventive and therapeutic treatments for BPH and LUTS while attracting new investigators to the field.
The center will also have an Administrative Core and Tissue Resource and Morphology Core (TRMC) to increase efficiency and synergy. The TRMC will provide human tissue specimens, morphology support, and animal tissue processing and distribution.
The goal of the TRMC is to provide administrative support through project review, pilot project selection, and monitoring, as well as promote collaboration between institutions, enrich education, and collect biostatistical analyses.
Zhou Wang, PhD, professor and director of urological research in the Department of Urology, will lead the project and serve as Administrative Core director. Dr. Rajiv Dhir, MD, professor of pathology at Pitt and chief of pathology at University of Pittsburgh Shadyside, will serve as director of the TRMC.
The three research projects funded by the NIH grant will focus on BPH- and LUTS-related inflammation. Wang will co-lead the studies with Dr. Naoki Yoshimura, MD, PhD, and Donald DeFranco, PhD.
Wang will lead a project that will determine luminal epithelial cellular junctions in BPH specimens, including the effect of inflammation on those junctions and the role of E-cadherin, an important protein within those junctions, in epithelial permeability.
Yoshimura, professor of urology, pharmacology, and cell biology, and director of neuro-urological research at Pitt, will lead a project that addresses a key issue regarding the impact of prostatic inflammation on the nerve and urothelial systems that connect the prostate to the bladder, causing bladder sensitization.
Finally, DeFranco, professor and vice chair of medical education and associate dean for medical student research at Pitt, will head the third project, which aims to ultimately lead to new approaches to enhance the effectiveness of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in the treatment and prevention of BPH and LUTS.
“There is an urgent need for new approaches to prevent and treat BPH,” Wang said in a press release. “Although BPH is generally not life-threatening, its treatment is associated with side effects and is very costly.”
There are several other O’Brien Urology Cooperative Research centers established at universities and medical centers around the country.