Academics & Research



From genetics to geriatrics, physical therapy to pharmacology: University of Utah Health is making discoveries that are pushing the frontiers of science and medicine. The Driving Discovery blog and News Room feature the latest research highlights.

Richard E. Kanner Internal Medicine, Division of Pulmonology

A randomized trial of people with stable moderate forms of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) concluded that receiving supplemental oxygen therapy made no difference in quality of life, lung function or ability to walk in those who received the therapy compared with those who did not. The study, called the Long-Term Oxygen Treatment Trial Research Group (LOTT), conducted at 42 U.S. medical centers, also found that receiving supplemental oxygen therapy did not delay how soon patients died or were first hospitalized compared with those who didn’t receive oxygen.

Robert Z. Tashjian Orthopaedics

People with rotator cuff tears often experience other tendon or nerve problems as well, but it has been unclear whether those associated ailments are influenced by genetics or environment. New research shows strong evidence that those “global” tendinopathies in the shoulders, knees, hips and other areas appear to cluster among blood relatives and spouses of people with torn rotator cuffs, suggesting that both genetic and environmental factors are involved.

The lactoferrin gene arose in early mammals approximately 160 million years ago, and can still be found in the genomes of humans and other primates. New research shows that lactoferrin, whose original function was to transport nutrient metals such as iron, has undergone “rapid” evolution to develop another role – immune defense against microbes that cause potentially deadly diseases of meningitis, pneumonia and sepsis.

In patients with sepsis, the infecting microbes are usually viewed as generic triggers of inflammation while the patients themselves are considered the primary variables that affect disease progression and severity. This viewpoint is challenged by new work published in the April issue of the journal mSphere by researchers in the Department of Pathology at the University of Utah School of Medicine. The study shows that variations in just a single bacterial protein known as flagellin can significantly alter levels of inflammation and the progression of sepsis.

By implementing a program to prevent bloodstream infections associated with central-line catheters, the University of Utah Health Care Burn Trauma Intensive Care Unit eliminated those hazards entirely, a multidisciplinary committee of the health care system’s nurses and physicians reported in JAMA Surgery.

Otherwise healthy older people with low levels of bicarbonate, a major element in the body that helps maintain proper pH balance, were at a 24 percent higher risk of dying prematurely than those in a study group whose bicarbonate levels were normal or even high. Findings from the study suggest that physicians might want to take a closer look at the bicarbonate levels in older patients to identify those at risk for an early death.