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Inflammation and Immunologic Symposium Explores New Research in Chronic Diseases


PITTSBURGH, August 2008 — For the first time in the United States, more than 200 scientists from around the world will gather to explore research challenging conventional theories about immunology, inflammation and their link to acute and chronic diseases. The Damage Associated Molecular Pattern Molecules (DAMPs) and Alarmins Symposium will be held at the Hillman Cancer Center, 5115 Centre Ave., Pittsburgh, Aug. 30 through Sept. 2.

DAMPs and alarmins are the molecules in the body that promote healing after events such as heart attacks, strokes and car accidents. According to Michael Lotze, M.D., director of Strategic Partnerships for the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute and co-director of the symposium, they promote a sterile inflammation that comes from inside cells.

“At this point, it is well-understood that continuous inflammation is also linked to chronic diseases such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and most cancers, particularly those occurring in adults,” said Dr. Lotze. “In the past, the prevailing scientific notion was that pathogen-associated molecular patterns, or PAMPs, cause inflammation by activating the immune system when pathogens such as viruses, parasites, fungi and bacteria invade the body. This type of immune response occurs in the setting of infection. At this symposium, scientists will present research linking the DAMPs inflammatory response to chronic diseases, including arthritis, obesity, atherosclerosis and cancer.”

According to Dr. Lotze, current theories of inflammation are based on the notion that inflammation is caused by forces outside the body, such as pathogens, while the DAMPs theory of inflammation suggests that it arises internally from the body’s very cells.

The symposium, which includes oral and poster presentations, brings together world-renowned researchers from across the globe, including:

* Marco Bianchi, M.D., of the H. San Raffaele Scientific Institute in Milano, Italy, a former conference director who first demonstrated the link of HMGB1 with necrosis

* Polly Matzinger, Ph.D., of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, proponent of the Danger Theory of Immunity who first coined DAMPs

* Ruslan Medzhitov, M.D., of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at Yale University, the keynote lecturer who discovered the signaling molecules involved in responding to PAMPs

* Shigekazu Nagata, Ph.D., of the Graduate School of Medicine at Kyoto University in Kyoto, Japan, who identified many of the signaling events important in inflammation and immunity, including interferons and the response to DNA

* Jeffrey L. Platt, M.D., of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, promoter of the role of innate immunity in transplantation and cancer

* Jean-Marc Reichhart, Ph.D., of the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology in Strasbourg, France, who explores ancient responses in fruit flies to injury

* Anna Rubartelli, M.D., director of the Cell Biology Laboratory in Genova, Italy, who has discerned how biology is turned upside down when inside cellular contents come outside the cell and who, along with Drs. Lotze and Helena Harris from Sweden, co-directs the symposium

The symposium is sponsored by the University of Pittsburgh Center for Continuing Education in the Health Sciences, the Society of Innate Immunity, the Federation of Clinical Immunology Societies, the National Cancer Institute, the Office of Orphan Diseases of the National Institutes of Health, the International Society for Biologic Therapy of Cancer and the Society of Leukocyte Biology.

Reporters and editors are invited to register as press for this event. Registration will allow full access to the oral and poster presentations, as well as opportunities to interview the presenters and access to the press room. For a copy of the program, to register as press or for more information, please call 412-586-9773 or email


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