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Allegheny Health Network’s New Autoimmunity Institute Takes Novel Approach to Patient Care and Research

Monday, February 5, 2018

PITTSBURGH – Starting today, the Allegheny Health Network (AHN) Autoimmunity Institute at West Penn Hospital is now open to patients who suffer from a range of autoimmune diseases. The first of its kind in the world, the AHN Autoimmunity Institute combines multispecialty care with cutting-edge research, patient education and advocacy to advance the treatment of autoimmune diseases and accelerate discovery of a cure for more than 100 different disease types.     

The body’s immune system protects it from infection and disease. For the 50 million Americans who have an autoimmune disease, according to the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association, the body’s tissues are attacked by its own immune system causing illness most often marked by inflammation. More common in women than in men, autoimmune diseases are the leading cause of morbidity among U.S. women, and the nation’s second leading cause of chronic illness.

The AHN Autoimmunity Institute hosts four “Centers of Excellence” for the treatment of common autoimmune diseases including lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease and celiac disease. Additionally, the Institute includes physicians from an array of clinical subspecialties such as rheumatology, allergy and clinical immunology, pulmonary, dermatology, gastroenterology, nephrology, endocrinology, cardiology and infusion therapy.

“Autoimmune diseases can be particularly challenging with no singular test to diagnose most disease types. Symptoms can also change over time as the disease manifests itself in different ways,” said Susan Manzi, MD, MPH, Chair, AHN Medicine Institute and Director, Lupus Center of Excellence. “In seek of care, patients traditionally have had to travel from one specialist to the next to the point that they can get lost while navigating the health care system. The AHN Autoimmunity Institute provides patients a one-stop shop where a team of highly specialized caregivers work collaboratively to develop individualized treatment plans. Here, patients will not get lost.”  

To advance the diagnosis and treatment of these conditions, a full-time research team at an onsite laboratory will focus on clinical trials, developing new diagnostic and prognostic tests for autoimmune diseases, and translating discoveries more rapidly into clinical application.

“Research is almost always disease specific, taking place at separate centers of care, even though autoimmune diseases share many common traits. At the Autoimmunity Institute, the continuous backdrop of its research efforts is a multidisciplinary team of leading providers and clinical support staff, all with an ultimate goal of finding a cure for autoimmune diseases,” said Joseph M. Ahearn, MD, Chair, AHN Autoimmunity Institute.

Physician-scientists within the Autoimmunity Institute have been highly successful in the commercialization of laboratory tests for the diagnosis, monitoring and prognosis of autoimmune diseases. Dr. Ahearn and Dr. Manzi at the AHN Lupus Center of Excellence helped design Avise-SLE™– a blood test to help clinicians diagnose lupus with greater ease and accuracy. Avise-SLE, which became commercially available in 2012, uses one blood sample from a patient to check for five distinct bio-markers that help to rule-in the diagnosis of systemic lupus erythematosus while ruling out other rheumatic diseases.

As a leader in her field, Dr. Manzi has played an important role in advancing quality, innovation and best practices that have improved the treatment of patients with autoimmune illnesses. She is internationally known for her research and patient care in lupus, and has published more than 200 research reports on lupus and related diseases such as cardiovascular disease. In addition to her roles at AHN, Dr. Manzi is the Medical Director of the Lupus Foundation of America.

To schedule an appointment at the AHN Autoimmunity Institute, patients should call 412.DOCTORS.