Notre Dame, Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center join together to fight sepsis

Author: Arnie Phifer

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The University of Notre Dame and Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center (SJRMC), a member of the Trinity Health system, announced that they are collaborating on research aimed at earlier detection of sepsis in patients. Sepsis, a potentially fatal illness in which the body has a severe inflammatory response to bacteria or other microorganisms, is the leading cause of death from infection in the world and is the costliest condition to U.S. hospitals.

“The goal of this research is to give our physicians a more effective indication of when a patient who appears stable has actually entered the early stages of sepsis cascade, a severe inflammatory response that can lead to death,” Al Gutierrez, president and CEO of SJRMC, said. “This early detection is critical to improving patient survival rates.”

Currently, diagnosis of septic shock depends on a set of physiological measures, such as temperature and heart rate, and indirect indicators, like the amount of lactic acid in the blood. More specific molecular markers have proven elusive.

“Finding the right markers for sepsis, and differentiating them from all the other components of blood or saliva, is a significant challenge,” said Matthew Champion, research assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry at Notre Dame and a leader in the University’s new program in Precision Medicine.

“The direction for this research is to identify biomarkers by focusing on accurate quantification of components in the sepsis cascade that are modified in unusual ways, and then to develop tests that can deliver accurate answers to doctors quickly and at the point of care.”

The first phase of the study is being funded by SJRMC, and the South Bend Medical Foundation will help with collection and tracking of tissue samples of septic and nonseptic patients for analysis.

“This work has the potential to contribute important information about cellular and biochemical changes in the early stages of this common and severe condition,” said Stephen Anderson, chief medical officer at Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center.

“It demonstrates the high caliber of biomedical research being done here in our area.”

In recent years, Notre Dame and SJRMC have increased the number of their collaborations. The medical center has funded joint research projects between Notre Dame’s Harper Cancer Research Institute and Loyola University’s Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center in Chicago, helped the Harper Institute with the acquisition of a new tool to provide personalized care for area cancer patients, and supported the work of Notre Dame’s Eck Institute for Global Health in Haiti and other underdeveloped countries.

“This program adds to a significant history of research collaboration between the Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center and Notre Dame. We are very grateful for this strong, collaborative relationship as we continue to develop our capability to have our research discoveries benefit patients in need,” said Robert J. Bernhard, vice president for research at Notre Dame.

Contact: Matthew Champion, 574-631-1787,

Photo credit: Rocky Roe

Originally published by Arnie Phifer at on January 07, 2015.