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Surgical resident honored for sepsis research

The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research.

Feinstein Institute researcher honored by the Society of Critical Care Medicine


Steven Gurien, MD, a Northwell Health surgical resident and member of The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, was honored by the Society of Critical Care Medicine (SCCM) with its Star Research Achievement Award for his efforts to pinpoint specific molecules that can reduce inflammation during sepsis.

Sepsis is a body-wide immune system reaction to an infection that is responsible for more than 300,000 deaths in the United States each year and leaves many survivors profoundly disabled. Sepsis can lead to widespread inflammation and may result in organ dysfunction or failure.

“Over a quarter-million Americans die each year from sepsis. I want to conduct research so that we can find solutions that reverse this concerning number,” Dr. Gurien said. “We discovered a potential new treatment class by showing in mice that specific molecules can have a direct effect on reducing inflammation during sepsis.”

MicroRNA molecules eyed in sepsis

In their initial analysis, Dr. Gurien and his co-investigators, including Ping Wang, MD, the Feinstein Institute’s chief scientific officer, and vice chair of research for Northwell Health’s Department of Surgery at North Shore University Hospital and Long Island Jewish Medical Center, argued that sepsis causes the release of certain microRNA molecules into the circulation, which can inhibit a particular “RNA-binding” protein (CIRP) that normally promotes sepsis inflammation and injury. microRNA 130b – whose major role is to regulate gene expression within each cell – has the potential to serve as a therapeutic agent when combatting sepsis.

SCCM, which is the largest non-profit medical organization dedicated to promoting excellence and consistency in the practice of critical care, awards excellence in teaching and research with the goal of improved care of critically ill and injured patients. Awards are given annually to critical care practitioners and other healthcare providers who demonstrate dedication and innovation to the field of critical care and/or to SCCM. Dr. Gurien was formally recognized in February during the organization’s Research Awards Presentation in San Diego.

“Sepsis research at the Feinstein Institute is widely recognized for its innovation and significance,” said Kevin J. Tracey, MD, president and CEO of the Feinstein Institute. “Now Dr. Gurien represents a future for new discoveries fostered by this successful research environment.”

Studying sepsis a priority

Identifying ways to combat sepsis is a major research priority for the Feinstein Institute and Northwell Health. They formed the Sepsis Task Force, which is headed by Martin Doerfler, MD, senior vice president of clinical strategy and development and associate chief medical officer, and includes Feinstein Institute researchers. To help shorten the diagnosis time, which is a crucial element to preventing loss of life, the Sepsis Task Force reviewed previous cases to identify the key signs for sepsis. Through this work, they identified a protocol that includes early administration of fluids and antibiotics, to implement across Northwell’s hospitals. As a result, sepsis-related mortalities were reduced by almost 70 percent.

In December 2018, Feinstein Institute assistant professor Monowar Aziz, PhD received a five-year, $1.68 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to examine a protein’s role in increasing inflammation and injury in sepsis to develop new therapies.

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