We are delighted to report that Dr. Pinnaro from our division has been recognized by the Corridor Business Journal for her significant impact on her community and business. The award is reserved for early career impact, with a criteria that the person be under age 40. Forty individuals in the Cedar Rapids / Iowa City corridor region are selected annually. Dr. Pinnaro is a physician scientist, dividing her professional time between taking care of patients and directing a research program aimed at better understand health and disease. Her clinical work is focused on caring for pediatric patients with diabetes or other endocrine disorders. Her research program is focused on better understanding diabetes in persons with Turner syndrome and honing technology-based treatments for diabetes. In describing her approach to medicine and research, she relates that “I am motivated by trying to solve dynamic problems that may need out-of-the-box strategies.” She and the other recipients were recognized at an awards dinner on October 19th. We are fortunate to have Dr. Pinnaro on our team and congratulate her for her achievement.
Dr. Pinnaro is part of the leadership team that has created a new national registry to track the health of persons with Turner syndrome. The initiative has been named the “Inspiring New Science to Guide Healthcare in Turner Syndrome (InsighTS)” Registry. The leadership group of the InsighTS Registry has now published their study’s design and goals. The publication’s abstract can be found on PubMed at the following link. Persons with Turner syndrome have unique health risks, and ideally should be seen regularly in a clinic with Turner syndrome expertise, such as the one at the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital (2023 link to the Turner syndrome clinic) headed by Dr. Alexandrou and Dr. Pinnaro.
Persons with Turner syndrome are at higher risk than normal to develop diabetes. It would be ideal to screen for diabetes to allow treatment early in the disease process. The natural history of diabetes in persons with Turner syndrome is not well understood. Likewise, the optimal screening approach is not known. To help address this knowledge gap, Dr. Pinnaro from our division led a team that compared results between multiple types of screening tests for diabetes assessed concurrently in persons with Turner syndrome. The screening tests compared were fasting plasma glucose, oral glucose tolerance test, and hemoglobin A1c. The results showed only partial concordance between the different tests. Interpreted conservatively, the data suggest that various hemoglobin A1c thresholds could be used to indicate need for closer evaluation for diabetes. The results are published in the journal Hormone Research in Paediatrics as an article entitled “Screening for Turner syndrome-associated hyperglycemia: Evaluating hemoglobin A1c and fasting blood glucose”. Study authors from our division were Drs. Pinnaro, Parra Villasmil, and Norris. The article’s Pubmed abstract can be found at this link.
Persons with diabetes can have weakened immune systems that are unable to fight off infections. Vaccination response depends on the immune system creating protective immunity after exposure to an antigen. Indeed, under some circumstances persons with diabetes fail to develop immunity after vaccination. Most data to date however have focused on adults. In particular, no studies have examined the response of children with diabetes to COVID vaccination. In a collaboration between the Microbiology Department, our Division set out to address this knowledge gap. Both antibody levels and cellular immunity against the COVID virus were compared between children with and without type 1 diabetes. The levels were also compared between the children that had versus had-not received COVID booster vaccination. Importantly, the children with diabetes exhibited normal levels of immunity that matched those of children without diabetes. This result shows that children with diabetes have normal immune responses, at least as regards protection against COVID, including before and after booster vaccination. Surprisingly, COVID booster vaccination did not statistically raise immunity against the Omicron COVID variant in either group of children. One possible reason for this may have been that the children groups appeared to already have a degree of immunity against Omicron even without booster vaccination, though the study was not designed to properly address this possibility. By contrast, adults were also studied and experienced a robust enhancement of immunity in response to booster vaccination. Members of our Division who helped create and conduct the study were Drs. Pinnaro, Tansey, and Norris, as well as research manager Shannon Christensen. The publication can be found at this Pubmed link. The authors wish to thank the children and families who volunteered for the study.
As a budding physician scientist, Dr. Cat Pinnaro is studying how persons with Turner syndrome (TS) are impacted by diabetes. Persons with TS have increased risk of developing diabetes. Diabetes then negatively impacts their health, perhaps more so than for the general population. The mechanisms by which diabetes develops in those with TS have not been well studied, and thus preventative strategies are lacking. Dr. Pinnaro is working to address these shortcomings by creating new clinical studies of blood sugar metabolism in persons with TS. To further her research endeavors, she applied for and just received a prestigious NIH K23 Career Development Award. Her proposal is entitled “Hyperglycemia in Turner syndrome: Mechanisms and X chromosome contributions“. Congratulations Dr. Pinnaro!
Diabetes Camps are a summer highlight for many kids who live with diabetes. Camp represents a chance to experience outdoor fun, make new friends who understand what it is like to have diabetes and learn more about diabetes self-care, all while under the watchful eye of diabetes-knowledgeable camp counselors and staff. Several of the staff in our Division help support Camp Hertko Hollow (click for link), a diabetes camp in central Iowa with access to 400 acres of forest / outdoor recreation space. Dr. Pinnaro and Dr. Tansey serve to provide medical direction for the camp, and diabetes nurse Susan Huff has long volunteered to support the camp. Kids Week (ages 8-12) ran June 25-July 1 and Teen Week (ages 13-17) ran July 3-9. Also see the Camp website (link above) for details about Mini Camp and Family Camp opportunities. The doctors and nurses from our Division who have volunteered their time in camp this year: Dr. Pinnaro, Dr. Tansey, Dr. Parra Villasmil, Dr. Palmer, Dr. Tuttle and nurse Sue Huff.
Turner syndrome (TS) is a karyotype disorder in which the sex chromosomes consist of an intact X chromosome and partial-to-complete loss of the other sex chromosome. TS includes a number of phenotypic features, including many that have variable expression. The degree of second sex chromosome loss explains the risk of some but not all TS features. Modifier genes are one possible explanation for TS features whose risk is not explained by karyotype. In this case, the modifier genes would be polymorphisms on autosomal chromosomes. This postulate served as the basis for a recent research study by Dr. Cat Pinnaro. Specifically, she sought to determine whether autosomal genes might influence the risk of cardiovascular malformations in TS. She focused on genes involved in pathways already known to impact cardiac development. The identified that specific variants in the CRELD1 gene were associated with risk of having a bicuspid aortic valve in TS. This study serves as proof-of-concept that modifier genes impact TS phenotype, and paves the way for future studies searching for additional modifier genes that might impact other aspects of phenotype in TS and other karyotype disorders. The work is published in the journal Human Genetics (pubmed link here).
Although it has long been known that persons with Turner syndrome have increased risk of developing diabetes, the reasons are not well understood. Relatedly, there are no known preventative strategies and no directed therapies. Dr. Pinnaro and Dr. Alexandrou from our Division have teamed up to review published knowledge in this area and map out critical gaps in understanding. Their review, entitled “Hyperglycemia in Turner syndrome: Impact, mechanisms, and areas for future research” has just been published in the peer reviewed literature. Also contributing to the manuscript were student Cameron Mitsch and division member Dr. Norris. The paper appears in the journal Frontiers in Endocrinology and can be found here (doi: link or pubmed link ). Dr. Pinnaro is leading a team working to find the root causes of diabetes linked to Turner syndrome. It remains important for persons with Turner syndrome to receive expert endocrine care, such as can be obtained from Dr. Alexandrou; see this link for contact information for her Turner syndrome clinic .
We are pleased to report that 6 of the pediatric endocrinology providers in our division have received Patient Choice Awards. These awards are given out by UI Health Care to recognize physicians for consistently providing patients with an excellent healthcare experience. The recipient physicians were:
- Lauren Kanner
- Katie Larson Ode
- Julie Osterhaus
- Liuska Pesce
- Catherina Pinnaro
- Mike Tansey
The Award was given to only 174 providers across the entire institution. The Award recognizes those who scored in the top 10% nationally in response to patient surveys asking whether the physician showed concern for patient questions or worries, gave explanations about problem or condition, made efforts to include the patient in care decisions, discussed proposed treatments (options, risks, benefits, etc), and whether they would be likely to recommend the care provider to others. Our division is fortunate to have these Award winning physicians on our team. We thank each of them for their wonderful work. Find more about the awards at this link.
Teaming up, Dr. Alexandrou and Dr. Pinnaro from our division have worked hard to create the first dedicated clinic in the region for persons with Turner syndrome (TS). TS is a genetic condition that occurs when one of the X chromosomes is fully or partially lost from cells before birth. Symptoms of TS almost always include short stature and lack of pubertal progression. Both of these conditions can benefit from expert treatment from a pediatric endocrinologist. Additionally, TS symptoms often also include subtle structural body changes such a webbed neck, structural heart defects, autoimmune disorders, hearing loss, frequent ear infections, kidney defects, and selective learning difficulties. For this reason, it is crucial to have other pediatric sub-specialty services involved and/or available. The new clinic includes pediatric endocrinology, pediatric cardiology, clinical psychology, medical genetics, pediatric nephrology, reproductive endocrinology, dietician services, and a clinical pharmacist. In addition, Dr. Pinnaro is involved with clinical trials for which some patients may qualify. The current (2023) website for the clinic, including contact information, can be found here : https://uihc.org/childrens/services/turner-syndrome .