Charlene S. Dezzutti, Ph.D., is an associate professor in the department of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences, division of reproductive infectious diseases and immunology, at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and a member at the University of Pittsburgh-affiliated Magee-Womens Research Institute. In addition, she holds a secondary appointment in the department of infectious diseases and microbiology in the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health.
A cell biologist specializing in viral immunology, Dr. Dezzutti is the principal investigator of the Network Laboratory for the Microbicide Trials Network (MTN), an HIV/AIDS clinical trials network established by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH). In this capacity, Dr. Dezzutti coordinates the pharmacology core at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md., the immunology core at the University of Washington in Seattle and three cores at the University of Pittsburgh -- one that conducts studies on virology, a second that performs diagnostic testing for and provides support to the clinical laboratories at MTN’s 18 clinical research sites, and a third, which conducts side-by-side comparative assessments of different microbicide candidates. The latter core she herself directs.
Dr. Dezzutti joined the University of Pittsburgh faculty in 2005 after 13 years at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where she was a senior research microbiologist in the Laboratory Branch of the Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention.
While at the CDC, Dr. Dezzutti developed the cervical and colorectal explant model, a culture method for evaluating the anti-HIV activity and tissue toxicity of topical microbicides. The method, which maintains both the epithelium and cell layers in their natural orientation, may be a more accurate laboratory tool for assessing microbicides for their safety and effectiveness against HIV. In her laboratory at the University of Pittsburgh, Dr. Dezzutti is continuing studies of the model with particular interest in understanding innate mucosal immunity and other parameters that may influence HIV transmission and infection. In addition, through several federal grants, she is conducting studies using the explant models to evaluate the safety and efficacy of several microbicide candidates and alternate formulations. A focus within these grants is the optimization of the explants for use as surrogates of microbicide efficacy. If successful, it could change the paradigm of HIV prevention research.
Dr. Dezzutti’s membership in scientific organizations includes the Society for Mucosal Immunology, the International AIDS Society and the American Society for Microbiologists. She is on the editorial board of Infectious Diseases in Obstetrics and Gynecology and a reviewer for several other journals, including PLoS ONE and the Journal of Infectious Diseases. She has herself published more than 50 peer-reviewed publications.
Dr. Dezzutti received her undergraduate degree in microbiology and biochemistry from the University of Pittsburgh and earned both a master’s degree in veterinary pathology and cell biology and a doctorate in viral immunology and cell biology at the Ohio State University.