Luis A Ortiz, MD

Professor, Environmental and Occupational Health

Professor, Department of Medicine

Professor, Clinical and Translational Science Institute


100 Technology Drive, Bridgesidepoint Building 1 15219
R-znvy: ynb6@cvgg.rqh
Primary Phone: 967-179-0714

Personal Statement

My research focuses on mechanisms of lung injury that lead to the development of lung fibrosis. In particular, my laboratory has contributed to this field with the development of mouse models of pulmonary fibrosis (silica and bleomycin) and most recently with the concept that bone marrow derived Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are fundamental contributors to the repair of the injured lung. Similarly, my laboratory has characterized the epidemiology of environmentally induced lung disease. Since my arrival to Pittsburgh, I established alliances with grass root organizations to initiate registries and form cohort of subjects exposed to dust (mostly miners) to characterize the impact of pneumoconiosis in the communities of Western Pennsylvania. Subsequently, I contributed to the literature with studies of the prevalence and outcome of silica exposed individuals, and their response to lung transplantation.

My basic science and translational research initiatives led to the demonstration that following the systemic administration of MSC into bleomycin or silica exposed mice these cells are retained in the injured lung and ameliorated the lung injury. Subsequently, my laboratory identified that MSCs exhibit a significant paracrine activity, exerted via secretion of extracellular vesicles and preformed proteins, and regulate innate immunity in the lung.  Thus, MSC produce large amounts of the anti inflammatory cytokine IL1 Receptor antagonist and exosomes that modulate the macrophage production of TNF and inhibit T cell proliferation. My laboratory also studies MSC production of TSG-6 and exosomes as mechanisms that these cells use to ameliorate RV function during the development of pulmonary arterial hypertension in animal models and subjects afflicted by fibrotic lung disease.

In addition, my laboratory identified data indicating that in addition to soluble mediators, MSC release endosomal vesicles (multi vesicular bodies and exosomes) containing mitochondria and micro RNAs. Thus, MSCs can establish intercellular communication to promote genetic exchange and that further contribute to the reprogram of the inflammatory response of activated macrophages in the injured lung. Subsequently, we are conducting pre clinical evaluation of these extracellular vesicles in animal model of lung fibrosis.

Most recent efforts have concentrated in translating these preclinical observations. To that effect I have interacted with Dr. Michael Matthay, an eminent clinical investigator in the field of acute lung injury, to test the efficacy of MSC in subjects afflicted by Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS). This interactions lead Dr. Matthay to designate the University of Pittsburgh as one of the four sites for his START clinical trial to test the safety of well characterized primary human MSCs, manufactured by Dr. David McKenna at the HLBI-sponsored PACT program at the University of Minnesota, in subjects with ARDS requiring mechanical ventilation in whom a 40 percent mortality is expected.

Currently, my laboratory is conducting investigator initiated translational research and we have received support from NHLBI, in the form of an RO1, to conduct a phase I clinical trial testing the safety and efficacy of MSCs on subjects afflicted by pulmonary arterial hypertension as a result of their idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. We are screening these subjects among populations of patients who are receiving medical care at the Simmons Center for Interstitial Lung Disease (ILD), where I conduct my clinical service and I serve as a liaison between the ILD and transplant services. These funds from NHLBI support the production of clinical grade MSCs by the NHI sponsored PACT program at the University of Minnesota in order to test the safety of these cells in a phase I/II trail as described above.


1976   Instituto Jorge Robledo.  Medellin, Colombia.  Bachelor Science.  

1983    Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana.  Medellin, Colombia.  MD

1984-1987. Resident in Internal Medicine. 
Department of Medicine
Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana.
Medellin, Colombia. 

1987-1990 Resident in Internal Medicine.                       
Department of Medicine                
Tulane Medical Center
New Orleans, Louisiana

1990-1993 Fellow
Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine                                                                       University of Texas Health Science Center           
M.D. Anderson Cancer Center                      
Houston, Texas

1991-1993 Post Doctoral Student
Department of Biochemistry (John Olson’s laboratory)
Rice University
Houston, Texas


This academic year I will be predominantly involved in teaching stem cell biology and consequently will contribute lectures in the Stem Cell Biology Course (3740) for the multidisciplinary program under direction of Paul Monga, MD.

Study section

Member NHLBI Mentored Clinician and Basic Science Review Committee  Tenure 2014-2019

Selected Publications

Bamberg A, Redente EF, Groshong SD, Tuder RM, Cool CD, Keith RC, Edelman BL, Black BP, Cosgrove GP, Wynes MW, Curran-Everett D, De Langhe S, Ortiz LA, Thorburn A, Riches DWH.  Protein thyrosine phosphatase-N13 (PTPN13) promotes myofibrobalsts resistance to apoptosis in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.  Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2018 May 4. doi: 10.1164/rccm.201707-1497OC. [Epub ahead of print]. PMID:29727583


Zhou, Y., Horowitz, J.C., Naba A., Ambalavanan N., Atabai, K., Balestrini, J., Bitterman, P., Corley, R.A., Bi-Sen Ding, B-S., Engler A.J., Hansen, K.C., Hagood, J.S., Kheradmand, F., Lin, Q.S., Neptune, E., Niklason, L., Ortiz, L.A., Parks, W.C., Tschumperlin, D.J.,  White, E.S., Chapman, H.A., and Thannickal, V.J.  Extracellular Matrix in Lung Development, Homeostasis and Disease.  Matrix Biol. 2018 Mar 8. pii: S0945-053X(17)30434-1. doi: 10.1016/j.matbio.2018.03.005. [Epub ahead of print] Review.  PMID: 29524630



Mischler S.E., Cauda E.G., Di Giuseppe, M., McWilliams L.J., St. Croix, C.,Su. M., Franks, J., and Ortiz LA. Differential activation of RAW 264.7 macrophages by size-segregated crystalline silica.  J Occup Med Toxicol. 2016 Dec 15;11:57. doi: 10.1186/s12995-016-0145-2. PMID: 28018477

Boregowda SV., Krishnappa V., Haga CL., Ortiz L.A.,and D.G. Phinney.  A clinical Indications Prediction Scale based on TWIST1for Human Mesenchymal Stem Cells. EBioMedicine. 2015 Dec 24;4:62-73. doi: 10.1016/j.ebiom.2015.12.020. eCollection 2016 Feb. PMID: 26981553


Phinney D.G., DiGiuseppe M.,Njah J., Sala-Llinas E.,DeLuliis, G., Kaminski N., Shiva S., St. Croix C.M. Stolz D.B., Watkins S.C., Di P.Y., Leikauf GD., Kolls J., Riches DWH., McKenna D., and Ortiz L.A.  Mesenchymal stem cells use extracellular vesicles to outsource mitophagy and shuttle microRNAs.  Nat Commun. 2015 Oct 7;6:8472. doi: 10.1038/ncomms 9472.  PMID: 26442449.

Luis A Ortiz