Skip to Navigation
University of Pittsburgh
Print This Page Print this pages

April 30, 2009


Relationship style may impact brand choices

According to a study published in this month’s Journal of Consumer Research, “When Brand Personality Matters: The Moderating Role of Attachment Styles,” a consumer’s relationship style, otherwise known as “attachment style,” impacts an individual’s brand choices.

Lead author Vanitha Swaminathan, professor of business administration in the Katz Graduate School of Business, and co-authors Karen M. Stilley, a doctoral candidate in marketing at the Katz School, and Rohini Ahluwalia, a marketing professor at the University of Minnesota, explored the ways attachment styles influence brand choices.

According to the authors, individuals who exhibit anxious attachments are more influenced by “brand personalities,” the idea that a brand possesses human-like traits, such as sincerity or excitement. “Because of a low view of self, anxious individuals use brands to signal their ideal self-concept to future relationship partners and therefore focus more on the personality of the brand,” the authors wrote.

In the studies, conducted at Pitt, researchers tested participants to determine their attachment styles. They then asked participants about their desires for “sincere” versus “exciting” products.

“Anxious individuals who were more avoidant of relationships tended to choose Abercrombie jeans, which were perceived to be more exciting than sincere. In contrast, anxious individuals who seek intimacy in relationships were more likely to pick Gap jeans, which were perceived as more sincere than exciting,” the authors wrote.

“Our research points to an interesting but counterintuitive finding: Brand personality can be most useful for forging consumer brand connections in a domain where past literature in the interpersonal relationship context suggests brand attachments are most unlikely (high anxiety/high avoidance consumers),” the authors wrote. “Interestingly, brand personality might hold the key to forming attachments with and enhancing the purchase likelihood of these consumers.”


Glioma research presented

C-signaling proteins that fight foreign agents such as viruses and tumors also suppress brain tumor development, according to researchers from the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute. Results of the study were presented recently at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research.

According to Mitsugu Fujita, research instructor of neurological surgery at the School of Medicine, Type 1 interferons (IFN-alpha and IFN-beta) play pivotal roles in the dynamic relationship between a patient’s immune system and the development of gliomas, the most common form of brain cancer.

“Brain cancer kills more than 13,000 people every year,” said Fujita. “Despite all of the advances in cancer research, we still know relatively little about brain cancer development. In our laboratory, we are working to understand the role the immune system plays in brain cancer development from the beginning of the disease.”

Fujita and his colleagues induced brain tumors in mice, including rodents that lack receptors for Type 1 IFNs. The receptor-deficient mice exhibited accelerated tumor growth, indicating that a Type 1 IFN response is critical to tumor prevention.

This study was sponsored by a grant from the National Institutes of Health.


Drug protects against radiation

A drug being developed at the School of Medicine protects cells from the damaging effects of radiation exposure, suggests a study presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research.

The study, led by Joel Greenberger, chair of radiation oncology, was overseen by Pitt’s Center for Medical Countermeasures Against Radiation, which aims to identify and develop small molecule radiation protectors and mitigators that easily can be accessed and administered in the event of a large-scale radiological or nuclear emergency.

The drug JP4-039 assists the mitochondria (the energy generator within cells) in combating irradiation-induced cell death.

For this study, cells treated with JP4-039 immediately after irradiation demonstrated significant radioprotection, suggesting a potential role for the drug as a mitigator of radiation damage.

“Currently, no drugs on the market counteract the effects of radiation exposure,” said Greenberger. “We know this drug can counteract the damage caused by irradiation, and now we want to develop the ideal dosage, one that is effective for the general population while remaining non-toxic. Our goal is to take this drug through a phase I clinical trial and, once the dosage is established, develop the drug for late-stage clinical trials and market licensing.”

The study was funded by the Department of Health and Human Services Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority.


GAP grants awarded

Three $20,000 Global Academic Partnership (GAP) grants have been awarded to fund three international conferences/workshops.

The grants support international research conferences and workshops that result in publications and curricular enhancement. GAP, first launched in 2001, is an initiative of Pitt’s global studies program within the University Center for International Studies and the Office of the Provost. The global studies program is jointly sponsored by UCIS and the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs (GSPIA).

Projects must be related to one of the six global issues targeted by the global studies program: sustainable development; global economy and global governance; changing identities in a global world; conflict and conflict resolution; communication, technology and society, and global health.

Receiving funding are:

• “Youth, Labor and Neoliberal Governmentality in East Asia,” awarded to anthropology professor Gabriella Lukacs, East Asian languages and literatures professor Hiroshi Nara and GSPIA adjunct professor of politics Muge Kokten Finkel with partners from Sophia and Temple universities in Japan.

The grant will support a spring 2010 international symposium bringing together prominent junior and senior scholars to investigate two salient trends in East Asia-youth unemployment and underemployment.

• “Improving Maternal and Child Health Outcomes in Zambia,” awarded to Jeannette South-Paul, chair of the School of Medicine’s Department of Family Medicine; Steven M. Albert, professor of public health in the Graduate School of Public Health’s Department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences, and partners from the University of Zambia and Churches Health Association of Zambia.

The grant will support a workshop in July that will seek to identify clinical research needs, perspectives and priorities for academic and community leaders in Zambia; prepare a five-year maternal-child health collaborative clinical research agenda, and define potential resources available in both countries.

• “The State of Globalization in the Steel Industry: Taking Stock and Looking Ahead,” awarded to Ravi Madhavan, professor of business in the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business; Frank Giarratani, professor of economics in Pitt’s Center for Industry Studies, and partners from Tohoku University, Japan, and POSCO Research Institute, South Korea.

The grant will support a one-day workshop to be held in fall 2010. This workshop will bring together an international group of researchers to present and discuss position papers and to articulate plans for focused studies dealing with the current and future challenges of globalization in the steel industry.


Nursing has long-term benefits for mothers

The longer women breastfeed, the lower their risk of heart attacks, strokes and cardiovascular disease, report Pitt researchers in a study published in the May issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

The findings are based on 139,681 postmenopausal women enrolled in the Women’s Health Initiative study of chronic disease, initiated in 1994. Researchers found postmenopausal women who breastfed for at least one month had lower rates of diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, all known to cause heart disease. Women who had breastfed their babies for more than a year were 10 percent less likely to have had a heart attack or stroke or to have developed heart disease than women who had never breastfed.

The researchers found that the benefits from breastfeeding were long-term — an average of 35 years had passed since women enrolled in the study had breastfed.

“The longer a mother nurses her baby, the better for both of them,” said study author Eleanor Bimla Schwarz, professor of medicine, epidemiology, and obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences. “Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women, so it’s vitally important for us to know what we can do to protect ourselves. We have known for years that breastfeeding is important for babies’ health; we now know that it is important for mothers’ health as well.”

Among the co-authors of the study were Matthew Freiberg of medicine and epidemiology and Jane Cauley of GSPH.

The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health’s National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and the National Institute of Child Health and Development.


Funding awarded for AIDS training

Pitt has received a five-year, $2.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health’s Fogarty International Center to train researchers in regions of the world most hard-hit by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The grant, part of the center’s AIDS international training and research program (AITRP), will allow Pitt to develop a training site in Mozambique, where there are an estimated 750 new HIV infections every day, and to expand programs underway in Brazil and India.

“The HIV/AIDS epidemic remains uncontrolled in many regions in the world,” said principal investigator Lee Harrison, professor of medicine and epidemiology. “With an ever-growing number of patients in treatment programs, there is an urgent need for well-trained scientists to monitor patients and find out why people develop resistance to anti-HIV drugs.”

The Pitt training program in Mozambique is based on a partnership forged in 2006 with Catholic University Mozambique, the site of one of only two medical schools in the southeastern African country. With 1.8 million people living with HIV and one physician for every 33,000 residents, Mozambique has very limited capabilities for research and few trained investigators, Harrison said.

In Mozambique, the Pitt team will focus on training researchers in epidemiological methods to better understand the failure of antiretroviral treatment and to answer basic questions about HIV prevalence.

In Brazil, ranked second in number of reported AIDS cases in the Americas, training will focus on treatment and vaccine trials, tuberculosis research related to AIDS and the effectiveness of antiretroviral therapy in public clinics.

In India, where there are 2.5 million HIV-infected people, training will center on laboratory studies on the molecular mechanisms of HIV and the development of anti-HIV vaccines using Indian strains.

Pitt received one of seven AITRP grants recently awarded. AITRP has trained nearly 2,000 researchers overseas, most of whom remain in their countries to continue HIV/AIDS research, train young scientists and provide leadership to their governments on health issues.

Co-directing the Pitt program is Phalguni Gupta, professor in the Department of Infectious Diseases and Microbiology.


Lung tumors can destroy vitamin D

A study from the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI) presented recently at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research suggests that human lung tumors have the ability to eliminate vitamin D.

Principal investigator Pamela Hershberger, research assistant professor in UPCI’s Department of Pharmacology and Chemical Biology, said, “High levels of vitamin D help the body produce proteins with anti-tumor activity. We’ve discovered that lung cancer cells make an enzyme called CYP24, which counteracts the positive effects of vitamin D. To better study it, we developed the first radioactive-free assay that measures the amount of vitamin D in tissues and blood.”

According to Hershberger, this test is sensitive enough to have clinical potential. “We hope this new assay will help identify the best approaches to maintain therapeutic levels of vitamin D in tissues,” she said, adding that vitamin D one day could be used as a chemopreventive agent to improve patient outcomes.

The study was supported by UPCI’s Lung Cancer Specialized Program of Research Excellence.


The University Times Research Notes column reports on funding awarded to Pitt researchers as well as findings arising from University research.

We welcome submissions from all areas of the University. Submit information via email to:, by fax to 412/624-4579 or by campus mail to 308 Bellefield Hall.

For submission guidelines, visit online.

Leave a Reply