Kenichi (Ken) Tamama, MD, PhD
Associate Professor of Pathology

Dr. Tamama is a member of the Division of Clinical Chemistry. He is Medical Director of the Clinical Toxicology Laboratory and CP Informatics. He is also Director of Pathology Resident Training in Clinical Chemistry.
Office Location:
3477 Euler Way
3016 Clinical Laboratory Building
Pittsburgh PA 15213
Contact Information:
Office Telephone:
Lab Telephone:


  • MD - Gunma University School of Medicine, Maebashi, Japan, 1995
  • PhD - Gunma University Graduate School of Medical Sciences, Maebashi, Japan, 2001

Clinical Expertise

As a board certified clinical pathologist, I oversee Clinical Toxicology Laboratory in UPMC Clinical Laboratories and sign out Toxicology cases generated by GC-MS. He is also working on the assay development of newly emerging drugs of abuse and test optimization with the Medical Toxicology team. He also leads the Clinical Toxicology Laboratory team to upgrade the GC-MS-based platform to the LC-high resolution MS. He also oversees the CP Informatics in the UPMC.

Research Interests

Cell therapy with adult multipotential stromal cells or mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) is a promising approach against various diseases, as these cells promote angiogenesis and tissue regeneration, and exert immunomodulatory effects upon cell transplantation. But some studies have shown limited or no beneficial effects of MSC-based therapeutics; possible causes of these conflicting results include pro-inflammatory effects and in vitro cell senescence and heterogeneity of individual cells within MSC preparation.

MSC preparation as 3D spheroidal aggregates or MSC spheroids is a novel preparatory and delivery method. Spheroid formation enhances the anti-inflammatory and angiogenic effects of MSCs, leading to improvement of the overall therapeutic potential of MSCs. Spheroid formation causes dramatic changes in the gene expression profile with cellular rejuvenation (Reduced cell size with enhanced MSC stemness and delayed replicative senescence). The underlying molecular mechanisms that account for these dramatic changes are largely unknown, but our previous study indicates the importance of mechano-signaling, autophagy, and epigenomics in MSC spheroids.

By focusing on key signaling molecules in 3D MSC spheroids, we expect to decipher the molecular mechanisms that cause dramatic changes in the gene expression profile with cellular rejuvenation (Reduced cell size with enhanced MSC stemness and delayed replicative senescence). Our study will deepen our understanding of 1) difference in the cell characteristics between 2D culture and 3D cell culture conditions; 2) pro- and anti-inflammatory effects of MSCs; and 3) in vitro cell senescence and heterogeneity of MSC population. Because of their stronger therapeutic potentials, our study will also have direct implications of MSC spheroid or its derivative-based therapeutics.


  • Diplomate of American Board of Pathology (CP)
  • Physicians License - PA, OH, CA, Japan


Clinical Chemistry

Honors and Awards

  • Wound Healing Society (WHS) Organogenesis Award Finalist, 2012
  • ACLPS Paul E. Strandjord Young Investigator Award, 2007
  • NAVBO Junior Investigator Award, 2007
  • ASIP Trainee Travel Award and ASIP Young Pathologist Fellowship for Experimental Biology, 2007
  • ACLPS Paul E. Strandjord Young Investigator Award , 2006
  • CAP Foundation Scholar Research (Salary support of US$25,000), 2005-2006
  • CP Web Case Winner, Pathology Resident Program, University of Pittsburgh, 2005
  • First place winner in Clinical Research at Retreat of Department of Pathology, University of Pittsburgh, 2005
  • ACLPS Paul E. Strandjord Young Investigator Award, 2005
  • CP Web Case Winner, Pathology Resident Program, University of Pittsburgh, 2005
  • ACLPS Paul E. Strandjord Young Investigator Award, 2003
  • Fellowship of Japan-North America Medical Exchange Foundation, 2002
  • Fellowship of Japan Medical Education Foundation for clinical clerkship in U.K., 1994

Selected Publications

View Dr. Tamama's publications on PubMed

(* denotes corresponding authorship)

  • Carlsen ED, Smith JA, Tamama K*. Utilization of GC-MS to confirm etiology in a case of new-onset coagulopaghy. J Appl Lab Med. In press
  • Lopez Nunez OF, Rymer JA, Tamama K*. Case of sudden acute coma followed by spontaneous recovery. J Appl Lab Med. In press
  • Liu L, Wheeler SE, Venkataramanan R, Rymer JA, Pizon AF, Lynch MJ, Tamama K*. Newly emerging drugs of abuse and their detection methods: An ACLPS Critical Review. Am J Clin Pathol. 2018 Jan 29;149(2):105-116. (Highlighted as an Editor's Choice and chosen as a journal CME article by the journal)
  • Lopez Nunez OF, Pizon AF, Tamama K*. Ricin poisoning following oral ingestion of castor beans: A case report and review of the literature and laboratory testing. J Emerg Med. 2017 Nov;53(5):e67-e71.
  • Liu L, Tamama K, Peck Palmer OM. Selenium Overload?. Clin Chem. 2016 Apr;62(4):658.
  • Cesarz Z, Funnell JL, Guan J, Tamama K*. Soft Elasticity-Associated Signaling and Bone Morphogenic Protein 2 are Key Regulators of Mesenchymal Stem Cell Spheroidal Aggregates. Stem Cells Dev. 2016 Apr 15;25(8):622-35.
  • Cesarz Z, Tamama K*. Spheroid culture of mesenchymal stem cells. Stem Cell Int. 2016;2016:9176357.
  • Li X, Tamama K, Xie X, Guan J. Improving Cell Engraftment in Cardiac Stem Cell Therapy. Stem Cell Int. 2016;2016:7168797.
  • Tamama K*, McFadden K, Guan J. Improving Stem and Progenitor Cell Therapeutics. Stem Cell Int. 2016;2016:1409762.
  • Liu L, Wheeler SE, Rymer JA, Lower D, Zona J, Peck Palmer OM, Tamama K*. Ranitidine interference with standard amphetamine immunoassay. Clin Chim Acta. 2015 Jan 1;438:307-8.
  • Mika LM, Guyette MK, Pillage G, Tamama K*. Discrepant Glucose Results between Capillary and Venous Blood in an 83-Year-Old White Man. Lab Med Fall 2014;45:e156-e157
  • Barbeau DJ, La KT, Kim DS, Kerpedjieva SS, Shurin GV, Tamama K*. Early Growth Response-2 Signaling Mediates Immunomodulatory Effects of Human Multipotential Stromal Cells. Stem Cells Dev. 2014; 23(2):155-66.
  • Berg A, Tamama K, Peck Palmer OM Metabolic acidosis with discrepant lactate results. Clin Chem. 2013 Apr;59(4):713-4.
  • Dwyer JB, Tamama K* Ketoacidosis and Trace Amounts of Isopropanol in a Chronic Alcoholic Patient. Clin Chim Acta. 2013; 415: 245-249