Research Awards Nationwide Glossary

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A condition that progresses quickly and continues for a short time.

One of a group of viruses causing upper respiratory disease, including colds.

(Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) A disease in which the cellular immune system is disabled. It is caused by infection by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). HIV destroys a specific white blood cell, the helper T lymphocyte or T cell. Without this T cell, the cellular immune system cannot function properly. AIDS is diagnosed in a patient with HIV infection who has a major complication, such as Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia.

The route for passage of air into and out of the lungs.

Mutually exclusive forms of the same gene, occupying the same locus on homologous chromosomes, and governing the same biochemical and developmental process.

A substance capable of inducing allergy or specific hypersensitivity, such as pollen.

Relating to the alveolus (singular) or alveoli (plural), the terminal, tiny saclike structures in the lung where gas exchange takes place.

A genus of naked, lobose, pseudopod-forming protozoa of the class Sarcodina that are abundant soil-dwellers, especially in rich organic debris, and are also commonly found as parasites.

The formation and differentiation of blood vessels.

Any molecule that provokes the synthesis of an antibody.

A substance that hinders oxidation. In the lungs, oxidant molecules are suspected of contributing to a variety of serious conditions; antioxidants can be an important defense.

A genetically determined process of cell self-destruction, marked by the fragmentation of nuclear DNA, is activated either by the presence of a stimulus or by the removal of a stimulus or suppressing agent. It is a normal physiological process, eliminating DNA-damaged, superfluous, or unwanted cells (as immune cells targeted against the self in the development of self-tolerance or larval cells in amphibians undergoing metamorphosis); and when halted (as by genetic mutation) may result in uncontrolled cell growth and tumor formation.

A disease in which the lungs become scarred with fibrous tissue. It results from a high occupational exposure to asbestos.

A genus of fungi with black, brown, or green spores that includes many common molds such as clavatus, flavus, Aspergillus fumigatus, nidulans, niger, and terreus.

A syndrome caused by chronic inflammation of the airway canal, characterized by increased reactivity of the airways to a variety of stimuli, which results in reversible airway swelling, spasm, and increased mucus production characterized by coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath.

autoimmune disease
A disease that results when the immune system attacks elements of its own body.



The usually transient presence of bacteria in the blood.

(bacteria) A single-celled, microscopic organism existing in many forms, some of which cause disease.

beta-adrenergic agonists
Any of various drugs that combine with and activate receptors which exist on cell surfaces of some effector organs and tissues. This explains the specificity of certain adrenergic agents in activating or blocking only some sympathetic activities (as vasodilation, increase in muscular contraction and beat of the heart, and relaxation of smooth muscle in the bronchi and intestine).

The chemistry of living organisms.

BPD (Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia)
A condition of the lungs in infants and children that may follow the treatment of respiratory distress syndrome in infants. It is characterized by distortion of the airways and scar formation.

A chronic inflammatory or degenerative condition of one or more bronchi or bronchioles marked by dilatation and loss of elasticity of the walls.

bronchiolitis obliterans
Extensive scarring (fibrosis) of the small airways.

Inflammation of the bronchial tubes.

Reduction in the caliber of a bronchus or bronchi.



calcium channels
Pores that allow calcium to get inside of a cell.

A disease involving abnormal, uncontrolled growth of a group of cells. Damage may be caused by local growth or spread throughout the body.

caveolar kinases
Enzymes that catalyze the transfer of phosphate groups from a high-energy phosphate-containing molecule (as ATP or ADP) to a substrate in small vesicular invaginations of the cell membrane.

The basic subunit of any living organism; the simplest unit that can exist as an independent living system. There are many different types of cells in people, each with specific characteristics. The lung has more than 25 different types of cells.

Soluble proteins produced and released by a wide variety of cell types during the initial phase of host response to injury, allergens, antigens, or invading microorganisms.

The genetic material of the nucleus, consisting of basic proteins that are usually dispersed in the interphase and condensed into chromosomes in mitosis and meiosis.

The structures of a cell that contain the genes, or hereditary factors, and are constant in numbers in each species.

A group of genetically identical cells or organisms asexually descended from a common ancestor. All cells in the clone have the same genetic material and are exact copies of the original. The word is also applied to a single gene. An important biotechnology tool is the ability to isolate and make many copies of (clone) specific genes.

A key fibrous element of supporting tissue. It provides the strength to many organs.

COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)
Refers to chronic bronchitis and emphysema, common serious diseases which are characterized by irreversible obstruction to flow of air in the lungs.

A drug that has actions similar to the natural cortisone of the body.

A protein thought to play important roles in cancer development, but that has many other functions as well.

Cryptococcus neoformans
A species of yeast-like fungi that causes an acute or chronic infection resulting in a pulmonary, systematic, or meningeal infection in humans.

cystic fibrosis
An inherited disease that is caused by a defect in transportation of certain salts across biologic membranes. Many organs are affected. In the lungs, a severe form of bronchitis is produced in children and young adults.

Protein chemical messengers involved in the inflammatory process, usually from white blood or similar cells.

The network of protein filaments and microtubules in the cells that controls cell shape, maintains intracellular organization, and is involved in cell movement.

Toxic to cells.



Reversion of specialized structures (as cells) to a more generalized or primitive condition, often as a preliminary to major physiological or structural change.

To make (a sensitized or hypersensitive individual) insensitive or nonreactive to a sensitizing agent.

The development of a discriminating conditioned response with a positive response to one stimulus and absence of the response on the application of similar but discriminably different stimuli. The maturation of cells from premature to specific forms such as lining cells of the airways and blood vessels.

Situated away from the point of attachment or origin or a central point.

DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid)
The molecule containing hereditary information in all but the most primitive organisms. Genes and chromosomes are composed of DNA.



Accumulation of excessive fluid in tissues.

A fibrous element of supporting tissue. It provides the stretchable characteristic of the lungs. Destruction of elastin is thought to be the key step in the production of emphysema.

A condition characterized by the destruction of the walls of air spaces, which results in permanently abnormally enlarged air spaces. This condition decreases the amount of lung surface available for the uptake of oxygen. The resistance to air flow in the air passages is increased, requiring more breathing effort. Severe emphysema is characterized by a profound sense of breathlessness.

Cells comprising the inside layer of the walls of certain hollow organs such as blood vessels.

Proteins that speed up specific biochemical processes in an organism. They are fundamental to virtually all biochemical processes.

A white blood cell that contains granules filled with a specific set of chemicals and enzymes that influence inflammatory reactions. They are increased in several classes of disease, including allergic diseases.

epithelial cells
Cells lining the walls of certain organs, such as the airways of the lungs.



An elongated, flattened cell present in connective tissue, which produces fibrous tissue.

The formation of scar tissue; excessive formation of scar tissue throughout the lungs is called “pulmonary fibrosis.”



A sequence of DNA in the nucleus of a cell that codes for the production of a specific protein.

gene therapy
The introduction of a foreign gene into a cell to make that cell produce a protein that it otherwise would not have produced. The form of gene therapy being studied intensively involves provision of a gene which is lacking or not functioning properly. Very promising research is being conducted to develop gene therapy for cystic fibrosis and the hereditary form of emphysema.

An organ that secretes a substance.

graft vs. host disease
A serious complication of transplantation in which transplanted donor immune cells recognize the body as foreign and attack the recipient’s cells.



heat shock proteins
Also called stress proteins, these proteins are found in all living organisms. They play a central role in the survival of cells under stress, and are activated by heat, radiation, and chemotherapy.

(Human Immunodeficiency Virus) The agent responsible for causing AIDS. Patients with HIV infection will ordinarily develop abnormal immune systems and are predisposed to infection with organisms such as Pneumocystis carinii and Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

The use of high concentrations of oxygen. Hyperoxia is commonly used as lifesaving therapy in patients with profound loss of lung function, but prolonged use of hyperoxia can lead to inflammation, fluid accumulation, lung failure, and even death.

A pathological condition in which the body as a whole (generalized hypoxia), or region of the body (tissue hypoxia), or the blood is deprived of adequate oxygen supply.



idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF)
A chronic and usually progressive lung disorder of unknown cause.

A medical treatment that imparts immunity to a specific disease. “Vaccinations” and “flu shots” are immunizations.

Changing certain characteristics of the immune system, which may be done as therapy for a disease state.

A fundamental response to injury or abnormal stimulation, consisting of complex reactions occurring in the affected blood vessels and adjacent tissues. The inflammatory process includes destruction or removal of the material causing the injury and responses that lead to repair and healing, or responses that lead to a variety of acute and chronic disease states.

The supporting matrix of the lungs, as opposed to the airways or air sacs. May be the site of specific diseases.

in vitro
Outside of the living body; in a test tube or glass.

in vivo
Inside of the living body of a plant or animal; opposite of in vitro. Scientific studies frequently involve testing concepts in both ways.



A white blood cell that constitutes a major component of the immune system.

A general term for molecules that are the building blocks of fats.

A molecule made of a lipid and a protein.



Specialized cells that engulf and destroy bacteria and foreign particles in the lungs and other organs. In the lungs, these cells are called alveolar macrophages.

Usually refers to the behavior of a tumor that is invasive, destructive, or spreads to other parts of the body.

The surface covering a biologic entity. Example: mucous membranes line the nose and airways.

The chemical processes of the body.

The spreading of a disease to another part of the body.

molecular biology
A field of biology dealing with the fundamental biochemical organization of living matter, especially the biochemical basis for inheritance. For example, molecular biologists may study genes, DNA, or protein synthesis.

The smallest amount of a specific chemical substance that can exist alone.

Any alteration in the base sequence along the DNA, changing the genetic material.

Connective tissue cells that are important in normal wound-repair responses. They also play an important role in the development of the air sacs in the lungs, called alveoli.



A white blood cell important in the immune process.



Molecules that react readily with other molecules in a manner similar to the way in which oxygen reacts. The reaction can be destructive, and the generation of an excess of powerful oxidants is thought to play a role in several disease processes in the lungs.



A sequence of amino acids. Peptides are combined to make proteins.

A form of lipid that is combined with the phosphorous molecule. Phospholipids are key elements in the surfactant of the lungs, which prevents the alveoli from collapsing.

The science of living things, dealing with the normal life process.

Inflammation of the alveoli and/or supporting structures of the lungs (air sacs). Can be due to infection by bacteria, viruses, fungi, or other microorganisms. Some pneumonias are not infectious.

Pneumocystis carinii
A microorganism now considered to be a fungus that is an important cause of pneumonia in AIDS and other immune-suppressed patients.



Respiratory distress syndrome occurs in premature infants as a result of a lack of adequate surfactant, which makes the air sacs difficult to expand.

In nerves, a specialized nerve ending able to receive and respond to a stimulus in a specific way. Also used to describe the molecule on a cell surface that interacts with a specific chemical&bsp;messenger.



A disease that involves a distinct form of diffuse inflammation of the lungs, lymph nodes, and other organs. It is prevalent in African Americans and may lead to pulmonary fibrosis.

The presence of various pus-forming and other pathogenic microorganisms, or their toxins, in the blood.

SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome)
The unexplained and sudden death of an infant, one month to one year of age.

sleep apnea
One of several common respiratory disorders of adults and children, characterized by periodic cessation of breathing during sleep. It is usually accompanied by loud snoring and results in daytime sleepiness and other severe disabling characteristics.

smooth muscle
A lung tissue that plays a key role in airway inflammation and bronchial hyper-responsiveness (airway “twitchiness”).

A form of bacteria that may cause pneumonia.

A surface-tension lowering agent. Pulmonary surfactant is produced by alveolar type II cells, which line the alveolar space. It is essential for normal expansion of the lungs and is abnormal or lacking in premature infants with respiratory distress syndrome and other diseases.

A specific set of symptoms and/or medical findings that often occur together but are not distinct enough to be thought of as a single disease entity (e.g., sleep apnea syndrome).



General principles derived from a body of scientific data to explain a natural occurrence.

Ability to cause harm.

An infectious disease due to a microorganism called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The disease usually begins in the lungs, but can involve virtually any part of the body. Progression from infection to disease is more likely in patients with an abnormal immune system.

An abnormal collection of cells into a distinct physical entity.

T cells
Small white blood cells that orchestrate and/or directly participate in the immune defenses; also known as T lymphocytes, they are processed in the thymus and secrete lymphokines.

type I cells
The cells that line the alveoli that produce surfactant.



An inactivated (noninfectious) preparation of a microorganism that can be injected into a patient to stimulate the production of antibodies in order to protect the patient from infection by the live organism. Also an active but attenuated microorganism which causes a mild form of the disease while stimulating antibody production.

A device that provides for mechanically assisted breathing.

A tiny infectious agent that requires a host cell in order to replicate. It is composed of either RNA or DNA wrapped in a protein coat. Viruses cause a wide variety of diseases.