Research Milestones

People from every walk of life are living healthier, more active lives – thanks to the medical breakthroughs pioneered by American Lung Association researchers and their colleagues worldwide. 

Since 1915, our researchers have made significant contributions/milestones in the fight against lung disease by revolutionizing treatment and unlocking secrets of the body's immune systems.  As such, premature babies are less likely to die for respiratory distress syndrome; TB rates are at an all time low; and young and old with chronic lung diseases are benefitting from improved treatment options such as lung transplantation, oxygen therapy and genetically-based medicines.  

Unfortunately, while research makes such a difference in our lives, most medical discoveries go unseen and unheralded.  In fact, most researchers will dedicate their entire career with the hope of finding that one major breakthrough that will lead to a cure for a particular lung disease.   The Unseen Giants Video below describes the tremendous perseverance of a typical researcher funded by the American Lung Association.


Click to play Unseen Giants

1920: The National Association embarked on a research program to treat and cure TB.

1929: The research committee of the National Association began supporting investigations into various improved X-ray machines and techniques. A consultation service on X-ray was established and, in cooperation with commercial manufacturers, equipment and techniques were radically changed.

1935: The tuberculin test and the X-ray became twin tools of diagnosis.

1948: The National Association began its medical research and teaching fellowships award program that targeted young physicians or students in related fields at the pre- and post-doctoral level. Sixty years later the program has spent well over $60 million dollars helping close to 3,000 young people pursue this goal.

1950: Dr. Edith Lincoln, a grantee, observed and reported that isoniazid prevented the development of serious complications in children such as miliary tuberculosis and tuberculous meningitis. Public Health Service trials underscored isoniazid's important role as a prophylactic agent for household contacts of tuberculosis patients.

1956: The Research Program was expanded to include all lung diseases. Funds were provided to determine the practicality and procedures of pulmonary function screening tests given on a mass scale to apparently normal population groups.

1959: Dr. Mary Ellen Avery, a grantee, discovered that the lungs of babies with respiratory distress syndrome lack the fatty substance, surfactant. For her continued investigative work in this field she was awarded the National Medal of Science in 1991.

1973: The National Association changed its name to the American Lung Association.

1983: Una Loy Clark, wife of the world's first artificial heart recipient, Dr. Barney Clark, testified on behalf of the American Lung Association before a Senate committee and appeared at the White House to publicize the dangers of smoking.

1989: Dr. Michael Iannuzzi, a grantee, helped discover the cystic fibrosis gene, an often fatal lung disease that affects 30,000 Americans and is the result of a defective gene that causes the body to produce abnormally thick mucus, which clogs the lungs and leads to life-threatening lung infections.

1995: An independent evaluation of the Awards and Grants Program found that up to 90% of awardees went on to a successful career in lung health.

2001: The American Lung Association Asthma Clinical Research Centers found that the flu shot was safe for children and adults with asthma.

2007: The American Lung Association Asthma Clinical Research Centers found that the longstanding practice of prescribing heartburn medication to be ineffective and unnecessarily expensive for some asthma patients who did not exhibit symptoms associated with acid reflux such as heartburn or stomach pain.

2008: Dr. Alan Fields, a grantee at Mayo Clinic Florida, identified a major oncogene that may cause the development of lung cancer and that a drug approved to treat arthritis may function in inhibiting the growth of tumor cells.

2009: The American Lung Association Asthma Clinical Research Centers found that the methacholine challenge test was more effective in diagnosing asthma correctly in African Americans compared to Caucasian participants. This was the first study to show a racial difference in MCT diagnostic sensitivity between African Americans and Caucasians.

2011: The American Lung Association Asthma Clinical Research Centers published an article highlighting the multiple accomplishments of the Network over the past 12 years.

2013: American Lung Association awardee, Dr. Ruchi Gupta, was highlighted on ABC, NBC and in the Chicago Tribune for her work in Chicago public schools regarding asthma awareness. Dr. Gupta’s research is attempting to empower students to address factors impacting asthma in their community.