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Two Philadelphia Researchers Join American Lung Association Research Team for 2019-2020

Lung Association expands research investment to $8.7 million, making headway on its commitment to double its investment in research

(November 20, 2019) - Philadelphia, PA

– With a vision of a world free of lung disease, the American Lung Association funds a wide range of research to improve lung health, including lung cancer, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) pulmonary fibrosis and more. Today the organization announced its new research team, which includes three University of Pittsburgh researchers: Partha Dutta, Ph.D., Hannah Gideon, Ph.D. and Seema Lakdawala, Ph.D. This year, the Lung Association has also increased its research investment to $8.7 million, through awards for both our Airways Clinical Research Center (ACRC) Network and its innovative Awards & Grants program. This announcement comes at an important time, as November is both Lung Cancer Awareness Month and COPD Awareness Month. 

The Awards and Grants Program provides investigators with the funds, at all levels of their career, to conduct novel and promising research to prevent, treat and even cure lung disease. The ACRC is the nation's largest not-for-profit network of clinical research centers dedicated to asthma and COPD treatment research that promises to have a direct, positive impact on patient care. 

Research projects funded by the Lung Association are carefully selected through rigorous scientific review and represent the investigation of a wide range of complex issues to help combat and reduce the suffering and burden of lung disease. See project overviews of all funded projects at Lung.org/research-team. 

Innovation Award

Dr. Dutta’s research at the University of Pittsburgh, titled “The Role of Endothelial Cell-Specific CX3CR1 in Pulmonary Hypertension” was given the Innovation Award. 

About the Research: Pulmonary hypertension (PH) is a rare but devastating disease characterized by increased pressure of blood vessels in the lungs, which ultimately leads to heart failure. More than 50% of patients die within five years after PH diagnosis. PH is thought to be triggered by an injury to endothelial cells, which line the inside of blood vessels. After an injury, these cells die and do not regenerate, resulting in the loss of small blood vessels in the lungs. Dr. Dutta has found that CX3CR1, a molecule known to increase inflammation, is expressed by endothelial cells and can regulate survival of these cells. Endothelial cells in the lungs of patients with PH lose this molecule, leading to cell death. He will study the role of CX3CR1 in stopping endothelial cell death, which can lead to improved treatment for PH.

The formation of cancer is regulated by changes to specific genes that control energy and processing of nutrients. These steps are needed for the cancer to keep proliferating. Dr. Dutta has found that the cellular content of sugar-related molecules called hexosamines is dramatically increased by a combination of two of the most common gene mutations in lung cancer. This increase leads to important processes that occur in cancer development. He will study how these mutations increase hexosamine metabolism in lung cancer, and evaluate if targeting this molecule can be beneficial for treating lung cancer. 

Biomedical Research Grant

Dr. Gideon’s research at the University of Pittsburgh, titled “Mobilizing the Immune System Against TB,” was given a Biomedical Research Grant.

About the Research: Tuberculosis (TB) is a lung disease caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb). TB causes lung lesions called granulomas. Blood and airway cells are often studied in people, but how it relates to granulomas is not known. Dr. Gideon will use a macaque model of TB to study blood and airway cells in relation to granulomas using innovative technology. By knowing how blood and airway cells relate to that of granulomas, she will be able to relate outcomes in the lung that are reflected in blood and airways. This knowledge will aid in the development of better vaccines and treatment options to kill TB and reduce damage to healthy lung tissue by immune response.

Biomedical Research Grant

Dr. Lakdawala’s research at the University of Pittsburgh, titled “Reducing the Spread of Influenza Virus Through the Air,” was given a Biomedical Research Grant. 

About the Research: Every winter about 20 million people in the U.S. will get infected with an influenza virus. A key to reducing cases of influenza infections is to block the spread of influenza viruses through the air. Influenza viruses replicate in the respiratory tract. Coughing, talking, and exhaling can promote the spread of influenza viruses, since these processes expel droplets and aerosols containing viruses. People become infected by breathing in virus-containing aerosols or touching contaminated surfaces. Dr. Lakdawala will investigate how the environment alters the stability of influenza viruses in expelled aerosols and droplets, in order to engineer control measures that improve the air we breathe in confined indoor environments and reduce influenza infections.

Lung cancer is the #1 cancer killer of both women and men in the U.S. During November’s Lung Cancer Awareness Month, the American Lung Association’s LUNG FORCE initiative is dedicated to increasing awareness about the risk of this deadly disease and uniting Americans to raise funds for critical lung cancer research. The Lung Association is funding many research grants dedicated to lung cancer research, including the Lung Cancer Discovery Award. 

COPD is by itself the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S. The Lung Association is using this November – COPD Awareness Month – as an opportunity to educate Americans on all aspects of COPD including causes, prevention, disease management and treatment and how to find patient and caregiver support. The Lung Association is also funding a number of studies focused on COPD, in addition to the ongoing clinical trials being conducted by the ACRC. 

See project overviews of all funded projects at Lung.org/research-team.

For media interested in speaking with an expert about lung health and the American Lung Association Research Team, contact Val Gleason at [email protected] 717-971-1123. 

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About the American Lung Association

The American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease, through research, education and advocacy. The work of the American Lung Association is focused on four strategic imperatives: to defeat lung cancer; to improve the air we breathe; to reduce the burden of lung disease on individuals and their families; and to eliminate tobacco use and tobacco-related diseases. For more information about the American Lung Association, a holder of the coveted 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and a Gold-Level GuideStar Member, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit: Lung.org.

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