Boston University School of Medicine receives a grant to study chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

December 08, 2008

(Boston)-Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) is one of seven centers to receive a four-year grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to use cutting edge genomic technologies to better understand lung disease. The $2.9 million awarded to BUSM will fund a study to probe the causes of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a disease associated with smoking that is characterized by airflow limitation.

COPD is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States and a significant public health burden. There is currently no cure for COPD, and the limited available therapies are mainly used to treat symptoms of the disease. While the role cigarette smoke plays in COPD is undisputed, the mechanism by which inhaled smoke contributes to disease pathogenesis remains unclear. The purpose of this study is to develop an understanding of the processes that contribute to COPD pathogenesis, ultimately yielding tools for stratifying and treating COPD patients based on the molecular processes that are responsible for their disease.

"One of the major barriers to the development of new approaches to diagnose and manage COPD is the clinical heterogeneity among COPD patients," said principle investigator of the study Avrum Spira, MD, an associate professor of medicine and pathology at Boston University School of Medicine. "We have shown in our previous work that cigarette smoke affects the entire respiratory tract, and that we can detect signs of disease-specific processes occurring deep in the lung by examining, using microarray technology, the pattern of genes that are turned on and off in the relatively accessible cells at the top of the airway. In this study, we will use this approach to help figure out the molecular processes that give rise to COPD in individual patients. Our hope is that this will give us some important clues about what underlies the symptomatic differences seen between patients, and that ultimately we will be able to tailor which therapies a patient receives for their COPD based on these differences," said Marc Lenburg, PhD, associate professor of pathology and the other principle investigator on the study.
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The National Institutes of Health (NIH) The Nation's Medical Research Agency includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research, and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases.

Established in 1873, Boston University School of Medicine is a leading academic and research institution, with an enrollment of nearly 630 students and more than 1,100 full and part-time faculty members. It is known for its programs in arthritis, cardiovascular disease, cancer, human genetics, pulmonary disease and dermatology, among others, and is one of the major biomedical research institutions in the United States. The School is affiliated with Boston Medical Center, its principal teaching hospital, and Boston Veterans Administration Medical Center. Along with Boston Medical Center and 15 community health centers, the School of Medicine is a partner in Boston HealthNet.

Boston University

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