UA's Arizona Respiratory Center Receives $2.96 Million Grant To Study Immunologic Pathways to Childhood Asthma
Many young children wheeze when they have a viral respiratory infection, but it is not completely understood why these episodes develop and what relationship they have to asthma. As childhood asthma continues to grow more common, doctors are convinced that the immune system plays a major role in the development and severity of the disease.
Recent studies suggest that the increase of asthma and other allergic diseases are most prevalent in industrial, non-farming populations. The low incidence of asthma in farming populations supports the hygiene hypothesis, which suggests that microbial exposures early in life may drive immune system development in a way that reduces susceptibility to asthma and other allergic diseases.
To better understand the immunologic pathways that appear to protect against asthma, the National Institute of Allergy, Immunolgy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) has awarded the Arizona Respiratory Center a $2.96 million grant for a five-year study of immune system development in early childhood.
This research will continue the successful Infant Immune Study at the Arizona Respiratory Center, which focused on the relationship between a pregnant woman's allergy profile, her infant's immune characteristics, and the infant's later risk of developing asthma.
The study will involve 500 participants, enrolling women in their third trimester of pregnancy, and following their children's immune development from birth to age 8. In addition to periodic blood tests and respiratory questionnaires, house dust samples are obtained soon after birth to determine levels of bacteria in the home. Data will be collected throughout the study on a variety of independent variables, including pets in the home, household smoking, and demographic characteristics. In addition, the study will assess genes that may influence immune system outcomes.
Asthma and other allergic diseases are increasing too rapidly to be due to genetic causes alone. "These investigations of both genetic and environmental factors that influence immune system maturation may provide the basis for understanding the mechanisms underlying asthma susceptibility," says Anne Wright, PhD, research professor of pediatrics, Assistant Director of the Arizona Respiratory Center, and principal investigator of this study. Knowledge from this study should provide insights into the primary prevention of asthma, the most chronic disease of childhood in the United States.
Project co-principal investigator is Marilyn Halonen, PhD, of the Arizona Respiratory Center and research professor of medicine and professor of Microbiology and Immunology.
The Arizona Respiratory Center was designated the first Center of Excellence at the UA College of Medicine in 1971. Today, the internationally known Center combines the highest caliber of research, clinical care and teaching. The Center is recognized as one of the top institutions for respiratory care.