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

(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.


Contact: Allison Rubin
Boston University

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