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LA BioMed's Dr. Richard Casaburi investigates causes of COPD

LOS ANGELES (Nov. 13, 2012) Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, is a progressive disease of the lungs that affects approximately 24 million people in the United States and is now the third leading cause of death in this country. For those who suffer from severe COPD, shortness of breath and other symptoms can make it difficult to perform simple tasks such as doing light housework, taking a walk, or even getting dressed. For more than two decades, Richard Casaburi, Ph.D., M.D., a senior investigator at Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute (LA BioMed), has focused his research on developing new therapies for COPD. Over the past five years, Dr. Casaburi has participated in a $37 million multi-center study based at National Jewish Health in Denver that seeks to uncover why, out of approximately 45.3 million adults in the United States who smoke cigarettes, only about 25 percent actually acquire COPD. Funded by the National Heart, Blood and Lung Institute of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), this study has now received a second grant to conduct follow-up studies and to obtain more in-depth results.

The initial five-year study began in 2007 with a goal of determining what factors in an individual's genetic makeup would predispose them to developing COPD. The study recruited 10,500 participants from around the country (760 at LA BioMed) who have a history of smoking. The researchers have been conducting a genome-wide association study of the participants to determine their genetic makeup, examining more than one million genetic characteristics from DNA blood samples. This first phase of the study focused on the genes predicting who will develop COPD and what these genes do. By determining the function of the predicting genes, the goal will be to develop new therapies to treat COPD.

"While there is currently no cure for COPD, it is important to understand what genetic deficiencies people may have that would cause them to contract this disease," said Dr. Casaburi. "In doing so, this may lead to the discovery of new therapies that could help successfully treat COPD based on these findings."

Beginning in March 2013, all subjects will be asked to return and participate in the second phase of this study, which will focus on the genetic determinants of COPD progression.

An ancillary study is also being proposed that will highlight LA BioMed's expertise in therapies for exercise intolerance in COPD, a major cause of poor quality of life in these patients. The goal of the study is to determine which genes cause muscle dysfunction in individuals who suffer from this disease. This will tie in with a recent study conducted by Harry Rossiter, Ph.D., a member of Dr. Casaburi's group. By having all of the returning COPD Gene subjects perform a brief, but high-technology test of the muscles of the leg, subjects whose muscles function poorly can be identified. Further analysis will attempt to identify which genes are responsible for poor muscle function.

Drs. Casaburi, Rossiter, and the staff of the Rehabilitation Clinical Trials Center have recently moved into their new "home" in LA BioMed's new Chronic Diseases Clinical Research Center (CDCRC), which was dedicated in October 2012. The new CDCRC is a two-story, 23,171-square-foot research facility that will house the collaborative research efforts of investigator groups studying chronic diseases. In addition to COPD Rehabilitative Medicine, the CDCRC will also house research programs in Atherosclerosis Research and HIV/AIDS, as well as LA BioMed's Investigational Drugs Pharmacy.


Contact: Diana Soltesz
Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center (LA BioMed)

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