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National Jewish Health researchers awarded $13 million to evaluate treatments for toxic gases

National Jewish Health researchers have received nearly $13 million from the National Institutes of Health to evaluate potential rescue medications for victims of terrorist attacks, wartime use of toxic gases, and/or inhalation disasters. The gases of greatest interest in these studies will be 'mustard gas' (sulfur mustard) and chlorine gas.

"The excitement about these studies is that they are designed to provide rescue treatments," said Carl White, MD, principal investigator of the grant.

The grant, part of the NIH's Countermeasures Against Chemical Threats Research Network (CounterACT), is for 5 years. The rescue agents to be given greatest study in these trials will include fibrinolytics ('clot busters'), anticoagulants, catalytic antioxidants, and flavonoids (specific herbal remedies). Researchers will evaluate models of damage to the lungs and airways and to skin.

"We have already found very encouraging preliminary data in which some of our agents can be effective even when given several hours after the toxic inhalation," said Dr. White. "This is important because real world conditions can cause minutes to hours of delay in getting to victims of such tragedies."

The work involves collaborations between two teams of investigators at National Jewish Health and one from the University of Colorado School of Pharmacy, as well as a collaborating center at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense (USAMRICD).

"The drugs we are testing work through several different mechanisms so that they may prevent or limit progressive damage to airways or skin, as well as prevent or clear blockage of airways," said Dr. White. "It is also exciting that some of the treatments we develop may also carry over to other difficult lung diseases of childhood and adults."

The initial focus of the research is on the acute injury to lungs and skin occurring in the first 24-48 hours of exposure. As the studies progress over the next several years, researchers hope to evaluate the ability of our relatively early interventions to prevent lung fibrosis and bronchiolitis obliterans that can result from such exposures.

Contact: William Allstetter
National Jewish Health

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