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ARRA Investments in the Development and Treatment of Asthma

Public Health Burden
Asthma is a chronic disease that affects approximately 23 million people in the United States, and more than 300 million people worldwide.  The combined direct and indirect costs of asthma to the United States economy exceed $19 billion annually.

Development and Severity
While the exact cause of asthma remains unknown, it is believed to arise from a combination of environmental and genetic factors.  These factors may also contribute to the disparity of symptoms seen in asthmatics of varying sex, race, and socioeconomic background.  Multiple ARRA funded grants have been awarded to study the cause and severity of asthma, including those aimed at:
  • Identifying the environmental factors underlying the development of asthma in children.1,2,3
  • Studying the mechanisms by which specific proteins (i.e., Mfge8,4Muc15) regulate asthma development and severity.
  • Determining the role of allergies in asthma.  These include identifying allergic genes that correlate with a higher risk for severe asthma,6 and gaining insight into the mechanisms of allergic inflammation in order to define novel therapeutic targets for the treatment of asthma.7
Anti-inflammatory medications are the standard treatment for asthma.  However, they are not effective for all patients, and more than 3,000 people die each year from asthma.  ARRA funded grants are examining the efficacy of current therapies, as well as the development of alternative therapies.  A few include:
  • Examining the responsiveness of patients with persistent asthma to inhaled corticosteroids.8
  • Studying changes in gene expression and function following treatment with common medications used to treat acute asthma attacks.9
  • Determining the mechanisms of beta-blocker induced improvements in asthma with the long-range goal of developing beta-blockers as an alternative therapy for asthma.10
Basic Research
Numerous ARRA funded grants are supporting basic research on the immunobiology of asthma. These studies are aimed at identifying new molecular targets with the overall goal of developing interventions to prevent the onset of disease, and more effective treatments to reduce morbidity and mortality. A few of these include:
  • Determining the role of specific immune cells, including natural killer T cells,11 neutrophils,12 and mast cells,13 in asthma.
  • Studying the ability of allergic mice to turn off their asthma.  This project seeks to better understand how immune cells are able to inhibit airway inflammation in mice, and potentially apply this to humans with asthma.14
Cooperative Research Centers
NIH ARRA funds have been awarded to two Asthma and Allergic Diseases Cooperative Research Centers (AADCRC).  These centers conduct basic and clinical research on the mechanisms, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of asthma and allergic disease.  They are:
  • Asthma and Allergic Diseases Cooperative Research Center – University of Texas, MD Anderson Cancer Center15
  • Asthma and Allergic Disease Center – University of Virginia16

  1. 3R01AI073964-02S1 -- Allergens in Inner-City Schools and Childhood Asthma -- Phipatanaul, Wanda (MA)
  2. 2R01AI035786-16 -- The Epidemiology of Home Allergens and Asthma -- Gold, Diane (MA)
  3. 3R56AI050681-06A2S1 -- Early Environmental Hygiene and Pediatric Asthma -- Johnson, Christine (MI)
  4. 1R21AI073988-01A1 -- Role of MUC1 in the Genesis of Allergic Asthma -- Kim, Kwang Chul (PA)
  5. 1R03AI081988-01 -- The Role of Mfge8 and Apoptotic Cell Clearance in Regulating Asthma Severity -- Atabai, Kamran (CA)
  6. 3U19AI070234-03S1 -- Epithelial Genes in Allergic Inflammation -- Khuranahershey, Gurjit (OH)
  7. 1R21AI076699-01A2 -- PGD2 Receptor Subtype Functions in T Cells from Asthmatics -- Loza, Matthew (NC)
  8. 3R01AI079139-01A1S1 -- Pharmacogenomics of Inhaled Corticosteroid Responsiveness in Patients with Asthma -- Williams, Keoki (MI)
  9. 1R03AI078230-01A1 -- Methylation Analysis of the Gene ADRB2 -- Hawkins, Gregory (NC)
  10. 1R01AI079236-01A1 -- Mechanisms of Beta-blocker Induced Improvements in Asthma -- Bond, Richard (TX)
  11. 2R01AI026322-18A2 -- Heterogeneity among Human CD4 T Lymphocytes -- Umetsu, Dale (MA)
  12. 1R21AI076760-01A2 -- Concentration Lock-on Microdevices for the Investigation of Neutrophil Chemotaxis -- Irimia, Daniel (MA)
  13. 1R03AI079471-01 -- Complement Protein Synthesis and Activation by Human Mast Cells -- Fukuoka, Yoshihiro (VA)
  14. 1R21AI079533-01A1 -- Regional B Cells Modulate Airway Th2 Responses -- Schramm, Craig (CT)
  15. 3U19AI071130-03S1 -- Asthma and Allergic Diseases Cooperative Research Center -- Liu, Yongjun (TX)
  16. 3U19AI070364-04S1 -- Asthma and Allergic Disease Center -- Platts-Mills, Thomas (VA)

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