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Pulmonary function and genetic variation in smoke metabolism

Institution: University of California, San Francisco
Investigator(s): Jennifer Gorman, M.D., M.P.H.
Award Cycle: 2004 (Cycle 13) Grant #: 13KT-0073 Award: $23,693
Subject Area: Epidemiology
Award Type: New Investigator Awards

Initial Award Abstract
Over the past few years there has been a reported increase in the number of people diagnosed with asthma and related diseases. It is believed that this increase is likely due to environment changes such as more frequent exposure to air pollutants like secondhand tobacco smoke. Studies of non-smokers and children has shown that exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke can increase the risk of developing asthma as well as inducing more severe disease in those that already have it. However, some people appear to be at greater risk of disease, and it is likely that this may be due to differences in a person’s genetic make-up.

The purpose of our research is to investigate the association of genetics and tobacco smoke exposure with abnormalities in lung function, a typical finding in those with asthma. We have selected several genes to study that are important in breaking down the harmful ingredients in tobacco smoke and that are associated with other tobacco-related diseases, such as cancer. Our study is unique due to the ethnic diversity and large size of the population. In this study, we will have the opportunity to study over 7,000 Americans that participated in a national study, and over half of the participants were of Hispanic or African-American descent. Because of the large size of this study, we hope to be able to find answers to the questions that, as of yet, remain unknown.

By understanding how tobacco smoke may affect lung function, we may be able to better understand how asthma is caused, or identify risk factors for development or severity of disease. There are several reasons why this is important. One is that asthma can be quite severe, and can affect someone for the majority of his/her life. Additionally, it is essential to more completely define the harmful effects from secondhand smoke exposure, as this is an exposure that should be able to be prevented. In the long-term, understanding of the genes involved in smoke-related lung damage may aid in the development of new therapies.