A West Virginia University researcher has received a grant from the American Lung Association to study how secondhand smoke leads to asthma.

“Secondhand smoke is an environmental trigger factor that leads to airway inflammation and asthma symptoms in susceptible individuals,” Zhong-Xin Wu, M.D., Ph.D., research associate in the Translational Tobacco Reduction Research Program, said. “The children of women who smoke during pregnancy and immediately after giving birth are at an increased risk of experiencing respiratory illnesses later in life. Studies show that the chances of developing or worsening childhood asthma increase in children of mothers who smoke.”

Dr. Wu and his team will use the $100,000 biomedical research grant to study changes in the airways caused by exposure to secondhand smoke during early life. They will focus on nerve growth factor, which is essential in promoting and maintaining growth and survival of the nervous system. Disruption of normal production and release of NGF after inhaling smoke results in changes in the airways, which leads to disease-related abnormalities in the respiratory system.

The researchers will study whether secondhand smoke enhances production of NGF during pregnancy and shortly after birth and examine whether these changes cause increased susceptibility to asthma in early life and beyond into adulthood.

Wu said the information to be gained from this study is particularly important in West Virginia where 27.3 percent of pregnant women smoke, compared to the national average of 10 percent.

The Translational Tobacco Reduction Research Program is a joint program of the Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center and the West Virginia Prevention Research Center at WVU. For more information see http://www.hsc.wvu.edu/mbrcc/T2R2/index.asp.



CONTACT: Angela Jones, HSC News Service
304-293-7087; jonesan@wvuh.com