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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    UA lead team making headway in childhood asthma research

    Asthma is one of the most common chronic diseases present in millions of American children. Two researchers at the Arizona Respiratory Center are trying to find out if genetics and the environment are contributing to the disease.

    Fernando Martinez, UA regents’ professor and director of the Arizona Respiratory Center, had asthma as a child and relates to the difficulties of growing up with the disease.

    “Asthma affects children’s capacity to grow up in a normal environment,” Martinez said. “They miss school and other extracurricular activities, and this is one of the reasons I dedicated myself to decreasing the prevalence of this disease.”

    Martinez started his research career when he published an article in Health magazine in 1992, that focused on second-hand smoke and it’s effect on the likelihood of children developing asthma.

    Martinez said he aims to develop a therapeutic product for asthma with his ongoing research.

    “It is important to stimulate the immune system with bacterial products early in life,” Martinez said. “The reason why asthma has increased so much is because we are used to giving our children an environment that is too clean and that can prevent the maturation of the immune system at an early age.”

    Donata Vercelli, professor of cellular and molecular medicine and associate director of the Arizona Respiratory Center, focuses her research on the complications that stem from having asthma as well as the genetic components of asthma.

    “Asthma has very interesting mechanistic aspects that need to be elucidated,” Vercelli said. “Fifteen percent of the U.S. population is affected by asthma. The significance and complexity of the disease makes it fascinating to study.”

    Vercelli’s team is currently working on the effect of environmental exposures on asthma. These exposures include farm environments and the presence of pets in the household.

    “Asthma, at a present time, is a disease we can effectively cure, but not prevent, but this is why we are studying it, in hopes to prevent it,” Martinez said.

    Follow Priyanka Hadvani on Twitter.

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