According to a university news release, the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson has received a $7 million National Institutes of Health grant to fund a five-year study of the interrelationship of genetic mediators to reduce lung inflammation and attacks in asthma patients.

The grant was awarded to Monica Kraft, MD, an internationally renowned physician-scientist who specializes in translational asthma research at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson and the UA Health Sciences’ Asthma and Airways Diseases Research Center.

The research, funded through the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), will seek a better understanding of mediators that help control lung inflammation and improved therapies to reduce severe attacks in those with asthma.

Analysis will focus on dysfunctional single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs or “snips”) of surfactant protein A (SP-A), a lipid constituent of surfactant known as POPG (palmitoyl-oleoyl-phosphatidylglycerol) and Toll-like receptor interacting protein (Tollip). Surfactant helps to open up aveolar sacs in the lungs and change surface tension so lungs can expand. SP-A, POPG and Tollip act as mediators, signaling synergistically which foreign irritants or conditions in the lungs to attack or not. Each perform critical negative regulatory functions interacting cooperatively to offer protection from allergic inflammation and viral exacerbations of asthma—but, when impaired, cause more acute reactions in asthma sufferers.

“We’ll look at how certain airway cells handle infectious agents in the setting of allergic inflammation in asthma,” Dr Kraft said. “We’ve found, in humans, not all SP-A is created equal. The same holds true for Tollip. Depending on the genetics of your SP-A or Tollip, their function can be impaired. So, if you have these impaired or dysfunctional aspects of host defense and suffer from asthma, the combination can be very detrimental—leading to more allergic inflammation and asthma attacks.”

Read more about the study at the UAMC-Tuscon website.