Indianapolis – A $5 million grant has been awarded to the IU School of Medicine to establish an Asthma and Allergic Diseases Cooperative Research Center (AADCRC). Principal investigator of the center grant is Mark Kaplan, Ph.D., associate professor of pediatrics and director of Pediatric Pulmonary Basic Research in the Division of Pulmonology, Critical Care and Allergy at the IU School of Medicine.
The five-year grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease creates one of nine such centers in the U.S. The centers will work in collaboration and their principal investigators make up a steering committee to provide input and serve as a resource for all the AADCRC centers.
"The incidence of allergic diseases is rapidly increasing in the developed world," said Dr. Kaplan. "This is commonly seen as asthma, rhinitis and atopic dermatitis (eczema), alone or in combination. While atopic dermatitis is rarely life threatening, affected individuals suffer both physical and emotional discomfort. Moreover, there is a high correlation between eczema in infants and the development of asthma later in life, a disease that can be far more debilitating."
The researchers' goal is to identify diagnostic biological markers or indicators for these diseases that will help identify which children will be predisposed to developing asthma. "From this, we hope to develop therapies that will help us be better able to treat current conditions and prevent patients from developing severe disease later in life," Dr. Kaplan said.
Research at the AADCRC centers will include both basic and clinical research in immunology and pathobiology, and the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of asthma and allergic diseases. The purpose of creating such centers is to accelerate the application of fundamental knowledge of immune function to the investigation, prevention, and treatment of asthma and allergic diseases.
Members of the center at IU include Dr. Kaplan, Cheong-Hee Chang, Ph.D., associate professor of microbiology and immunology; and, Jeffrey Travers, M.D., Ph.D., chairman of the Department of Dermatology.
The IU team will examine patient samples and animal models of dermatitis to identify the various components of innate and acquired immunity that contribute to the onset, exacerbation and infection of atopic dermatitis lesions.
Their work is supported through other IU School of Medicine resources and includes involvement from Robert Tepper, M.D., Ph.D., the Mary Agnes Kennedy and Katheryn Kennedy Weinberger professor of pediatrics (pulmonology) and Susan Perkins, M.D., associate professor of medicine. Dr. Tepper is the principal investigator of a related grant for research on the risk of asthma in infants with atopic dermatitis. This new award will not only greatly enhance the allergic disease research program at IU, but also aid in recruitment for the growing asthma and allergic diseases research program in the IU Department of Pediatrics and the Herman B Wells Center for Pediatric Research.
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