Researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College were awarded a $6.5 million grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute for a 5-year investigation into metabolic changes occurring within airway epithelial cells in the lungs of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients caused by cigarette smoking. In addition, researchers aim to identify which cigarette smokers are at highest risk of developing COPD as well as novel biomarkers to assist in the development of new therapeutic treatments for the disease.
"Twenty percent of smokers get COPD, so it is vital that we identify who is at the highest risk and why," says Ronald G. Crystal, MD, co-principal investigator for the study and chairman of genetic medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College. "Gaining a better understanding of COPD’s underlying biology and the metabolic changes forced by cigarette smoke to airway epithelial cells will help us effectively deal with this major health problem. We can use this information to develop new ways to protect the lungs."
In the study, Weill Cornell researchers will for the first time use metabolomics to broadly identify, analyze and profile abnormal changes in cell metabolism and metabolites for COPD in the airway of epithelial cells in the lungs. Using the latest state-of-the-art mass spectrometry-based technology to assist in global metabolite profiling of lung serum and tissue samples of COPD patients, researchers will examine thousands of small molecules and measure changes in metabolite expression. Cell metabolism is the set of chemical reactions that occur inside the cell and metabolites are their small molecule products that participate in all aspects of cellular function.
In addition, researchers will combine metabolic profiling with in vitro studies of human subjects and murine airway epithelium. Serum, lung epithelial lining fluid, and airway epithelium samples from human research subjects—as well as an extensive cohort of banked human clinical trial samples—will be analyzed and compared from a population of nonsmokers, smokers, COPD smokers, and smokers with and without COPD who underwent smoking cessation.
Weill Cornell’s new award is part of a larger grant awarded to five institutions chosen to receive funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study the abnormal metabolism of cardiovascular and lung diseases. The five partnering institutions include: Washington University, Cleveland Clinic, Emory University, National Jewish Health, and Weill Cornell. Washington University will serve as the coordinating center for the research program. The researchers from the five institutions will work together and with the NIH to inform new approaches and new ideas in each other’s studies.
Source: Weill Cornell Medical College