Fostering knowledge in asthma, allergy and airway disease and treatment is a goal of the center.
The Center has personnel and equipment necessary for clinical and translational studies, including complex pulmonary function testing (spirometry, lung volumes, lung mechanics, exercise testing, impulse oscillometry), methacholine challenge, exhaled NO measurement, skin testing, blood sampling, chest radiography and bronchoscopy. There are twenty-six examination rooms available for patient evaluation and three procedure rooms for bronchoscopy.
Subjects participating in clinical research trials will be able to read consent forms and undergo physical examination, pulmonary function testing and bronchoscopy in areas which emphasize patient privacy and confidentiality. The Center is easily accessible, with parking directly outside the facility.
In addition to clinical research space, investigators in the Center and their basic science collaborators have access to multiple basic science laboratories. Dr. Kraftís laboratory performs cellular and biochemical analyses of airway and blood samples obtained from study subjects. This laboratory evaluates bronchoalveolar lavage samples including cell count, differential, macrophage culture, and M. pneumoniae PCR and culture. Airway biopsies are also handled for fixation and embedding, immunostaining, stereology, DNA and RNA extraction, quantitative PCR, ELISA, airway epithelial and airway fibroblast culture. Dr. Murphy and his collaborators have ongoing research programs in smooth muscle physiology and airway mucus. They have extensively studied smooth muscle function and functional development in a guinea pig model. Collaborators in the group have also focused on the genetics and biology of airway mucus production. Their labs are equiped for smooth muscle morphologic and functional evaluation, and for basic studies of mucin and mucin genes. Collaborators in basic science fields have expertise in airway aerosols, cell biology, airway surfactant, immunology, and microbiology.
Translational research seeks to evaluate the place of basic scientific discoveries in clinical medicine. Evaluation of specifics drugs in asthma is included in such research, but more exploratory studies in humans are also included, with the goal of better understanding the mechanisms of asthma in humans. An example of such a study is the Centerís ongoing research in the importance of Mycoplasma infection in chronic asthma. Such studies may provide hypotheses or proof of concept for further direct therapeutic trials. The Asthma, Allergy, and Airway Center is committed to fostering these studies.
There is dedicated clinical research space within the center for clinical and translational research studies, non-invasive assessment of airway inflammation, and bronchoscopy. The main areas of ongoing translational research are the role of infection in asthma, and the biology of airway remodeling in asthma. Specifically, Dr. Kraft and her colleagues have demonstrated that Mycoplasma pneumoniae is present in the airways of chronic, stable patients with asthma, and treatment with antibiotics can improve lung function. Her group is studying how this organism alters airway inflammation in asthma. With regard to airway remodeling, Dr. Kraftís group is studying how the behavior of the airway fibroblast, a cell in the airway critical to the repair process after injury, is abnormal in asthma. These studies are funded by the National Institutes of Health and all are approved by the Duke Institutional Review Board.