COPD :: NIH gives PITT $13 million grant for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease research

The University of Pittsburgh has been awarded nearly $13 million from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute to increase our understanding of and improve outcomes for people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a degenerative breathing disorder that is the fourth leading cause of death and the second leading cause of disability annually in the United States. The five-year grant establishes Pitt as a Specialized Center of Clinically Oriented Research.

Frank C. Sciurba, M.D., is principal investigator of the SCCOR grant, which entails three unique projects and three resource cores to support the research. Dr. Sciurba is associate professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and director of the Emphysema Research Center in the division of pulmonary, allergy and critical care medicine.

The grant has important clinical relevance because the NHLBI estimates that 12 million adults currently have a diagnosis of COPD, with an additional 12 million unaware that they have the disorder. COPD is a lung disease commonly related to smoking that diminishes breathing capacity over time and includes conditions such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema.

“COPD damages the lung tissue, expanding and breaking down the walls of air sacs and thickening small airways, which hinders air flow into the lungs and transfer of oxygen into the blood,” explained Dr. Sciurba. “These studies will help us to better understand the disease process and possibly devise better treatment options for patients.”

Each of the research projects capitalizes on findings of basic science and clinical research performed by the University of Pittsburgh Emphysema Research Center. This SCCOR focuses on advanced cellular and molecular investigations of lung tissue changes involved in COPD to increase understanding of disease progression. In addition to clinicians and scientists from the University of Pittsburgh, the projects are being undertaken with the collaboration of James Hogg, M.D., Ph.D., professor emeritus of pathology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.

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