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Dr. Jane Buckner, left, Benaroya Research Institute president and program director of BRI's translational research program and BRI researcher Dr. Steven Zielger, right, who will lead the program.
Benaroya Research Institute president Dr. Jane Buckner, left, and the collaboration’s leading researcher Dr. Steven Zielger, right. Photo: Benaroya Research Institute.

For those with allergies and asthma, one small particle can mean hours of wheezing, sneezing, and runny eyes and noses. About a quarter of Americans suffer from allergies, asthma, or both, but we still know very little about the origins and mechanics of these conditions.

Jason Debly
Dr. Jason Debley, one of the prinicipla investigators of the study and a pulmonary researcher at Seattle Children’s Research Institute.

A new collaboration between Virginia Mason’s Benaroya Research Institute, Seattle Children’s Research Institute and University of Washington Medicine hopes to change that. The project will study respiratory epithelium, a tissue that lines the inside of our lungs, and may result in new treatments for asthma and allergies.

The 5-year project will be supported by an $8 million grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The grant was awarded today to the Benaroya Research Institute, which will lead the project.

Researchers will study respiratory epithelium cells from both adults and children to understand what part the cells play in the body’s response to allergens and viruses, and particularly its impact on triggering asthmatic responses.

“We believe that improved understanding of the role of the airway epithelium in asthma will lead to novel treatments,” Dr. Jason Debley, Seattle Children’s Research Institute’s principal investigator for the grant, said in a statement.

The causes of allergies and asthma are still uncertain. Earlier this month, researchers reported that being exposed to allergens and microbes from a young age, on a farm for example, may make children less prone to develop these conditions.

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