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Pulmonary biology and lung diseases

Support innovative, timely and high impact research addressing basic, translational or clinical aspects of tobacco-related pulmonary biology and lung diseases.

Tobacco smoke is a key factor in the development and progression of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), one of the leading causes of death in the United States. The prevalence of COPD has a large social and economic impact in California, creating an enormous amount of human suffering especially in disproportionately affected populations such as people of low socioeconomic status, American Indian/Alaska Natives, multiracial non-Hispanics, and women.

Under this priority, TRDRP supports research crucial to understanding the effects of tobacco products on the lung, the etiology and mechanisms of pulmonary diseases that are caused by tobacco use or exposure, and studies that translate this knowledge into improved diagnostics and treatments.

An important area of research relates to new and emerging tobacco products. A recent consensus study report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine concluded that switching from combustible tobacco cigarettes to e-cigarettes reduces exposure to numerous toxicants and carcinogens present in combustible tobacco cigarettes. However, e-cigarettes contain highly variable amounts of potentially toxic substances and there is no available evidence whether or not e-cigarettes cause respiratory diseases in humans. The continuously changing landscape of electronic nicotine delivery systems poses a particular challenge to understanding their health effects, and TRDRP is especially interested in studies that investigate the pulmonary effects of new and emerging tobacco products, as compared to never use (what is the harm) and as compared to exposure to combustible tobacco smoke (is there a relative benefit, is there additional harm). Research that can inform FDA regulations on new and emerging tobacco products is of particular interest.

In light of the recent legalization of cannabis in California, it is important to understand the effects of co-use of nicotine with cannabinoids. TRDRP invites proposals for the study of the pulmonary effects of smoking cannabis on tobacco-related lung diseases, and of co-use of nicotine with cannabinoids or other substances of abuse.

TRDRP has a cross-cutting emphasis on research to reduce health disparities and invites proposals that seek to improve our understanding and treatment of tobacco-related lung diseases in groups disproportionately affected by tobacco use and exposure (see a list of priority groups under “High Impact Research Project Award”).

Sub-focus areas

  • Mechanistic studies to better define the effects of tobacco and its constituents on lung biology.
  • Mechanistic studies to better define the etiology and progression of tobacco-related lung diseases.
  • Development of diagnostic and therapeutic approaches for the prevention and treatment of tobacco-related lung diseases.
  • Acute and chronic lung disease related to new and emerging tobacco products.
  • Acute and chronic lung disease related to co-use of different tobacco products and of tobacco products with other substances of abuse.
  • Effects of pre-natal and neonatal exposure to tobacco products on lung development and disease.

Examples of relevant research topics

  • The molecular mechanisms and genetics of differences in COPD susceptibility and progression, including sex differences.
  • Epigenetic changes in alveolar epithelial stem cells in response to e-cigarette aerosol exposure.
  • Inflammatory responses to tobacco and cannabis exposure and mechanisms that lead to COPD.
  • Basic to clinical research to understand and develop therapeutic approaches for COPD in disproportionately affected populations.
  • The role of combustible tobacco smoke or new and emerging tobacco products in the development and exacerbation of asthma or idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.
  • Development of wearable devices to diagnose tobacco-related lung disease and track its progression.
  • Big data / data-driven approaches to understanding factors contributing to COPD exacerbations.
  • Drug repurposing for the treatment of COPD.

NOTE: Lung cancer-related research topics are being addressed under the “Cancer Prevention, Treatment and Biology” research priority.