University of Wisconsin
School of Medicine and Public Health

Asthma Research at UW

Nationally recognized Division faculty lead one of the premier asthma research programs in the country. Their efforts are supported in large part by federal funding of nearly $100 million. For more than thirty years, the team has studied various aspects of asthma and other respiratory diseases including the role of genetics in asthma, treatment of asthma in adults and children, the role of allergy and inflammation and how colds affect asthma initiation, exacerbations and severity. These efforts have helped to develop new medications and establish guidelines for treating asthma. The program project grant on the Role of Eosinophils  in Airway Inflammation and Remodeling, funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), recently entered its fourth funding cycle. Under the direction of Dr. Nizar Jarjour, this program is investigating how eosinophils interact with both lymphocytes and fibroblasts to influence airway remodeling, how the activation of eosinophil integrin receptors directs to their extravasation into the airway and the role of a peptidyl-prolyl isomerase, Pin-1, role in regulating eosinophil activation.

Researchers have also been involved with the NHLBI’s Severe Asthma Research Program (SARP) since its inception more than a decade ago. This multi-center network is focused on identifying factors that contribute to the development of severe asthma to help guide new approaches to therapy. Dr. Nizar Jarjour is the Principal Investigator for the Wisconsin center and is interested in the role asthma exacerbations play in worsening asthma severity. State of the art imaging techniques (CT scans and MRI) along with pulmonary functions and a host of biologic tests will provide new insights into changes in lung function and structure following exacerbations. In addition, Dr. Loren Denlinger is studying the role of airway lipid metabolites in the resolution of exacerbations experienced in these patients.

Funded by the NHLBI, AsthmaNet is a multi-center grant to design, implement, and conduct asthma treatment trials in both children and adults. Current studies are evaluating the role of vitamin D as an add-on therapy, the benefits of azithromycin for preventing lower respiratory tract symptoms in children suffering from upper respiratory tract illness and the role of oral corticosteroids in treating episodes of lower respiratory tract symptoms in children.

Drs. Robert Lemanske and Christine Sorkness lead the AsthmaNet Center at the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics and Dr. William Busse serves as Chair of the AsthmaNet Steering Committee. Childhood Origins of ASThma (COAST) is a program project grant funded by the NHLBI and led by Dr. Robert Lemanske. This grant, entering its fourth cycle, focuses on the contributions of both genetic (atopy) and environmental (viral infections) factors on the origins of asthma and allergic disease in a Wisconsin birth cohort of nearly 300 children who have been followed for 10-15 years. The Asthma and Allergic Diseases Cooperative Research Center (AADCRC) is a cooperative research grant lead by Dr. James Gern and funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) to study the mechanisms and environmental determinants of rhinovirus illness severity and relationship of early childhood wheezing illnesses to the subsequent development of asthma. The AADCRC investigators utilize extensive clinical samples, broad expertise and conceptual advances to identify new targets for the treatment and prevention of rhinovirus infections and how they relate to lower respiratory track dysfunction.

In 2002, the NIAID created the Inner City Asthma Consortium (ICAC) awarding Dr. William Busse and collaborators Drs. Christine Sorkness and James Gern a major contract, which was renewed in 2009. This multi-study, multi-center initiative is charged with examining the causes of the urban asthma epidemic among children and to develop treatments to improve control of asthma in this population and for children with asthma in general. Major findings thus far include identifying environmental factors in asthma development, asthma epigenetics, seasonal and viral interactions related to asthma exacerbations, allergen immunotherapy and asthma phenotyping.

Go to our UW Asthma Research page for information on current studies.