Investigating the causes of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Lisa PetersonChronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPDs) such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema make it difficult to breathe and can cause irreversible damage to the lungs. People who develop COPD are also at increased risk of developing lung cancer.

While researchers know that tobacco smoke is one of the main causes of COPD, little is known about which carcinogens within tobacco smoke spark the disease. 

With Masonic support, Lisa Peterson, Ph.D., is studying the specific role of a toxic gas called furan in COPD. She and her team are currently collecting urine samples from 50 smokers who have developed COPD and 50 smokers who have not in order to compare the two for furan metabolite biomarkers. If all goes as predicted, they expect to see elevated levels of furan in those with COPD and plan to submit a proposal to the National Institutes of Health to expand the study and explore the link between furan and lung cancer. 

“These seed funds are so important for getting data that shape our larger research proposals. The preliminary data they generate help sell our ideas to grant makers like the National Institutes of Health.” 


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