Asthma in the United States is considerably more prevalent and severe than 40 years ago, yet the reasons for this are not clear. It remains one of the most significant childhood illnesses, disproportionately affecting urban youth, especially African Americans, who have among the highest asthma-related morbidity and mortality rates of any U.S. racial/ethnic group. The asthma team brings to bear patient-oriented and data-driven research to identify strategies to reduce the health disparities experienced by disadvantaged, urban and minority youth with asthma.
The airway biology team uses translational and multidisciplinary approaches to asthma research. The AsthMaP2® Project, led by Robert Freishtat, M.D., M.P.H., and funded by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) is the basis for this research. Dinesh Pillai, M.D., and Dr. Freishtat lead efforts to mine the data-rich AsthMaP2® Project to gain insights into asthma. In addition, the AsthMaP2® Project serves as a central resource for the asthma studies in the center. An example of this is a collaboration between Dr. Freishtat and Marcos Perez-Losada, Ph.D., and the Computational Biology Institute at George Washington University (GW) using a new statistical framework (PathoScope) to accurately and quickly analyze airway DNA/RNA sequences to study the contribution of the microbiome to asthma and lung infections.
Asthma and Obesity: With rates of asthma and obesity increasing, it is critical to identify mechanisms by which obesity impacts asthma. The two epidemics disproportionately affect minority disadvantaged children, many of whom live in the inner city. The District of Columbia ranks third nationally in childhood obesity and has one of the highest asthma prevalence rates in the country. Obesity has been associated with increased asthma symptoms and poor response to asthma therapy. A multidisciplinary team led by Dr. Freishtat and Evan Nadler, M.D., (Sheikh Zayed Institute) continues to lead the field in the study of how excess fat tissue in obese patients drives abnormal processes in other organs like the lungs
Refractory Asthma: Dr. Pillai developed Children’s National's first Severe Asthma Clinic for high-risk children identified by their frequent visits to the emergency department and hospital admissions for therapy-resistant asthma. This valuable clinical resource aims to turn research into new treatments for therapy-resistant asthma.