Patients with cystic fibrosis, asthma and other serious lung diseases may soon be able to breathe easier, thanks to a $12.5 million grant awarded to UNC researchers from the National Institutes of Health.
The researchers at the Marsico Lung Institute and the Center for Environmental Medicine, Asthma and Lung Biology are developing a new therapy to break up mucus, which will be tested for asthma and cystic fibrosis, and clear up chest congestion. According to Richard Boucher, director of the Marsico Lung Institute, patients who suffer from diseases like cystic fibrosis have mucus that becomes too concentrated and sticky, leading to prolonged chest congestion.
“For kids with CF, it’s like they’ve had the worst chest cold of their life and they can’t get over it,” Boucher said.
The five-year grant renewal serves as a continuation on the research. Boucher said mucus congestion is a problem the center has been trying to solve for many years.
About ten years ago, the center’s collaboration with the chemistry department led to an emphasis on polymers, which make up the mucus. Polymers give mucus its gel-like consistency, so its stickiness can trap dust and pollutants. However, Boucher said mucus can only do its job if it is well hydrated.