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National Jewish Health

Denver Children’s Environmental Health Center

National Jewish Health
David A. Schwartz, M.D. 

Project Description:

The Denver Children’s Environmental Health Center explores possible causes of asthma and other airway diseases, which are the most common chronic childhood illnesses. The coughing and breathing difficulty that accompanies these diseases can dramatically affect a child’s quality of life. Environmental exposures can impair the lung’s response to irritants and increase a child’s risk of developing respiratory disease. Center researchers study ozone, an air pollutant and component of smog. They also study endotoxins, which are released into the air when certain bacteria die. Scientists believe that inhaling these contaminants could make a child more susceptible to airway disease by changing the response of the developing immune system.


Findings from this center are expected to enhance the understanding of airway disease in children and to inform the design of programs that identify, treat, and ultimately prevent respiratory diseases in children. Findings will also be combined with education and intervention programs to improve children’s health.

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Project 1: Endotoxin exposure and asthma in children

Project leader: Andrew H. Liu, M.D.


For this project, researchers explore how endotoxin interacts with other potentially toxic exposures and genetic differences in a susceptible child to cause persistent asthma. Exposure to endotoxin can affect the immune system, but scientists don’t know if it can cause asthma or affect children who already have asthma. This work builds on a study of children with asthma called the Childhood Asthma Management Program (CAMP). The research results will help determine the levels of endotoxin exposure likely to be problematic for children and will provide information important for developing environmental educational and intervention programs that improve health.

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Project 2: Environmental determinants of early host response to RSV 

Project leaders: Azzeddine Dakhama, Ph.D., Carl W. White, M.D. ,


Inhaled air pollutants such as ozone can exacerbate asthma and could play a role in the development of airway disease in early life. For this project, researchers investigate whether exposure to ozone in the first weeks after birth alters lung development and modifies a child’s immune response to allergens and to early-life infections of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). These early changes could contribute to the development of reactive airway disease.

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Project 3: Environmental determinants of host defense 

Project leaders: David A. Schwartz, M.D., Ivana V. Yang, Ph.D. ,


This project uses animal models and cell studies to understand how and why air pollution alters the immune system response in the lungs. Researchers investigate whether a person’s genetics and environmental factors influence the activation of toll-like receptors in the lungs. Toll-like receptors are proteins related to lung infection and allergies. Investigators collaborate with a federally sponsored inner-city home environment intervention study to determine how to reduce bacterial endotoxin levels in the home and potentially improve asthma outcomes.

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