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Your Environment. Your Health.

Johns Hopkins University

Center for Childhood Asthma in the Urban Environment (CCAUE)

Center Overview

Center Location: Baltimore, MD

Public Health Impacts: Asthma and obesity are public health crises that have risen concurrently over the past several decades, especially among low-income minority children in U.S. urban areas. Investigators at the Center for Childhood Asthma in the Urban Environment (CCAUE) are studying how exposure to air pollutants and allergens are associated with asthma-related illnesses in minority children, and how obesity and sleep apnea may increase susceptibility.

Primary Environmental Exposures: Indoor and outdoor air pollutants, including particulate matter and allergens

Primary Health Outcomes: Asthma

Center Details

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Center Investigators

Principal Investigators: Nadia N. Hansel, M.D. and Gregory Diette, M.D.

Project 1 Leaders: Meredith McCormack, M.D. and Nadia N. Hansel, M.D.

Project 2 Leaders: Kirsten Koehler, Ph.D. and Elizabeth Matsui, M.D.

Project 3 Leaders: Vsevolod (Seva) Polotsky, M.D. and Wayne Mitzner, Ph.D.

Community Outreach & Translation Core Leader: Cynthia Rand, Ph.D.

Center Description & Activities

The CCAUE studies how exposures to indoor and outdoor air pollutants and allergens interact with different factors to create asthma-related illnesses among minority children from low-income, inner city neighborhoods.

Obesity has become a worldwide health crisis, and emerging evidence suggests that being overweight may confer increased susceptibility to air pollutants. Obesity is also a strong risk factor for obstructive sleep apnea. Low-income, minority children who live in the inner city face the highest burden of asthma and are at increased risk for obesity and being exposed to air pollutants. Researchers at this center are conducting observations of inner city children and performing animal studies to explore how factors such as obesity and sleep apnea mediate the effects of air pollution susceptibility. By defining new susceptibility factors for asthma, findings from these center projects could potentially impact air quality regulation standards in the U.S. and other countries.

Project 1: Obesity as a Susceptibility Factor for the Asthmatic Response to Pollutants

Project Leaders: Meredith McCormack, M.D. and Nadia N. Hansel, M.D.

Prior research suggests that being overweight impairs the body’s defenses against oxidative stress and diminishes responses to specific hormones involved in asthma. Obesity is also a strong risk factor for obstructive sleep apnea; however, very few studies have explored any relationship between particulate matter (PM) exposures and sleep disorders. Researchers are conducting a study comprised of inner city, African American children living in Baltimore to determine how obesity and sleep apnea cause increased susceptibility to adverse effects of PM exposure.

Project 2: Novel Exposure Metrics for Assessing the Effects of Ultrafine and Fine Particulate Matter on Asthma in Children

Project Leaders: Kirsten Koehler, Ph.D. and Elizabeth Matsui, M.D.

There is considerable uncertainty as to whether PM size, concentration, morphology, or chemical composition is most strongly associated with deteriorating effects in lung health. In this project, researchers are employing new ways to measure exposures to explore how potentially modifiable factors of fine PM and obesity impact asthma symptoms in children.

Project 3: The Role of Obesity in Biological Responses to Particulate Matter in Mice

Project Leaders: Vsevolod (Seva) Polotsky, M.D. and Wayne Mitzner, Ph.D.

In this project, researchers are utilizing an established mouse model of obesity and a novel mouse model of sleep apnea to understand mechanistic pathways that confer susceptibility to PM exposure. They are also examining how obesity intervention and sleep apnea treatment can reverse the effect of heightened response to PM on airway inflammation.

Community Outreach & Translation Core

Core Leader: Cynthia Rand, Ph.D.

Researchers in the Community Outreach and Translation Core (COTC) are working with community stakeholders to translate scientific findings into practical, actionable information that can be used by the public, policymakers, and clinical professionals to protect and improve the pediatric asthma health of inner city, African American children.

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