Birmingham Clean Air Initiative Goals
The goals of the Birmingham Clean Air Initiative are two-fold: (1) promote scientific investigation in environmental research, and (2) educate healthcare providers and the general public through partnerships with public interest groups through the formation of an advisory group.
- Scientific Investigation:
The first project will be the bolstering of the Environmental and Translational Medicine Program, a pilot program in the UAB Division of Pulmonary, Allergy & Critical Care Medicine, headed by Dr. Veena B. Antony. The UAB pulmonary division has a long history of involvement in clean air issues with the appointment of its first director, Dr. Ben V. Branscomb in 1956. The division is now led by Dr. Victor J. Thannickal. The pulmonary division has been ranked consistently in the top 25 programs for Respiratory Disease management in the nation by U.S. News and World Report. Fourteen faculty are listed in the “Best Doctors in America,” and division faculty have served as presidents of many national societies, including the American College of Chest Physicians, the Association of Subspecialty Professors, and the Association of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine Program Directors.
Environmental and Translational Medicine Program
This program’s mission is to advance research, scholarship, education and clinical care in environmental medicine by providing a multidisciplinary platform for scientists and clinicians to integrate basic science, translational research, and provide community outreach and education under a single umbrella. The focus will be on bench-to-bedside translational science that develops new approaches to prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of diseases cause by or accelerated by pollution.
- Clinical Care – The Environmental and Occupational Disease Clinic:
This new clinic, housed within the UAB Kirklin Pulmonary Clinic, is specifically designed for patients with diseases secondary to environmental exposures. Clinic is held on Wednesday afternoons from 1 pm to 5 pm. Patients can be referred to this clinic by calling the Kirklin Clinic Appointment Line at 205/801-7545 Monday through Friday (8 am to 5 pm) and requesting a referral to Dr. Antony’s Environmental and Occupation Disease Clinic within the Pulmonary Clinic. Questions from healthcare providers who would like to refer patients can be directed to Dr. Veena Antony through 1-800-UAB-MIST, or by email to:
Additional environmentally-related scientific projects underway in the UAB pulmonary division:
Drug discovery and development - A group led by pulmonary division director, Dr. Victor Thannickal, have identified novel targets for the treatment of fibrotic lung disease (published in Nature Medicine in 2009). Fibrotic tissue is a common pathway in the response to particulate pollution. Thannickal’s current research focuses on development of small molecules that can block these disease pathways. An effort is underway to accelerate the development of drugs that deliver these small molecules, and move drugs toward phase I clinical trials by the end of 2014.
Novel drug delivery – In a closely related project, Dr. Veena Antony is working to develop a more direct method of drug delivery to the lungs by intra-pleural administration as opposed to the traditional oral route, intravenous injection, or inhalation. Essentially a “pleural lavage” or dialysis of the lung in which therapeutic agents could be delivered directly to the affected areas of the lung(s). Through expansion of this concept, she hopes to learn more about the repair and regeneration of injured lungs.
Nanoparticle coalescence – Dr. Antony hopes to build upon prior research by developing a technique to trigger the coalescence (clumpling) of particulate matter so that airborne particles become too large to inhale, thereby avoiding lung injury altogether. This technique would ultimately be used at the point of the emission site such as an industrial/manufacturing site, power plants, and strip mines, as an effort to mitigate exposure at the source.
Exhaled breath condensate testing – Dr. Antony’s lab will be going into the Birmingham community to conduct non-invasive studies in individuals by capturing exhaled breath condensates (EBC) and looking for inflammatory markers that define signatures of a specific noxious insult, such as an air pollutant. These will be compared to the breath condensate from subjects who live in areas of Alabama with known healthy air.