Despite recent advances, cystic fibrosis remains an incurable disease affecting 80,000 people worldwide. Lung complications are responsible for the majority of cystic fibrosis (CF) deaths, often characterized by chronic bacterial infections.
A team of researchers at the University of Georgia, in collaboration with Emory University’s Cystic Fibrosis Center, was recently awarded a $2.6 million dollar grant from the National Institutes of Health to study how white blood cells called neutrophils contribute to lung disease in CF.
Collaborators from the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine and College of Public Health will work together to better understand how dysfunctional neutrophil extracellular traps, or NETs, contribute to lung inflammation in cystic fibrosis patients.
“In healthy people, neutrophils act as antimicrobial immune cells that fight pathogens by several mechanisms. In CF patients, however, neutrophils are unable to eliminate airway infections caused by a select group of microorganisms and contribute to lung damage,” said Dr. Balázs Rada, professor of infectious disease in the College of Veterinary Medicine and principal investigator on the project.
Dr. Hanwen Huang, a biostatistician and assistant professor in the College of Public Health, is a co-investigator on the four-year project. Dr. Huang will perform statistical analyses to help the team identify which clinical symptoms in teen CF patients may be associated with novel NET-related markers.
To date, neutrophils and their relationship with CF have not been extensively studied. The UGA-Emory team aims to identify the exact role neutrophil extracellular traps, or NETs, play in CF and further the general understanding of how NETs function in the body.