UCI biomedical engineer receives $1.8 million grant

Irvine, Calif., Aug. 13, 2003 -- UC Irvine biomedical engineer Steven C. George, who is one of the first U.S. scientists to create three-dimensional living lung tissue, has received a $1.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to examine how asthma attacks the walls of the bronchial tubes.

"People with asthma develop a fibrosis on the walls of their airways that becomes increasingly worse as the disease progresses," said George, the William J. Link Professor and chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering, who also holds an appointment in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science.

"Scientists aren't sure if the disease causes the fibrosis or if the reverse is true, but understanding the process will help us develop more effective asthma treatments."

George will create viable lung tissue similar to that found in bronchial tubes, then injure the tissue by compressing and scraping it, simulating the injuries that occur with asthma. His research team will analyze the damaged tissue with a laser-scanning microscope to better understand what causes scarring in the lungs of people with asthma.

To create the tissue for this project, George will use collagen fibers harvested from connective tissue in the tails of rats and human lung cells. Once created, the viable lung tissue will be approximately the size and thickness of a penny, and live on a specialized solution of salts, sugars and antibiotics.

George's research team includes doctoral graduate students Justin Mih and Jinping Wan and staff research associate Julie Papp. Postdoctoral scholar Roel Bruels will join the team next month. The five-year grant comes from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health. Asthma is one of the nation's leading heath issues, especially among children and the elderly. Some 17 million Americans suffer from the chronic lung disease. Nearly 500,000 Americans are ho

Contact: Nicole Knight
University of California - Irvine

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