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September 11, 2003


Emory University School of Medicine Researchers Study Effects of Alcohol Abuse on Lungs Through $7 Million NIH Grant

ATLANTA ­ As part of a recently launched study funded by a $7 million grant from the Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism branch of the National Institutes of Health, researchers at Emory University Schoolof Medicine are working to combat acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and its association with chronic alcohol abuse. The five-year study is a collaboration with the Emory Alcohol and Lung Biology Center.

According to the American Lung Association, as many as 150,000 people in the United States develop a life-threatening condition known as acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), in which inflammation of the lungs and accumulation of fluid in the air sacs leads to low blood oxygen levels. Of those individuals diagnosed, nearly 50 percent, or 75,000, die annually. The condition, often fatal, is commonly caused by any major lung inflammation or injury. Other common causes include pneumonia, septic shock, trauma, aspiration of gastric contents, or chemical inhalation. Marc Moss, MD, associate professor of medicine at the Emory University School of Medicine and section director of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care at Grady Memorial Hospital, says ARDS is also associated with a history of chronic alcohol abuse. Dr. Moss serves as principal investigator of the patient-oriented component of the study.

The $7 million grant awarded to Emory University School of Medicine in February 2003 is shared by investigators in the Departments of Medicine, Physiology and Pediatrics. The inpatient study focuses on critically ill patients at Grady, Emory Crawford Long Hospital, Emory University Hospital, and the Veteran Affairs Medical Center.

David Guidot, MD, Emory associate professor of medicine in the Department of Medicine at the VA Medical Center and director of the Emory Alcohol and Lung Biology Center, is the study’s principal investigator. Lou Ann Brown, PhD, Emory associate professor of pediatrics, directs the scientific aspect of the center.

Dr. Moss and his colleagues are examining whether alcoholism predisposes a person to factors that contribute to acute respiratory distress syndrome. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association several years ago identified patients with a history of chronic alcohol abuse who also had an increased incidence and severity for developing ARDS. Dr. Moss’ previous research reveals that patients with evidence of chronic alcohol abuse were found to have a slightly higher incidence of respiratory complications compared with those trauma patients with no evidence of chronic alcohol abuse.

"We’re hoping to determine the mechanism of exactly what alcohol does to affect lung function and lung structure that when someone becomes acutely ill they will go on to develop ARDS," said Dr. Moss. "We also want to identify a predictive marker for the development of ARDS, especially in people that have a history of chronic alcohol abuse, and better understand the effects of chronic alcohol abuse on neuromuscular dysfunction and quality of life in ARDS survivors."

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