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O'Reilly Receives New Grant to Understand How Early Exposure To Oxygen Alters How The Lung Responds To Flu

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Why does preterm birth increase the severity of respiratory viral infections in children?   

Michael O’Reilly, Ph.D., professor of Pediatrics and Environmental Medicine has received a $2 million grant to investigate how early exposure to oxygen changes how the lung responds to influenza A virus later in life. The grant continues a line of research that began 12 years ago when his own son Thomas was born preterm. 

A growing body of evidence suggests exposure to environmental pollutants during critical stages of fetal and postnatal lung development can permanently change health of the lung later in life. The transition to air at birth is one of the most profound environmental changes that the developing lung will ever experience.  While the newborn lung is prepared to breathe oxygen, the preterm lung transitions too soon.  This aberrant exposure to oxygen at birth can increase the severity of viral infections through poorly understood mechanisms. 

Using a novel mouse model, Dr. O’Reilly and his colleagues discovered high levels of oxygen at birth increases the severity of influenza A virus infection by depleting epithelial stem cells needed to repair the infected lung. The goal of the new grant is to figure how oxygen depleted these cells with the hope that such knowledge will increase our ability to prevent or treat lung disease in people born preterm.  

Additional collaborators on this project include B. Paige Lawrence, Ph.D., Luis Martinez-Sobrido, Ph.D., Andrew McDavid, Ph.D., and Martha Susiarjo, Ph.D.

Roswell Park and URMC to Create $19 Million Research Program Focused on Flavored Tobacco

Friday, September 21, 2018

The expertise of two regional research teams has earned a federal grant of nearly $20 million to create the nation’s first program dedicated to the study of flavored tobacco. One of only nine projects to earn funding through the federal Tobacco Centers of Regulatory Science (TCORS) program, the WNY Center for Research on Flavored Tobacco Products, or CRoFT, will unite teams from Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center and the University of Rochester Medical Center in an effort to better document and understand one of the fastest-growing trends in tobacco use.

The five-year, $19.05 million competitive grant, awarded by the National Cancer Institute, will be shared by Roswell Park and URMC. Based at Roswell Park, the program will be led by Richard O’Connor, Ph.D., and Maciej Goniewicz, Ph.D., Pharm.D., both internationally recognized experts on tobacco use and its health consequences. The Roswell Park team will analyze various combustible and electronic tobacco products, their consequences for health and how users interact with these products. Collaborators from URMC, led by Irfan Rahman, Ph.D., and Deborah Ossip, Ph.D., will contribute critical resources in biomarker screening, genetic analysis and toxicology assessment.

“We’re really excited about initiating this work, because no one has ever looked at flavored tobacco in such a comprehensive and systematic way. There are so many different flavorings, delivery systems and product options, and so much we don’t know about them,” says O’Connor, professor of Oncology with Roswell Park’s Health Behavior and Epidemiology & Prevention programs and director of the Buffalo cancer center’s Tobacco Research Laboratory.

Current federal regulations prohibit the sale and manufacture of flavors other than menthol in combustible cigarettes but not in other tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. Data published last year from the PATH Study, the largest prospective U.S. study of tobacco use, indicated that use of flavored products was highest among youth and young-adult tobacco users, with 80% of tobacco users ages 12-17 and 73% of tobacco users ages 18-24 reporting that they’d used a flavored tobacco product in the previous 30 days.

“There are a number of flavoring chemicals that are regarded as safe for incorporation into food and drink, but we have such limited data about what happens when these products are inhaled,” adds Rahman, professor of Environmental Medicine, Dentistry, Medicine (Pulmonary) and Public Health Sciences at URMC. “We’re going to study the impact on public health when these chemicals are added to e-cigarettes, vape pens, Juul and other pods, hookahs, waterpipes, cigars and cigarillos (little cigars) to be a resource for both policymakers and the general public.”

Read More: Roswell Park and URMC to Create $19 Million Research Program Focused on Flavored Tobacco

Is Vaping Safer Than Smoking?

Thursday, March 15, 2018

After e-cigarettes first emerged in 2004, they quickly became a popular, "healthier" alternative for those who wanted the feeling of smoking tobacco. This could be one of the reasons for the steady, continued decline of cigarette smoking in the United States. While nearly 42 percent of the population were smokers during the Mad Men era of the mid-60s, the figure dropped to around 17 percent in recent years.

While studies acknowledge vaping has far less of an impact on health compared to smoking, experts also cautioned long-term studies still can't make solid conclusions as the alternative has been in use for only a little more than a decade. Growing evidence from research, however, suggested we are just beginning to see the potential consequences.

In 2015, a letter from the New England Journal of Medicine expressed concern over formaldehyde, a toxic compound found in the vapors produced by e-cigarettes. While researchers are still studying its link to cancer, formaldehyde is known to cause irritation to the skin, eyes, nose, and throat.

Irfan Rahman, professor of Environmental Medicine at the University of Rochester, led the first study to examine the impact of e-cigarettes on oral health.

"We showed that when the vapors from an e-cigarette are burned, it causes cells to release inflammatory proteins, which in turn aggravate stress within cells, resulting in damage that could lead to various oral diseases," he said.

This year, he was one of the authors of a study that examined artificial flavors for inducing tissue damage and having a toxic effect on white blood cells, with the worst impact coming from cinnamon, vanilla, and buttery flavored e-juices. There are around 250 harmful chemicals found in traditional cigarettes while the number is significantly reduced in vaping. But the presence of nicotine still poses a threat (particularly risk of heart disease) in its concentrated, e-liquid form.

Read More: Is Vaping Safer Than Smoking?