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A new respiratory research center at the University of New Mexico is aimed at uncovering some of the mysteries of respiratory diseases that affect American Indians. A branch of National Institute of Health has granted UNM's Health Sciences Center $1 million over the next four years to launch pilot projects to gather preliminary data for possible studies.
Through the grant, the respiratory research center will operate jointly with the Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute in Albuquerque. The center offers an opportunity to do research that could directly help communities in New Mexico, says Scott Burchiel, professor and associate dean of the UNM College of Pharmacy's graduate programs and research.
Because past studies have shown higher-than-normal rates of asthma at Jemez Pueblo, one research project will try to determine if there is any kind of bacteria in the air or environment that might produce toxins in the body that can trigger asthma.
Another project will be based at Laguna Pueblo, where some people are concerned that trailings from an old uranium mine might be exposing residents to radiation and causing health problems.
Other studies will look at whether certain genetic factors are involved in higher incidences of asthma among certain populations or in the body's ability to repair mutations that lead to lung cancer.
If data from any of those studies show promise, then the center can apply for grants to dig more deeply into the subject, Burchiel says, adding that the center has potential to move from a developmental operation to a full-fledged lab that gets $1 million annually.
For more information, contact Burchiel at (505) 272-0920.
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