Laura Van Winkle, PhD – Department of Anatomy, Physiology and Cell Biology

Ozone and lung remodeling More than 4 in 10 US people live in areas with unhealthy levels of ozone. The San Joaquin Valley (SJV) is a hot spot of high ozone exposures. Four of the top 7 most ozone polluted cities in the US are in the SJV where ozone affects more than 1 million children. Ozone exposure during childhood alters lung growth – even healthy young adults from high ozone environments have decreased lung function – yet the mechanisms are little understood. Much research has focused on ozone exacerbation of asthma. Dr. Van Winkle and her team are trying to develop a better understanding of how early life exposure to ozone alters normal lung development. Specifically, the researchers will measure growth in a specific region of the lung, the alveoli, using an animal model and will also determine how ozone exposure early in life alters the growth of alveoli.

Angela Haczku, MD, PhD – Department of Internal Medicine

Immune mechanisms of ozone-induced lung inflammation in non-human primates Persistent exposure to air pollution leads to changes in immune function in the respiratory system. These changes can trigger allergic asthma and increase susceptibility to respiratory infections. Exposure to high levels of ozone, a major toxic air pollutant, worsens asthma and COPD symptoms. While the exact mechanisms of ozone induced airway disease are not understood, Dr. Haczku and her team are investigating the role of innate lymphoid cells (ILC), specifically the activation of pulmonary and circulating ILC following ozone exposure and the relationship between ILC counts and the extent of airway hyperresponsiveness (a major feature of asthma).