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The Rise in Respiratory Research: Increases in Disease and Illness Worldwide

By Alex Rosenberg / Sep 24, 2018
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The investment in research and development activities focused on respiratory disease coincides with the rapidly increasing incidence of respiratory disease deaths. It is crucial that researchers have access to representative models for respiratory diseases that utilize ethically collected, well-characterized human specimens and comprehensive tissue-based research services.

Drug Discovery & Research Areas:

Respiratory-related biofluids, including sputum, bronchial and bronchoalveolar lavage, provide a great deal of information when it comes to drug discovery. Data generated from downstream assays, including gene expression assays, microbiome analysis, protein analysis, and others, can lead to a better understanding of the mechanisms at work and ultimately determine where the drugs should be targeted to work efficiently.

In addition to actual specimens, it is important to receive patient clinical data, as well as other demographical information including age, gender, smoking status,  treatment history, and clinical history. These donor characteristics provide relevant insight and information on how to stratify the donors into cohorts, allowing for better development of therapeutics.

In addition to the development of new and improved therapeutic drugs and diagnostic assays, respiratory fluid specimens such as these are used to examine the effects of smoking and/or environmental exposure to individual and societal health. As the collection of respiratory fluids is relatively non-invasive, it is a desirable source of reference for many studies not necessarily directly related to respiratory diseases.

Sputum vs. Bronchial Lavage vs. Bronchoalveolar Lavage:

Sputum, bronchial lavage, and bronchoalveolar lavage are used in the field of respiratory research to gather information, diagnose, and analyze fluid and cells from the respiratory tract. They each have different levels of sensitivity to detect certain bacteria or viruses and where these organisms can be found in the respiratory tract. When sputum cannot be used for diagnostic measures, a bronchial or bronchoalveolar lavage culture is necessary. As you go from sputum to bronchial lavage to bronchoalveolar lavage, the procedures become more invasive and derives cultures from deeper within the lungs. High-quality specimens must come from deep within the lungs to be valid for research or testing purposes.

Sputum is a mixture of saliva and mucus coughed up from the respiratory tract, typically as a result of infection or other disease and often examined microscopically to aid medical diagnosis. Sputum is used to diagnose various illnesses including pneumonia, bronchitis, and tuberculosis, and it is used to determine the cause of lung abscesses and other indications.

Bronchial lavage is a procedure that involves repeatedly washing the inside of the bronchial tubes of the lung. This is the flushing of the respiratory tract with physiological saline solution. Bronchial lavage is used to derive cellular material and/or any invaded foreign bodies, used for examination under a microscope.

Bronchoalveolar lavage is a technique by which cells and fluid from bronchioles and lung alveoli are removed for diagnosis of disease or evaluation of treatment; a bronchoscope is wedged into a bronchus, and sterile saline is pumped in and then removed along with the fluid and cells to be analyzed. For research applications, bronchoalveolar lavage fluid allows for the sampling of innate (macrophages), cellular (B- and T-cells) and humoral (immunoglobulin) responses within the lungs. In clinical applications, it is widely used for diagnostics work-up of infectious and non-infectious interstitial lung diseases.

Use of sputum, bronchial bronchoalveolar lavage specimens vs. lung tissue:

In many cases, sputum, bronchial and bronchoalveolar lavage respiratory related fluids are used for analysis, in lieu of lung tissue, in representing the corresponding respiratory diseases. Lung tissues are difficult to source, as resection is not the standard of care with lung diseases. Frequently, when diseased lung tissue is procured, it must be processed immediately to maximize the ability to generate useful data. Collaboration with experienced scientists, who are familiar with the use and handling of these tissues and fluids, can greatly improve the results of studies using these samples.

Our PHASEZERO® Discovery Research Services team has exceptional experience with these fluids and tissues. In fact, our team has isolated primary bronchial epithelial cells and parenchymal fibroblasts from donors with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF), Pulmonary Fibrosis (PF), Cystic Fibrosis (CF, genotyped), Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), and asthma as well as normal healthy donors. They have used these primary cells in many client-based studies: from analyzing target expression using a range of molecular pathology and genomics approaches, to developing 2D and 3D functional cell-based models, such as the 3D-ALI model, to measuring proliferation, viability, apoptosis, cell migration, morphological changes, mediator release, enzyme activity and changes in gene expression (qRT-PCR). The 3D-ALI model yields differentiated cultures with similar morphology to the airway epithelium. These cultures are used to study specific epithelial function or dysfunction including, mucin secretion, goblet cell hyperplasia, barrier permeability/absorption, and development of squamous cell metaplasia. The BioIVT team has experience with many respiratory indications and research services.

Why are Respiratory Diseases on the Rise?

The rise in natural disasters and air pollution have created an increase in respiratory diseases and infections globally. Events such as monsoons, hurricanes, wildfires, and urbanization, create an environment of toxic air and a breeding ground for bacteria¹. Water from monsoons, hurricanes, torrential rain and other precipitating conditions allow for the growth of mold and bacteria that thrive in wet environments. Wildfires create toxic air that ends up in the airways and lungs of people nearby.

“The Harvey Hack”² was the term coined for the respiratory infection that afflicted people after Hurricane Harvey hit Texas in August of 2017. Acute bronchitis, exacerbation of asthma, and sinus infections lingered for extensive periods of time due to people not wearing proper personal protective equipment, such as masks. This was particularly observed among people who helped clean houses after the flooding.

Air pollution is another problem developing countries face. As regions become more industrialized and urbanized, more pollution is let into the air, as well as the respiratory systems of the people who live there. Urbanization of countries, states, and cities is also giving rise to respiratory diseases such as asthma and bronchitis³.

Research focused on respiratory diseases and infections has grown as the number of affected individuals continues to rise. At BioIVT, we have the resources and the scientific expertise to help advance your respiratory research. For additional information about our PHASEZERO Discovery Services, click here. Or, click here to view our complete disease state biofluid product inventory that’s ready to ship today! 

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