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Harper Richart, MD grants activation of NF-kB by cigarette smoke. He is a staff member of TRDRP the Tobacco Related Disease Research Program.There are many ways in which the body responds to toxins such as cigarette smoke. One way is through the formation and storage of protective chemicals that prevent injury before it occurs. Antioxidants such as Vitamin E and Vitamin C, and the chemicals they help to synthesize, are good examples of this mechanism.
Another manner in which the body responds to toxins is by elimination. There are many systems in the body that are able to trap and the remove harmful elements. Another mechanism to respond to injury is through the production of protective proteins, or genes. This gene production is dependent on signals that allow the cell to recognize the presence of the toxin and to communicate the appropriate response that is needed. Finally, when injury does occur the body has many well balanced systems to ensure that repair takes place. All of these are important in protecting against injury and activating repair.
Of specific interest is the individual variability to tobacco smoke. With respect to smoking related lung diseases such as emphysema and lung cancer, there is clear evidence that cigarette smoke is one of the major risk factors for the development of both. Yet, only a minority of all cigarette smokers will develop either lung disease. There currently is not a clear explanation of why some individuals are partially protected against the pulmonary effects of cigarette smoke, while others are acutely sensitive to its effects.
This particular research project will attempt to identify potential differences in individuals that will explain the variability that is observed. Specifically, they focus on the signaling pathways that recognize the presence of cigarette smoke and are able to direct the cell to respond appropriately. They plan to carefully examine the molecular events that occur after cells are exposed to cigarette smoke using NF KB as their focal point. They will initially use lung cells in isolation. Once they are able to describe the events that occur in isolated cells, they will determine if similar events can be observed in whole lungs. They will compare smoke exposed and non smoke exposed cells and tissues. With this work, they hope to identify important differences between non smokers and smokers’ that may lead to future preventative measures or new therapeutic options.

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