Predicting Asthma Attacks
Reported May 2008
ATLANTA, Ga. (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Every year, asthma kills five-thousand people in the United States. Millions more suffer with the disease every day. Now, there's increasing research that environment plays a key role in causing asthma attacks, but how do you know what triggers your asthma? Researchers think they may have the answer.
Environmental chemist Charlene Bayer, Ph.D., was inspired by her daughter, who has asthma. "We really don't know what the particular triggers are and they may not be the same for every person," Dr. Bayer, principal research scientist at the Georgia Tech Research Institute in Atlanta, told Ivanhoe.
Dr. Bayer's research team developed a sensor box. Small enough to carry in the pocket of a lightweight vest, it's designed to continuously monitor the air around people prone to asthma attacks. While inside a chamber, the system measures for seven different environmental stimuli -- all potential asthma triggers. Combined with an electronic peak flow meter, the system allows researchers to monitor what's in the air around a person and how their lungs may be reacting to it. If she has an asthma attack, they can see what might have contributed to it. "What we're looking at is a way to measure -- continuously measure -- exposure of people so that we can start linking exposure with asthma exacerbations," Dr. Bayer explained.
The box is so sensitive it could pick up the formaldehyde and organic compounds in a magic marker. Every change is a clue. "If we can get to the point where can say this compound or this series of compounds are the triggers for these people, we may be able to start understanding what really exacerbates asthma -- what we really need to control," Dr. Bayer said.
Answers that could one day provide help for the more than 20 million Americans with asthma. Researchers say the sensor system could be commercially available in as little as a year to help asthmatics monitor the air around them and help their doctors find better ways to treat them.
The American Industrial Hygiene Association contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.
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