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Butterfield Lung Disease Research Lab Opened

KEENE, N.H. 7/14/04 - Air is filled with pollutants that humans should not be inhaling. A new, $1-million research project at Keene State will help identify these pollutants and investigate their effect on human lungs.

The research at Keene State will be carried out in the new COBRE (Centers of Biological Research Excellence) lab in Butterfield Hall, which was opened this week. The Keene State researchers, led by Melinda Treadwell, assistant professor of technology, design and safety and Jaime Ingalls, research assistant, are among a team of New Hampshire scientists to have been awarded a $12 million, five-year grant from the National Institute of Health to establish a research center on lung diseases in New Hampshire.

Keene State students and faculty will study the environmental factors that contribute to lung diseases including lung cancer, which accounts for over 30 percent of all cancer deaths in New Hampshire. The research team will first identify and characterize the metallic components of pollutants that may be present in occupational and environmental settings across the Northeast, says Treadwell. Then, the researchers will investigate the potential early responses of human lungs to these pollutants, using cell culture techniques.

To enable the researchers to study the effects of air pollutants on human lungs, lung tissue will be grown in a sterile hood in the new lab. The cells will then be exposed to the metal particles present in different types of pollution, with the response of the cells to the exposures measured. An annex to the lab will contain equipment for cell extraction and microscopy analysis. Other analytical work will be carried out in the new Science Center.

Students will do much of the work, collecting air samples and conducting microscopy analysis to identify metals in the samples. A goal of the students’ involvement, says Treadwell, is for them to learn to question safety standards in workplace environments. The Keene State team will also collaborate with researchers at Dartmouth to investigate how human lung proteins may change following exposures to the substances. The researchers also hope to determine whether geographical location has any bearing on the different lung diseases that people in the region suffer from.

For more information, contact Melinda Treadwell, assistant professor of technology, design and safety, at 603-358-2945.

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