DETROIT – A team of researchers led by Richard Slatcher, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Wayne State University, has been awarded $2.74 million from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health for a project that aims to improve asthma management in youth.
Asthma in the Lives of Family Today (ALOFT) will identify the behavioral and biological pathways through which family social environments impact youth asthma – the most common cause of youth hospitalization in the United States other than infections. Cities such as Detroit have a very high asthma mortality rate, and this study will use naturalistic observations to identify everyday family behaviors that either exacerbate or ameliorate asthma pathogenesis, representing a substantial advance over other methods such as questionnaires, interviews and laboratory interactions.
“This is a unique opportunity to understand the effects of family functioning on childhood disease over time in a large sample of urban youth,” said Slatcher. “Our novel approach will incorporate the Electronically Activated Recorder, an easy-to-use recording device that provides a nonobtrusive record of daily behavior as well as surveys, daily diaries, biological measures and clinical asthma evaluations.”
The project builds on previous work of Slatcher’s, and will sample 100 new participants from Detroit. The new group will be compared to previous participants, allowing the research team to see the effects of the changing economic environment in Detroit on the health of youth. It also will allow the researchers to test how family environments early in adolescence impact asthma morbidity and health-related biology later in adolescence, and how changes in family and non-family (peers, friends, romantic partners) relationships over time impact health.
The research team will also utilize next-generation genetic sequencing techniques to conduct genome-wide gene expression analyses on the previous study participants, as well as the new sample of participants.
“These new analyses will allow us to advance our understanding of the molecular pathways of family social environments and their impact on the health of youth with asthma,” said Slatcher. “By isolating specific biological and psychological processes in families that potentially contribute to, or buffer, asthma morbidity, we will be able to foster ‘bench-to-bedside’ translation of key findings from this project into novel, developmentally sensitive interventions to reduce asthma morbidity and inform and improve family interventions.”
The findings from this project will ultimately inform family-based interventions to improve asthma management in youth and inform how to accurately assess daily family interactions with new technology and biomarkers to better capture potential mechanisms of behavior change.
The grant number for this project is HL114097.
About Wayne State University
Wayne State University is one of the nation’s pre-eminent public research universities in an urban setting. Through its multidisciplinary approach to research and education, and its ongoing collaboration with government, industry and other institutions, the university seeks to enhance economic growth and improve the quality of life in the city of Detroit, state of Michigan and throughout the world. For more information about research at Wayne State University, visit research.wayne.edu.