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Environmental Asthma & COPD Group

Clinical Research Program

William Martin II, M.D.
William Martin II, M.D.(
Principal Investigator

Research Summary

A man with a coughThe Environmental Asthma and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) Group - headed by William Martin II, M.D. - focuses on the environmental and genetic causes of these two conditions with consideration to developing novel therapies for alleviating their symptoms. Tobacco use is a key factor in the development and progression of COPD in susceptible individuals, but asthma, exposure to air pollutants in the home and workplace, and respiratory infections also play a role. Asthma-the most common chronic disease among U.S. children-can be triggered by exposures to indoor allergens, dust, tobacco smoke, pollution and numerous other factors. Currently, COPD affects more than 15 million Americans with smoking being responsible for 80-90% of these cases. Asthma affects about 17 million Americans (~6.4%) with children accounting for 4.8 million of these cases. Asthma prevalence has been increasing dramatically, especially among minority inner-city children, where prevalence rates as high as 24% have been observed in some urban census areas.

COPD in the Western and developed world is largely a consequence of tobacco use with less common forms due to prior lung injury in bronchiecatasis and increased genetic susceptibility in the case of alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency. In the developing world, however, there is increasing evidence that COPD is a sequelae of exposure to high levels of combustion products from biomass fuels resulting in indoor air pollution with PM levels exceeding more than 100 times the EPA standards for ambient levels in the USA. Future studies are being planned that will address the linkages between indoor air pollution exposure to young women and infants and the subsequent risk for development of airway disease and respiratory infections.

In collaboration with Pat Chulada( , Ph.D., M.H.S., in the Gene Environment Interactions Group, Martin is conducting a childhood asthma study in New Orleans named the Head-off Environmental Asthma in Louisiana ( (HEAL). This is a collaborative clinical research project with Tulane and Louisiana State Universities, and the New Orleans Department of Health. The goals of HEAL are to learn about the effects of mold and other indoor allergens on asthmatic children in post-Katrina New Orleans and to examine inherited differences in children's response to mold and other indoor allergens. Since poor access to health care can also significantly contribute to childhood asthma, especially in inner cities, another major goal of the project is to implement and test the effectiveness of a novel asthma counselor program. HEAL counselors work closely with parents and caregivers to improve the medical management of asthmatic children as well as to provide them with a safer home environment. Children ages 4-12 with moderate to severe asthma may be eligible to enroll in this project.

Major areas of research:

  • Environmental causes of childhood asthma
  • Genetic susceptibility to responses to mold and other indoor allergens
  • Access to health care for inner city children with asthma
  • Air pollution, tobacco smoke and infection in lung injury
  • COPD etiology and treatment

Current projects:

  • Head-off Environmental Asthma in Louisiana
  • COPD projects

For more information about William Martin II, M.D., please visit Lung Injury & Repair.

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Last Reviewed: March 11, 2008