Mahmoud Abou Alaiwa, MD, assistant professor in Pulmonary, Critical Care and Occupational Medicine, received his first R01, a five-year, $3.6M award from the NIH’s National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Abou Alaiwa’s project will investigate the mechanisms of mucociliary transport (MCT), the continual process by which inhaled and aspirated pathogens are trapped and expelled from the respiratory tract. Defects in this protective process contribute to a number of respiratory diseases, such as asthma, COPD, and cystic fibrosis (CF).
Abou Alaiwa and his team have focused on the role of submucosal gland secretions in MCT, describing how mucus emerges as strands from the submucosal gland ducts in the proximal airways to facilitate mucus transport of large particles. “However,” Abou Alaiwa said, “little is known about MCT in the small airways because they are different at the cellular and transcriptional levels and lack submucosal glands.”
To better understand MCT in the small airways, Abou Alaiwa and his lab developed a novel application for dynamic positron emission tomography (PET-CT) in which radiotracer is delivered to the small airways to allow real-time spatial and temporal assessment of MCT. “We will use this same method in a porcine CF model. We believe it will help us answer key questions about metachronal motion in vivo and about MCT in CF small airways.” Ultimately, Abou Alawia said, the results should point to new therapeutic options for treating CF and other airway diseases.