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Jennifer McCallister, MD

Award Name CCTS Pilot - Center for Women's Health
Award Date 10/20/2008

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Asthma Research Leads Way to Personalized Care

Ohio State physicians such as Jennifer McCallister, MD, are familiar with asthma and the devastating effects it can have on the health and quality of life of patients in their care.

It’s estimated that 20 million Americans – one in 15 people – suffer from asthma. The condition accounts for one-fourth of all emergency room visits in this country annually as well as 10 million outpatient visits and 500,000 hospitalizations.

As a clinician, McCallister delivers quality care to patients with asthma. But as a clinical scientist at an academic medical center, she seeks to do more. McCallister combines her research and clinical skills to improve care for all patients through her investigation of the unique aspects of this disease among women.

“I have always had a clinical interest in asthma and have recently focused my research efforts on exploring the areas of the disease that differ between men and women,” says McCallister of the Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine.

Epidemiologic studies have shown that there is a rather odd sex-related difference in asthma that varies with age. Until puberty, asthma is more common and more severe in boys. However, after puberty, this tendency reverses and the incidence and severity of asthma is greater among women, she explains.

In addition, studies have shown that asthma symptoms heighten among some women at the onset of their menstrual period. Although research has not identified a cause, “Small trials have suggested an increase in the host inflammatory response that correlates with an increase in premenstrual asthma symptoms,” says McCallister.

Through funding by the Center for Women’s Health and the Center for Clinical and Translational Science, McCallister will be able “to focus on an important aspect of an extremely common disease that is unique to women, while attempting to use novel technologies to aid in its diagnosis,” she explains.

“Identification of women who may suffer from premenstrual asthma would allow for improved patient care, as these women may require specific therapy which differs from traditional chronic asthma treatment,” she adds.

In a non-randomized, case-control pilot study of women with well-characterized asthma, McCallister will examine patterns in microRNA expression to determine if alterations in these patterns play a role in increased asthma symptoms associated with the premenstrual period. In addition, her study will evaluate levels of certain exhaled gases in asthmatic women with premenstrual asthma to better define their disease.

McCallister’s study is a prime example of taking knowledge from the bench to the bedside to improve personalized health care for women with asthma.

“Asthma is a common disease that affects millions of people. If we can identify those factors that allow us to improve the quality of asthma care delivered to even a small subset of patients, our impact could be far-reaching,” she says.

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