Pulmonary or respiratory diseases are frequent during childhood, causing distress and suffering for children and their families. Indeed, lung infections are the leading cause for doctor’s visits among children in the United States and the number one cause of death among children worldwide. Moreover, asthma is a common chronic disease that affects approximately 6 million children in the United States and over 300 million people worldwide, and cystic fibrosis is one of the most frequent hereditary conditions.  

Recognizing that respiratory diseases are due to the interplay between host and environment, researchers at  the Division of Pulmonary Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh and UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh are leading the charge against lung illnesses on multiple fronts: from asthma, pneumonia, bronchitis, cystic fibrosis and tuberculosis to sleep disorders and rare conditions such as pulmonary lymphangiectasia and plastic bronchitis. 

Children’s unique Laboratory of Lung Immunology and Host Defense investigates how immune responses confer protection against lung infections, as such knowledge can be used to develop new vaccines or immune-based therapies to prevent or treat  such infections. The lab is internationally known in the area of lung inflammation and Influenza research and is well funded by the National Institutes of Health. It is also a recipient of one of three Specialized Centers of Clinically Oriented Research grants in the area of Host Factors in Chronic Lung Disease. 

Investigating the causes and treatment of cystic fibrosis (CF),  the Children’s Cystic Fibrosis Center is one of the largest of its kind in the country. Researchers at this Center examine the causes of lung infection in patients with CF down to the cellular and molecular level to gain a better understanding of how the lungs protect themselves, and then to use this knowledge to develop innovative treatments. 

NIH-funded research into the causes, diagnosis, and treatment of asthma is a core focus of the Pediatric Asthma Center. Investigators at this Center examine how heredity interacts with environmental factors such as stress, diet, pollution, and obesity to cause or worsen asthma. The overarching goal of the Center is to improve awareness and reduce the burden of childhood asthma through clinical care, research, community outreach, and education.

Children’s has one of the nation’s largest bronchoscopy services and offers technologically advanced pulmonary function testing. Studies of upper airway function and regulatory mechanisms of breathing can be performed on young children and even tiny infants. Today, our understanding of lung infections and diseases is undergoing a revolution, while well-respected pulmonology and immunology research teams at the Division of Pediatric Pulmonary Medicine are pioneers in this research.