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Research at the Simmons Center

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 A major part of the Activity of the Simmons Center involves:

  • Basic Research
    The objective of basic research is to gain new knowledge. The research addresses central questions about the biological, behavioral, and social systems underlying wellness and disease. To solve problems, it sometimes becomes necessary to draw from unexpected sources. This kind of research provides the broad base of knowledge that can make breakthroughs possible.
  • Clinical Research
    Clinical research involves living humans or materials from them such as tissue samples. A researcher or clinician involved with the study directly interacts with patients. This kind of research is undertaken to find better ways of identifying and caring for people in poor health. Patient-oriented research focuses on several areas, including mechanisms of human disease, therapeutic interventions, clinical trials, and development of new technologies.

Simmons Center clinicians and researchers are committed to applying the most advanced approaches to identify new and effective therapeutic targets and better diagnostic markers of pulmonary fibrosis. Clinical trials testing investigational medications are an important option open to center patients.

The completion of the Human Genome Project, which has charted the entire human DNA sequence, provides Simmons Center investigators with a new opportunity to understand how pulmonary fibrosis develops and how it can be better diagnosed and treated. Researchers at the Simmons Center are applying new gene-based technologies, called genomics, to better understand the activities of the many thousands of genes and proteins in each human cell and how they affect pulmonary fibrosis. They are also using new computer tools, called bioinformatics, to make use of the vast amounts of data being generated and to identify potential diagnostic methods and drug treatments.

Simmons Center researchers have already identified distinct changes in genetic activity that occur when human and mouse lung tissues become fibrotic; now they are expanding these observations and designing specific experiments to discover the roles of some of these genes. This approach can transform the understanding of interstitial lung diseases (ILD) and lead to breakthroughs in disease management and understanding.

The research team at the Simmons Center includes a well-rounded, diverse group of scientists. Geneticists, clinical researchers, basic scientists, genome scientists and bioinformaticians all combine their efforts to understand pulmonary fibrosis. Patients have an important role to play as well. As volunteer participants in clinical studies, they may benefit from investigational therapies; they also help themselves and others with pulmonary fibrosis by advancing the state of knowledge of the disease.

Current Research Projects

  • Identification of gene expression patterns that characterize and predict the clinical course and response to therapy of patients with interstitial lung disease in general and IPF in particular
  • The use of methods to study genes and the proteins they make — called genomics and proteomics — to identify new targets for drug therapy in IPF and other interstitial lung diseases
  • Analysis of the genetic basis of adult pulmonary fibrosis and molecular processes in the lung that can serve as targets for drug therapy
  • Exploration of the prevalence of anxiety, depression, and sleep disturbances in people with IPF, examining the relationship between these problems and disease severity, time since diagnosis, quality of life, and social support