Respiratory diseases, including asthma and airway allergies, are a largely overlooked public-health
problem afflicting about 25 per cent of the Danish population. Quite apart from reducing patients’ quality of life, such conditions are expensive to treat, both for society and for the individual.
By learning more about the interaction between humans and the environment, indoors and out, and by identifying factors that may contribute to the development of respiratory ailments, we can also find better ways to prevent them. That is why researchers in this field are asking questions like::
Research into the impact of environmental factors on allergy and respiratory diseases is carried out in close collaboration with scientists from other university departments in Aarhus and elsewhere. Our partners include researchers from other universities and medical clinicians from departments for pulmonary and occupational medicine, who bring up clinical issues that help to define and develop new research areas.
The research has a strong end-user focus, with emphasis on transforming its findings into real benefits for the groups exposed to the adverse environmental conditions. That is why research projects often have an advisory group composed of key stakeholders, including ministries and labour-market organizations.
This makes it possible to put scientific results to practical use. In 2007, for example, the respiratory research at Health informed a decision to reduce the limits on wood dust in the workplace, thereby reducing the risk of lung diseases among employees in the woodworking and furniture industry.
Demonstration of gene–environmental interaction between agricultural exposure and genetic variants of alfa1 antitrypsin.
(Sigsgaard T, et al. Eur Respir J. 2000;16:50–5)
Men and women are found to react differently following exposure to organic dust.
(Jacobsen G, et al. Eur Respir J. 2009 Jun;33(6):1268–76)
Allergies are shown to occur less often among young farmers born in a rural setting.
(Portengen L, et al. J Clin Exp Allergy. 2002 Feb;32(2):247–53)
Identification of risk factors for asthma among young farmers.
(Omland O, et al. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2011 Jul 11)
A large-scale, consortium-based, genomewide association study of asthma.
(Moffatt MF, et al. N Engl J Med. 2010 Sep 23;363(13):1211–21)
Research into allergies and the human respiratory tract involves many different fields and activities, among them epidemiological studies, basic science, and clinical exposure studies using one of the most advanced climate chambers in the world.
The scientific methods and fields employed include: