Our initial research interest in isocyanates (cross-linking agents widely used used to produce all polyurethane products) stemmed from YOEMP's clinical experience and frustrated efforts to understand, diagnose and prevent isocyanate asthma in isocyanate-exposed workers. Over the past 15 years we have developed a multidisciplinary collaborative research program that utilizes field, clinical and laboratory approaches to address these problems.
Epidemiology and Clinical Studies
Studies of isocyanate-exposed workers include:
- SPRAY (Survey of Painters and Repairers of Autobodies by Yale), NIOSH-funded cross-sectional and longitudinal studies of auto body shop workers
- SMASH (Safe Methods for Autobody Shop Health), a NIOSH-funded intervention study to evaluate the effectiveness of methods to reduce isocyanate exposures in the workplace
- PREP (Painters & Repairers Education Program), a DVD-based training project to reduce isocyanate, dust and solvent exposures for auto body workers in CT, funded by the The Patrick and Catherine Donaghue Medical Research Foundation
Progress-to-date has included improved approaches to measure airborne and skin isocyanate exposures, identification of promising exposure biomarkers, and novel approaches to protect against isocyanate exposures. A key focus of on-going studies is a better understanding of the extent and health effects of workplace isocyanate skin exposure, and better preventive strategies. (See publication list).
Our laboratory studies have focused on understanding human isocyanate asthma pathogenesis. Progress to-date includesidentification and characterization of biologically relevant isocyanate antigens, and better defining human innate and adaptive immune responses to isocyanate exposure, using clinical human peripheral blood and airway samples. These approaches are being used to develop improved biomarkers of isocyanate exposure and early disease. We have also developed a mouse model of iscyanate asthma to further explore exposure dose-response relationships, including the role of skin exposure, and keypathogenic mechanisms.