RIT Study Enhances Understanding of the Effects of Smoking

Research includes development of a machine to simulate impact on the lungs

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Research at Rochester Institute of Technology is seeking to enhance knowledge surrounding the impact of smoking on human health. Risa Robinson, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, is utilizing computational modeling, medical imaging and mechanical simulation to illustrate how individual particles inhaled with cigarette smoke affect the body and how they travel from the lungs to other organs.

The effort will include the construction of a smoking machine, which will be used to simulate how these particles build up over time and the impact the process can have on breathing, digestion and lung capacity. The research is funded through a grant from the American Cancer Society and is being conducted in cooperation with RIT’s Departments of Medical Sciences and Medical Illustration.

“Previous research on the impact of particle deposits has focused on inundating laboratory samples with toxins and studying the response, the so called ‘avalanche’ approach,” notes Robinson. “The work at RIT uses a ‘snow flake’ method whereby particles are allowed to build up over time, as they would in the body.”

Robison believes her research can provide better evidence of the real-time effects of smoking and more properly link how particle buildup impacts numerous systems in the body. She also hopes to shed light on how these particles can impact passive smokers, through second hand smoke, and use her data in additional types of particle analysis, including studying the impacts of air pollution and asbestos.

“Through the use of new computational and imaging technologies we can learn more then ever before about how particle inhalation and buildup affect human health,” Robinson adds. “This information will increases our knowledge of the negative effects of smoking and air pollution, while also providing needed information to enhance treatment, including better application of inhaled medications.”

Robinson’s collaborators include Kathleen Lamkin Kennard, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, and Richard Doolittle, professor of medical sciences, both at RIT; Todd Pagano, assistant professor of chemistry in RIT’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf, and undergraduate and graduate student researchers.