Lung Disease Linked to Flavorings

Food FlavoringsStephen M. Black is a Regents’ Professor at Georgia Regents University and a highly respected member of the medical community. In recent years, Stephen M. Black has shifted his focus to research and has a number of active grants. One topic covered by grants is acute lung injury. In his studies, he has discovered that exposure to flavoring chemicals may be linked to lung disease.

Flavorings, which are mixtures of both natural and man-made substances, are added to foods to enhance the taste. While the Food and Drug Administration recognizes these flavorings as safe to eat, they are still harmful in certain forms and amounts. Factory workers who are exposed to the chemicals for a prolonged period of time are most at risk.

According to the NIOSH Alert: Preventing Lung Disease in Workers Who Use or Make Flavorings, the flavorings industry has estimated nearly 1,000 flavoring ingredients with irritant and volatile properties that could irritate the eyes, skin, and result in respiratory problems. Applying heat to the chemicals can also increase exposure. Industries who manufacture products with Diacetyl chemicals (butter flavoring chemicals), such as popcorn, can cause severe lung disease in workers.

According to the United States Department of Labor, an investigation of a popcorn plant was investigated in 2000 due to a cluster of employees who developed the rare lung disease, bronchiolitis obliterans. This life-threatening disease causes the small airway branches in the lungs to become compressed by scar tissue or inflammation. The investigation concluded that there was “a risk for occupational lung disease in workers with inhalation exposure to butter flavored chemicals.” Since then, the disease has earned the term “popcorn lung.”

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration offers protection to workers exposed to diacetyl, but no specific standards are in place to protect from occupational exposure.

Learn more about Stephen M. Black and his various research topics here:

Overview of Lung Diseases


Stephen M. Black has categorized Lung Diseases into 3 different groups.

Stephen M. Black is a research chemist who specializes in Molecular Pharmacology and Molecular Endocrinology. Recently, he and his team of researchers have uncovered a new therapeutic treatment target for treating acute lung injury. To understand how this treatment works, it is important to understand the many diseases that can greatly affect a person’s quality of life.

Unfortunately, lung diseases are quite common and ten of millions suffer from lung disease in the United States alone. Frequent causes of lung disease can be attributed to genetics, infections, and smoking. The number of lung diseases are plentiful, and can break down into three categories: lung diseases that affect the air sacs, lung diseases that affect the airways, and lung diseases that affect the interstitium.

Lung Diseases Affecting the Air Sacs

  • Pneumonia: an infection usually caused by bacteria that affects the alveoli.
  • Lung cancer: often occurs in the main part of the lung, near the air sacs and have many forms.
  • Pulmonary edema: caused when fluid leaks from the lung’s small blood vessels into the air sacs.
  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome: sudden, severe injury to the lungs that usually requires mechanical ventilation until they recover.
  • Tuberculosis: slowly progressive pneumonia caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis.
  • Emphysema: a result of damage to the connections between alveoli, typically caused by smoking.
  • Pneumoconiosis: conditions caused by the inhalation of dangerous substances that injure the lungs.

Lung Diseases Affecting the Airways

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: a lung condition inhibiting a person to exhale normally.
  • Chronic bronchitis: a form of COPD that causes a chronic cough.
  • Emphysema: lung damage that traps air in the lungs.
  • Acute bronchitis: a virus that causes a sudden infection of the airways.
  • Cystic fibrosis: a genetic condition that causes an accumulation of mucus resulting in repeated lung infections.
  • Asthma: a condition where the airways are consistently inflamed, resulting in wheezing and shortness of breath.

Lung Diseases Affecting the Interstitium

  • Interstitial lung disease: a collection of lung conditions that affect the interstitium.
  • Pneumonia and pulmonary edemas: these lung diseases that affect the air sacs can also affect the interstitium.

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Related Posts: Lung Injury/Sepsis

Research Focus: Part Four

Over a medical research career that spans more than two decades, Stephen M. Black has conducted considerable research on a variety of topics. He currently has six ongoing research projects he is working on with his integrated cardiovascular laboratory at Georgia Regents University.

One of the research projects discussed in Stephen M. Black’s most recent blog post, “Endothelial barrier protection and repair in acute lung injury”, is a Program Project, meaning that the Regents Professor is working with one or more of his colleagues at Georgia Regents University to complete the project. The project is comprised of four interrelated projects and three cores, which all use state-of-the-art biochemical, cellular, molecular, and physiological approaches. Stephen M. Black hopes that the Program Project will provide the medical community with a better understanding of the mechanisms by which RhoA (a small GTPase protein) and Rac1 (a protein found in human cells) are regulated during G- and G+-induced acute lung injury. This data should also help in the development of new strategies and treatments for acute lung injury, which has not seen a major drop in fatalities in over 40 years (learn more on acute lung injury here).

The study’s four inter-related projects are:

Project 1: This project focuses on how protein nitration regulates RhoA and Rac1 signaling during the development of acute lung injury, and makes use of biochemical, cellular, molecular, and animal studies.
Project 2: This project is thematically linked to Project 1, as it deals with determining how heat shock protein 90 (Hsp90) impacts RhoA activation and downstream Rac1 signaling.
Project 3: The third project also focuses on RhoA and Rac1, aiming to determine the therapeutic potential of monitoring their expression both in a living organism (in vitro) and in a test tube environment (in vivo).
Project 4: This project investigates the barrier disruptive effects of the G+ pore forming toxins, lysteriolysin and pneumolysin. The results should reveal the mechanisms of RhoA/Rac1 imbalance while exploring the therapeutic potential of enhanced NO signaling for restoring this balance during G+ mediated acute lung injury.

Learn more about Stephen M. Black and his research by connecting with him on Zerply or by reading his blog posts on WordPress:

Research Focus: Part Three

Stephen M. Black and his integrated cardiovascular laboratory are focused on a number of research projects that intend to expand our knowledge of conditions such as congenital heart disease and pulmonary hypertension. Last week’s blog post focused on two such research projects: Role of altered carnitine metabolism in perinatal endothelial dysfunction and ROS in pulmonary hypertension: role of ADMA. Two more ongoing research projects that have not been discussed on this blog are:


Role of neural NOS in neurotoxicity

Recent data collected in Stephen M. Black’s laboratory indicates that a developing brain is more vulnerable to hypoxia-ischemia (HI) injury than the mature brain due to a deficiency in anti-oxidant enzyme capacity. The severe form of an HI injury is responsible for blindness, epilepsy, mental retardation, and cerebral palsy, so Stephen M. Black recognizes the importance of finding an HI therapy for developing brains. His recent data shows that an increase in reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation in the presence of nitric oxide synthase (NOS) leads to an increase in HI. The study hypothesizes that hydroxyl radical, generated following activation of NOS and an increase in NO, is the key mediator of neural loss after HI. Stephen M. Black hopes that the results will help identify signaling agents that can be targeted for treating individuals exposed to asphxia.

Endothelial barrier protection and repair in acute lung injury

This Program Project (a medical research project involving more than one of an institution’s medical researchers) is focused on defining the role of vascular endothelial cell (EC) permeability as a component in acute lung injury (ALI). A team of productive experts are focusing on four interrelated projects and 3 cores with the hope that the participating researchers’ state-of-the-art cellular, molecular, biochemical, and physiological approaches will lead to a better understanding of how RhoA and Rac1 are regulated during G- and G+-induced ALI. A future blog post will explain how each project and core will help researchers meet this goal.

Stephen M. Black is focused on these and many other medical research projects. Learn more about his medical research by visiting his Bigsight profile: