Everywhere on Earth where there are humans, we will find aerosol particles. These tiny particles that swirl around in the air have a fundamental impact on our lives. They could cause adverse health effects, as in the case of smoke from industries, biomass burning, traffic or tobacco and they could be beneficial for health when used for inhaled drug delivery or diagnosis of respiratory disease. If the airborne material is of biological origin, as for instance microbes or pollen (so called bioaerosols), it could result in transfer of diseases, allergic reactions or have an impact on ecology through dispersion of species.
My research focus on medical applications of aerosols: the particles we breathe and their interactions with the lungs. Closely related to this are also studies of bioaerosols, airborne infection, exposure to air pollution and sampling of biological material in the air. Most of my work is carried out in close collaboration with experts in medicine and microbiology.
Short summary of major current projects:
Respiratory tract deposition of airborne particles: Diagnosis of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
More than 200 million people worldwide, whereof about 500 000 in Sweden, are suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) – the fourth commonest cause of death globaly according to WHO. COPD is often classified as either emphysema or bronchitis (or both), but the distinction is not easily made. Thus, improved tools for diagnosis of COPD are of great value to clinical practitioners as well as scientists. Through this project an instrument has been constructed for detection of pulmonary emphysema based on lung deposition of inhaled nanoparticles. The data obtained so far show that the instrument could detect abnormalities in the lungs also for those that have normal spirometric values. We also find signals for emphysema that correlates with more advanced and expensive techniques, such as X-ray computed tomography (CT). Currently we are workingon several clinical studies to investigate the technique, which we call Airspace Dimension Assessment (AiDA):
A 2 minute introduction to the idea is found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EzivOtv133Q
Bioaerosols and spreading of airborne disease
Bioaerosol is a very heterogeneous group of material in the air: viable bacteria, viruses, dead bacterial cells, pollen, fungi and cell fragments as well as numerous organic compounds derived from biomolecules as, for example, sugars, amino acids and methyl-derivates. By number, viable bacteria constitute a small fraction of the aerosols - typically less than 1/100 000 of all the particles (or around 1000-10000 per cubic meter). Viruses are more common, but still a minute part of the airborne particles. Nontheless, bioaerosols may have substantial effects on the environment by for example spreading of disease or as initiators of ice formation in the clouds.
Most of my research on bioaerosols deals with airborne transmission of disease. We have ongoing research about airborne bacteria in operating rooms during orthopedic surgery and about airborne dispersal of norovirus (winter vomiting flue). We also develop techniques to sample and analyse bioaerosols.