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 viruses, 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: viruses and nanoparticles 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:
Bioaerosols and spreading of airborne disease
Bioaerosol is a very heterogeneous group of material in the air: viruses, bacteria, 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, virus and 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). Nonetheless, 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 viruses in hospitals and workplaces. We also develop techniques to sample and analyze bioaerosols.
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 third most common cause of death globally according to WHO (predicted to be cause 1 within 15 years). COPD includes both emphysema and bronchitis, partly since the distinction is not easily made. Especially emphysema, which greatly reduce ability to obtain oxygen, can be very difficult to detect by simple means. Thus, improved tools for diagnosis of COPD is a great demand to clinical practitioners, as well as scientists. We have developed a technique named Airspace Dimension Assessment (AiDA), that utilize inhaled nanoparticles to measure changes in the small airways and alveoli with a precision down to a few micrometers. Comparisons with advanced techniques such as CT and MRI shows that AiDA has a high sensitivity to detect structural changes in the deep lung.
A 2 minute introduction to the idea is found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EzivOtv133Q