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The University of Denver Partners with the University of Alberta in Groundbreaking Research to Tackle Lung Disease

Lung simulator to be used at the University of Denver’s High Altitude Labs atop Mount Evans


DENVER — In order to study the effects of altitude on the delivery of asthma medications, the University of Denver’s High Altitude Research Station near Echo Lake (elevation 10,600 feet) and Meyer-Womble Observatory atop Mount Evans (elevation 14,148 feet) will be utilized by researchers from the University of Alberta’s Aerosol Research Laboratory of Alberta (ARLA, during the month of July 2013.


The objective of this research is to determine the performance of a number of pressurized, metered-dose and dry powder inhalers at various altitudes in Colorado. Inhalers are used to deliver medication to many people who suffer from asthma and the lung disease Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Rescue medication can provide quick relief for asthma attacks and is delivered through various inhalation devices.


Manufacturers are required to test their inhalers before they are able to sell them, but much of this testing takes place at sea level in ideal conditions where temperature and humidity are controlled. Patients who require relief in less than ideal conditions may still be at risk.


“This partnership between the University of Denver and the University of Alberta will assist people all over the world,” says Dr. Robert Stencel, Director of Observatories at the University of Denver. “While our focus at the Meyer-Womble Observatory is astronomy research, we’re happy to facilitate other research that can uniquely utilize the special conditions found at 14,000 feet elevation, such as this asthma research.”


The field study work for this project is taking place during July 8 and July 20 on Mount Evans in Colorado. Testing will be conducted at three locations: the University of Denver’s High Altitude Research Station, operated by the Natural Science and Mathematics department of the University of Denver; the Meyer-Womble Observatory; and, the MOELS location (elevation 8,200 feet), run by Jefferson County Public Schools.


The Alberta Idealized Throat Replica, a system consisting of a vacuum pump and flow controller which simulates human breathing, will be used in the testing. Each time a human breath is simulated, an inhaler will be actuated into the “mouth” of the machine. After travelling through the “throat” of the device, the medication will be collected on a filter in order to measure the mass of drug delivered, corresponding to the theoretical deposition in the lungs.


At each altitude, researchers will make comparisons of the mass of each dose, the timing of the dosing, the mass of each collected dose, and the values for each inhaler. Moderate altitude testing will be conducted in Edmonton, Alberta.


Media interested in speaking to the researchers about this study are asked to contact Will Jones at (303)871-2781 or by email at


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