CF Foundation honors UNC researchers for vital treatment

Hypertonic saline, developed into an effective treatment at UNC School of Medicine in collaboration with Australian researchers, has become a proven therapy for thousands of people with cystic fibrosis.

CF Foundation honors UNC researchers for vital treatment click to enlarge Scott Donaldson, MD
CF Foundation honors UNC researchers for vital treatment click to enlarge William Bennett, PhD

Media Contact: Mark Derewicz, 919-923-0959, mark.derewicz@unchealth.unc.edu

October 28, 2014

CHAPEL HILL, NC – William D. Bennett, PhD, professor of medicine, and Scott H. Donaldson, MD, associate professor of medicine, received the 2014 Richard C. Talamo Distinguished Achievement Award from the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation for their development and improvement of hypertonic saline as a critical frontline therapy for people with CF.

Bennett and Donaldson were joined by co-recipients Mark R. Elkins, PhD, and Peter T.P. Bye, MD, researchers at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sidney, Australia. In 2006, the four researchers led complementary efforts to develop hypertonic saline as an effective treatment for CF. They reported their original findings that year in The New England Journal of Medicine.

“The work of these four dedicated individuals has led to a relatively inexpensive approach to airway clearance for all people with CF, at all ages and stages of the disease,” said Christopher M. Penland, PhD, vice president of research at the CF Foundation, who presented the award at the 2014 North American Cystic Fibrosis Conference. “Their research has changed the way we treat cystic fibrosis and helped improve the quality of life for all with the disease.”

Inhaling hypertonic saline – essentially sterile super salty water – helps rehydrate the inner lining of the lungs, allowing people with CF to more easily clear the mucus that captures bacteria. In people who do not have CF, the lungs naturally clear mucus and thus the bacteria. In people with CF, this process is made difficult because of a faulty gene. The mucus lingers; bacteria cause infections.

The Talamo award was created in memory of Richard C. Talamo, MD, a professor of pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University and later chairman of the pediatrics department at Tufts University School of Medicine. It recognizes individuals who have spent their careers researching and caring for people with CF and whose contributions have made a significant difference in the lives of people with CF.

Dr. Bennett is a member of the Center for Environmental Medicine, Asthma, and Lung Biology.  He and Dr. Donaldson are members of the Marsico Lung Institute / UNC CF Research Center.

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