Acute lung injury is a very common cause of respiratory dysfunction among critically ill patients in intensive care units. It is caused by excessive inflammation in response to infection or major injuries. The widespread inflammation interferes with oxygen transfer such that patients with the condition often require the support of a mechanical ventilator. Despite advances in understanding how acute lung injury develops, the mortality rate from the condition has remained at 30 to 40 per cent. Dr. Sanjay Manocha is investigating whether genetic variations predispose some patients to excessive inflammation. Understanding which genes influence the development of acute lung injury could help identify those at high risk, and lead to more targeted therapies to treat this debilitating condition.