Asthma is the most common chronic respiratory disease in children, and accounts for 25 per cent of school absenteeism. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) generally affects people over 60, and includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis. The rate of both diseases is increasing worldwide, and while asthma symptoms can be treated, COPD has no cure. Neutrophils are the largest cell population among white blood cells and are a critical component of the immune system. Neutrophils contain toxins that enable them to kill bacteria. However, they are more aggressive in people with asthma and COPD and release more toxins, which may exacerbate lung damage. The way neutrophils release these toxins and the genes that may control their release are unknown. Dr. Salahaddin Mahmudi-Azer is researching the mechanism for toxin release and the genes controlling the process to develop new ways of treating asthma and COPD.