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Dr Sterghios Moschos

Associate Professor, Department of Applied Sciences, Northumbria University

Prof Ioannis Vogiatzis

Professor of Rehabilitation Sciences, Department of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation, Northumbria University 

Leading scientists are developing pioneering solutions to help diagnose those with respiratory disease and reduce the costs of treating and rehabilitating sufferers.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, respiratory diseases have gained increased focus, highlighting the importance of early diagnosis, correct treatment and patient rehabilitation.

Northumbria University is undertaking ground-breaking work for patients with a variety of lung diseases, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma.

Diagnosing lung conditions from breath

Dr Sterghios Moschos, Associate Professor, Department of Applied Sciences and his team have developed a device to collect a breath sample which can then be analysed for disease. It has been used during the pandemic to understand how the COVID virus transmits and he hopes soon to be able to share the understanding and knowledge gained from this work.

However, the non-invasive device is also set to play an instrumental role in the diagnosis of lung conditions, particularly in the over 65s and young children.

A third of all children under the age of three will present to GPs and A&E at some point with a wheeze. They use up 75% of all childhood NHS appointments, a total of 217,000 visits per year.

Before the pandemic, more than 120,000 patients over the age of 65 were admitted to UK hospitals with a respiratory condition every year and were likely treated with antibiotics and steroids without confirming the cause of infection, with the hope this would resolve the problem.

Our innovation can sample breath exclusively from the deep lung, entirely non-invasively.

Dr Sterghios Moschos

Correct treatment and management

Moschos says: “Our innovation can sample breath exclusively from the deep lung, entirely non-invasively and without anaesthesia to detect bacteria, viruses and fungi, as well as materials from the body that could be tell-tale signs of other diseases, like lung cancers and lung fibrosis.

“It will provide an effective diagnosis giving doctors specific, effective treatment options; if you have patients not coming back with recurring problems or unresolved disease, then the cost to the NHS could be massively reduced.”

Taking this innovative technology to market, Dr Moschos has worked with Northumbria’s IP Commercialisation team to launch the medtech spinout company PulmoBioMed Ltd. The process of taking the technology from academic research to a spinout company was facilitated with support from the Innovate UK NxNW ICURe program and Northern Accelerator, a collaboration between Northumbria, Durham, Newcastle, Sunderland and Teesside Universities to commercialise research and boost the region’s economy.

Providing the right exercise programme

Professor Ioannis Vogiatzis, Professor of Rehabilitation Sciences, Department of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation brings his 25 years of expertise in rehabilitation innovations mostly for COPD but has also worked with people who have cystic fibrosis, asthma and pulmonary hypertension.

Interval or intermittent exercise — a style of training which prescribes very short, intense, bursts of exercise followed by the same amount of rest before repeating — has grown in popularity with elite athletes worldwide. Professor Vogiatzis used this approach to devise an adapted exercise routine for people with lung disease.

“My work has informed the American, European and British Thoracic Societies’ pulmonary rehabilitation guidelines and has proven to work well with those who suffer from lung diseases. For those who are already breathless, doing long continuous exercise activity is not helpful,” Vogiatzis explains.

“There is good evidence now that this type of exercising works well for COPD and other lung disease sufferers.”

His exercise programme is now delivered by physiotherapists in hospital and community-based rehabilitation centres across the UK and around the world.

He concludes: “Patients who undertake this kind of programme may have a higher quality of life and are less anxious or depressed. They require fewer GP visits, less medication and hospital admissions decrease.”

Northumbria University has recently gained reinforcement of its already outstanding reputation for excellence in research, having been ranked 5th in the UK for research power in sport and exercise sciences, and ranked 8th in the UK for research power for professions allied to health, such as biomedical science, in the latest Research Excellence Framework (REF2021).

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