Head of Research And Innovation (Lung Disease)
By studying the very early stages of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), researchers across the UK are hoping to be able to identify those at risk of developing the condition, which affects three million people in the UK.
The British Lung Foundation Early COPD Cohort is a group of young adult smokers between the ages of 30 and 45. Their lung function is being tracked over time and the study will pick out those whose lung function is beginning to decline and are therefore at risk of developing COPD.
Although anyone can develop COPD, people who smoke run a particularly high risk of developing this lung disease. However, 20% of people with the condition have never smoked and not all smokers develop it.
There remains an urgent need to provide people with better treatments, but this is dependent on us gaining a better understanding of how the condition develops and progresses.
Simple tasks become challenging
Ian Jarrold, Head of Research and Innovation (Lung Disease) for British Lung Foundation describes the importance of this research: “COPD can be incredibly life-limiting for people. Think about the last time you were out of breath and imagine being in that state just doing everyday tasks like brushing your teeth. There remains an urgent need to provide people with better treatments, but this is dependent on us gaining a better understanding of how the condition develops and progresses. This study will be invaluable in helping us answer these questions.”
The importance of studying young people
During the initial pilot of the study, which has never been done on such a young cohort of individuals, the participants were monitored through the use of CT scans and post bronchodilator spirometry.
Presenting the initial findings at the American Thoracic Society’s annual conference, Andrew Ritchie described the results: “This cross-sectional analysis of 30-45-year-old individuals who are deemed at risk of developing COPD found that a large percentage show CT airway abnormalities. This demonstrates how important it is to study the younger age group to understand the beginnings of the disease.”