Researchers in Southampton and London have launched a national study which aims to pinpoint when lung health starts to decline in young adult smokers.
Led by Professor Tom Wilkinson at the NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre, it is hoped the project will help clinicians work towards a way of preventing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Funded by the British Lung Foundation, it will involve monitoring the lung function of smokers aged between 30 and 45 over three years through check-up appointments every six months.
COPD is the name for a collection of lung diseases including bronchitis and emphysema and causes the airways in the lungs to become inflamed and narrowed, making it hard to breathe.
It is the second most common lung disease in the UK after asthma, affecting an estimated three million people – with two million of those undiagnosed and at risk of contracting a more severe form of the illness as they get older.
The likelihood of developing COPD increases the more frequently and the longer an individual smokes. Although there is currently no cure, treatment can help slow the progression of the condition and control symptoms.
“COPD develops slowly over a number of years but it is not currently known at what point the disease develops, as most people do not have any symptoms until significant lung damage has occurred,” explained Prof Wilkinson, who is a consultant in respiratory medicine at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust.
“Regular lung function testing will allow us to pinpoint when function begins to decline to help identify the onset of the disease.
“This study is about working towards helping us develop treatments that may be available to prevent the disease as opposed to treating it after it is diagnosed when much of the damage is done.”
Participants in the study, which is being run in collaboration with Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, will also be offered advice and support on how to quit smoking.
Bethany Armstead, respiratory research sister at the NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre, said: “This study has the potential to be very important in advancing our knowledge about how smoking changes lung function pre-COPD, which may lead to improvements in recognising those at risk and the way treatments are managed.
“It is also a great opportunity to utilise current public engagement with the Stoptober campaign and participants will also receive support to help them try to stop smoking, so we are hopeful we can obtain useful information while also helping people to quit along the way should they wish.”
If you are interested in being involved, please contact 023 8120 4479 or email COPDResearch@uhs.nhs.uk for more information.
Posted on Tuesday 16 October 2018