Researchers in Southampton are studying the timeline of lung disease in a younger smoking population to better understand how and when it develops, with the hope to improve treatment and outcomes for future patients.
Professor Tom Wilkinson, a respiratory specialist at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, and his team are looking for young adult smokers, aged 30-45, to study the long-term effects of breathing cigarette smoke.
The study, which will monitor the lung function of the participants over three years, will increase the researchers’ understanding of when a person begins to develop smoking-related lung problems, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
COPD is an umbrella term that covers several progressive lung diseases like emphysema, chronic bronchitis and non-reversible asthma. Over 1.2 million people in the UK currently live with COPD, which is most commonly diagnosed when a person is in their 60’s.
The main cause is smoking, with the likelihood of developing COPD increasing the more frequently and the longer you smoke. People can also develop the condition following long-term exposure to harmful fumes or dust, or because of a rare genetic problem that means their lungs are more vulnerable to damage.
There is currently no cure for COPD but 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.
This study hopes to understand when COPD first begins so that treatments can be developed to prevent the disease and improve treatment and outcomes for future patients.
Monitoring the participants
The study, which is funded by the British Lung Foundation and taking place at the NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre, will involve six monthly checkups to monitor each participant’s lung function over a period of three years.
“Regular lung function testing will allow us to pin-point when function begins to decline – which can help identify the onset of COPD,” explains Professor Wilkinson.
“We will follow up and track the lung function of all participants over time so we can understand at what point the changes occur and when the disease starts.
“It’s about understanding and developing treatments that may be available to prevent the disease, as opposed to treating it after it is diagnosed.”
If you are a smoker aged 30-45 and would like to be involved in the study, please contact 023 8120 4479 or email COPDResearch@uhs.nhs.uk for more information.
Participants will also be offered advice and support on how to quit smoking.