Patient blows into respiratory machine


Professor Mike Polkey
Lead academic
+44 (0)20 7351 8029

What we do

We investigate skeletal muscle weakness in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), to develop physiological approaches to alleviate advanced COPD and lung regeneration. The group also includes a strong emphasis on the role of pulmonary rehabilitation in the treatment of chronic respiratory failure.  The same basic science can be applied to the respiratory muscles and respiratory muscle weakness that contribute to morbidity and mortality in several neurological diseases.

Why it is important

The biggest determinants of quality of life, and health care usage, is often the level of dependency that the patient has.  Very often this is determined by muscular strength; simply put patients with muscle weakness need an environment and carers where things can be done for them.

How it can benefit patients

Our group has addressed two fundamental questions.  In terms of diagnosis we have evaluated various measures to better predict individuals within a disease who are at increased risk and who can thus receive more timely health care intervention.  We have also evaluated several novel approaches to improving strength/function including new technologies (e.g. NMES, valves, pedometry), traditional approaches (e.g. Tai Chi) and drugs; both novel medicines and existing medicines in a repurposed context. 

Summary of current research

  • Respiratory and Skeletal Muscles
  • What causes exercise limitation in patients with COPD?
  • Pulmonary Rehabilitation

Read more about our research in detail



  • The London Respiratory Muscle Group meet weekly at their three London campuses. The group conducts joint studies and submits joint proposals for funding. 
  • Professor Yuan Ming Luo at the Guangzhou State Key Laboratory of Respiratory Medicine in China (grants totalling RMB 2.5m from National Nature Science Foundation of China). Their translational work there covers a range of topics including the physiology of neural drive in COPD and heart failure and value of Tai Chi as a form of pulmonary rehabilitation.

Public & Patient Involvement

Our group are wholly committed to patient participation in the research process.  Our team have set-up a Breathe Easy support group in Kensington.

Patient involvement has resulted in delivery of studies without immediate scientific fit to his overall program but which seemed attractive to patients, such as the Singing for Breathing programme. Dr Nicholas Hopkinson has lead outreach sessions locally at shopping centres and railway termini offering ‘lung health checks’ and advice as to how to access smoking cessation services. 

Our researchers