Patient measures lung capacity

What we do

Our areas of research cover chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma and sleep disordered breathing, aiming to translate basic discoveries in science through to clinical studies in patients. We study the mechanisms of airway inflammatory diseases, including the role of respiratory viral and bacterial infections. We have a particular interest in acute attacks and the role of rhinovirus infections. Our research also looks at how the inhalation of airborne particles, such as air pollution, asbestos, cigarette smoke and microbial material, cause pulmonary inflammation and lung disease.

The sleep and ventilation group within our section uses physiological principles to investigate the consequences of sleep apnoea and respiratory failure, aiming to improve treatment and better target resources to patient care. Our clinical research includes investigating lung volume reduction treatments to reduce hyperinflation in advanced emphysema, improving exercise capacity through novel approaches to rehabilitation, and strategies to reverse the systemic effects of chronic respiratory disease.

Within the clinical diagnoses of asthma and COPD a wide range of different pathological processes and patterns of disease may be present. Different types of inflammation, different patterns of where disease occurs in the lung, different effects beyond the lung and different triggers for acute attacks. Our aim is to improve understanding of the cause and significance of these patterns, so that effective treatment to prevent and treat lung disease can be developed and delivered. This should reduce the burden both for patients and the NHS.

Why it is important

Both COPD and asthma have a large impact on many people's lives. We aim to identify new therapeutic targets in order to develop new and better treatments for the future. Advanced COPD is the third leading cause of death worldwide, effecting 1.3 million people in the UK. COPD exacerbations are the most common cause of hospital admission and are therefore costly to health services. Asthma is the most prevalent long-term disease in the UK - 5.4 million people in the UK have asthma which is about one in eleven people including 1.1 million children, incurring high healthcare costs over many years. Approximately three people die from asthma every day. Understanding the treatable traits within airways diseases that encompass aspects of both severe asthma and COPD is an active area of interest.

Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is one of the most common respiratory diseases and the prevalence is increasing due to the increasing obesity and the ageing population. OSA produces hypertension and is linked with increased cardiovascular morbidity (notably stroke). It also causes excessive sleepiness and increased likelihood of motor vehicle crashes. It is estimated that treatment of OSA could lead to approximately 40,000 fewer road accidents per year in the UK.

Find out more about the impact of our research or view a selection of publications from the section.

Videos on airway disease research


Our researchers

Dr Sarah L Elkin

Dr Sarah L Elkin

Dr Sarah L Elkin
Honorary Clinical Senior Lecturer

Dr Duncan F Rogers

Dr Duncan F Rogers

Dr Duncan F Rogers