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National Institute for Health Research Biomedical Research Centre
Our Research: Respiratory

Improving respiratory symptoms

Effective treatments are lacking for cough and breathlessness, the main symptoms of chronic respiratory disease. What are we doing about this?

We know that coughing and breathlessness have a significant impact on quality of life for patients with respiratory conditions.

Our research is helping to better understand how changes in the neuronal (nervous system) processing of respiratory sensations contribute to these symptoms and identify new drug targets.  We are:

  • Establishing techniques to quantify in 3D nerve density/branching (utilising immuno-histochemical staining and x-ray imaging techniques), co-localisation with inflammatory cells and relate changes in innervation to other structural airway remodelling in respiratory diseases
  • Studying responses to airway challenges (e.g. exercise, allergens vs. control) to identify changes in airway biomarker patterns and mediators capable of reducing the response by activating/sensitising nerves (e.g. ATP, aldehydes)
  • Identifying patterns of neuronal activation/transmission in respiratory disease and the interactions between sensations evoking cough and breathlessness using fMRI and PET/MRI imaging

We are looking for opportunities to collaborate with industry to expand on this work to:

  • Investigating novel neurophenotypes (functional differences in the neural circuitry) associated with respiratory disease
  • Testing the ability of these novel neurophenotypes to predict response to the effects of neuro-modulating therapies (e.g. P2X3 antagonists, NK1 antagonists)

Our research will ultimately lead to new treatment options for the cough and breathlessness symptoms associated with chronic respiratory disease.