Gesa Albers was shortlisted for the MRC Max Perutz Science Writing Award 2018 for the following article on her PhD project studying how the metabolism of macrophages differs between asthmatic and non-asthmatic people.
You are on a holiday with a good friend walking along a path enjoying the stunning view and the beautiful scenery along the river. Suddenly, your friend starts coughing. He might have inhaled dust from the dry pathway. You stop to give him the water bottle from your backpack. The water does not help the coughing. He wheezes every time he breathes and you start panicking when you see that his face is getting paler and paler.
“I cannot breathe!” he says while wheezing.
You want to help him but you do not know what to do. What does he need? Do you have to call an ambulance? As the coughing and wheezing does not stop, you decide to call the ambulance. With shaking hands, you type in the number and call the paramedics. (more…)
Ann Morgan, a PhD student at the National Heart and Lung Institute, gives us her thoughts on why smoking isn’t the only culprit behind the rise in COPD.
The traditional view of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is that it is a self-inflicted disease caused by smoking. However, it is increasingly likely that this description is something of an oversimplification. While still very much associated with smoking, clinicians and researchers alike are getting to grips with the reality that COPD is a more complex and heterogeneous disease than previously thought. We are also becoming more aware of the fact that it is a disease which rarely occurs in isolation. The vast majority of people who present with COPD have at least one other co-existing disease or condition, and around 50% have four or more accompanying chronic diseases or ‘comorbidities’. (more…)
An eye-opening account by Professor Sir Tony Newman Taylor on how asbestos has gone from ‘magic mineral’ to deadly dust that can cause mesothelioma.
Public awareness of the hazards of asbestos can be dated to the period immediately following the death of Nellie Kershaw aged 33 in 1924. She had worked during the previous seven years in a textile factory spinning asbestos fibre into yarn. She died of severe fibrosis of the lungs. The pathologist, William Cooke, who found retained asbestos fibres in the lungs, called the cause of death asbestosis. Nellie Kershaw was not the first case to be reported of lung fibrosis caused by asbestos. Montague Murray in 1899 had reported the case of a 33-year-old man who had worked for 14 years in an asbestos textile factory. He had died of fibrosis of the lungs which Montague Murray, also finding asbestos in the lungs, had attributed to inhaled asbestos fibres. The patient had told Murray he was the only survivor from ten others who had worked in his workshop. (more…)
In this post, Dr Nicholas Hopkinson looks at the benefits of singing for people with respiratory conditions such as COPD.
Singing carols is a big part of Christmas cheer, but not many people realise that singing can also be helpful for people with lung disease. COPD is an extremely common condition – there are 1.3 million people with this diagnosis in the UK. Existing treatments help to some extent, but do not reverse the underlying pathology, meaning that even with optimal care many patients remain breathless with activity limitation and poor quality of life. This symptom burden represents a major area of unmet need. Singing for Lung Health (SLH) groups are a potential way for patients to gain skills to improve control of their breathing and posture, reducing symptom burden and enhancing wellbeing. (more…)
COPD, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, has traditionally been thought of as an irreversible and somewhat hopeless condition. Many patients with COPD may be missing out on the possibility for a dramatic improvement in their condition. They deserve better.
COPD, is a common and important condition. There are 1.3 million people with a diagnosis of COPD in the UK and it’s now the third leading cause of death worldwide. The main symptoms are breathlessness, cough and sputum production.
The term COPD encompasses a range of pathological processes, usually caused by smoking or inhaling other noxious materials. It includes chronic bronchitis – inflammation and damage to airways as well as emphysema – destruction of the lung tissue itself and damage to the blood vessels in the lung. In emphysema the walls of the alveoli (air sacs) break down. The lung tissue loses its elasticity and becomes baggy, and air gets trapped in the lungs making breathing uncomfortable. In some people the condition is caused by alpha one antitrypsin (A1AT) deficiency; the inherited lack of a defensive enzyme, which makes their lungs much more vulnerable. (more…)
PhD student Dr Ishita Marwah writes about her personal take on tuberculosis – a disease that continues to be a global issue.
I was always a sickly child – when I was eleven years old, doctors injected my forearm with tuberculin in order to check whether my immune system raised a response to the bits and bobs of dead tuberculosis (TB) bacteria in it. If it did, it meant my immune system had already been prodded into battling TB, that is, it had previously encountered or was currently encountering an infection with TB bacteria. The injection site swelled like a furious bee sting, the doctors decided TB was the root cause of all my troubles, and I was intensely medicated for the next six months. My symptoms improved, and I have since evolved (visibly even!) towards the hale and hearty end of the healthiness spectrum. (more…)
For World No Tabaco Day 2017, researchers from Imperial’s Muscle Lab provide an insight into how smoking takes its toll on our lung health.
Smoking is a leading cause of preventable death and disease in the world. It is estimated that the society costs associated with smoking are approximately ₤12.9 billion a year, including the NHS cost of treating smoking related diseases and loss of productivity.