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Our COPD research

An estimated 1.2 million people are living in the UK with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD. Our research suggests that this number is growing.

COPD in numbers

29 blue silhouettes

people live with diagnosed COPD

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lungs blue outline infographic

people are told they have COPD each year

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£ 3,123,325

total spend on all projects

read more about our COPD research

On this page:

Aim of our COPD research

Our research into COPD has helped to develop the use of life-changing treatments like pulmonary rehabilitation. It’s helped researchers to understand how damage occurs in the lungs of people who have COPD – so they can identify targets for new treatments that can stop the disease in its tracks.

Our research has also looked at how COPD may be linked to other conditions like dementia. By funding research that is investigating different avenues, our research will lead to better treatments, better care and a cure for COPD.

It’s a neglected area of research and medicine, despite affecting so many people. Other diseases such as heart problems and cancers get a lot more attention. Jenna, who lives with COPD

COPD research projects

Here are some of the COPD research projects we've funded:

Low oxygen levels and white blood cell damage to lung tissue in COPD 

Professor Alison Condliffe

Professor Alison Condliffe’s research looked at how damaging proteins called proteases can be released from neutrophils (a type of white blood cell). Normally neutrophils protect you by eating and digesting bacteria, for example those causing lung infection. However, if some of the neutrophil contents are released to the outside, then damage to the surrounding delicate lung tissue occurs.

She tested to see if the low oxygen levels found in people with COPD contributed to the likelihood of proteases spilling outside of the neutrophil and causing damage to the lung.

The results showed that oxygen levels do affect neutrophils. In fact, low oxygen levels can cause neutrophils to release 4 to 6 times as many damaging proteins, causing further tissue damage in people with COPD.
This has stimulated further research projects to see if this damaging process can be prevented.

With these findings, we hope we can find new ways of treating lung damage by this process or stop it from happening. Professor Alison Condliffe

Preventing and treating vascular diseases in people with COPD

People with COPD are more likely to have a vascular disease (a disease of the vessels that carry blood like veins and arteries) than people without COPD.  Research also shows that people who have COPD are less likely than the general population to be prescribed medications to stop these conditions from developing or happening again.

Dr Jennifer Quint

Dr Jennifer Quint and her team at Imperial College London, are looking into millions of health care records from GPs and comparing the treatments prescribed for people with and without COPD. They’re looking to see if people with COPD are undertreated for vascular disease and whether the current risk scores used by GPs are less accurate for people with COPD.

This research has the real potential to change the way that GPs work and improve health outcomes for people with COPD. It could help make sure that vascular problems don’t go unnoticed in people with COPD.

It could change the way GPs manage people with COPD.Dr Jennifer Quint

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