Meet the lung researcher: Andrew

Dr Andrew Durham at Imperial College London is studying the prevention of fatal lung fibrosis (scarring) in COPD and other lung diseases

Why do we need this study?

When lungs are injured, the body repairs them naturally. The repair process can, however, lead to a small amount of scarring. In diseases such as COPD and interstitial lung disease (ILD), a faulty healing process creates too much scar tissue. This is called ‘fibrosis’, caused by cells known as ‘fibroblasts’. When fibrosis occurs, it replaces the lung’s delicate tissue structures, making it hard to breathe.

We have previously tested a new drug, JQ1, on fibroblasts from patients with ILD. The drug stopped the fibroblasts dividing and producing the proteins that form the scar tissue. The result was that the fibroblast cells came to resemble, more closely, cells from healthy patients. We now want to test JQ1 on fibroblasts from people with COPD.

What is involved?

Using tissue samples with fibroblasts from people with COPD, we will test JQ1. Our aim is to see whether the drug can have the same effect on the COPD fibroblasts that it does on ILD fibroblasts. 

What do we hope to achieve?

If our findings show that JQ1 can turn off the damaging fibroblasts in both ILD and COPD, this may offer hope of finding a way to stop lung fibrosis. This would involve testing new drugs to target the fibroblasts, in animal models and, later, in clinical trials with patients. Ultimately, our hope is to improve our understanding of fibrosis and the treatment of lung and other diseases.