Meet the lung researcher: Lynne

Dr Lynne Prince at the University of Sheffield is studying how immune cells cause inflammation in COPD

Why do we need this study?

Macrophages are a type of immune cell found in most body tissues. In healthy lungs, they remove harmful bacteria and prevent disease.

In people with COPD, macrophages are ‘activated’, producing molecules that damage the lung, badly affecting breathing and lung function. Therefore, they play an important role in causing inflammation in the lung in COPD.

We don’t know what activates these macrophages. We believe, though, that the answer may lie in a gene called ‘Pellino 1’. By studying macrophages from healthy people and people with COPD, we hope to find a way to turn off the inflammation.

What is involved?

We will take blood samples from people with COPD and healthy volunteers, and isolate immune cells called ‘monocytes’. When these mature into macrophages, we will measure how much Pellino 1 they contain. We will then switch off Pellino 1 and see what happens to the cells. We expect to see less inflammation.

What do you hope to achieve?

If switching off Pellino 1 does reduce inflammation, we would hope to develop medicines to target Pellinio 1. Over several years in clinical trials, this would involve developing and testing new drugs that target Pellino 1 as the cause of inflammation in COPD.

Ultimately, the hope is that trials would lead to effective new drugs that target and block inflammation in COPD, particularly during flare-ups.