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The BLF helped me present my research

John Lowe says support helps scientists to research lung disease.

I've been working in clinical research since graduating from Lancaster University in 2003, and I've focused on the lungs since 2005 - first in adults, and now in children.

This summer, the British Lung Foundation helped me to attend the European Respiratory Society's annual conference by offering me one of their research travel grants. The conference allows people working in lung research and healthcare to come together and discuss each other's work.

Why it's important

It was the first time I'd presented my PhD work to the wider research community and  the chance to talk to other experts in the field about my work was so valuable. I learned a lot from the people I met and that will really help to improve my work.

The conference also gave me the chance to see what other researchers are working on and to connect with people who have the same research interests as me. Although the conference is huge with loads of different things going on, there's still a real sense of community. I felt part of something worthwhile and important.

Finally, it was a great opportunity to meet with some of the people I've worked with and to catch up with some familiar faces. It's encouraging to see that old colleagues are still passionately involved lung health research.

My research

During the conference, I presented my PhD work about the affects of premature birth on the lungs. We know that babies born prematurely have reduced lung function (especially those born extremely early), and that children with reduced lung function will become adults with reduced lung function. This means they are more likely to develop lung conditions earlier.

The first part of my research looked at whether these children engage in less physical activity. Being active is obviously a huge part of a healthy lifestyle, especially in childhood when enjoying exercise can help set you up for life.

We've shown that, at least in day-to-day activity, children born prematurely appear to be as active as those who were not premature. However, all children were some way off meeting the national guidelines of being moderate-to-vigorously active for 60 minutes a day. Encouraging them to be more physically active as children may help to reduce the risk of getting lung disease as an adult.

The next step is to look even further back by learning more about how the lungs develop in the womb, and the reasons premature children develop lung problems. The lungs grow in important stages in the womb and obviously this process is interrupted by premature birth.

It's all very exciting and important work, and I'm really proud to be a part of it.

Working together to improve lung health

All in all, attending the conference was vital to my current and future research goals. The more often the research community comes together to discuss each other's work, the more effectively we can work together to improve lung health.

Without the British Lung Foundation's support, I wouldn't have been able to make it at all. The people I worked with at the BLF were extremely helpful, friendly and knowledgeable. I think the support they offer really does encourage young scientists to stay working in lung research.


very interesting - how do we get children and young people doing 60 mins moderate to vigorous activity/exercise during these winter months?
A good regular habit to promote/teach/learn at school onwards is for VERY full depth breathing [from the diaphragm level? ..I am not a medical person] for 1 to 3 minutes most days, preferably at an open window. This ensures ALL lung controlling muscles are regularly exercised. "Use it or lose it" is a very good reminder for lots of things! At my age of 80 I appreciate learning this in my youth before double-glazing that now usually prevents it from 'open windows'! I am in full health: still climb trees to saw off top branches safely. My poor wife has COPD started from at age 18 after standing from the cold in a workmens hut breathing in [confined] coke fumes for 1/2 hour. T least she is still here, alth' now only walks to rise-a-fall chair, toloo & bed, using her frame. Good luck with your research... Alan Simpson.

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14 October 2014