Skip to navigation Skip to main content Skip to footer

Approved Research

Small airways obstruction: Aetiology, comorbidities, prognosis and survival

Principal Investigator: Dr Andre Amaral
Approved Research ID: 80005
Approval date: January 17th 2022

Lay summary

Some researchers and clinicians have suggested that damage to the small conducting airways in the lungs can help predict the diagnosis of more severe diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma. If this is true, identification of people with damaged small airways in the general population would be an important public health consideration regarding preventable lung disease. However, evidence of this relationship is limited and based on small clinical studies.

Knowledge of the causes of small airways disease is incomplete. Cigarette smoking, air pollution and obesity are good candidates to explain this disease. Could it be caused by other environmental or occupational factors? What about genetics? There are not many studies and those that have been published did not examine less obvious factors and the combination of environmental and non-environmental or genetic factors. Also, we do not know much about the relationship between this disease and other diseases, such as those affecting the heart or diabetes, and how these relationships affect health.

The UK Biobank has collected numerous pieces of information on a very large number of people. This valuable source of information offers the opportunity: 1) to identify and examine both the environmental and non-environmental causes of small airways disease; 2) to identify the other diseases that co-occur with small airways disease; 3) to study what happens to the lungs of people with small airways disease over time and whether they develop other more serious lung diseases or other chronic diseases affecting other body organs; and 4) to investigate whether people with small airways disease die younger than people without it. In addition, we will investigate whether our findings are different between men and women and across several ethnic groups. This project will in the first instance have the duration of 36 months.

Our research will improve the understanding of the causes of diseases that affect the lungs and will guide policies for prevention of chronic lung disease and mortality.