First Breaths Research Project

lungsforlife-logo-rgb-72dpi-mediumLung disease, such as asthma, pneumonia, COPD and lung cancer, kills more people every year than heart disease and stroke, according to the World Health Organisation[1]. It is estimated that over 6 million Australians suffer from respiratory problems and they cause 14% of all deaths and over 250,000 hospitalisations each year.

Unfortunately research in this area is significantly underfunded in Australia,[2] so the Lung Foundation Australia and the Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand have joined together to create a new research program called Lungs for Life. Its objective is to raise funds to identify crucial gaps in knowledge or treatment and conduct research that will benefit the millions of Australians of all ages, who have respiratory disease. Infants are most affected by infections such as pneumonia and influenza, whilst asthma has a major impact on children and young adults. In older Australians, lung cancer and COPD are leading causes of death.

We know that the origins of many of these diseases are in early childhood. Sadly, we see children as young as three years old who already have damaged lungs[3]. This in turn leads to a much higher likelihood of these children growing into young adults, with no history of smoking, who go on to develop COPD[4] and other serious lung diseases.

The Lungs for Life Committee has identified the urgent need for more research on how to protect the lungs of these very young children from damage. It is vital that we learn what are its causes and how to protect children from them, so that we can improve their health for the rest of their lives. This means investigating the links between a vulnerable child’s genome and potential threats, such as allergens, pollutants, infections, vaccines, prenatal smoking, early nutrition and activity levels.

It is likely that protecting lung health and development for children under five will impact on the future respiratory health and quality of life for the population as a whole.[5] It would also help to prevent widespread chronic respiratory conditions such as COPD and decrease the devastating toll of adult respiratory diseases.

Research is one of the most effective ways to improve the prevention, detection, treatment and management of lung disease, but research doesn’t happen in a vacuum and Lung Foundation Australia and TSANZ are seeking partners, who are interested in research projects to help protect the lungs of young children in Australia.

For more information or to make a donation click here. 

References

[1] http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs310/en/

[2] Ranganathan S, European Respiratory Journal, 2010,Vol 36, 716-717

[3] Saglani S et al. Early detection of airway wall remodeling and eosinophilic inflammation in preschool wheezers. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 2007;176:858-64

[4] Tran H et al. Development of COPD in a cohort study of child asthma. Respirol 2010;14S1.A3.

[5] Hole DJ et al. Impaired lung function and mortality risk. BMJ 1996;313: 711–5.