For Dr Simone De Luca, research means a healthy and sustainable environment for future generations.
What inspired or motivated you to undertake this research project?
Memory loss and dementia comorbidities contribute to a substantial burden of COPD-related morbidity by impairing quality of life, reducing adherence to medications and increasing healthcare utilisation. Surprisingly, current diagnostic tools do not effectively capture all cognitive domains in COPD patients. This inspired me to work alongside respiratory physicians and clinical neuropsychologists to develop and validate a comprehensive battery of cognitive testing using touchscreen technology to assess memory loss more effectively, and to work towards a viable therapeutic approach to prevent or reduce COPD-related memory loss.
Dr Simone De Luca hopes that research will continue to push the boundaries to further elucidate the mechanisms behind the development and progression of lung diseases and identify new therapeutic targets for these debilitating diseases.
What have been some of the key findings or outcomes achieved from your research?
Our preliminary data indicates that COPD induced by chronic cigarette smoke exposure leads to increased lung inflammation and oxidative stress, increased brain inflammation, increased brain and cerebral vasculature oxidative stress and augmented cognition. We will now target oxidant-dependent mechanisms for the prevention and/or treatment of brain inflammation, damage and dementia. We anticipate that our tests will be more sensitive in their ability to detect memory impairments in COPD patients, and will provide a more accurate diagnosis.
How do you envision this will impact the health and wellbeing of patients?
I hope that a comprehensive battery of cognitive testing using touchscreen technology will allow us to work towards a viable therapeutic approach to prevent or reduce COPD-related memory loss.
Research has enabled Dr Simone De Luca to collaboratively develop tests better able to detect COPD-related memory loss, which can in turn help lead to better treatment.
How important was funding from Lung Foundation Australia for your work?
The Boehringer Ingelheim Fellowship has allowed me to extend my expertise in neurophysiology to the debilitating disease of COPD and associated cognitive impairment and dementia comorbidities. This funding will allow me to further understand the mechanisms behind the development and progression of cognitive impairments in COPD and identification of new therapeutic targets for treatment.
A number of our research awards are funded through generous donations from patients and families impacted by lung disease. What would you say to someone considering donating to lung-focused research?
Donations will allow young researchers like myself to continue working endlessly to strive for better preventions, management and ultimately a treatment for COPD and its associated comorbidities.
What change do you hope to see in the lung disease and lung cancer space by 2030?
I hope to see more gender diversity and lung research receiving a greater amount of government funding in Australia.