The group is embedded within the vibrant academic respiratory medicine grouping in the Institute of Cellular Medicine, Faculty of Medical Sciences, Newcastle University. Clinical members also work in paediatric respiratory medicine at the Great North Children’s Hospital and Freeman Hospital in the Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
Our work is funded by the Medical Research Council, Wellcome Trust, Cystic Fibrosis Trust, Academy of Medical Sciences, United Kingdom Clinical Research Network, Newcastle Hospitals Special Trustees and Pfizer.
Respiratory conditions are the most common reason for acute children’s admissions in the UK and account for more than half of all long-term illnesses in children and young people.
Our programme of research is focused on increasing the understanding of childhood respiratory disease and importantly translating these findings in to the development of new treatments and improved delivery of care for children and young people with lung problems. Current projects span from laboratory-based basic science to major national epidemiological studies – please click on the topics below for more details of specific areas of research:
CF lung disease is characterised by chronic endobronchial inflammation, infection and retention of airway secretions. Research in our laboratory is focused on understanding the pathogenesis of CF lung disease to inform the development of new treatment strategies. We aim to ask the most clinically meaningful questions possible and our approach to answer these typically involves combining innovative experimental techniques with clinical samples from children and people with CF.
Specific projects include:
- Mechanisms of inflammation and infection in the CF airway – with major focus on the role of disordered sphingolipid metabolism
- Abnormal airway surface liquid homeostasis including the role of non-CFTR transporters
- Contribution of gastro-oesophageal reflux and aspiration as an airway injury in CF
- Development of primary airway epithelial cell culture models as a model to study CF lung disease
Working with Dr Matt Thomas, current research includes monitoring the changing epidemiology of empyema in children, involving a large prospective national surveillance study (UK-ESPE study, originally set up by Dr David Spencer). There is long-standing close collaboration with Professor Steve Rushton’s Biological, Clinical and Environmental Modelling Group, School of Biology, Newcastle University. The overarching aim is to advance understanding of the epidemiology and pathogenesis of empyema in children to develop optimal strategies to ultimately aim for prevention but also to treat children with the condition.
The impact of a conjugate pneumococcal vaccine (Prevenar 13) on the epidemiology and aetiology of childhood pneumonia in the North East of England (CAP study) is investigating the epidemiology and aetiology of paediatric CAP in the North East of England following the introduction of Prevenar 13® (PVC 13) into the UK childhood immunisation regimen in 2010. The CAP study consists of two components ‘the survey’ and ‘the study’.
- The survey’ is a prospective multicentre (9 Hospitals) survey of all children admitted to hospital in the North East of England with CAP over a 12 month period.
- The study’ is a prospective observational study (GNCH and JCUH, Middlesbrough) investigating the aetiology of CAP in children in the North East of England over an 18 month period. All children admitted are screened for signs and symptoms of CAP and appropriate changes on a chest radiograph. Once a child is enrolled in the study demographic and clinical details are collected, as well as microbiological samples for extended testing.
Dr Alice Wort is a Clinical Research Fellow and Registrar in Microbiology who is completing the CAP study as part of her PhD, jointly supervised with Dr Matt Thomas. The study is funded through an investigator-led award from Pfizer.
- Lee GE, Lorch SA, Sheffler-Collins S, Kronman MP, Shah SS: National hospitalization trends for pediatric pneumonia and associated complications. Pediatrics 2010, 126(2):204-213.
- WHO Pneumonia
Despite widespread usage and rapid adoption of HFNC systems, the mechanisms of action are not well understood with a limited number of studies published in the literature. Preterm infants often receive flow rates of up to 8 litres per minute with no robust data about airway pressures delivered. There is no consistent data to guide what flow should be prescribed and how the relationship between these variables should be adjusted in individual infants or for example about optimal weaning strategies.
Our research aims to study the airway physiology associated with HFNC use in infants (through both direct and indirect measurements) to increase understanding of how HFNC works and to optimise the delivery of this non-invasive ventilation modality. Dr Zheyi Liew, Clinical Research Fellow, works on this collaborative project with Dr Chris O’Brien and Neonatologists Dr Alan Fenton and Dr Sundeep Harigopal from Ward 35, Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle. A pilot study on the feasibility and repeatability of measurement of various aspects of respiratory physiology during HRNC therapy was previously carried out by Dr S. Gopalakaje.
Level 3, Clinical Resource Building,
Great North Children’s Hospital,
Royal Victoria Infirmary,