Claire Nolan, a research physiotherapist at Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust, has been awarded a research grant from the British Lung Foundation (BLF).
The award of just under £150k will fund a two-year project led by Claire, to look at the effects of neuromuscular electrical stimulation in advanced idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF).
IPF is a progressive condition that causes a build-up of scar tissue in the lungs. This build-up of tissue, called fibrosis, causes the lungs to become stiffer and lose their elasticity so they are less able to inflate and move oxygen into the blood system. The main symptom that people experience is breathlessness, which makes it more difficult to do usual activities such as walking and dressing.
Currently, there is no cure for IPF, with doctors only able to prescribe drugs that target symptoms or slow down the development of scar tissue in the lungs. This is one of the reasons why research into treatments that may improve walking ability and muscle strength is so important.
The BLF funds a wide range of research to tackle lung disease. Professor Andrew Peacock, medical and research director at the charity, said: “We would like to extend our congratulations to Claire. One in five people in the UK are affected by lung disease. This means well-funded research and continued investment in developing new approaches and clinical trials in lung health is vital. This enables us to develop breakthroughs in treatment that will help deliver improved care to patients.
“This research could be groundbreaking for the many people who are living with IPF, a terminal lung condition that currently has no cure. Claire is investigating whether improvement in the muscles' use of the diminished supply of oxygen will also improve their ability to perform activities of daily living.”
The team involved in this project includes Dr William Man from the Trust and Dr Matthew Maddocks from King's College London.
Claire was also the recipient of a National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) doctoral research fellowship in 2014. This project aimed to determine the prognostic ability of usual walking speed measured over four metres (known as a four-metre gait speed test) in people with IPF. To date, the results indicate that people with IPF who walk slowly have worse breathlessness, fitness levels, quality of life and prognostic risk score. The main results of this project will be published in 2018.
Claire currently works at the muscle laboratory at Harefield Hospital, under the supervision of Dr William Man, an international authority on pulmonary rehabilitation and COPD.
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