Winners announced for Charity-funded fellowships

Suhani Patel, research physiologist, Louise Moss, senior research perfusionist, and Lisa Nwankwo, specialist pharmacist, were the recipients of the first ever research fellowships funded by the Royal Brompton and Harefield Hospitals Charity

The Charity launched its first round of funding this year for non-medical staff, offering three awards of up to £50,000, allowing them to conduct research for one year. 

The competition proved popular with many staff submitting promising proposals. All three awardees submitted had outstanding proposals with the Charity’s chief executive, Gill Raikes, commenting; “I think they will do very well and the Charity is excited to see the progress of their studies.”

Suhani’s project aims to determine if impulse oscillometry (iOS) measurements can give useful information about the lungs in patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), a condition where over time, the lungs get smaller and stiffer. 

She explained that in patients with IPF, changes in the lungs can be difficult to predict and doctors use information from lung function tests to help check lung performance and formulate treatment plans. Traditional lung function tests require having to take a full breath in, before blowing out as quickly as possible. This causes some people to cough and is particularly difficult for people with breathlessness. 

Suhani hopes iOS, a lung function test which looks at the lungs using sound waves, could improve patient experience and become a better alternative to currently used lung function tests. 

“iOS will be particularly helpful to patients with more advanced disease or those who are currently unable to perform traditional lung function test whilst reducing burden on clinical services.” Suhani said when explaining the positive impact this study can have on patient benefit.

Louise on the other hand hopes to evaluate the efficacy and safety of a blood purification filter (Cytosorb®) during surgical implantation of artificial heart pumps known as left-ventricular-assist-devices (LVAD). 

Many patients in the final stages of heart failure require heart surgery but before a heart becomes available they have an LVAD implanted into the main pumping chamber of the heart. This helps to pump blood around the body as well as prolong the survival of the patient’s heart until a new heart is available for transplantation. 

However, Louise says many patients are faced with life-threatening complications after LVAD surgery, with other organs, such as the kidneys and liver, failing a few days after surgery. This is caused by an inflammatory response which triggers an extreme drop in blood pressure, leading to a lack of blood flow to these organs. 

The inflammatory reaction to the surgery is caused by proteins called ‘cytokines’ which are released into the blood. Until recently there was nothing that doctors could do to stop the reactions once the cytokines are released, which is where the Cytosorb® filter comes in. This filter is small enough to be attached to the heart-lung machine and in this study Louise aims to study the effect of filtering the cytokines from the blood during surgery.

Lisa’s project aims to determine the accuracy of remote capillary blood sampling for antifungal therapy by comparing it to blood samples taken the routine way. 

Capillary blood sampling involves blood taken from the finger, heel or earlobe and is a less invasive and quicker way to take blood, requiring less volume. 

Many of the patients seen at the Trust come from across the South of England and a proportion of them require regular monitoring of inflammatory and biochemical markers, including how they are doing on certain drugs (therapeutic drug monitoring). This monitoring is done through blood samples provided by patients.  

In recent years there has been a move towards monitoring patients remotely through internet-based tools. Patients are 'seen' remotely, and their blood tests are taken at a local site and sent for testing. However, at present there are no suitable and easily accessible local facilities that enable remote blood monitoring for specialist tests and patients requiring these are required to travel to their specialist hospital. 

Lisa’s project will help determine if capillary blood sampling could be done at home by patients allowing them to provide blood samples remotely, removing the need for them to travel miles.

If you would like to find out more about the studies mentioned or any of our other research please contact us.