Over 5 years, the research team, which includes experts in different fields of science from more than 10 European countries, will work together to create computer and physical models of the whole airway system. These will be used to assess how air flows through the lungs and why it becomes obstructed in asthma and COPD.
The areas of expertise required in this project, combined with the latest technologies, include:
- image analysis
- data harmonisation
- security and ethics
- computational modelling
- systems biology
- health communication
The researchers are using data from people with asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) who previously took part in one of the following EU-funded studies: BTS Severe asthma, U-BIOPRED and EvA FP7.
During these projects, the participants all volunteered to carry out:
- Lung function tests, known as spirometry
- Blood tests to look at DNA
- Bronchoalveolar lavage to look at specific cells
- CT and MRI scans to help build models of the lung structures
These experts will work in small groups, called work packages, looking at different aspects of lung disease and computer modelling. The samples and images from scans will be analysed to build up a picture of how the airways change over time and are affected by treatments.
They will build on knowledge from existing models to create a model that shows both the smallest airways and larger areas and how they work together as a system.
By using these models, along with existing data from tests that image the lungs and measure their capacity, the scientists will be able to test new therapies. These models will be used as a reference in the future so that new patients will have a set of blood and lung tests that tell the doctors which model to use to diagnose their type of asthma or COPD.
Integrating the perspectives of clinicians, engineers, data management specialists and modellers will be challenging but the goal can be achieved through a collaborative working paradigm and “Living Labs” workshops, which will be held at the annual European Respiratory Society Congress. These workshops will be an opportunity to test the usefulness of the models and modelling paradigms as they are being developed. The first lab was held in 2012, with another planned for 2014.
To learn more about the project, view the project slideshow.