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Hui Xin Ong – update August 2014

Time flies and I am now halfway through my fellowship. Over the past few months, I have been laying down the ground work for a clinical trial in healthy adults.

A clinical trial takes research from the laboratory and tests it in people. The main purpose of a clinical trial is to see whether the treatment that is being investigated is effective and, in the case of drug treatments, to determine the best and safest dose.

Our trial aims to understand whether changing the order and timing of two inhaled drugs (tobramycin, an inhaled antibiotic, and mannitol, an inhaled mucoactive agent) can improve treatment outcomes in people with bronchiectasis and cystic fibrosis.

Supporting documents such as an information sheet for participants, consent forms and study protocols for the clinical trial have been drafted. This will ensure consistency throughout the study and guarantee that the clinical trial meets the current regulatory standards in the UK.

During the trial, we have to measure the amounts of the drug found in blood samples from participants. By analysing how concentrated the drug is within the blood, we can see how effective it is. Previous methods were not sensitive enough for our study and we are currently testing our new method, using a technique known as mass spectrometry.  

In another part of our research, we have also successfully established a new model that mimics the human nose to study the effects of drugs on the tiny hairs on the cells lining the airways, known as cilia. This will be used to develop and test new treatments that are delivered through the nose prior to testing in people, and to treat sinus infections and possibly Alzheimer’s disease in the future. The model could reduce the need for animal testing, and subsequently reduce ethical issues and costs associated with research for academics and industry.

Besides research, I submitted an abstract to this year’s European Respiratory Society Congress in Munich and have been selected to give an oral presentation on my findings. The study is investigating the effectiveness of inhaled therapy on the bacteria that grow in the mucus of people with cystic fibrosis. This infection is difficult to fight and is tolerant to antibiotics. Early results suggest that taking sugar alcohol together with antibiotics could help prevent this tolerance and improve the success of treatment.

I will continue to work hard to produce high quality research that could potentially change clinical practice in this important area.