Developing Targeted Prevention and Cures

Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a serious chronic disease that affects the tissue surrounding the air sacs, or alveoli, in the lungs. Life expectancy after diagnosis is approximately three years. Repurposing drugs to treat conditions other than the one for which they were developed and/or approved can make effective, more affordable treatments available to patients sooner. NHLBI-supported translational researchers recently discovered that saracatinib, a drug initially developed to treat cancer, shows promise as an IPF therapeutic. It is currently being tested in a Phase 1b/2a clinical trial supported by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS).

Using the LungMAP Consortium to Advance Cures

Researchers are using cutting-edge technology to create molecular and cellular maps of the human body. In 2022, the NHLBI-funded LungMAP Consortium synthesized current data into a comprehensive and practical cellular census of the lung. This flagship program will lead to novel therapeutic targets for lung diseases.

Black female medical professional listening to a patient's lungs through a stethoscope


Studying Climate Change and Lung Health

A 2022 NHLBI-funded study found that inhaled particles from air pollution accumulate in lung-associated lymph nodes and weaken immune defenses over time. Researchers found that lung-associated lymph nodes collected from younger donors were largely beige, while those collected from donors over age 30 were blackened and got darker with increasing age. The researchers found that the blackened lymph nodes of these older donors were clogged with particles from airborne pollutants. This study suggests that air pollution may contribute to why older people are more susceptible to respiratory infections.

Understanding Critical Illness Syndromes

NHLBI and the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) have partnered to form the ARDS, Pneumonia, and Sepsis Phenotyping (APS) Consortium. This group will support a longitudinal observational study to better understand the heterogeneity and underlying mechanisms of critical illness syndromes and recovery, specifically in adults with acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), pneumonia, and/or sepsis. It also will explore the relationship and biological overlap among these syndromes. Awards that will establish the Consortium are expected to be made in fiscal year 2023.

Making Healthier Lives for People with COPD

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a leading cause of death and disability in the United States. NHLBI and its federal and nonfederal partners released the first-ever COPD National Action Plan in 2017 and continue to make progress in implementing it.

  • Genetic testing allows people to better understand their genetic risks for certain diseases and health conditions. However, calculating these risks across racial and ethnic groups limits the accuracy of the tests. Researchers used data from NHLBI’s TOPMed program to determine that, compared to using the standard “polygenic risk scores,” a novel framework called a “polygenic transcriptome risk score” improved the accuracy of predictions regarding risk of COPD.
  • In collaboration with the Respiratory Health Association, NHLBI’s Learn More Breathe Better® program launched the COPD Caregiver’s Toolkit in 2022. This resource addresses the top issues that COPD patients and caregivers face, including home management, physician visit preparation, and emergency preparedness.
  • NHLBI has partnered with the COPD Foundation to support the SPIROMICS Study of Early COPD Progression (SOURCE), which began recruiting in 2022. This observational study aims to define the nature of early COPD in younger, at-risk individuals. This is important because most of what we know about COPD comes from research about its later stages. However, many experts believe the best chance to slow or halt the progression of COPD involves targeting mechanisms at the earliest stages of the disease.


Improving Lung Transplantation Outcomes

The survival rate for lung transplantation is lower than the rate for transplantation of other organs. To coordinate research efforts and advance the field, NHLBI has created the Lung Transplant Consortium (LTC) that will coordinate research efforts. NHLBI launched the LTC in August 2022, funding seven projects and a data coordinating center to support a series of studies. These aim to understand the impact of site-specific lung transplant selection criteria and clinical management strategies on donor lung utilization and/or early post- transplant outcomes in recipients.

Asian middle aged man wearing a mask. Hazy sky in the background