Prevention of lung disease throughout the lifespan…and before

Over the last 50 years, research funded by the NHLBI’s Division of Lung Diseases (DLD) has led to critical discoveries in the diagnosis and treatment of lung diseases; but preventing their development remains scientists’ main goal.

Research into smoking prevention, even for patients who already developed a lung disease, has shown unparalleled effectiveness. In addition, DLD is funding research to identify other modifiable factors that could prevent illness.

Prevention requires an understanding of what makes some individuals more susceptible than others to a disease, even when faced with the same risk factors or exposures. For instance, how can we explain why only about 20% of life-long smokers develop symptoms of COPD?

A focus on basis science to unveil the mechanisms that protect some people from these lung diseases continues to build deeper understanding of lung development and guide new strategies for prevention. Mapping the lungs is already providing clues.

Improving lung function before birth

Many studies suggest that good lung health in adulthood begins before the baby is born. An NHLBI-funded study in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine found that supplementation with vitamin C in pregnant women who cannot quit smoking could improve the newborn’s lung function.

Mild persistent asthma may not need inhaled steroids

In an NHLBI-funded study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, patients with mild persistent asthma found that, in nearly three-fourths of the study participants, inhaled steroids—long considered the gold standard for asthma treatment—were no more effective than placebo.

This shows the need to improve adoption of current evidence-based interventions and to develop new ones. As NHLBI leadership reports in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, its funded research is focused on generating evidence to inform an update of the asthma clinical practice guidelines.

Beta blocker Metoprolol did not lower COPD exacerbation risk

Treatment with the beta blocker Metoprolol does not prevent exacerbations in patients with moderate or severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), according to an NHLBI-funded study published by the New England Journal of Medicine.

Roadmap of lung development leads to prevention

A study in the American Journal of Respiratory Cell and Molecular Biology explains how the NHLBI-funded Molecular Atlas of Lung Development Program (LungMAP) will help to understand how we can design effective treatments to revert these changes in lung disease, by knowing the cells of the lungs in healthy tissue.

Survival and types of children pulmonary hypertension vary by race and ethnicity

Researchers found significant differences by race and ethnicity in the prevalence of pediatric pulmonary hypertension subtypes and in survival outcomes, according to an NHLBI-funded study published in the The Journal of Pediatrics. The study used data from the NHLBI-funded PPHNet registry and was built by using EHR and machine learning techniques.

Media Coverage

New England Journal of Medicine