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Queen’s academic to investigate UK’s fifth biggest killer disease

22.07.2008
An academic at Queen’s University in Belfast is to take the lead into research on a chronic respiratory condition which affects around 3.7 million people in the UK.

Professor Clifford Taggart, a professor of Oral Science in the School of Medicine and Dentistry, has won a top European prize of €50,000 to research Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), which is related to smoking. It’s more common in men and those aged over 50 and symptoms include shortness of breath and coughing.

He said: “COPD is a general term used to describe a number of conditions, including chronic bronchitis and emphysema. The most important risk factor is smoking followed by aspects of social deprivation and diet.”

Professor Taggart will investigate the role of a protein called Secretory Leucoprotease Inhibitor (SLPI) which regulates inflammation in COPD. He wants to find out if SLPI may be able to combat the inflammation, which causes lung damage, associated with the condition.

He explained: “COPD is an incurable, but largely preventable disease, which leads to damaged airways in the lungs, causing them to become narrower and making it harder for air to get in and out. But with early diagnosis and the right care, the progression of the disease can be slowed down allowing people to live healthy and active lives for longer.

“Epidemiological evidence suggests there are an estimated 3.7 million people in the UK affected. With only 900,000 currently diagnosed and receiving treatment and care, the remaining people are unaware they have a disease which, if left untreated, could severely restrict their lives and eventually kill them.”

Professor Taggart will be awarded the €50,000 prize from the 2008 European Respiratory Society’s Romain Pauwels Research Fund in Berlin in October.

The Romain Pauwels Research Fund is an initiative jointly driven by the European Respiratory Society and GlaxoSmithKline to help support young researchers to understand and treat respiratory illnesses, which are currently the leading cause of death worldwide.

Professor Patrick Johnston, Dean of the School of Medicine and Dentistry said: “I am delighted that Professor Taggart’s work has been recognised in this way. It is a great testament to him and his team.”

Lisa Mitchell | alfa
Further information:
http://www.qub.ac.uk

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