A team of European Union researchers are launching a project to create computed and physical models of the whole airways system to help tailor the treatment of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The 5-year AirPROM project will help scientists and doctors predict how patients might react to different treatments.

Damaged, inflamed, or obstructed airways are common in people with COPD and asthma, which makes breathing difficult. The current methods to detect and treat these conditions do not always consider individual differences in the airways that make each person unique. As a consequence, people with these conditions may not receive the most effective treatment.

While scientists are working on more advanced, targeted approaches to treatment, they have often been unable to match these treatments to the right patients and explain the reasons behind this until now.

The AirPROM team, which involves scientists from over 10 European countries, will make a computed model of the cells in an airway and a physical model of the airways to assess how air flows through the lungs and why it becomes obstructed in people with asthma and COPD.

By using these models, along with existing data from tests which measure lung capacity and CT scans, the scientists will be able to test new therapies, which will enable them to tailor treatments to the individual.

The aim is to use this information to generate an extensive database that will be able to link the characteristics of different airways to a particular treatment in the future, helping health professionals provide personalized treatment for people with COPD and asthma instead of a “one size fits all” approach.”

“This new model will help us to visualize activity in our lungs and see how our illness affects our breathing,” said Breda Flood, a patient with asthma and board member of the European Federation of Allergy and Airways Diseases Patients Association. “By gaining an insight into how specific treatments will work, patients will have a better understanding of how to manage their condition in the future.”

Source: European Lung Foundation