Shane Fitch, Lovexair, continues her report on the Lung Science Conference 2016

Dr Rui Chen from Stanford University, USA, opened the conference with a talk showing how personal omics profiling can be used to detect a disease in its earliest stages and lead to the development of new treatments to prevent disease progressing. What is personal omics profiling? Dr Chen talked about a recent study using a new type of analysis called iPOP. The study looked at the physiological state of a healthy individual for almost 6 years by measuring changes in the make-up of his blood. This is a very comprehensive view of biological pathways. During the study, this individual developed type 2 Diabetes, which the iPOP analysis was able to give a detailed visual insight into how their diabetes developed and progressed over 6 years.

One of the most challenging studies presented was on Exposome and came from Dr Valerie Siroux, from Grenoble, France. Exposome is when all exposures to the body are measured to assess their influence and how the environment is acting on us to cause lung disease. The volume of data collected for this study is overwhelming, and Valerie admitted that it can be difficult to manage.

Other discussions focused on research into specific diseases or issues, such as the role of vitamin D deficiency in worsening acute respiratory distress syndrome, and using a macro-perspective to understand chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) better. 

Two poster sessions on rare conditions showed lively engagement amongst the researchers, with posters on how oxidative stress was measured in Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficient children and in children with primary cilia dyskinesia. Dr Paco Dasi, who mentored both these young researchers has really developed their potential in specific areas of research whilst ensuring that they connect with the patient community, clinicians and industry partners at the same time.

It was inspiring to meet a number of young Spanish and Portuguese researchers who are now working in the Germany and the UK and talk about how passionate they are about their work. I spoke to Dr Eva María Garrido-Martin from Southampton University, who won the William Macnee award, about the difficulty of managing so much data in her research – only 5% of the data collected in her centre can be used for research purposes. Although she and her colleagues achieve their research aims, they experience an element of doubt about getting rid of the rest, in case something vital is missed. We also discussed the relevance of including pyscho-emotional data from patients, as it is clear that some people manage their conditions better than others. 

One of the largest studies showcased at the conference was U-BIOPRED, a multi-centre, international study to identify different types of severe asthma. Dr Alexander Mazein, one of the researchers on the project, is working with a team of people providing specialist knowledge to develop a disease map, which is a picture of how a condition looks from a molecular perspective. This map can be accessed by anyone online.

We need to begin to understand, as citizens, what data-sharing can mean to advancing science. Vast amounts of data are being analysed to try and identify trends and patterns in our bodily processes. Our health data is vital to research, and as we move into the era of m-health and wearable technology, we can provide this information, as well as self-monitor to help us detect or manage our health. We need to encourage better understanding in our patient communities about the health data we share, why, and with whom. 

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