Appointment of Àlvar Agustí, Group leader
Researching means answering a question, which must be relevant, innovative and feasible. Identifying that question is, therefore, the most important and difficult part of this process

Current research

Problem

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) – also known as pulmonary emphysema or chronic bronchitis – pulmonary fibrosis, and lung cancer, are common and potentially serious respiratory diseases. And they are all the result of everyday interactions between environmental factors and genetic factors.

This group’s research focuses on the study of those interactions and potential translation to clinical practice, with the aim of improving the diagnosis and treatment of patients who suffer from them.

Approach

To meet these goals, the group uses a combined research strategy that includes clinical information and knowledge; pulmonary function variables; quantitative thoracic imaging techniques; cellular and molecular analysis of biological samples; and analysis of the composition of exhaled air. Ultimately, it combines this information with advanced bioinformatic methods (systems biology, network analysis and artificial intelligence) in healthy volunteers or patients who have given their informed consent to be part of each specific research project.

Impact

Thanks to its research, the group has shown that there are people whose lungs (and other organs) do not develop correctly, which favours the onset of chronic diseases in adults. These observations open up new possibilities for prevention, early diagnosis and treatment. The group has also found ways of improving the diagnosis of lung cancer based on tumour markers in blood and trained dogs that can be used that identify affected patients by their breath.

Finally, thanks to its research, it has found that an abnormal immune response is a key mechanism in many respiratory diseases.