We recently posted on here that we were doing a survey where we wanted to hear from parents of young children with asthma. We worked with the charity Asthma UK on this project and they were kind enough to post the survey on their Twitter and Facebook pages. We were thrilled to see well over 200 people complete the survey in just one week! The information from the survey is really useful in helping us consider what areas to concentrate our research on in the future, which was the main aim of the survey at the start. It’s very important to us that we do research that deals with real problems that affect real people, rather than things we as scientists have just decided are interesting to look at. This process of asking patients and their families about what is important to them and how they think we should do our research is called Patient and Public Involvement, or PPI.
The results of the survey have also shown us very clearly how frightening it can be for parents to have a young child who has asthma or a wheezing illness. We think it’s really important for the doctors, nurses and other healthcare staff to understand how parents feel when they have a child with this type of illness The huge number of responses we’ve got means that we can look at the results in great detail and can write an article for a scientific journal, so that the people who look after sick children can understand how parents might be feeling and possibly support them better. We are really grateful to all of the parents who completed the survey for being so honest and for taking the time to give us such useful information. We’d also like to thank Asthma UK for their help in promoting the survey.
The Science Museum have a regular feature where they look at a new invention and then ask people who might use it for their opinion. They contacted Vicky to ask her what she thought of a new machine to test the oxygen levels in people’s blood, which has been invented by a Brazilian scientist who is also linked to King’s. You can see Vicky’s quote, along with other people’s thoughts, here.
Over the last few years, Alan and Vicky have worked with Burntwood School, which is a girls’ senior school in Wandsworth, South London. A very kind science teacher, Ms Budd, has brought small groups of students in to the lab to help with our research, and in turn we have showed the girls around the lab and talked to them about what it’s like to work in science and in hospitals. We have also had some girls come to us to do work experience. Hosting the group visits and the work experience students is really fun as the girls are enthusiastic and enjoy seeing the workings of a real hospital and research department, and it’s always really interesting to hear their opinions of what we do.
Last week, I asked Ms Budd if she would look at our blog and tell us whether it might be useful for her science classes, and to help her students decide whether they might be interested to do a science job in the future. She very kindly asked her students to look at the blog too and to write down what they thought of it. We were thrilled to see that they found it useful and interesting. The girls also told us what else they’d like to see on the blog, which included things like videos of us doing our research, information on how we use what we find in our research, and more detail of how we publish our results in journals. This information is really useful and we will be trying to add things like this to the blog in the next few weeks. Thank you, Ms Budd and the Burntwood girls, for your enthusiasm and helpful comments.
We are really keen to hear from anyone who wants to understand more about our work. If there’s anything you’d like to see on here, please leave a comment and we will do our best!
Recently, Ged and Vicky have been talking to Evangelia Kolyra, who is a dancer and choreographer currently working on a project all about breath and breathing. Evangelia asked King’s College London for some help and advice with the project, and so we have done our best to be helpful! Evangelia visited our lab a while ago to help with our research, which she said helped her to understand what we do. Last week, Ged and Vicky went to visit Evangelia and the other dancers who are working on the project (Justyna Janiszewska, Elsa Petit, Elli Sikorski and Antonio de la Fe) to watch them rehearse.
Watching the rehearsal was really interesting – it was so different to what we normally do! The fascinating thing was that many of the things that the dancers had noticed while they were practicing were things that fitted with our research and knowledge of breathing. We had some great discussions, talking about the science of why certain movements or ways of breathing might be easier or more difficult, as well as about how some of what they had experienced might be similar to how people with breathing problems can feel. Having problems with your breathing can be quite scary but this is often hard to explain to people who have never had those feelings. Perhaps dance could show this in a way that’s easier for people to understand.
We hope that we will be able to continue to work with Evangelia on this project. Although it’s not – at the moment – something that we can directly use in our research, we think that Evangelia and her colleagues might be able to use their very impressive skills to help show what lung disease can feel like. Our visit has pushed us to consider doing something completely new – this could be an exciting adventure! Thank you, Evangelia, for inviting us along and we look forward to continuing to work with you.
The Physiological Society has a conference every year, where lots of scientists from all over the world get together and talk about the projects they have been working on. At conferences like this, scientists use posters to present their results. This year the conference was in London so we decided to present some of our work.
The project that Laurie and Aliya were showing off with their poster was looking at how much harder the breathing muscles have to work when a person breathes in extra carbon dioxide (“CO2”). CO2 is a waste product that your cells produce when they make energy, and your body gets rid of it through the lungs by breathing it out. Some people with lung problems have high levels of CO2 in their body as their lungs are not able to get rid of it, so they have to breathe harder and faster. To do this, their breathing muscles have to work harder. If we give healthy people extra CO2 to breathe, we tend to see similar results to those we would get from people with lung problems, but without having to put poorly people through difficult tests.
In this study, we looked at how hard two different breathing muscles work – the diaphragm, which is the main breathing muscle, and some smaller muscles that sit between the ribs – when healthy people breathe CO2. We were interested to see whether both muscles work just as hard or whether one muscle did more work than the other. This project showed us that different people’s breathing muscles behaved differently during the CO2 test. We would prefer to be able to measure just the muscles between the ribs because to measure the diaphragm we have to put a tube up the person’s nose and down into their tummy, which feels a bit strange. Now that we know we don’t get the same information from the two different muscles, we can make better decisions about what we should measure in different projects – it might be best to measure both whenever we can so that we get all of the information we need.