The effects of iron on cardiorespiratory physiology and the assessment of lung function
Nick’s research interests are broadly the field of respiratory physiology. For some years, he has studied the effects of hypoxia on the cardiorespiratory system, both at a cellular and a systemic level. More recently, he has been particularly interested in the effects of iron on cardiorespiratory physiology, and the interaction between iron availability and responses to hypoxia. As a member of Professor Peter Robbins’ human physiology group, he was involved in early studies showing that intravenous iron administration inhibits the development of pulmonary hypertension during hypoxia. This work has led to a number of clinical studies examining the possible therapeutic effects of iron. Nick has, for example, recently been awarded an NIHR Research for Patient Benefit grant, to investigate the use of iron supplementation in patients with cystic fibrosis, in whom hypoxia, iron deficiency and pulmonary hypertension often co-exist.
Another current research interest relates to the non-invasive assessment of lung function. Currently, medicine is heavily reliant on quite crude and insensitive measures of lung function in patients with respiratory disease. In Oxford, a collaborative project involving chemists, engineers and physiologists has led to the development of a highly accurate respiratory gas analyser, based on laser-absorption spectroscopy. In combination with a novel mathematical model of gas exchange, this technology has the potential to provide more sensitive and informative measures of lung function. Nick is helping to coordinate clinical studies exploring the use of these measures in patients with a range of respiratory conditions, including asthma, COPD and cystic fibrosis.