Treating COPD patients: Facilitating the primary life necessities
For a long time the disease COPD was thought to be an affection of the lungs only. However, during the last decade researchers have discovered that the disease entails more than that.

Many patients diagnosed with COPD also experience breakdown of musculature. There is strong evidence that an infection in the lungs that spreads throughout the entire body and which causes systemic inflammation activity is responsible. In this project the influence of COPD on the breakdown of musculature is investigated. The systemic infection can also cause deviations in other organs and tissues. With a better understanding of the functioning of these organs and tissues, a new treatment strategy can be developed. Therefore, the researchers also keep an eye out for newly developed drugs that treat other chronic diseases involving systemic inflammation. In general the project has a unique approach: it not only focuses on finding a drug, but also on developing and integrating tailored nutrition and exercise strategies.

Fast facts
Full project title: Extra pulmonary manifestations and COPD
Start date: December 2007
End date: December 2012
Goal: Developing a better treatment for COPD patients
Principal investigator: Annemie Schols, Maastricht University
Project size: 11,1 FTE's
Partners: AstraZeneca, Danone Research, GlaxoSmithKline, Nycomed, University Medical Center Groningen, University Medical Center Utrecht, Department of Respiratory Medicine at Maastricht University 


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a lung disease which constitutes a major public health problem. The disease ranks fourth on the list of potentially fatal disease in the Netherlands, with 6000 deaths annually and 320.000 current patients. Patients with COPD have narrowed airways due to an inflammation, which results in breathing difficulties and shortness of breath. In severe cases, the lungs are permanently damaged. Symptoms include chronic coughs, a rapid breathing rate, wheezing, frequent colds, and chest tightness. In principal, COPD is similar to Asthma. The main difference is that Asthma can be controlled with drugs, while COPD cannot. COPD manifests itself slowly. This can impede proper treatment of the disease because most people consider the first symptom, shortness of breath, as just that and adjust their behaviour accordingly. Inhalation of pollution, dust or chemicals contribute to, and sometimes cause, COPD, but smoking is reported as the most important cause. In rare cases the disease is the result of a genetic disorder. It is estimated that the number of patients will increase in the future, as it is predicted that COPD will be one of the top five leading causes of death in 2020. 

PhD theses from this project

Vera Kamp (project T1-201)
Immune modulation by neutrophil subsets

Bram van den Borst (project T1-201)
Early metabolic risk in COPD

“Running public-private partnerships is a profession by itself. TI Pharma is an excellent example of how you can do this in an effective way.”

Hugo Hurts
Director/Secretary of the Medicines Evaluation Board

Hugo Hurts
Director/Secretary of the Medicines Evaluation Board

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