Inflammatory Lung Diseases

sapey - neurotrophils bannerGroup leaders:Dr Elizabeth Sapey and Dr Alice Turner


sapey - emphysematous Lungs cropped

Our research group studies the changes seen in lungs and the immune system with ageing and in chronic lung disease such as COPD and Alpha 1 Anti trypsin Deficiency. We seek to understand why lung diseases effect different people in so many different ways, including the age at which they present, the clinical symptoms people display, the effects this has on other organs in the body and the inflammation which cause these diseases to progress.  

Our research group

Our research is multi-disciplinary and translational in nature; we seek to test whether mechanisms described in studies of basic science have any relevance in human lung disease to improve human health. 

Our group utilises the combined expertise of scientists, clinicians, research nurses, physiotherapy and physiology, working together across a number of separate but complimentary research projects.

sapey - alpha 1 MoleculeOur projects range from characterising clinical characteristics and inflammatory profiles in patients with lung disease, the use of co-culture platforms and advanced microscopy to study innate immune cell functions and interactions, genetic and epigenetic studies to understand susceptibility factors within individuals and across diseases (such as the interplay between lung cancer and emphysema) to interventional trials in inflammatory disease (Phase I to IV). We also help to develop and validate tools to assess the impact of treatments for lung disease, including tests of small airways disease (an early indicator of emphysema), CT densitometry, health status and new biomarkers for disease, including footprints of lung tissue damage.

We oversee the Chronic Disease Resource Centre COPD Cohort, a deeply phenotyped group of patients with COPD and the Alpha 1 Antitrypsin Deficiency (AATD) ADAPT cohort, the largest cohort of AATD patients globally and the UK home of the Alpha 1 Anti-trypsin Deficiency Registry.

Current Projects

  1. Phosphoinositol 3 kinase signalling in COPD – an MRC funded project to assess how dysregulated neutrophil functions can contribute to lung disease in COPD, and whether targeting the PI3K pathway could form a new therapeutic strategy for this debilitating disease.
  2. Small airways Disease in Alpha 1 Anti-trypsin Deficiency (AATD) – an Alpha 1 Foundation funded project to assess whether tests of small airways disease are more accurate and sensitive at detecting those at risk of lung disease in AATD.
  3. The British Lung Foundation Early COPD consortium. We are part of a national collaborative to study COPD at its earliest stages, to assess what mechanisms drive disease during its initiation, and therefore, what treatments may halt its progression.
  4. Elastin degradation in AATD exacerbations – this Alpha 1 Foundation (A1F) funded project assess biomarkers of pulmonary exacerbations, comparing these to the stable state and usual COPD and is developing an AATD specific e-diary for patients.
  5. Elucidating shared pathogenesis of COPD and lung cancer by means of cell specific genomics – a study of endothelial and macrophage specific miRNA and mRNA signals in patients with and without COPD and lung cancer.
  6. The association between COPD and other chronic inflammatory co-morbidities including frailty, cognitive decline and periodontitis. As part of a EU funded FP-7 programme grant and MRC PhD studentship, we are studying the interactions between COPD and other inflammation-based diseases that might share similar pathogenic mechanisms. This includes clinical studies of disease and cell-based studies of inflammation and cell signalling.
  7. Augmentation therapy: a propensity matching study – this Chest Foundation funded project uses real-world evidence in the USA and UK to determine if AAT augmentation affects long term outcomes such as mortality.

Recent Publications


Principal Investigators
Dr Liz Sapey and Dr Alice Turner

Mr Paul Newby, Laboratory Manager
Dr Anite Pye, Clinical Trials Manager

Mr Adam Mcguinness

PhD Students 
Miss Georgia Walton
Dr Daisy Wilson
Dr Clara Green
Mr Ross Edgar
Dr Jennie Gane

MD Students 
Dr Adam Usher
Dr Stephanie Hobbins
Dr Diana Crossley
Dr Judith Hampson

NHS Staff
Mrs Rebecca Bray, Administration Manager
Mrs Diane Griffiths, RGN Research Nurse
Mrs Gurpreet Sangha, Clinical Trials Coordinator
Miss Sian Hughes, Data Manager
Mr James Stockley, Research Physiologist

External Collaborators
Professor Edwin Chilvers, University of Cambridge
Professor Alison Condliffe, University of Sheffield
Dr Phill Hawkins, Babraham Institute, Cambridge
Professor Robert Insall, Beatson Institute, University of Glasgow
Professor Robert Sandaus, National Jewish Health, USA
Dr Michael Cho, Harvard, USA

Funding Bodies

Medical Research Council:

National Institute for Health Research:

Alpha-1 Foundation: 

British Lung Foundation:

Chest Foundation:

Useful Links

More information can be found at the following:

Twitter:  @teamneutrophil; @e-sapey; @AlphaCOPDdoc