What happens when industrial technology meets nature? A French invention of the 1830s, the compressed air bath capitalised on the allure of ‘pure countryside air’ to treat a range of respiratory problems. Dr Jennifer Wallis, Medical Humanities Teaching Fellow, explores the fascinating history of these baths and their therapeutic uses in mid-Victorian Britain.
During the summer holiday season, many of us will have taken a break to recharge our batteries. Whether it’s gazing out over a clear blue sea or hiking through a forest, connecting with nature is often a key component of our holidays.
Tourists in the 19th century sought a similar experience. They yearned to escape the crowded city or the routines of home to immerse themselves in a new environment. The era is most associated with the seaside resort, which grew in popularity as the railway network expanded. But many Britons were also choosing to follow in the footsteps of their eighteenth-century ancestors by visiting spa towns like Malvern. Spa towns were renowned for their health benefits, from the freshness of the air to the energising effect of the mineral waters. Hotels and resorts sprung up in spa towns to cater for the health-seeking hordes.
One such resort was the Ben Rhydding Hydropathic Establishment in Ilkley, Yorkshire. It cashed in on a contemporary interest in hydropathy, a treatment regime based on baths and showers. Ben Rhydding offered its visitors a variety of activities to supplement these treatments: bowling greens, dances, and guided walks of local beauty spots. It also offered a rather unusual experience for the health-seeking tourist, one that used air rather than water: a compressed air bath.
The Great Exhibition Road Festival is a free annual celebration of science and the arts each summer in South Kensington. The event showcases a diverse range of activities for people of all ages. One of those activities, led by researchers from the Margaret Turner Warwick Centre and volunteers from the charity Action for Pulmonary Fibrosis, included an interactive activity that gave the public the opportunity to walk in the shoes of someone living with pulmonary fibrosis. Find out first-hand from Elisabeth Pyman, what happened on the day and hear from pulomary fibrosis patient, Andy, what it’s like to live with the condition.
The June weekend of the Great Exhibition Road Festival was one of quintessential British summertime weather. This celebration of science was hosted by Imperial College London in collaboration with the local community and provided a wide range of topics for people of all ages to explore. Under intermittent spells of rain, crowds of a multitudinous diversity explored the “awe and wonder” of science, the theme of this year’s festival. To welcome the public, artists and scientists populated the streets and buildings surrounding Imperial’s South Kensington campus like a sudden desert bloom.
Meanwhile, another transformation was taking place in a stand tucked away at the end of the road in the Creative Science zone. Researchers from the Margaret Turner Warwick Centre and volunteers from the charity Action for Pulmonary Fibrosis were on a mission to spread awareness about a rare lung condition known as pulmonary fibrosis. This condition is associated with a build-up of scar tissue that leads to a steady decline in lung function, with many patients becoming terminal only five years after diagnosis. Currently, there are 32,500 UK residents living with a diagnosis, but the actual number of people affected is estimated at around 100,000.
Professor Sir Peter Barnes FRS FMedSci, from the National Heart and Lung Institute (NHLI), was made a Knight Bachelor in this year’s King’s Birthday Honours “for services to respiratory science.” Sir Peter is Professor of Thoracic Medicine at the NHLI and he was Head of Respiratory Medicine at Imperial until 2017. Here he writes about his reaction to his award and describes some of the current research projects in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
My wife opened the letter “On His Majesty’s Service” as she thought it was a tax demand – I was absolutely shocked to see I had been offered a knighthood. Of course, I was and am delighted with the award. It is very good for respiratory science and medicine, which generally receives little public attention. This is surprising as chronic lung diseases are amongst the most common in the UK, affecting one in seven people and the third ranked cause of death. I would like to dedicate this award to all the brilliant students, post-docs, research fellows, visiting scientists and colleagues that I have worked with at Imperial College London over many decades.
The government is on course to miss its target of making England smoke free by 2030. Dr Charlotte Vrinten, Research Associate at the School of Public Health, highlights how this delay leads to thousands of adolescents taking up the habit in the meantime.
Tobacco smoking has been declining in the UK over the last decade, but there are still nearly 7 million people who smoke. Smoking is one of the main avoidable causes of illness and early death, and costs the NHS £2.4 billion per year. In 2019, the government pledged to make England smokefree by 2030. However, a recent independent review found that the government is on course to miss its 2030 target by seven years. (more…)
On Mesothelioma Awareness Day, Dr Anca Nastase provides an insight into mesothelioma and how research advances offer new hope for improved treatment.
Mesothelioma Awareness Day represents a great opportunity to gain more information about the disease biology, risk factors or symptoms from everyone in the mesothelioma community. Raising awareness is essential as it has the potential to improve prevention and early diagnosis and can translate into better outcomes and better survival for the patients.
My aim as a scientist within the National Centre for Mesothelioma Research (NCMR) is to deepen the molecular research in mesothelioma and to advance our understanding of the mechanisms responsible for the onset and progression of this disease.
Although progress has been made in the field, further understanding of the pathophysiology is still desperately needed.
Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that arises and develops in the thin layer that covers the human internal organs, called mesothelium.
NHLI researchers Róisín Mongey and Dr Sally Kim provide an insight into developing a new tool – the AIR model – for lung research and drug development.
Lung diseases represent a significant global health burden costing the NHS upwards of £1 billion annually. A hallmark of chronic and acute adult lung diseases such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF) and COVID-19, is lung damage. The lungs are usually capable of repairing damage but in some cases, this does not happen or the repair process goes awry for example going into overdrive and causing more damage. The result of this lack of repair or abnormal repair is persistent tissue damage and declining lung function.
There are almost no treatments available to repair the lung damage in these diseases. A bold, new approach to identify novel lung repair treatments for these diseases is needed. Unfortunately, there are several roadblocks to the development of curative treatments, the primary one being that we don’t fully understand how repair happens in the healthy lung under normal circumstances. The bottom line is that unless we can figure this out, it is unlikely that we will be able to develop successful new repair treatments. (more…)
Gesa Albers was shortlisted for the MRC Max Perutz Science Writing Award 2018 for the following article on her PhD project studying how the metabolism of macrophages differs between asthmatic and non-asthmatic people.
You are on a holiday with a good friend walking along a path enjoying the stunning view and the beautiful scenery along the river. Suddenly, your friend starts coughing. He might have inhaled dust from the dry pathway. You stop to give him the water bottle from your backpack. The water does not help the coughing. He wheezes every time he breathes and you start panicking when you see that his face is getting paler and paler.
“I cannot breathe!” he says while wheezing.
You want to help him but you do not know what to do. What does he need? Do you have to call an ambulance? As the coughing and wheezing does not stop, you decide to call the ambulance. With shaking hands, you type in the number and call the paramedics. (more…)
Ann Morgan, a PhD student at the National Heart and Lung Institute, gives us her thoughts on why smoking isn’t the only culprit behind the rise in COPD.
The traditional view of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is that it is a self-inflicted disease caused by smoking. However, it is increasingly likely that this description is something of an oversimplification. While still very much associated with smoking, clinicians and researchers alike are getting to grips with the reality that COPD is a more complex and heterogeneous disease than previously thought. We are also becoming more aware of the fact that it is a disease which rarely occurs in isolation. The vast majority of people who present with COPD have at least one other co-existing disease or condition, and around 50% have four or more accompanying chronic diseases or ‘comorbidities’. (more…)
An eye-opening account by Professor Sir Tony Newman Taylor on how asbestos has gone from ‘magic mineral’ to deadly dust that can cause mesothelioma.
Public awareness of the hazards of asbestos can be dated to the period immediately following the death of Nellie Kershaw aged 33 in 1924. She had worked during the previous seven years in a textile factory spinning asbestos fibre into yarn. She died of severe fibrosis of the lungs. The pathologist, William Cooke, who found retained asbestos fibres in the lungs, called the cause of death asbestosis. Nellie Kershaw was not the first case to be reported of lung fibrosis caused by asbestos. Montague Murray in 1899 had reported the case of a 33-year-old man who had worked for 14 years in an asbestos textile factory. He had died of fibrosis of the lungs which Montague Murray, also finding asbestos in the lungs, had attributed to inhaled asbestos fibres. The patient had told Murray he was the only survivor from ten others who had worked in his workshop. (more…)
In this post, Dr Nicholas Hopkinson looks at the benefits of singing for people with respiratory conditions such as COPD.
Singing carols is a big part of Christmas cheer, but not many people realise that singing can also be helpful for people with lung disease. COPD is an extremely common condition – there are 1.3 million people with this diagnosis in the UK. Existing treatments help to some extent, but do not reverse the underlying pathology, meaning that even with optimal care many patients remain breathless with activity limitation and poor quality of life. This symptom burden represents a major area of unmet need. Singing for Lung Health (SLH) groups are a potential way for patients to gain skills to improve control of their breathing and posture, reducing symptom burden and enhancing wellbeing. (more…)