Scientists at the University of Manchester in England will look into the cause of sarcoidosis with the help of a £120,000 pound (about $166,750 U.S.) research funding grant awarded by the British Lung Foundation and SarcoidosisUK as part of a long-term commitment to finding a cure for the rare disease.
Sarcoidosis can affect almost every organ in the body, although the lungs, skin, and eyes are usually the most affected. Researchers think the disease is triggered when patients breathe in a substance that causes an overreaction of their immune system — although the substance has not yet been identified.
Some experts have suggested potential triggers such as a domestic fungus, an acne-causing bacteria, and a mycobacteria present in soil and water. Researchers will use breath analysis as they aim to identify the airborne trigger and hopefully answer important questions about the cause of the disease.
The new study will include a study of breath samples taken from patients as investigators search for clues for the cause of the disease. If the substance that triggers the disease is identified, researchers may soon be possible to develop personalized treatments for the disease — a vast improvement over the current best treatment options that rely on immunosuppressants, which are associated with high risks.
“The collection procedure for breath samples is very simple, and would offer significant advantages compared to current invasive methods of sampling the lungs, such as lung biopsy,” Dr. Steven Fowler, the study’s lead investigator, said in a press release.
“We are going to investigate whether we can detect chemical signals in the breath that can give us information about the severity of the disease, the presence of infection and/or inflammation, and perhaps the cause of sarcoidosis in any individual,” added Fowler, senior lecturer and honorary consultant in respiratory medicine at the University of Manchester.
Results are anticipated for publication in 2021.
“The prospect of being able to find out more about possible environmental causes of sarcoidosis from a simple and noninvasive breath analysis is extremely exciting for us and the patients we support. We are very much looking forward to seeing the results that will come from this investment,” said Henry Shelford, chairperson of SarcoidosisUK.
The British Lung Foundation and SarcoidosisUK established a partnership in 2015 and have since funded more than £360,000 (about $500,250 U.S.) in sarcoidosis research, making the collaboration one of the largest global funders of sarcoidosis research.