It's not every day researchers can say their latest study has caught the eye of international experts in their field. It happens even less frequently that successive offerings attract attention – especially when that work has been done by a PhD student. However, Peter Noble can make those claims after two of his published studies on asthma attracted favourable comments.
A United States and a European journal each published one of his studies and the editors described both as "groundbreaking work" that had "the potential to refocus asthma research in other laboratories around the world". His recent work questioned widely-held theories relating to causes of asthma.
While studying for his Physiology PhD in the School of Biomedical, Biomolecular and Chemical Sciences, Peter organised a series of experiments designed to understand the basic processes controlling airways in the lung.
One study was the first to provide evidence contesting the belief that healthy lungs were strong enough to hold airways open but asthmatic lungs were not. It was believed that if the lungs could not withstand pressures, airways would narrow excessively and produce asthma symptoms.
Peter's experiments recorded the influence of lung pressures on the airways so he could assess their importance in regulating the airway. He found, unexpectedly, that even in healthy lungs, pressures were much less important in controlling airways than was previously believed. The other study questioned the basis of how past research measured the thickening or swelling (structural remodelling) of the asthmatic airway, another factor linked to asthma severity.
Many asthma researchers have tried to discover the underlying causes of airway remodelling. Results of Peter's experiments showed that the methods used to measure remodelling of the asthmatic airway needed to be re-examined.
Peter now has his PhD.