Allergy in the nasal regions is extremely common. Pollutants, dust mite and pollen can cause an allergic response resulting in a stuffy nose, sinus pain and breathing difficulties. Sinus infection is also common. Chronic sinus infection occurs regularly in patients in whom the normal draining of sinuses is obstructed by swelling, excessive mucus, or an abnormality in their structure. When infected, viruses and bacteria ‘set-up-shop’ and establish colonies that are difficult to remove using current therapies. In many cases surgical intervention is required.
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Woolcock researchers are working towards understanding a range of upper respiratory tract diseases at a fundamental, drug delivery and treatment level.
For example, we are studying the timing of daily exposure to house dust mite and how these cause allergic response. We have shown that, contrary to current belief, exposure does not occur in bed at night, but during the day; mainly due to social crowding and physical activity. We suspect clothing, not beds are the main sources of exposure. Such findings will have a major impact on the public advice provided for avoiding mite allergen exposure. Our teams are developing wearable devices for measuring exposure and hand-held devices for drug delivery.
We are working to develop novel cell based models and casts of the nasal cavity so that we can study exposure to allergens and infection in the lab and develop new drug delivery systems to target the nasal cavity.
For patients with chronic sinus infection we are developing new drug delivery technologies for targeting infection and mucus and are studying the internal structure of the nasal cavity using advanced imaging techniques to understand how continued infection results in airway remodelling. Our findings will provide important new information which may lead to altered ways to treat these problems.