COPD: New Hope – Dr Suzanne Cloonan

Written by Dr Suzanne Cloonan, Associate Professor in Respiratory Medicine in Trinity’s School of Medicine

51 – HPN January 2022 Digital

Dr Suzanne Cloonan is Associate Professor in Respiratory Medicine in Trinity’s School of Medicine and Tallaght University Hospital (TUH). Her laboratory’s research investigates how cellular iron metabolism is regulated in the lungs of patients with COPD. This is in addition to how dysregulation of iron uptake, release, or turnover contributes to the disease process.

Excessive iron build up in the lungs is thought to be a major factor in COPD. Dr Cloonan’s research team believe they have identified the culprit for the excess. It is a gene they previously found to increase patients’ susceptibility to the progressive lung disease.

So, this gene called IRP2 is tasked with regulating iron uptake in cells. The team’s discovery was significant because it validates the results of a 2009 study that implicated IRP2 in the disease’s development and demonstrates how the gene supports COPD. The findings also illustrate that IRP2 may be a powerful therapeutic target.

Research collaborations

Dr Cloonan collaborates with TUH’s Professor Seamus Donnelly (Professor of Respiratory and Interstitial Disease) and St James Hospital’s Professor Joseph Keane (Professor of Medicine). She highlights the crucial input from post-doctoral researchers Dr Claire Healy and Dr Niamh Williams in her laboratory. Dr Cloonan is part of a multi-centre study of COPD aiming to better classify patients for clinical trials.

She says, “We worked closely with SPIROMICS (Subpopulations and Intermediate Outcomes in COPD Study). SPIROMICS is a USA-based multi-centre longitudinal observational study of chronic COPD. SPIROMICS was designed to guide future development of therapies for COPD by providing robust criteria for subclassifying COPD participants into groups most likely to benefit from a given therapy during a clinical trial, and identifying biomarkers/phenotypes that can be used as intermediate outcomes to reliably predict clinical benefit during therapeutic trials.”

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