COPD Research: Preventing Lung Attacks

COPD Research: Preventing Lung Attacks


2023 September

<p>Imagine gasping for air, unable to take a life-giving breath.</p>

Imagine gasping for air, unable to take a life-giving breath.

This is a lung attack, and it is every bit as life-threatening as a heart attack. For individuals living with chronic obstructive respiratory disease (COPD), lung attacks leave them gasping, threatening both their ability to breathe normally and their lives.


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COPD is a global disease that can affect anyone.

COPD is one of the most common diseases worldwide. It is responsible for 3 million deaths every year and is most often caused by smoking or air pollution. Individuals living with COPD experience shortness of breath that prevents them from doing the things they love—even walking from room to room in their homes can be a monumental effort. At the MUHC, physician-scientists Dr. Bryan Ross, Dr. Jean Bourbeau and Dany Doiron, PhD are on the forefront of creating better, healthier lives for those with COPD.



The CanCOLD research study will help us understand and prevent COPD.

The Canadian Cohort of Obstructive Lung Disease (CanCOLD) is a long-term, Canada-wide study created by MUHC physician-scientists Dr. Jean Bourbeau in 2009 to better understand why so many individuals develop COPD and how to provide them the very best life-changing care. Here’s how:

  1. 1. Prevent lung attacks

    Lung attacks (or “exacerbations”) are life-threatening health events that leave individuals struggling to draw breath. Though they are seldom talked about, lung attacks are the number one reason for emergency room visits across the country. CanCOLD is working to understand why lung attacks occur and how to better treat them to ensure patients lead long and healthy lives.

  2. 2. Understand the effects of climate change and air pollution

    We have always known that air pollution affects lung health, but how much? Dr. Bryan Ross of the Research Institute of the MUHC is studying the impact of air pollution on our lungs and how climate change could be worsening our respiratory health.

  3. 3. Track patient health via home monitoring

    Wearable devices are the latest trend in health care, allowing physicians and researchers to monitor their patients to get a full picture of their health. CanCOLD is using wearable devices to gather valuable data on lung mechanics and lung attacks in patients living with COPD.

“COPD progresses slowly and is invisible in its early stages. When it does starts to show, it is already well established. Because COPD comes on so slowly, people adapt to it—when we finally spot the problem, it is often very advanced. CanCOLD is about collecting the data we need to better understand and treat COPD.”

Dr. Jean Bourbeau

Senior Scientist, Translational Research in Respiratory Diseases Program (RESP), RI-MUHC and Co-investigator, CanCOLD

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