The Duchess of Gloucester visited the MRC & Asthma UK Centre in Allergic Mechanisms of Asthma at Guy's Hospital on Tuesday to learn more about some of the latest cutting-edge research taking place at the Centre.
Established in 2005 to tackle severe asthma caused by allergies, the centre is a partnership between two funding agencies (MRC and Asthma UK), two universities (King's College London and Imperial College London), and their partner NHS Trusts.
Research at the centre focuses on understanding the underlying causes of asthma including how allergies make asthma worse so that new treatments and approaches to prevention can be developed.
The Duchess, who is patron of Asthma UK, was given a tour of the laboratories and given updates on current studies.
Topics covered included the importance of vitamin D in the prevention and treatment of asthma; approaches to preventing children's intolerance to peanuts and other allergenic foods; investigating how people's airways narrow, and how this might be reversed; and how the introduction of the low emission zone in London to reduce pollution may affect respiratory health.
"We were delighted to welcome HRH the Duchess of Gloucester and guests here today to see first-hand some of the research that is taking place here at the centre," said Professor Tak Lee.
"One in five households are affected by asthma. Approximately one person dies of asthma every seven hours and around 0.5 million asthmatics have severe asthma despite having all the treatments available, so there is an enormous unmet need for better treatments.
"It is therefore crucial to find new drugs and develop new ways of prevention. As one in three people will develop an allergy at some point in their life, and many of these people will develop asthma, research into treatment and prevention of allergies remains essential."
Professor Lee also introduced some of the most promising new topics for future research, such as genetics of asthma and allergies; why and how infections may make asthma worse; regulation of IgE (the allergic antibody); the linkage between airways inflammation and airways structure; and new ways to manipulate the immune system to be more tolerant of environmental influences.