Lung disease study

We are looking for volunteers for research investigating the mechanism of breathlessness in fibrotic lung disease.

Interstitial lung disease (ILD, also known as lung fibrosis) is a group of disorders where the lung tissue become damaged and scarred. This makes it hard for oxygen to get into the lungs, which can make it hard to breathe. Currently there are limited treatment options for breathlessness in ILD. Many patients still experience debilitating breathlessness despite being on maximum treatment.

New scientific evidence supports the idea that abnormal signals from nerves in the lungs, muscles and oxygen-sensors contribute to breathlessness in this condition. The purpose of this study is to better understand why this happens.

We are specifically investigating whether specialised sensors that respond to stretch/pressure in the lungs become hyperactive in people who have ILD. We know these 'lung sensors' are important in other lung disease such as asthma but there are few studies in ILD. It is hoped that our work will pave the way for future studies targeting these sensors in order to reduce breathlessness in people with ILD.

What's involved?

You will attend one familiarisation visit and two experimental visits of approximately 1 hour each at our research lab in Auckland City Hospital.

At the familiarisation visit:

  • We will make sure you are suitable for the study. You will do some questionnaires and complete a short breathing test (spirometry). We will then explain the study procedures.

At the experimental visits:

  • Through a nebuliser, you will be given either fentanyl (a medication to block the “lung sensors”) or saline (control).
  • A nebuliser is a machine which changes the liquid medication into a fine mist which is breathed in through a mask. In this way the medication is able to reach the lungs directly.
  • (optional) A small blood sample will be drawn from your arm to measure the amount of fentanyl that gets into the blood
  • You will then be asked to do an exercise test on a stationary bike. You will be encouraged to cycle for as long as you can. This generally lasts for ~12 min depending on your fitness.
  • Your breathing, heart and blood pressure will be measured. We want to know blocking the 'lung sensors' will ease breathlessness and improve fitness. 

Participants will receive a $50 supermarket voucher for each visit and a taxi chit to return home from the experimental visits.

Eligibility criteria

We are looking for people in Auckland with a diagnosis of ILD. We will check the other eligibility criteria with you.  


For more information or to sign up for this study, please contact:

Dr Charlotte Chen
Lead investigator
Phone: 0212364039

Approved by the Health and Disability Ethics Committee expiring July 2024 (20/NTA/68)