The SOURCE Study:
Finding the First Signs of COPD

Medical progress can only succeed with participation by volunteers. A new opportunity to help conquer lung diseases has just become available with the launch of the SOURCE study.

SOURCE is a medical research study designed to gain new information about lung disease among younger, at-risk smokers who may not even know that they have lung disease. The study seeks to better understand the many factors contributing to the differences of lung function, symptoms, and disease among individuals. SOURCE is funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and the COPD Foundation.

One of the potential consequences of smoking is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD. The most common cause of COPD is cigarette smoking, but not all smokers develop COPD, and the disease also develops in non-smokers due to other harmful irritants such as air pollution, fumes, and dusts. Research is showing that lung disease resulting from these exposures starts much earlier in life than was previously realized. Even exposures in the womb or childhood infections can affect how well your lungs function in adulthood.

Determining the earliest signs of COPD is a key piece of the puzzle that has been missing. New treatment cannot be developed because no one understands for certain what's happening in the lungs of younger smokers.

COPD and other lung diseases are diagnosed using breathing tests (also known as spirometry), which measure lung function by the amount of air one can blow out quickly and completely, sort of like blowing out candles on a birthday cake. Unfortunately, lung function is not routinely tested in medical practice. That means that important information about lung health is lacking in young and middle-aged adults. In addition, most research studies about lung disease and COPD haven't included younger people.

For this reason, one goal of the SOURCE study is to perform breathing tests on a wide range of young and middle-aged adults. SOURCE will also perform other in-depth tests, including computerized tomography (CT) scans of the lungs to look for early markers of lung disease. The study will also collect samples of blood, stool, and sputum (phlegm). Analyzing these biospecimens in the lab may provide clues that could lead to better ways to identify lung disease at an earlier stage.

The SOURCE study is likely to provide the crucial information that will lead to new treatments of COPD and other lung diseases. These conditions affect billions of people worldwide, so the potential impact is huge.

The SOURCE study is launching in 12 cities across the US. Participants are primarily current or former cigarette smokers between the ages of 30 to 55. A diagnosis of COPD is not necessary to participate.

Your participation will contribute to what we know about a disease that takes lives and has few effective treatments. We hope you will consider joining or sharing this information with a friend or family member.

Find out more information about the study and whether you, a friend or loved one can participate at Please continue to check back here for more posts about SOURCE's progress.