Engineers and medical researchers at Monash University in Australia have devised methods for creating images of human lungs that combine visual imaging with monitoring of lung functions. Their research is described online in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface.
The article’s lead author, engineering postdoctoral fellow Stephen Dubsky, developed the technology that provides measurements of motion, expansion, and flow at every point in the lung during the breathing cycle. It makes use of a synchrotron, a football-sized machine that accelerates electrons to almost the speed of light. As the electrons are deflected through magnetic fields they create extremely bright light.
Dubsky and colleagues used the synchotron near Melbourne, Australia to develop a high quality X-ray, that can gather high-speed video of a breathing lung. The technology combines the ability of computed tomography (CT) scans to get detail of the lung’s regions, with the functions of spirometry that measures the quantity air inhaled and exhaled, as well as breathing speed. Spirometry is a common test for lung conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
The technology can help improve evaluation of respiratory conditions where alterations may occur in the compliance of lung, chest wall and diaphragmatic function, or airway flow patterns, particularly for diagnosing asthma, COPD, and related disorders. Further research is expected to allow translation of the technology to X-ray imaging hardware, to provide a new clinical capability for diagnosis and management of lung disease.
“The use of this technology will aid in the development and testing of new drugs and delivery methods,” says Andreas Fouras, research manager of Monash’s Laboratory for Dynamic Imaging and the study’s senior author, “while further development towards clinical application may lead to new pathways for the diagnosis and monitoring of treatments for a variety of lung diseases.”
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