Lungs are illuminated for better diagnoses

SHEFFIELD, England (UPI) — British medical scientists say they have created a technology that illuminates a person’s lungs to help determine if they are correctly functioning.

The University of Sheffield researchers said their technology could result in earlier diagnosis of emphysema and smoking related damage, as well as other lung conditions and diseases.

The technique involves a person inhaling small amounts of harmless hyperpolarized noble gases (Helium-3 and Xenon-129), which are then imaged inside a MRI scanner. The gases are hyperpolarized using high power lasers by a process called optical pumping.

The high resolution images of the air spaces that are produced offer additional functional information that is currently not available with traditional X-rays and other types of scans, the researchers said.

The technology can also be used to help detect the early stages of lung obstruction in children with cystic fibrosis, something which a traditional X-ray would miss, they said.

The scientists said they are now considering using the technology to assess inhaled therapies for asthma patients and help plan radiotherapy treatment in patients with lung cancer.

Copyright 2008 by United Press International
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