3D imaging system aids research into lung disease

Southampton University researchers have developed a new 3D gamma radiation imaging system that could help improve the diagnosis of lung disease.

The system consists of a gamma radiation detector and CAT scanner, which map the disease and how inhaled drugs specifically work within a patient's lungs. The data is collected and interpreted to develop a distinct 360° image of how a particular drug is inhaled, dispersed and exhaled from the lungs. The image is then used to identify how best to optimise the administration and delivery of inhaled drugs such as antibiotics and antivirals for diseases like asthma, but also future gene therapies for diseases such as cystic fibrosis. It is hoped these images will also assist physiotherapists in the future, helping to improve the effectiveness of chest physiotherapy required by many patients as part of a daily routine to help clear secretions from the lungs. "Diseases causing dysfunction in the lungs affect a significant proportion of the population," said Professor Joy Conway, who led the team. "We hope our research will positively support the NHS in delivering the best possible treatment to these patients and ultimately improve their lives." The latest project, funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), is investigating chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It forms part of a larger portfolio of clinical trials and computational research led by the imaging team and it is hoped that the findings will help inform patient care in the wider NHS. "We are privileged to be one of only a handful of universities with access to gamma camera equipment, which is dedicated to research purposes," said Professor Conway.