Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


New imaging technique may help people with asthma


A new magnetic resonance (MR) imaging technique using hyperpolarized helium lights up the lungs’ airways, providing, for the first time, clear resolution of even the smaller, seventh-generation airways. The technique, dynamic hyperpolarized 3He (helium) MR imaging, should help physicians better understand and treat asthma, as well as other chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases. Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital reported their findings in the May issue of the journal Radiology.

"Other non-radioactive techniques have only been able to image lung peripheries," said the study’s principal investigator, Mitchell S. Albert, Ph.D., assistant professor of radiology at Harvard Medical School and director of the hyperpolarized noble gas MRI laboratory at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. "Dynamic hyperpolarized helium MR imaging offers a completely noninvasive and safe method of studying the airways."

Dr. Albert collaborated with other researchers to pioneer hyperpolarized noble gas MR imaging, a technique he conceptualized in 1991 while researching the effect of anesthesia on the brain. "Our new technique provides information on ventilation, while depicting structure and function of the airways," Dr. Albert said. "Other non-radioactive imaging modalities do not provide this type of information."

For the study, researchers evaluated the degree of distal airway visualization in six healthy adult volunteers, ranging in age from 22 to 40, who inhaled one breath of hyperpolarized helium gas during MR imaging. Visualization was achieved using a fast gradient-echo pulse sequence during inhalation. The resulting images showed differential contrast of both distal airways and lung periphery.

The findings offer hope for asthma research, diagnosis and treatment. Currently, models predict where asthma closure and constriction occur in the airway tree, however, the airways during an asthma attack have never been visualized, according to Dr. Albert.

"Researchers do not yet know if asthma causes a global closure and constriction of the airways, whether it happens selectively within certain parts of the bronchial tree, or if it affects one or both lungs," Dr. Albert said. "With this technique we hope to actually see ventilation constriction and closure of the airways in people with asthma," he said. "Symptoms can be correlated with the information from the images to assist in treatment of asthma patients."

Dr. Albert and his team also plan to study bronchodilator treatment to see where bronchodilation occurs. This type of information will be beneficial to drug development and testing, he noted.

"We are developing tools to measure and study airway diameters during constriction and dilation in people with asthma," Dr. Albert commented. "In the weeks to come we will start dynamic hyperpolarized imaging of patients with asthma at Brigham and Women’s Hospital."

The new approach can easily be applied in a clinical setting. "Most hospitals have MRI machines that can be converted to image helium. Consequently, this imaging technique may soon be readily available to many more patients," Dr. Albert added.

Radiology is a monthly scientific journal devoted to clinical radiology and allied sciences. The journal is edited by Anthony V. Proto, M.D., School of Medicine, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia. Radiology is owned and published by the Radiological Society of North America Inc. (

The Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) is an association of more than 33,000 radiologists, radiation oncologists and physicists in medicine dedicated to education and research in the science of radiology. The Society’s headquarters are located at 820 Jorie Boulevard, Oak Brook, Ill. 60523-2251. (

"Distal Airways in Humans: Dynamic Hyperpolarized 3He MR Imaging--Feasibility." Collaborating with Dr. Albert on this study were Angela C. Tooker, M. Eng., Kwan Soo Hong, Ph.D., Erin L. McKinstry, B.S., Philip Costello, M.D., and Ferenc A. Jolesz, M.D., from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

Maureen Morley | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Advanced analysis of brain structure shape may track progression to Alzheimer's disease
26.10.2016 | Massachusetts General Hospital

nachricht Indian roadside refuse fires produce toxic rainbow
26.10.2016 | Duke University

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Novel light sources made of 2D materials

Physicists from the University of Würzburg have designed a light source that emits photon pairs. Two-photon sources are particularly well suited for tap-proof data encryption. The experiment's key ingredients: a semiconductor crystal and some sticky tape.

So-called monolayers are at the heart of the research activities. These "super materials" (as the prestigious science magazine "Nature" puts it) have been...

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Prototype device for measuring graphene-based electromagnetic radiation created

28.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Gamma ray camera offers new view on ultra-high energy electrons in plasma

28.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

When fat cells change their colour

28.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>