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 Womens 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 studys 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 Womens 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."
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