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MRI Technique to Help Develop Improved Lung Disease Therapies

By Medimaging International staff writers
Posted on 18 Apr 2017
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Image: New research shows hyper-polarized MRI may offer improved therapies for diseases such as CF (Photo courtesy of iStock).
Image: New research shows hyper-polarized MRI may offer improved therapies for diseases such as CF (Photo courtesy of iStock).
Researchers have found that they can use hyper-polarized helium MRI to develop improved therapies for lung diseases such as cystic fibrosis.

There is currently no cure for cystic fibrosis, and many people live with the disorder. The drug 'ivacaftor' is used to treat the root cause of the disease, but its effectiveness in each individual patient is unknown.

Now, University of Missouri School of Medicine researchers have published the results of a study in which they used the new imaging technique to measure the effectiveness of the drug. The results of the study were published in the April 2017, issue of the Journal of Cystic Fibrosis. According to the researchers, the technique helps them find improved therapies for lung conditions such as cystic fibrosis.

Clinicians currently use spirometry to measure lung function, and track their progress over time, but this technique does not work well with pediatric patients. Instead, clinicians use Computed Tomography (CT) scans, that provide structural images of the lungs. These scans however do not show the flow of gas or air. The researchers hope to apply the new technique, which uses helium-3 Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), to babies or young children with impaired lung function.

Lead author of the study, Talissa Altes, MD, at the MU School of Medicine, said, “Our study sought to use a new way of imaging the lung to understand how well the drug is working in patients with a specific gene mutation known as G551D-CFTR. We found that after using 'ivacaftor,' patients experienced a dramatic increase in lung improvement in both the short and long term. On an MRI, a healthy lung should look completely white when helium-3 is used as a contrast agent. Conversely, areas that are not white indicate poor ventilation. That’s the beauty of this technique – it’s very obvious if the drug is working or not. More drugs are under development to treat cystic fibrosis and other lung conditions, and improved imaging techniques are needed to test their effectiveness. The importance of this technique is that it may well be a cost-effective tool to aid in the development of these drugs. However, it also can help patients know which medications may work best for their unique conditions.”


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