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Lung Imaging with hyperpolarised gas MRI

Pulmonary ImageLung diseases, including lung cancer, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and asthma, are one of the main causes of mortality and disability worldwide. A major difficulty for the development of new treatments is the limitation of current imaging technologies when applied to the lung. While Computed Tomography (CT) offers excellent resolution and anatomical detail, functional information is much harder to acquire.

In recent years, hyperpolarized gas MRI has emerged as a promising new technology with the potential to improve diagnosis and potentially allow the development of new, better treatments. A noble gas (typically Helium-3 or, in our case, Xenon-126) is hyperpolarised using specifically designed equipment. Hyperpolarised gas can be detected in MRI, to produce images of ventilation (static or dynamic) or, using Diffusion MRI protocols, detect areas of structural damage in the lung. Furthermore, Xenon diffuses into the blood, thus allowing regional measures of lung perfusion in the same session.

Our aim is to develop methods to analyse hyperpolarised Xenon MRI scans quantitatively, on their own and in combination with other lung imaging modalities, and to relate image values to functional measurement. This includes segmentation of major structures (lung / lobe contours, airways, blood vessels), registration between different modalities (particularly Xenon MRI and CT), and generation of personalised models based on image information.

A fundamental part of this project involves the use of computational models to provide the link between image values and lung function. This is done in part within the AirPROM European project (with Drs Kelly Burrowes and David Kay).

This is carried out in collaboration with the team of Prof Fergus Gleeson at the Churchill Hospital, with whom we are working a clinical trial to validate the use of hyperpolarised gas MRI on COPD patients. MRI technology is led by Prof Jim Wild at the University of Sheffield.



Representative Publications (see also laboratory full publication list):

 T. Doel, T. Matin, F. Gleeson, D.J. Gavaghan, V. Grau, Pulmonary lobe segmentation from CT images using fissureness, airways, vessels and multilevel B-splines, Proc. IEEE International Symposium on Biomedical Imaging, 1491-1494, 2012.

Michal Plotkowiak, Kelly Burrowes, Jan Wolber, Fergus Gleeson, Robert Davies, David Gavaghan, Vicente Grau, Hyperpolarized gas MRI as a superior technique for COPD assessment, American Thoracic Society International Conference, 2010

Michal Plotkowiak, Kelly Burrowes, Jan Wolber, Christopher Buckley, Robert Davies, Fergus Gleeson, David Gavaghan, Vicente Grau, Relation between structural changes and hyperpolarised gas MRI in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease using computational simulations with realistic alveolar geometry. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A, June 13, 2009 367:2333-2346.