How the power of mathematics can help assess lung function

May 10, 2018

Researchers at the University of Southampton have developed a new computational way of analysing X-ray images of lungs, which could herald a breakthrough in the diagnosis and assessment of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and other lung diseases.

A multi-disciplinary team of mathematicians, clinicians, and image specialists from three University of Southampton faculties has devised a method for numerically describing the complicated three-dimensional structure of the lung using topology - a part of mathematics designed specifically for the study of complex shapes.

Utilising a combination of computed tomography (CT) scans, high-performance computing and algorithms, the researchers computed numerical characteristics, in three dimensions, of the entire bronchial trees of 64 patients categorised in four different groups: healthy non-smokers, healthy smokers, patients with moderate COPD and patients with mild COPD.

COPD is a complex lung condition that involves, to various degrees, the airways (bronchi) and the lung tissue (alveoli); this results in a progressive loss of lung function. It affects more than 200 million people worldwide - middle-aged or older adults, mainly those who have had significant exposure to cigarette smoke. It is the fourth leading cause of death worldwide.

The team analysed such features as the structure and size of the bronchial tree, the length and direction of its branches and the comparative changes in shape during deep inhalation and full exhalation. They found that, typically, a larger more complex tree indicates better lung function and a smaller distorted tree, poorer lung function.

The researchers found that their novel method was able to accurately distinguish between the different groups of patients, the characteristics of their lung function and the different stages of their condition. It was able to identify charactaristics not detectable to the naked eye.

Furthermore, they hope that repeating this method across a much larger database of images and combining it with other data could lead to the real-world development of a valuable clinical tool for the early diagnosis of conditions like COPD and asthma - providing a more accurate way of identifying the severity of an individual patient's condition.

Lead researcher and Professor in Mathematics Jacek Brodzki, of the University of Southampton, says: "Until now, the severity of lung conditions has been assessed by using a spirometer - a device which measures the force and amount of air a patient can exhale - and two-dimensional CT images, assessed by expert specialists, who have extensive experience of examining and interpreting CT imagery, and using relatively simple measures of lung density and bronchial wall thickness.

"Our study shows that this new method, employing topological data analysis, can complement and expand on established techniques to give a valuable, accurate range of information about the lung function of individuals. Further research is needed, but this could eventually aid decisions about the treatment of patients with serious, or potentially serious, lung conditions."

Professor of Medicine at the University of Southampton and NIHR Senior Investigator, Ratko Djukanovi?, comments: "This method is a major advance in our ability to study the structural abnormalities of COPD, a complex disease that affects so many people and, sadly, results in significant morbidity and mortality.

"The image analysis method developed by our University's mathematicians is the first to apply the field of topology in lung diseases, and one of only a handful of studies of this kind in medicine in general. Southampton is a great place for collaborative research of this kind, so we look forward to working further with our mathematician colleagues to develop this method for use in routine clinical care."

Professor Joy Conway, of Heath Sciences at Southampton, adds: "This study is a unique collaboration between clinicians and mathematicians which gives us new insight into the interpretation of this kind of CT scan data. With further research, it holds great promise for improving patient treatment in the future."

The paper Lung Topology Characteristics in patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is published in the journal Scientific Reports.
-end-
The study was carried out by University of Southampton academics Dr Francisco Belchi, Dr Mariam Pirashvili and Professor Jacek Brodzki (lead) of Mathematics. Also Dr Michael Bennett and Professor Joy Conway of Health Sciences and Professor Ratko Djukanovi? of Medicine. It was supported by the EPSRC grant Joining the Dots: From data to insight, EP/N014189/1.

Notes to Editors

1) For more information about Mathematical Sciences, Health Sciences and Medicine at Southampton visit:
https://www.southampton.ac.uk/maths/index.page
https://www.southampton.ac.uk/healthsciences/index.page
https://www.southampton.ac.uk/medicine/index.page

2) The University of Southampton drives original thinking, turns knowledge into action and impact, and creates solutions to the world's challenges. We are among the top one per cent of institutions globally. Our academics are leaders in their fields, forging links with high-profile international businesses and organisations, and inspiring a 24,000-strong community of exceptional students, from over 135 countries worldwide. Through our high-quality education, the University helps students on a journey of discovery to realise their potential and join our global network of over 200,000 alumni. http://www.southampton.ac.uk

3) For more on the EPSRC grant Joining the Dots: From data to insight, please visit: https://www.southampton.ac.uk/jtd/research/index.page

For further information contact:

Peter Franklin, Media Relations, University of Southampton, tel: 023 8059 5457 email: p.franklin@southampton.ac.uk
http://www.southampton.ac.uk/news/contact-press-team.page
Follow us on twitter: http://twitter.com/unisouthampton
Like us on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/unisouthampton

University of Southampton

Related COPD Articles from Brightsurf:

Promising therapeutic approach against COPD
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is one of the most common and deadliest diseases worldwide.

COPD underdiagnosed in older adults, but can be managed
''Recognizing and Treating COPD in Older Adults'' the latest issue of the What's Hot newsletter from The Gerontological Society of America, addresses what is known about the prevalence, incidence, and impact of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in older adults.

Undersized airways may explain why nonsmokers get COPD
A mismatch between airway and lung size may explain why some nonsmokers get COPD and some heavy smokers do not, according to a new study from Columbia University Irving Medical Center.

Is pulmonary rehab after hospitalization for COPD associated with better survival?
Claims data for nearly 200,000 Medicare patients were used to examine the association between starting pulmonary rehabilitation within 90 days of being hospitalized for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and survival after one year.

COPD and smoking associated with higher COVID-19 mortality
Current smokers and people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) have an increased risk of severe complications and higher mortality with COVID-19 infection, according to a new study published May 11, 2020 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Jaber Alqahtani of University College London, UK, and colleagues.

COPD as a lung stem cell disease
Two internationally renowned stem cell researchers at the University of Houston have found an abundance of abnormal stem cells in the lungs of patients who suffer from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), a leading cause of death worldwide.

New hope for COPD patients possible with in-home device
In a new paper published Feb. 4 in JAMA, Mayo Clinic researchers describe the benefits of in-home noninvasive ventilation therapy, which includes a type referred to as bilevel positive airway pressure, or BiPAP -- for many patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

COPD appears to cause more severe symptoms in women
Women who develop COPD report smoking fewer cigarettes than men; and yet, women experience greater breathing impairments, are subjected to more acute exacerbations of symptoms and report lower quality of life than men with the disease, according to research presented at ATS 2019.

African-Americans with COPD appear less likely to use pulmonary rehab
African-American patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, are less likely to participate in pulmonary rehabilitation programs than white patients, even when there are programs nearby.

COPD and type 2 diabetes
COPD and type 2 diabetes are two highly prevalent global health conditions associated with high mortality and morbidity.

Read More: COPD News and COPD Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.