Nav: Home

New intra-nasal imaging to study airways in patients with cystic fibrosis

August 07, 2019

BOSTON -- A paper published today in Science Translational Medicine describes a simple, minimally invasive new tool for viewing differences in the nasal airways of cystic fibrosis patients in vivo at a cellular level. The new technique provides high-resolution images of the hair-like structures called cilia that line nasal airways as well as detailed features of the clearance of mucus, which is impaired in people with CF, causing significant morbidity.

The imaging catheter, which is about 2-millimeters in diameter, uses optical coherence tomography with a resolution of about 1 micrometer -- a 50th the size of a human hair -- allowing researchers to probe the nasal passages of patients without even sedating them.

"We've done a lot of benchtop imaging with micro-OCT but this is the first time we've been able to use it in people," said co-principal investigator Guillermo Tearney, MD, PhD, a pathologist and investigator for the department of Pathology and Wellman Center for Photomedicine at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), the Remondi Family MGH Research Institute Chair, and professor of pathology at Harvard Medical School (HMS). "It's unprecedented to see this pathophysiology dynamically in living patients. It will allow us to begin to understand things we never even knew were there."

Among the researchers' findings were that in CF patients, the mucus contained more inflammatory cells than in control subjects and it was dehydrated, moving slowly and impacting cilia speed. The researchers were surprised that they were even able to measure the mucus's reflective quality, which they determined was an indicator of viscosity, and that patches of CF patients' cilia and epithelium were ablated. "We thought they were there but just not functioning well," said Tearney, "but in places they were completely gone."

The approximately 30,000 cystic fibrosis patients in the United States have an average life expectancy of about 45 years. The new technique will allow clinicians to earlier diagnose diseases that affect the airways, monitor them and optimize drug therapies for individual patients. "Visualizing abnormal mucus will be a powerful tool," said co-principal investigator Steven M. Rowe, MD, MSPH, director of the Gregory Fleming James Cystic Fibrosis Research Center and a professor of medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. "Now we'll be able to see how various treatments affect the airway -- not only agents intended to fix abnormal mucus, which is applicable to many diseases, but also treatments that repair the basic CF defect itself."

The researchers expect micro-OCT to have many applications beyond cystic fibrosis -- from diagnosing and treating respiratory ailments like primary ciliary dyskinesia, chronic sinus disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) to screening the GI tract for diseases and imaging coronary artery cells. "The goal is to figure out who else it can be used to help," said Rowe, "and make it more broadly accessible as a device."
-end-
The paper was a culmination of a 10-year collaboration between Rowe and Tearney. Co-authors are Hui Min Leung of HMS and the Wellman Center, Chulho Hyun, Timothy N. Ford, and Justin H. Palermo, also of the Wellman Center; Susan E. Birket, George M. Solomon, Ren-Hay Shei, Adegboyega Timothy Adewale, Andrew R. Lenzie, Courtney M. Fernandez-Petty, Do-Yeon Cho, and Bradford A. Woodworth, of the Gregory Fleming James Cystic Fibrosis Research Center at the University of Alabama at Birmingham; Hui Zheng of HMS and MGH's Biostatistics Center; Dongyao Cui of Nanyang Technological University in Singapore; and Lael M. Yonker and Bryan P. Hurley of MGH's Mucosal Immunology and Biology Research Center.

About the Massachusetts General Hospital

Massachusetts General Hospital, founded in 1811, is the original and largest teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School. The MGH Research Institute conducts the largest hospital-based research program in the nation, with an annual research budget of more than $925 million and comprises more than 8,500 researchers working across more than 30 institutes, centers and departments. In August 2019 the MGH was once again named to the Honor Roll in the U.S. News & World Report list of "America's Best Hospitals."

Massachusetts General Hospital

Related Science Articles:

75 science societies urge the education department to base Title IX sexual harassment regulations on evidence and science
The American Educational Research Association (AERA) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) today led 75 scientific societies in submitting comments on the US Department of Education's proposed changes to Title IX regulations.
Science/Science Careers' survey ranks top biotech, biopharma, and pharma employers
The Science and Science Careers' 2018 annual Top Employers Survey polled employees in the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical, and related industries to determine the 20 best employers in these industries as well as their driving characteristics.
Science in the palm of your hand: How citizen science transforms passive learners
Citizen science projects can engage even children who previously were not interested in science.
Applied science may yield more translational research publications than basic science
While translational research can happen at any stage of the research process, a recent investigation of behavioral and social science research awards granted by the NIH between 2008 and 2014 revealed that applied science yielded a higher volume of translational research publications than basic science, according to a study published May 9, 2018 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Xueying Han from the Science and Technology Policy Institute, USA, and colleagues.
Prominent academics, including Salk's Thomas Albright, call for more science in forensic science
Six scientists who recently served on the National Commission on Forensic Science are calling on the scientific community at large to advocate for increased research and financial support of forensic science as well as the introduction of empirical testing requirements to ensure the validity of outcomes.
World Science Forum 2017 Jordan issues Science for Peace Declaration
On behalf of the coordinating organizations responsible for delivering the World Science Forum Jordan, the concluding Science for Peace Declaration issued at the Dead Sea represents a global call for action to science and society to build a future that promises greater equality, security and opportunity for all, and in which science plays an increasingly prominent role as an enabler of fair and sustainable development.
PETA science group promotes animal-free science at society of toxicology conference
The PETA International Science Consortium Ltd. is presenting two posters on animal-free methods for testing inhalation toxicity at the 56th annual Society of Toxicology (SOT) meeting March 12 to 16, 2017, in Baltimore, Maryland.
Citizen Science in the Digital Age: Rhetoric, Science and Public Engagement
James Wynn's timely investigation highlights scientific studies grounded in publicly gathered data and probes the rhetoric these studies employ.
Science/Science Careers' survey ranks top biotech, pharma, and biopharma employers
The Science and Science Careers' 2016 annual Top Employers Survey polled employees in the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical, and related industries to determine the 20 best employers in these industries as well as their driving characteristics.
Three natural science professors win TJ Park Science Fellowship
Professor Jung-Min Kee (Department of Chemistry, UNIST), Professor Kyudong Choi (Department of Mathematical Sciences, UNIST), and Professor Kwanpyo Kim (Department of Physics, UNIST) are the recipients of the Cheong-Am (TJ Park) Science Fellowship of the year 2016.
More Science News and Science Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Uncharted
There's so much we've yet to explore–from outer space to the deep ocean to our own brains. This hour, Manoush goes on a journey through those uncharted places, led by TED Science Curator David Biello.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#556 The Power of Friendship
It's 2020 and times are tough. Maybe some of us are learning about social distancing the hard way. Maybe we just are all a little anxious. No matter what, we could probably use a friend. But what is a friend, exactly? And why do we need them so much? This week host Bethany Brookshire speaks with Lydia Denworth, author of the new book "Friendship: The Evolution, Biology, and Extraordinary Power of Life's Fundamental Bond". This episode is hosted by Bethany Brookshire, science writer from Science News.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dispatch 2: Every Day is Ignaz Semmelweis Day
It began with a tweet: "EVERY DAY IS IGNAZ SEMMELWEIS DAY." Carl Zimmer – tweet author, acclaimed science writer and friend of the show – tells the story of a mysterious, deadly illness that struck 19th century Vienna, and the ill-fated hero who uncovered its cure ... and gave us our best weapon (so far) against the current global pandemic. This episode was reported and produced with help from Bethel Habte and Latif Nasser. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.