Xenon MRI could help treat patients with lung disease

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The use of Xenon gas as an imaging agent during an MRI scan could help facilitate treatment for patients with asthma and chronic lung diseases, such as lung fibrosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, according to researchers at the University of Nottingham in England.

The technique involves the use of Xenon 129 gas, which is hyperpolarized with lasers, making its particles detectable in a MR scanner. The gas would be given to the patient to inhale and will show up clearly in an MRI scan, the investigators reported. The approach has been used before with helium but, according to researchers, helium is difficult to obtain and unsuitable for the clinic, whereas Xenon 129 is much easier to obtain.

According to the researchers, the technique should give physicians a detailed picture of the damaged and healthy areas of lungs and show the gas being absorbed into the bloodstream, which may give physicians a better idea of how well different parts of the lungs are transferring oxygen.

The researchers--led by Ian Hall, DM, from the division of therapeutics and molecular medicine at the University of Nottingham, Queens Medical Centre, and Peter Morris, PhD, director of the Peter Mansfield MRI Centre in Nottingham--said the scans could be used to guide treatment or guide surgeons performing lung reduction operations.