Doctors at the Universities of Nottingham and Leicester are collaborating in the use of a magnetic resonance technique to image and quantify the air spaces inside the lungs—and the results of their research may lead to a link between childhood disease and later degenerative lung disease. There are relatively few centres around the world which have access to this particular magnetic resonance technique, which is based at The University of Nottingham. Researchers at the University of Leicester have recruited a cohort of 10,000 children—the largest to focus on respiratory illnesses in childhood. The two research groups have combined forces, with a joint grant from the Wellcome Trust.
The method relies on the fact that certain noble gases, which are relatively rare in the atmosphere and are very un-reactive, can be detected by magnetic resonance methods when hyper-polarized in a very strong laser beam. Tests involve individuals inhaling a very small quantity—in this case 10ml or two teaspoons—of the hyperpolarized helium-3 gas. This technique provides the key to unlock a whole new area of research in the field of lung development.
This is quite different from the magnetic resonance scans that are now commonplace in British hospitals. However, all magnetic resonance techniques function without the use of radioactive substances or ionising radiation. They are thus very safe, have no known side effects and are ideal for research into childhood illness.
Release date: December 13, 2007
Source: The University of Nottingham
Filed Under: Drug Discovery