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New lab tests help doctors treat lung diseases

Category: General Health

Developments to Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans could soon provide more precise testing and better treatment to sufferers of chronic lung disease and asthma, research suggests.

An MRI research unit is being built at the University of Nottingham to allow researchers to study respiratory diseases and examine new techniques in lung disease testing. The unit will include a specifically-adapted MRI scanner that allows doctors to virtually see into a patient's lungs.

One new screening technique involves administering to patients a specially-treated, harmless gas that shows up on MRI scans and maps health and damaged areas of the individual's lungs. The gas, Xenon 129, is "hyperpolarized" to make it detectible in scanning images.

Presently, doctors typically use X-rays or CT scans to examine lung disease, though these methods don't reveal details on the lungs functioning and expose patients to small amounts of radiation.

The project's leader, Dr Ian Hall from The Nottingham medical school commented, "We are very excited to try and develop hyperpolarized xenon MRI as the diagnostic and therapeutic monitoring tool of choice for lung-related diseases in the future."

The new MRI unit will be used to study diseases like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report affected 9.8 million Americans last year.

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