Multimodal characterization of airway remodeling with label-free nonlinear optical imaging

Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research/AllerGen Post-Doctoral Fellowship Award

The number of Canadians who will die from asthma is estimated at 200 per year and over 3 million suffer daily with the disease. A better understanding of the disease could give rise to more effective treatments.

Within the normal lung, collagen and elastin fibers provide the structural components of the airways. In asthmatic airways, the collagen and elastin fibers are disorganized and more collagen accumulates within the airway, making the airway more narrow and harder to breath through.

We will use nonlinear optical microscopy (NLOM) to understand the changes in the three-dimentional structure of the airways' elastin and collagen fibres that occur within asthma. Additionally, we will observe changes that occur inside these fibers by transmission electron microscopy (TEM).

Thus, if collagen were a "rope", we would be taking images of this rope with NLOM, and then images of each thread that composes the rope with TEM. To study the spatial distribution of the "ropes" and the ratio of collagen to elastin in asthmatic airway tissue, we will use textural analysis.

This study will give rise to results that could aid researchers in developing better asthma therapies, this improving the quality of life for millions of asthma patients.