Ventilation heterogeneity in asthma, COPD and asthma-COPD overlap: oscillometry and pulmonary MRI

Airways disease is a hallmark finding in both asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Although tobacco cigarette smoking is the largest known cause of COPD, recent studies have revealed that 10% of patients with life-long asthma may develop COPD later in life without ever smoking. The mechanisms underlying asthma transition to COPD are unknown. To better understand this transition, this proposal will use 129Xe magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT) imaging and oscillometry to measure airway abnormalities in patients with asthma, COPD, and asthma-COPD overlap. These measurements will provide a better understanding of airway abnormalities that contribute to development of COPD in these patients with asthma. COPD is the most common cause of hospital admission in Canada and treatment costs in BC alone are estimated to be over $600M/year. The results generated from this proposal may identify new ways to treat COPD or halt its development in patient with asthma, contributing to reduced hospital admissions and costs related to COPD.


End of Award Update – March 2024



With the emergence of long COVID, we pivoted our novel lung imaging methods to investigate the lungs of people who experienced COVID-19 infection with persisting, long term symptoms over 1-year after infection. In collaboration with colleagues at the University of Kansas Medical Center and Duke University, we created a multi-centre dataset of patients with long COVID to better understand how long COVID may differ across different patients. We used xenon gas magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to measure how effectively the lungs of patients with long COVID were performing gas exchange (the main function of the lungs). Our results showed that there are 4 different sub-types of long COVID that have different lung abnormalities. We anticipate that the xenon MRI results can be used to help determine appropriate treatment for patients experiencing long COVID.



In our centre, the xenon MRI results have been used to help determine appropriate for different patients with long COVID. Our results uncover the lung-specific abnormalities that are related to long COVID.


Potential Influence

We anticipate these results will help to better understand and classify patients with long COVID, towards appropriate treatment and alleviating patient symptoms.


Next Steps

We are using similar xenon MRI methods to investigate other forms of lung exposures including cigarette smoking, cannabis smoking, and vaping.


Useful Links