X-rays offer insights into how COVID-19 damages the lungs

by Mohammed Arafat

Monday 21st of February 2022

X-rays offer insights into how COVID-19 damages the lungs


An international team has used high-resolution X-ray to capture details of COVID-19 lung damage. Their method - called Hierarchical Phase Contrast Tomography (HiP-CT) - relies on X-rays from the European Synchrotron Research Facility particle accelerator in Grenoble, France. Following its development of the Most Outstanding Source (ESRF-EBS), the European Synchrotron can produce 100 billion times more X-rays than hospital X-rays. They are the brightest X-rays in the world, according to researchers.

The result is that researchers are able to look at blood vessels that have up to five microns in diameter - one-tenth of the volume of hair - in a fully functional human lung. The small size is 100 times smaller than the 1 mm-diameter blood vessels that can be taken by a clinical CT scan.

"The ability to see organs in scales like these will be a turning point in medical thinking," said Claire Walsh of University College London Mechanical Engineering in a November 2021 news release. (National Geographic recently unveiled the work.)

“As we begin to integrate our HiP-CT images into clinical images using AI techniques, we will be able - for the first time - to accurately verify the subtle findings in clinical images. To understand the state of the human body, this is also a very interesting process; being able to see the elements of 3D in their proper place is the key to understanding how our bodies are made and how they function."

Paul Taffeau, a leading scientist at ESRF, described the project as a real achievement. "The ESRF-EBS has allowed us to move beyond the details of archeology to the human body as never before."

For example, HiP-CT has enabled researchers to determine the severity of Covid-19 infection by “blocking” the blood between the capillaries that supply oxygen to the blood and those that supply the lung tissue itself. Scientists had speculated that such a connection would occur and that it would prevent blood flow. But as far as HiP-CT imaging, they have not proven that.

“By combining our molecular mechanisms with HiP-CT imaging multiscale in the lungs affected by COVID-19 pneumonia, we have gained new insights into how blood clots between the two lung systems occur in the damaged lungs of Covid-19, and their effects. has high levels of oxygen in our circulatory system, ”says Danny Jonigk, a professor of Thoracic Pathology at Hannover Medical School in Germany.

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