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Fields & Applications Spectroscopy

The Phantom Lung

In recent decades, light-based technologies have grown in popularity among clinicians due to their ability to noninvasively provide detailed information on tissue functionality. In particular, gas in scattering media absorption spectroscopy (GASMAS) has emerged as a potentially useful tool for screening and monitoring respiratory conditions in neonates. However, the complexity of lung tissue – the alveoli in particular – has made it difficult to accurately study the technique’s feasibility for this application.

Andrea Pacheco and her team have managed to overcome this issue by creating an accurate lung tissue model with air-filled structures mimicking inflated alveoli. Their aim was to prove that GASMAS could successfully measure lung volume changes for neonatal respiratory care.

“We cannot go straight into the clinic and study GASMAS in patients,” says Pacheco. “Therefore, we have developed a set of multi-layer anthropomorphic and functional phantoms to understand the technical limitations and advantages of GASMAS in simulating a clinical environment.” Previous studies have looked at sensing the absorption imprint of H2O and O2 to quantify gas concentrations – but this is the first to sense volume changes directly. 

“I am optimistic and I’d like to see GASMAS systems in neonatal care units within the next few years, making the surveillance of preterm babies less traumatic,” says Pacheco. So what are the next steps? “After successfully completing tissue phantom studies, we are now starting a clinical study on healthy infants,” adds Stefan Andersson-Engels, co-author of the paper. “This will be the next step in assessing the possibilities of GASMAS. The plan is then to (for the first time) initiate studies on infants needing lung function monitoring.” After that, the challenge will be in studying the light penetration depth of GASMAS to scale it up for use in adults.

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  1. A Pacheco et al., J Biomed Optics, 27, 074707 (2021). DOI: 10.1117/1.JBO.27.7.074707.
About the Author
Lauren Robertson

By the time I finished my degree in Microbiology I had come to one conclusion – I did not want to work in a lab. Instead, I decided to move to the south of Spain to teach English. After two brilliant years, I realized that I missed science, and what I really enjoyed was communicating scientific ideas – whether that be to four-year-olds or mature professionals. On returning to England I landed a role in science writing and found it combined my passions perfectly. Now at Texere, I get to hone these skills every day by writing about the latest research in an exciting, creative way.

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