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Release issued 20th November 2009
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a respiratory disease commonly known as chronic bronchitis or emphysema, is the fourth leading cause of death worldwide, but a University of Western Ontario researcher is providing new insight into the disease.
With 600 million people living with COPD, researchers have yet to find any real treatment or cure. However, Grace Parraga of Robarts Research Institute is using various imaging techniques to learn more about the diease. The World Health Organization officially recognized World COPD Day on Wednesday.
Parraga is a scientist in the Imaging Research Laboratories at Robarts and recently recruited to the Departments of Medical Biophysics, Graduate Program in Biomedical Engineering, Medical Imaging and Oncology at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry.
Currently, Parraga and her collaborators at Western including Drs. David McCormack, Rob McFadden, Roya Etemad-Rezai and Giles Santyr hold two large grants valued at $2.5 million from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) in collaboration with the world-renowned Vancouver James Hogg Centre at St. Paul's Hospital to characterize COPD using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and to compare three different types of lung imaging in COPD patients over time.
"The idea is that if we can understand the structural and functional imaging changes that happen over time, we can start to understand the patients in a different way, with the potential to change the way they are treated," says Parraga.
Parraga and her collaborators believe that two major COPD groups exist: those with dysfunctional airways, and those with lung tissue damage. She says current methods of evaluating COPD don't consider the differences imaging methods can detect and therefore these often are not predictive of how patients feel and how their disease progresses.
The London-Vancouver collaboration directly addresses this shortcoming to lead the way in helping to categorize COPD patients using computed tomography (CT), MRI, and optical coherence tomography, to help improve patient treatment.
Parraga's research uses a nation-wide interdisciplinary collaboration, a unique lung imaging core facility and a unique capability to image lungs to make an impact on the millions suffering from the disease.
Their collaborative work was also recently recognized by the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) that awarded one her graduate students in Medical Biophysics (Hassaan Ahmed) the prestigious RSNA Trainee Prize.
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