Animation Technology Borrowed from Hollywood Launches Fantastic Voyage

NIH Awards $4 Million to Children's Hospital Los Angeles to Map Developing Lung

Released: 23-Jun-2014 2:00 PM EDT
Source Newsroom: Children's Hospital Los Angeles Saban Research Institute
Contact Information

Available for logged-in reporters only

Citations U01HL122681

Researchers from The Saban Research Institute of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles are employing state-of-the-art animation technology, in combination with advanced optical imaging and high-resolution
x-ray imaging techniques, to map the developing human lung.

To view animation, go to: ResearCHLAblog.org

Children’s Hospital Los Angeles has been awarded $4 million over five years by the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) for LungMAP, an atlas that details newborn lungs in four dimensions, and enables investigators to discover new approaches to the care of premature infants.

The fetal lung is one of the last organs of the body to become fully functional. Development of the alveolus –tiny air sacs in the lungs where oxygen and carbon dioxide are exchanged– remains the critical factor in newborn viability as well as the origin of many childhood breathing disorders.

By employing digital image processing techniques, high-resolution scans of real lung tissues can be converted into video. According to the scientists, this novel technology will allow them to explore the composition and interaction of cells in the developing lung and to follow how the processes evolve over time.

“Human alveolar development is currently a ‘black box’ because of the challenges of being able to see alveoli as they grow,” said principal investigator David Warburton, OBE, DSc, MD, MMM, director of the Developmental Biology and Regenerative Medicine program at The Saban Research Institute. “Using newly optimized visualization technology we can now perform a ‘virtual bronchoscopy’ that begins in the bronchus and allows us to peer into the alveolus.”

Alveolarization begins in humans at 20 to 24 weeks gestation and continues until at least age 7. To date, much of the information about this process has come from studying histological sections of lung. The LungMAP project will acquire information from the living, functioning lung. Using novel imaging technologies, the Saban researchers will create a high-resolution, four-dimensional map that catalogs the molecular, genetic and cellular events occurring during alveolar development in mice and humans.

This video-based methodology will allow researchers to easily visualize fine details of the lung, enabling observation of the overall topography of the airway as well as revealing information about the surfaces of individual cells. The result is what co-investigator Rex Moats, PhD, calls a “Google street view” of addresses in the lung to be explored. The goal is for this map to be interactive in the same way that Google maps functions, Moats said.

“Our objectives are to radically transform our understanding of the formation of the gas exchange surface in the human lung, find new approaches to the care of premature infants, and to develop a better understanding of the numerous childhood- and adult-onset lung diseases,” said Warburton.
Co-investigators and collaborators on the project include Warburton, Moats, Scott Fraser, PhD, Wei Shi, MD, PhD, Rusty Lansford, PhD, Andreas Fouras, PhD, Barbara Driscoll, PhD and David Koos, PhD.

LungMAP is a national collaboration of six sites including Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Duke University and University of Rochester, working to produce information that can be openly accessed and shared by the research community, disease advocates and interested members of the public. This research is supported by NIH grant number 1U01HL122681.

About Children’s Hospital Los Angeles
Children's Hospital Los Angeles has been named the best children’s hospital on the West Coast and among the top five in the nation for clinical excellence with its selection to the prestigious U.S. News & World Report Honor Roll. Children’s Hospital is home to The Saban Research Institute, one of the largest and most productive pediatric research facilities in the United States. Children’s Hospital is also one of America's premier teaching hospitals through its affiliation since 1932 with the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California.

For more information, visit CHLA.org. Follow us on our blog http://researchlablog.org/.

Media Contact: Ellin Kavanagh, ekavanagh@chla.usc.edu
(323) 361-1812


Comment/Share