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11th March 2021 Cystic Fibrosis

4D lung health scanner to boost respiratory diagnoses

Animation picture of top half of body highlighting lungs

Revolutionary technology to better manage lung conditions

A revolutionary 4D scanner which will enhance the diagnosis of lung disease for billions of people globally, and in particular children, has been awarded prestigious Federal funding of $29 million to progress the technology.

The new scanners have been developed by Melbourne-based company 4DMedical and will be tested and validated by researchers from The University of Adelaide and SAHMRI (South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute), following the successful development of revolutionary lung-ventilation imaging (called LVAS) using standard hospital X-ray systems.

Earlier support from The Hospital Research Foundation (THRF) Group ($100,000), joining in with a range of other funders, allowed the core imaging equipment to be installed at the SAHMRI facility – a pivotal step in achieving the Federal funding.

The new scanner will be used in managing lung conditions such as cystic fibrosis, asthma and even COVID-19, establishing Australia at the forefront of lung science and kick-starting a high-value, high-tech industry.

Associate Professor David Parsons, who is leading the scanner’s research component here in Adelaide, said the innovative 4D scanner (called XVD) offered a multitude of advantages over existing devices in measuring lung disease.

“The LVAS and XVD lung imaging methods are the only analysis systems worldwide that can non-invasively measure airflow at any point in the lung,” A/Prof Parsons said.

“They are much safer than any existing devices to investigate the lung in detail, as they deliver a far lower dose of radiation (comparable to a chest X-ray), but also still provide higher detail and greater accuracy in the results.

“Future models will also be transportable, so it could be used in remote areas, at bushfires and for indigenous health needs. A scan is excepted to be completed in less than 10 seconds, while breathing normally.

“The high-detail resolution, similar to that of a CT scan, measures how the lung works, not just how it looks. These scanners really do combine the best features of existing technologies, in a safer and more accessible way.”

The technology will also allow for young children to access this advanced level of lung function measurement for the first time, and will lead to earlier diagnosis of lung conditions, personalised treatments and better monitoring of disease progression.

New funding success

The recently-announced Federal funding is part of the Frontier Health and Medical Research Initiative, which supports projects that explore the ‘most bold and exciting ideas that could have a dramatic, global impact on healthcare’.

A/Prof Parsons said the team could not have got to this point without the support of THRF Group, which in 2019 joined with the National Imaging Facility, the State Government, the University of Adelaide, the Women’s and Children’s Hospital (via HSCGB) and UniSA in co-funding the initial testing.

“The seed funding we received was critical in bringing the full imaging equipment platform into Adelaide, allowing us to conduct pre-clinical trials and demonstrate its efficacy,” A/Prof Parsons said.

“This technology will be a game-changer for chronic lung disease like cystic fibrosis, asthma and COPD, and we’re very excited to be moving it forward here in Adelaide.”