Respiratory infections and diseases are some of the most common medical conditions in the world and are a leading cause of chronic ill-health. At the moment we have to rely on investigations such as x-rays and blood tests to help guide us and let us understand the processes that may be occurring in the deep areas of the lung. Hence, more accurate ways of assessing what is going on in the deep parts of the lung, to provide better treatment and diagnosis of lung disease, are desperately needed.
Molecular imaging offers the opportunity to immediately and directly visualise underlying problems within the lung, with the potential to rationalise or re-direct therapy. Given the limitations of existing approaches, this technology could revolutionise the way clinicians address certain conditions of the lung and provide a bedside solution to a very real clinical problem. To date, we have developed a programme of clinical research which includes the imaging of bacterial infections, lung scarring and cancer.
So far, our imaging agents (BAC ONE, BAC TWO, FIB ONE and NAP) have been delivered directly into the lung at very low concentrations and have been able to specifically detect their target within sixty seconds, thereby ‘lighting up’ the lung. Our early clinical studies using these agents have all shown that bedside pulmonary molecular imaging is both safe and feasible. Our novel endomicroscopy platform has also been clinically tested in a small number of patients and can image the delicate architecture of the distal lung and detect the presence of active enzymes in fibrotic lung tissue.