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3-D Imaging and Computer Model of the Respiratory Tract

Rick Corley, Principal Investigator


Scientists are developing 3-D, biologically based models of the respiratory tracts of animals and humans to improve our ability to predict the consequences of airborne pollutants or drugs intentionally administered by inhalation for normal or potentially sensitive populations.

Funding Agency: National Institutes of Health, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

The respiratory tract is one of the main interfaces between the body and the environment. Its major structural components are designed to maximize gas exchange and provide sensory input. As such, the respiratory tract can become a target for a broad range of airborne environmental agents contributing to an expansive array of human diseases. Alterations in the structure or function of the respiratory system by diseases can dramatically affect the interface with the environment and alter quality of life. To improve our ability to predict the dosimetry and, thus, the consequences of airborne pollutants (e.g., gases, vapors, particulates, or atmospheric releases of chemical and/or biological weapons) or drugs intentionally administered by inhalation for normal or potentially sensitive populations, the 3-D Imaging and Computer Model of the Respiratory Tract project team is developing three-dimensional (3-D), biologically based models of the respiratory tracts of animals and humans. The cross-disciplinary team is comprised of mathematicians, physicists, chemists, and biologists at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and collaborating institutions, and their specific aims are to:

  • develop and apply magnetic resonance imaging and fluorescent microsphere techniques to determine the dynamic, 3-D structural and functional properties of the respiratory tract
  • determine the 3-D cellular organization and metabolic capacity
  • develop and extend software and computational capabilities for 3-D modeling and upscaling techniques for cellular-to-organ model integration
  • develop a normalized atlas of rat geometries with explicit measures of variability
  • conduct in vivo gas exchange and particulate dosimetry studies for model validation and identification of model uncertainties
  • provide a web-based pulmonary physiome platform for dissemination to and training of researchers and clinicians who use imaging and annotated model databases.

Five projects are designed to provide the necessary data on the dynamic structure and function of the respiratory system for the development and validation of the computational models. To support these five projects, three technology development cores are being established: (1) advanced imaging, (2) computation, and (3) database and modeling access as well as training for external users. A fourth core will serve as an administrative interface and will provide statistical support among the participating institutions and projects.

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