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High-energy X-rays show lung vessels altered by Covid-19

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London, Nov 5 (IANS) Using high-energy X-rays, scientists have found how Covid-19 damages even the smallest blood vessels in human lungs.

Scientists from University College London and the European Synchrotron Research Facility (ESRF) used a new revolutionary imaging technology called Hierarchical Phase-Contrast Tomography (HiP-CT), to scan donated human organs, including lungs from a Covid-19 donor.

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Using HiP-CT, the research team saw how severe Covid-19 infection ‘shunts’ blood between the two separate systems — the capillaries which oxygenate the blood and those which feed the lung tissue itself.

Such cross-linking stops the patient’s blood from being properly oxygenated, which was previously hypothesised but not proven, said the team in the paper published in the journal Nature Methods.

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“By combining our molecular methods with the HiP-CT multiscale imaging in lungs affected by Covid-19 pneumonia, we gained a new understanding how shunting between blood vessels in a lung’s two vascular systems occurs in Covid-19 injured lungs, and the impact it has on oxygen levels in our circulatory system,” said Danny Jonigk, Professor of Thoracic Pathology, at Hannover Medical School, Germany.

The HiP-CT technique provides the brightest source of X-rays in the world at 100 billion times brighter than a hospital X-ray.

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Due to this intense brilliance, researchers can view blood vessels five microns in diametre (a tenth of the diametre of a hair) in an intact human lung, whereas a clinical CT scan only resolves blood vessels that are about 100 times larger, around 1mm in diametre.

The UCL-led team is now planning to use HiP-CT to produce a Human Organ Atlas. This will display six donated control organs: brain, lung, heart, two kidneys and a spleen, and the lung of a patient who died of Covid-19. There will also be a control lung biopsy and a Covid-19 lung biopsy. The Atlas will be available online for surgeons, clinicians and the interested public.

The researchers believe that the scale-bridging imaging from whole organ down to cellular level could provide additional insights into many diseases such as cancer or Alzheimer’s Disease.

–IANS

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