Using a new technique which enables high-resolution imaging of damaged lung tissues, scientists have found the changes caused due to severe corona virus in the structure of the organ’s blood vessels and air sacs, findings that might support the development of new treatment methods against the disease.
According to the study, published in the journal eLife, the scientists have developed a new X-ray technique which enables the high resolution and three-dimensional imaging of lung tissues infected with the novel Covid-19 SARS-CoV-2.
Using the novel method, the researchers, including those from the University of Gottingen in Germany, observed a significant changes in the blood vessels, inflammation, and a deposition of proteins and dead cells on the walls of the lungs’ tiny air sacs called alveoli.
They also said that these changes make gas exchange by the organ either difficult or impossible.
As per to the scientists, the new imaging approach allows these changes to be visualised for the first time in larger tissue volumes, without cutting and staining, or damaging the tissue.
They stated it is mainly suitable for tracing small blood vessels and their branches in three dimensions, localising cells of the immune systems present at inflammation sites, and measuring the thickness of the alveolar walls.
Due to the 3-dimensional reconstruction of the lung tissues, said researchers that the data could also be used to simulate gas exchange in the organ.
Since X-rays penetrate deep into tissue, scientists can use the method to understand the relation between the microscopic tissue structure and the larger function of an organ.
“Based on this first proof-of-concept study, we propose multi-scale phase contrast X-ray tomography as a tool to unravel the pathophysiology of COVID-19,” wrote the researchers in the study.
The scientists believe that the new technique will support the development of treatment methods, and medicines to prevent or alleviate severe lung damage in coronavirus, or to promote recovery.
“It is only when we can clearly see and understand what is really going on, that we can develop targeted interventions and drugs,” said a co-author of the study, Danny Jonigk from Medical University Hannover in Germany.