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How a ‘Lung Atlas’ Could Prevent Rejection
In a world where there are no blank spaces left on the map, it can feel like there is nothing left to explore. No new continents to discover. While every corner of the globe seems to be mapped within an inch of its life, many parts of our own body remain a mystery. Enter the research scientist: the new explorers of our age.
Dr Brendan O’Sullivan’s latest expedition is to map the cell types that make up our lungs. “The problem at the moment is no-one knows what the different cell types are within the lung” Dr O’Sullivan said. “It can make it difficult for physicians to diagnose lung transplant rejections when the different cell types and their functions are not fully understood”.
Creating a ‘Lung Atlas’ is the first stage of a larger research project in developing a way to suppress the immune system in lung transplant patients. Currently, 50% of lung transplant patients experience rejection within 5 years of surgery. Part of the problem is the immunosuppressant drugs that post-transplant patients take to prevent lung rejection. Because of these drugs, the patients may have a higher risk of developing skin cancers, lymphoma and other sorts of cancers.
From Dr O’Sullivan’s research, it is hoped that lung rejection could be prevented through the delivery of nanoparticles to the lungs using an aerosol spray. It could also be possible for diagnostic labs to be able to run quick, inexpensive tests using algorithms to detect infections and lung transplant rejections earlier.
As the research progresses, more patient samples are being collected to help to fill in the blank spaces on the ‘Lung Atlas’. Like the explorers of old, researchers face a journey into the unknown with the chance to change the world. The Common Good supports the work of Dr O’Sullivan on his expedition towards improving the quality of life and survival rates for patients with incurable lung disease. Learn more: https://www.thecommongood.org.au/