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01.12.2014 | Research | Sonderheft 2/2014 Open Access

Journal of Translational Medicine 2/2014

Computational modeling of the obstructive lung diseases asthma and COPD

Journal of Translational Medicine > Sonderheft 2/2014
Kelly Suzanne Burrowes, Tom Doel, Chris Brightling
Wichtige Hinweise

Competing interests

CB has received grant income and consultancy from GSK, AZ/MedImmune, Novartis, Chiesi, Roche/Genentech and BI. KSB and TD have no competing interests.

Authors' contributions

KSB developed the plan for the manuscript and provided expertise and text on computational modeling aspects within the paper and the AirPROM project. TD provided expertise and text on image-based techniques. CB provided expertise in respiratory medicine and the AirPROM project. All authors were involved in editing the final manuscript.,'


Asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are characterized by airway obstruction and airflow limitation and pose a huge burden to society. These obstructive lung diseases impact the lung physiology across multiple biological scales. Environmental stimuli are introduced via inhalation at the organ scale, and consequently impact upon the tissue, cellular and sub-cellular scale by triggering signaling pathways. These changes are propagated upwards to the organ level again and vice versa. In order to understand the pathophysiology behind these diseases we need to integrate and understand changes occurring across these scales and this is the driving force for multiscale computational modeling.
There is an urgent need for improved diagnosis and assessment of obstructive lung diseases. Standard clinical measures are based on global function tests which ignore the highly heterogeneous regional changes that are characteristic of obstructive lung disease pathophysiology. Advances in scanning technology such as hyperpolarized gas MRI has led to new regional measurements of ventilation, perfusion and gas diffusion in the lungs, while new image processing techniques allow these measures to be combined with information from structural imaging such as Computed Tomography (CT). However, it is not yet known how to derive clinical measures for obstructive diseases from this wealth of new data. Computational modeling offers a powerful approach for investigating this relationship between imaging measurements and disease severity, and understanding the effects of different disease subtypes, which is key to developing improved diagnostic methods.
Gaining an understanding of a system as complex as the respiratory system is difficult if not impossible via experimental methods alone. Computational models offer a complementary method to unravel the structure-function relationships occurring within a multiscale, multiphysics system such as this. Here we review the current state-of-the-art in techniques developed for pulmonary image analysis, development of structural models of the respiratory system and predictions of function within these models. We discuss application of modeling techniques to obstructive lung diseases, namely asthma and emphysema and the use of models to predict response to therapy. Finally we introduce a large European project, AirPROM that is developing multiscale models to investigate structure-function relationships in asthma and COPD.

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