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May 23, 2021

Highlights: COVID-19: Inflammation and Molecular Imaging Workshop

- By Jacqueline Wheeler

Professor Dr Franz Pfeiffer brought news of dark-field X-ray imaging of the lungs from TUM

There are indications that the world is emerging from the pandemic. However, some countries are still struggling with soaring case rates and shortages of the vital vaccines and treatments that can prevent suffering and death. Last week’s Covid-19: Inflammation and Molecular Imaging Workshop looked beyond the current remedies to the important scientific advances that will help all our nations back to normality.

Dr York Haemisch, Director Medical and Research Markets, reports:

“Dr Anthony Fauci opened the conference with a detailed introduction to the pandemic, its history and the statistics, as well as the lessons learned to date. Leading Italian experts in their fields followed with talks on the origin and evolution of SARS-COV-2, the vaccination and treatment options and recent developments. There was an exploration of the characterisation of COVID-19 as a systemic disease, the immunology principles governing its spread and how it is combatted and fascinating insights into the mathematics and statistics of a pandemic.

An immense amount of work is being done on COVID-19 internationally, and these talks provided a concise yet comprehensive and up-to-date description of what COVID-19 is and where we stand with the pandemic globally. I’ve rarely learnt so much in such a short time.

Professor Dr Franz Pfeiffer made an impact with his overview of multiple imaging options to diagnose and characterise COVID-19, during which he drew attention to developments at his clinical trials of dark-field X-ray imaging – a form of phase contrast imaging – of the lungs of COVID patients at TUM (Technical University of Munich). Many attendees were completely unaware that inflammation could be imaged, and even quantified, using an X-ray based imaging method. There was particular acknowledgement of the work of Professor Pfeiffer’s group in quantifying and verifying the degree of lung inflammation by confirming the imaging results with histology. And the fact that patients are exposed to a relatively low doses of radiation was seen as especially remarkable.

I heard murmurs of  “a fantastic talk” and “absolutely relevant and encouragingly surprising”, which give a sense of how significant Professor Pfeiffer’s work is.

The TUM team are planning to use photon counting detector technology to further enhance dose efficiency and accuracy.”