LONDON: Polarean Imaging plc (AIM: POLX), the medical‑imaging technology company, with an investigational drug‑device combination product using hyperpolarised 129xenon gas to enhance magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in pulmonary medicine, and Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (“OUH”) announce that they have entered into a research collaboration to study the long-term effects of COVID-19 in patients who are still experiencing difficulty breathing months after the virus infection is gone, as part of the upcoming EXPLAIN study.
Under the terms of the collaboration, Polarean will provide its investigational xenon polariser system to OUH for their research. In turn, OUH will work with Polarean to optimise the imaging workflow and analyse the datasets coming from the newly enrolling EXPLAIN study. Through novel analyses of gas-exchange images, Polarean and OUH hope to better characterise long COVID and improve patient care.
129Xenon MRI imaging technology uses a novel approach that can detect functional changes of the lung that impact its ability to properly handle the exchange of gases during inhalation and exhalation. The upcoming research builds upon the pioneering work conducted at OUH showing that hyperpolarised xenon MRI can detect underlying damage that is not detectable by traditional lung imaging, such as CT scans.
Prof Fergus Gleeson, Professor of Radiology at the University of Oxford and Consultant Radiologist at OUH, said: “We are pleased to be working with Polarean, now having access to their most advanced hyperpolarised xenon equipment. With this new system, we will be able to image increased numbers of patients more efficiently to see if we can uncover the underlying causes driving long COVID as part of our EXPLAIN study.”
Richard Hullihen, CEO of Polarean, said: “Oxford University is a leading pioneer in the use of 129Xe MRI to unravel the underlying pathophysiology that drives persistent breathlessness in patients with long COVID. We are delighted to collaborate with them on new image analyses as part of the upcoming EXPLAIN trial that might shed additional light on the mysterious illness that has been affecting a growing number of patients over the past few years and affecting their quality of life.”
Long COVID is an umbrella term used to describe ongoing symptoms following COVID-19 infection after four weeks. Symptoms are wide-ranging but breathlessness is one of the most common and can persist for months after the initial infection. Investigations including Computed Tomography (CT) and physiological measurements (lung function tests) can often be unremarkable.
The mechanisms driving breathlessness remain unclear, and this may be hindering the development of effective treatments. Therefore, new diagnostic modalities are crucial to advance the care of these patients.