Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, have developed approaches to visualize the responses of eosinophils cells, which play a central role in causing asthma.  The researchers are now able to noninvasively visualize the responses in the lungs and airways of mice with a disease that mimics asthma, called experimental allergic airway inflammation. They hope that these approaches might be developed to help assess the efficacy of treatments for asthma.

Following injection of an optical sensor that targets proteins produced by eosinophils known as MMPs, the team of researchers visualized eosinophils at single-cell resolution using various molecular imaging technologies (near-infrared fluorescence fiber optic bronchoscopy, intravital microscopy, and fluorescence-mediated tomography). Using a combination of the sensitive optical sensor and fluorescence-mediated tomography, it was observed that dexamethasone (a drug used to treat severe asthma) decreased the number of eosinophils in the lungs of mice with allergic airway inflammation.

As some of the imaging techniques have the potential to be developed for the clinic, the authors suggest that in combination with an appropriate optical sensor they might improve our ability to diagnose asthma and assess treatment efficacy.