New research from the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) reveals that cells from an infant’s nose are similar to those found in the lungs, which is a discovery that may lead to a more precise diagnosis of RSV and other infant lung diseases. A URMC news release notes that the study provides a possible diagnosis that has challenged physicians as infants with respiratory disease are typically so fragile that attempting to obtain lung samples is unsafe. However, nasal cells can be captured through a simple nostril swab.

Also, the similarity of the nose cells to lung cells in regards to RNA patterns would allow physicians to get an accurate representation of how the lung is responding during disease states without a need for more invasive tests. The URMC news release indicates that the research also has promise for future studies because while scientists have made significant progress over the past several decades to better understand adult lung diseases, such as COPD, discovery has not been nearly as robust for infant diseases due to the risks involved in securing lung tissue.

The relative ease of obtaining nasal cells could accelerate the understanding of how infant lungs respond to RSV other diseases. While this research study examined 53 health infants as a means of establishing a benchmark for normal cell structure, researchers at URMC have already begun studying the nasal tissue of diseased infants and the early results are promising, reports URMC.

“An infant with RSV could potentially have their nasal cells tested to determine if they are among the small group that will develop a severe response that might require hospitalization,” says Thomas Mariani, PhD. “Additionally, we could potentially use this method to examine other at-risk infants, such as those born prematurely who face a greater risk for lung disease throughout life — and identify which of those children should be treated more aggressively.”

The research is conduced by URMC’s Respiratory Pathogens Research Center, which coordinates its work with the national Respiratory Pathogens Research Center network. Mariani, the lead author of the study, adds, “We’re actively working on studies in infants with lung diseases, and we’re showing quite clearly that we can identify differences between those with mild disease and those with more severe outcomes.”

Source: University of Rochester Medical Center