UCLouvain - FNRS
" We intend to evaluate the applicability of muon tomography for rapid and non-invasive monitoring of lung status in patients with acute pneumonia. This enhances treatment and helps to manage the flow of patients in an epidemic situation. Muons are elementary particles, freely and naturally produced in cosmic-rays interactions in the upper atmosphere. A collaboration has recently been set up between the muon tomography group of UCLouvain, the University of Tartu (UT), the National Institute for Chemical Physics and Biophysics (NICTP) in Tallinn, and the start-up company GScan, to study a new approach in muon tomography. Although originally developed for the detection of explosives and drugs in luggage-size objects (patent application PCT / EP2019 / 055333, deposited by the Estonian partners), we have indications that this method can be used to assess the lung status of covid-19 patients. The advantages of the method are: it is sensitive to material and density, there are no radiation protection limitations, long scanning times or frequent scanning schemes can be safely operated; portable systems can be designed. A prototype tomography system has already been built in Estonia, and the relevant simulation and analysis algorithms (including ML algorithms for imaging and intelligent classification) have been developed. Therefore, a feasibility study could be quickly set up to assess applicability of the method for discerning a healthy from an unhealthy lung, in collaboration with East-Tallinn Central Hospital. Limitations: Statistics is, in general, a limiting factor in muon tomography, meaning that good resolutions generally demand long exposure times. As the exposure time must be realistically limited to O(10'), the achievable resolution cannot compete with CT scans, MRI, or ultrasounds. Nevertheless, muon tomography has some advantages: - cost is much inferior to CT and MRI, and in the same ballpark of ultrasounds; - no radiation is involved (differently from CT), hence making it appropriate for children or pregnant women and allowing several scans to be made for the same patient; - differently from ultrasounds, operators would not need a high level of training before being able to interpret the outcome of the scan. "
Funding: We are looking for additional funding.
Publication References: General description of the imaging method (but not including this specific application): "Atmospheric muons as an imaging tool", L. Bonechi, R. D'Alessandro, A. Giammanco. arXiv:1906.03934 [physics.ins-det]; Reviews in Physics 5 (2020) 100038. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.revip.2020.100038 About the detection system: Patent application PCT / EP2019 / 055333
Andrea Giammanco, FNRS Senior Research Associate
UCLouvain - FNRS