Team gets the beat, develops method of quantifying ciliary movement

August 5, 2015
Properties of ciliary motion (CM). (A) Schematic diagrams of CM subtypes to aid clinical diagnosis. (B) Stacked frames indicate still frames of the video of the CM biopsy, and the black box indicates the region of interest selected by the clinician. (C) Yellow arrows on the images from (B) indicate direction and magnitude of optical flow for a small region of the video for each pair of frames. (D) Changes in the optical flow are used to compute the elemental components. (Red arrows, optical flow at frame t; green arrows, optical flow at frame t + 1; blue arrows, optical flow at frame t + 2.) (E) Elemental components of rotation (top left), deformation (top right, bottom right), and divergence (bottom left; excluded from analysis), shown in a template form. Credit: Quinn et al., Science Translational Medicine (2015)

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine have figured out how to objectively quantify the beating action of cilia, the tiny, hair-like projections on cells that line nasal passages, the lungs and almost every other body tissue, according to a study published online today in Science Translational Medicine. Such digital signatures could help doctors more quickly and accurately diagnose ciliary motion (CM) defects, which can cause severe respiratory airway clearance defects and also developmental defects including congenital heart disease.

Currently, doctors try to identify CM defects using video-microscopy or indirectly via the examination of ultrastructural defects using electron microscopy. This usually entails analysis of cilia movement in respiratory cells obtained from nasal passages, explained senior investigator Chakra Chennubhotla, Ph.D., assistant professor of computational and systems biology, Pitt School of Medicine.

"Visual reviews like these can be subjective, time-consuming and error-prone," he said. "In this project, our team used computational methods to objectively and reliably identify CM defects."

The researchers used two independent data sets - one from Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC (CHP) and the other from Children's National Medical Center (CNMC) in Washington, D.C. - from healthy individuals as well as patients already diagnosed with either or primary ciliary dyskinesia (PCD) to identify the of normal and abnormal movement, accounting for factors such as how frequently the cilia beat back and forth, the breadth and rotation of their beat pattern, and their synchronicity.

The researchers then validated their technique by testing the patient samples in blind fashion, finding that the computational tool correctly identified more than 90 percent of PCD cases at CHP and all of the cases at CNMC. PCD is a rare condition in which the cilia are immotile or beat abnormally, leading to limitation of airway mucus clearance, compromised respiratory function and increased risk for lung infections and other bronchial problems.

Example of normal, healthy CM of nasal biopsy from a control patient. The cilia beat in synchronized waves with a forward power stroke followed by a slower recovery stroke. Credit: Quinn et al., Science Translational Medicine (2015)

"We hope to start a clinical trial in which doctors from around the country can upload a video of their patient's nasal lining to a website for assessment of ciliary motion with this technique," said co-investigator Cecilia Lo, Ph.D., Dr. F. Sargent Cheever Professor and chair of Developmental Biology, Pitt School of Medicine. "If successful, this approach may in the future serve as a rapid first-tier screen to identify at-risk patients."

Explore further: Team identifies mutations associated with development of congenital heart disease

More information: Automated identification of abnormal respiratory ciliary motion in nasal biopsies stm.sciencemag.org/lookup/doi/ … scitranslmed.aaa1233

Related Stories

Team identifies mutations associated with development of congenital heart disease

March 25, 2015
Fetal ultrasound exams on more than 87,000 mice that were exposed to chemicals that can induce random gene mutations enabled developmental biologists at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine to identify mutations ...

New technique provides novel approach to diagnosing ciliopathies

December 18, 2014
Cilia, the cell's tails and antennas, are among the most important biological structures. They line our windpipe and sweep away all the junk we inhale; they help us see, smell and reproduce. When a mutation disrupts the function ...

Zebrafish genes linked to human respiratory diseases

September 15, 2014
A small freshwater fish found in many tropical aquariums may hold the key to unlocking one of the leading causes of respiratory diseases in humans.

Genetic error linked to rare disease that causes chronic respiratory infections

October 16, 2012
(Medical Xpress)—Scanning the DNA of two people with a rare disease has led scientists to identify the precise genetic error responsible for their disorder, primary ciliary dyskinesia. 

Root of birth defects grounded in early embryonic development

November 14, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—The search for the cause of devastating birth defects has led Yale School of Medicine researchers to a key insight into the biology of embryonic development.

Recommended for you

Drug found that induces apoptosis in myofibroblasts reducing fibrosis in scleroderma

December 15, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—An international team of researchers has found that the drug navitoclax can induce apoptosis (self-destruction) in myofibroblasts in mice, reducing the spread of fibrosis in scleroderma. In their paper ...

How defeating THOR could bring a hammer down on cancer

December 14, 2017
It turns out Thor, the Norse god of thunder and the Marvel superhero, has special powers when it comes to cancer too.

Researchers track muscle stem cell dynamics in response to injury and aging

December 14, 2017
A new study led by researchers at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP) describes the biology behind why muscle stem cells respond differently to aging or injury. The findings, published in Cell Stem Cell, ...

'Human chronobiome' study informs timing of drug delivery, precision medicine approaches

December 13, 2017
Symptoms and efficacy of medications—and indeed, many aspects of the human body itself—vary by time of day. Physicians tell patients to take their statins at bedtime because the related liver enzymes are more active during ...

Study confirms link between the number of older brothers and increased odds of being homosexual

December 12, 2017
Groundbreaking research led by a team from Brock University has further confirmed that sexual orientation for men is likely determined in the womb.

Potassium is critical to circadian rhythms in human red blood cells

December 12, 2017
An innovative new study from the University of Surrey and Cambridge's MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, published in the prestigious journal Nature Communications, has uncovered the secrets of the circadian rhythms in ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.