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Experiments Increase Understanding of Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease

By Bengt Kayser, M.D., Ph.D.
Research Fellow, McGill University
Montreal, Quebec


Researchers at McGill University have gained a better understanding of chronic obstructive lung disease through experiments they performed that induce pulmonary hyperinflation in healthy test subjects. The experiments demonstrated that discomfort experienced by lung disease sufferers is closely related to their inability to empty their lungs during expiration, which increases the effort required for inspiration. During the experiments, the researchers found that Origin™, a technical graphics and data analysis software from OriginLab Corporation (formerly Microcal™ Software, Inc.), allowed them to quickly visualize and analyze their data.

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1) This figure shows the evolution over time of absolute lung volume during an exercise under expiratory flow limitation from a starting resistor. The numbered swings indicate full inspirations and expirations allowing it to moniter shifts in the base line due to CO2 retention in the body.

In an effort to reduce breathing difficulties in suffers of chronic obstructive lung disease, researchers began experiments to help develop new breathing techniques and exercises to strengthen the upper body. Since actual chronic obstructive lung disease patients could not be used in these experiments, a starling resistor was used in healthy test subjects to induce pulmonary hyperinflation. The experiments showed that the discomfort lung disease sufferers experience is related to an increase in end-expiratory lung volume.

Extensive instrumentation was used to monitor the test subjects’ breathing patterns during the course of the experiments. The researchers also monitored the test subjects in a variety of exercise conditions. It was important that they were able to both acquire and analyze data on a laptop computer so that these exercises were not limited to being performed in the laboratory.

When the experiments began, the researchers were using an MS-DOS-based data acquisition software. There were difficulties in that each file had to be converted to ASCII format for analysis in a separate data analysis package. After examination of other data acquisition and data analysis packages, the McGill researchers discovered a software package that suited their needs for extensive acquisition and analysis capabilities. The use of Origin made it possible for researchers to immediately begin viewing, plotting and analyzing data while the experiments were taking place.

Overall, the ability to acquire and analyze data and generate graphics from within a single software package helped the researchers at McGill University collect and analyze the data for their experiments in far less time than they had previously experienced.


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