Wind Tunnel Technology Fights Lung Disease
Headquartered in Westlake Village, CA, 4DX developed a medical technology that has the capacity to simply, safely, and effectively view lung air flow function in fine detail.
Andreas Fouras, CEO of 4DX, and a mechanical engineer by training, is behind this innovation. While working at a major university in Australia in wind tunnel research, Fouras (Figure 4) developed an imaging method where they could actually see the way air was flowing over aircraft models. He saw how this technology could benefit the medical industry for lung diseases, like asthma, cystic fibrosis (CF), and COPD.
Fouras says, “Spirometry tests how much air a patient can forcefully exhale, but doesn’t show which lung regions are most affected. The very closest the poor lungs get to high-tech today is the CT scan, but X-rays and CT scans are best for solid things, and even MRI’s are best for moist subject areas. The lungs are basically air, a non-solid and non-aqua gas.”
“We turned to machine tool scanning technology as a means to make lung scans better. A CT scanner has some built-in problems, so we thought, what’s faster and has less radiation, and actually, it’s the old X-ray machine. It’s pretty fast, low cost, and low radiation. So, we decided to build technology on top of that concept.”
Talking to doctors around the world, Fouras discovered that what they were truly interested in was airflow. “For a wind tunnel engineer, I saw this as the natural next step for the technology. On top of how we monitored the lungs movement, we added technology to show where the air is going, not going, where it’s getting quickly, and where it takes a long time to get to. When we showed doctors that capability, they loved it and wanted to get involved.”
Fouras adds, “The biggest challenge was if you can measure something that nobody else has ever been able to measure, how do you prove that you are measuring that? To test it outside of a hospital, we had to build a mass X-ray machine and a breathing human lung; a robotic humanoid. Then, we put this robotic lung into an X-ray scan and used this as proof that the technology worked.”
4DX has been doing a number of clinical trials for two years and are expecting that they will have enough clinical data by the end of 2018 to take the product to the FDA. “We hope to have 501k clearance by the early part of 2019. But, a number of US hospitals are already using our technology even though we don’t have the FDA clearance, which is exciting. When we have the clearance, we plan to substantially expand within the US and across the world.”