What can imaging tell us about physiology? Lung growth and regional mechanical strain

Connie C W Hsia, Merryn H. Tawhai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


The interplay of mechanical forces transduces diverse physico-biochemical processes to influence lung morphogenesis, growth, maturation, remodeling and repair. Because tissue stress is difficult to measure in vivo, mechano-sensitive responses are commonly inferred from global changes in lung volume, shape, or compliance and correlated with structural changes in tissue blocks sampled from postmortem-fixed lungs. Recent advances in noninvasive volumetric imaging technology, nonrigid image registration, and deformation analysis provide valuable tools for the quantitative analysis of in vivo regional anatomy and air and tissue-blood distributions and when combined with transpulmonary pressure measurements, allow characterization of regional mechanical function, e.g., displacement, strain, shear, within and among intact lobes, as well as between the lung and the components of its container - Rib cage, diaphragm, and mediastinum - thereby yielding new insights into the inter-related metrics of mechanical stress-strain and growth/remodeling. Here, we review the state-of-the-art imaging applications for mapping asymmetric heterogeneous physical interactions within the thorax and how these interactions permit as well as constrain lung growth, remodeling, and compensation during development and following pneumonectomy to illustrate how advanced imaging could facilitate the understanding of physiology and pathophysiology. Functional imaging promises to facilitate the formulation of realistic computational models of lung growth that integrate mechano-sensitive events over multiple spatial and temporal scales to accurately describe in vivo physiology and pathophysiology. Improved computational models in turn could enhance our ability to predict regional as well as global responses to experimental and therapeutic interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)937-946
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of applied physiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Sep 15 2012


  • Computational model
  • Deformation analysis
  • Functional imaging
  • High-resolution computed tomography
  • Lung development
  • Pneumonectomy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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