The most distal regions of our lungs are usually referred to as the “small airways”, where all matter that we inhale including bacteria, virus, along with toxic compounds from smoke end up settling. The air sacs that account for the vast surface area needed for enough gas exchange is connected to the larger airways via millions of 2mm airways tubes, making it the budding area for the disease. No surgical devices allow researchers or physicians to reach and examine this vital area in a non-invasive way. Pulmonologists adopt bronchoalveolar lavage, a highly invasive sampling method of inserting an instrument through the mouth towards the distal region of the airways. Considering the risk and usability factors, this method is not suited for biomarker studies that play an invaluable role in pulmonary research as well as in the diagnosis, early detection, and effective treatment of such maladies.
PExA enables non-invasive proximal sampling—highly relevant source for biomarker discovery, basic science and Pharma R&D—in the field of respiratory medicine. In an attempt to pave the way for early detection and more personalized and effective treatment of respiratory diseases, PExA has developed and commercialized a breakthrough technology stemming from the research conducted by Professor Anna-Carin Olin and her team from the University of Gothenburg for the non-invasive collection of proximal biomarkers. “We have the true potential to fundamentally change how respiratory diseases are being detected and treated today,” exclaims Erik Ekbo, CEO, PExA.
“Why do you need an instrument? Can patients not exhale on a paper or similar surfaces?” you might ask yourself.
The minute particles float in the exhaled airstream into the instrument, resulting in a sample that allows for precise biomarker results
The primary challenge lies in the fact that the air will be contaminated by the oral cavity and the upper airways. For lung research centers as well as in pharmaceutical companies actively seeking biomarkers, the company presents PExA 2.0, a research instrument that leverages a non-invasive method for the collection of microscopic particles, potential biomarkers for diseases, in the small respiratory tract. By means of a specific breathing maneuver, patients are asked to inhale clean air and exhale into the device. PExA 2.0 sorts and quantifies the smallest particles consisting of proteins and lipids. “The minute particles float in the exhaled airstream into the instrument, resulting in a sample that allows for precise biomarker results,” adds Ekbo.
According to Ekbo, there are currently no biomarkers available good enough for decision makings in respiratory healthcare. “A complex sample like blood comprises over 10,000 different proteins. It is like finding a needle in the haystack. As a result, clinicians want access to more specific biological information to produce accurate results,” explains Ekbo. PExA 2.0 is specifically designed to collect a biological sample from a site where disease process often start, leading to earlier and more precise detection of disease.
Being an independent and user-friendly system, PExA 2.0 can be operated in simple clinical settings without the need for pulmonary physicians. Moreover, its dedicated software automatically controls the necessary functions of the instrument, offers real-time measurement, and graphically processes the data for further analysis. The instrument monitors and displays the size of the particles. The breathing maneuver can be repeated several times until the desired amount of particles is collected.
The non-invasive methodology for collecting samples for detection of lung diseases is a growing subject for research across Europe. However, as stated by Ekbo, more horizons of the subject are yet to be explored. PExA aims to be the torchbearer in this journey to unveil new technologies, biomarkers, and drugs for accelerating the development of more accurate diagnostic methods and effective drugs.