High School Student to Present Lung Imaging Data

A teen voice will be among the presenters at the ATS 2023 International Conference. On Sunday morning, May 21, a high school student from New York will discuss the validation of X-ray velocimetry with pneumotachograph to assess respiratory physiology.

Alexandra Tombleson
Alexandra Tombleson

Alexandra Tombleson, 17, will be one of nine speakers for the mini symposium Tell Me What You See: New Studies in Lung Imaging from 9–11 a.m. ET in Room 204 A-C (Level 2) of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

Ms. Tombleson has been working remotely with a group at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine led by Trishul Siddharthan, MD, associate professor of medicine in the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep, and Naresh Punjabi MD, PhD, professor of medicine and division chief for pulmonary, critical care and sleep, investigating the potential of XV to improve diagnosis and disease management.

“My presentation is regarding the validation of a new technology,” Ms. Tombleson explained. “We assessed levels of agreement between the derived characteristics of lung function with XV technology and collected concurrent values for respiratory rate, duty cycle, peak flow, and tidal volume with a pitot tube as our reference point.” The aim would be to develop a noninvasive tool to measure lung function.

Ms. Tombleson attended weekly meetings with Dr. Siddharthan’s group over the past year and received a fourth-place award at the Regeneron Westchester Science and Engineering Fair earlier this year.

Trishul Siddharthan, MD
Trishul Siddharthan, MD

“Investigators at the University of Miami are exploring novel approaches to functional lung imaging utilizing new engineering modalities to assess ventilation of various regions of the lungs,” Dr. Siddharthan said. “Alex really has a unique and fresh perspective in that she’s actively learning this in school and now applying this to the research. It is unique for a high school student to be able to do this. It’s even more unique for a high school student to independently take this research forward.”

Even though her high school coursework includes electives in original science research and engineering, as well as Advanced Placement classes in math and science, the 11th-grader’s involvement with this research has been a personal pursuit, not one tied to academic credit.

“I have a twin brother who suffers from asthma, and I was really interested in investigating the relationship of comorbidities within the lungs, COVID-19 being one,” she said. “I ended up branching out into COPD and cystic fibrosis, with asthma being my baseline. That was how I started getting interested, and for the next two years I built off my interest using course resources available from my school.”

The teenager—who is on her school robotics team, is a captain of the varsity track team, and coaches gymnastics—is excited about being able to share the possibility of using XV in regional assessment of abnormalities in the lung with the ATS community and learn from the experts in attendance at the International Conference in Washington, DC.

“To our knowledge, this is the first study of data examining the use of XV in humans for the assessment of dynamic ventilation,” she said, explaining that this functional imaging presents a non-invasive approach to diagnosis and management of pulmonary diseases and disorders that captures details established methods of lung function analysis do not.

“Current use of conventional measurement has limited estimates of regional heterogeneity, which is a key piece of data that could be available to physicians and pulmonologists who are tasked with the disease management,” she continued.

After the conference, Ms. Tombleson will continue preparing for her future with college tours. She plans to pursue studies in biomedical engineering and is considering specializing in pulmonary health or data analysis.

“I would love to be working with new technology in the field of medicine and health, and be able to help people and improve the way that we assess diseases and disorders,” she said.

Dr. Siddharthan said Ms. Tombleson’s multifaceted interests illustrate a core philosophy of the International Conference.

“She’s interested in engineering and bringing that skill set to the field of pulmonary research. I think that’s profound,” he said. “It’s an essential aspect of what the conference is. It’s not a purely clinical conference. It’s based off the fundamentals of science and discovery. Alex is getting involved in that base process and brings a new, diverse perspective and voice to the conversation.”

Additional presentations included in the mini symposium on lung imaging are:

  • Fully Automatic Quantitative Analysis of Airway-artery Dimensions and Ratios of Normal Chest CT Scans from Infancy into Adulthood
  • Progressive Airway Wall Thinning and Loss of Total Airway Count After Three Years in COPD
  • Development of a CT-based Algorithm to Link Individual Upper Airways to Downstream Parenchymal Disease: A COPD Gene Study
  • Age-related Changes in Ventilation and Perfusion Ratio (V’/Q’) Assessed with Dual-Energy CT: The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) Lung Study
  • Computational Fluid Dynamics Analysis Demonstrates Impact of Mucus Plugging on Modifying Airway Dimensions Leading to Increased Airway Resistance and Reduced Lung Deformation in Asthma
  • 129Xe Gas-exchange MRI and CT Pulmonary Vascular Abnormalities in GINA 4-5 Asthma
  • Hyperpolarized 129Xe MRI Visualizes Lung Function Impairment in Suspected Inflammatory Interstitial Lung Disease
  • Homothety Ratio of Airway Diameters Is Associated with Respiratory Morbidity and Mortality in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Don’t Miss ATS 2024 Highlights: On Demand

Don’t forget that ATS 2024 Highlights: On Demand are available to all conference registrants! On Demand will give you access to the Opening Ceremony, Plenary Session, Keynote Series, Clinical Year in Review, Adult Clinical Core Curriculum, and so much more. The topics will cover ILD, asthma, health equity, and CF, to name just a few. On Demand content will be accessible to all ATS 2024 full conference and On Demand registrants until March 2025.