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AsCoNet

The Competence Network on Asthma and COPD

The Competence Network on Asthma and COPD (AsCoNet) was initiated in 2009 and is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). The long term goal of this multicentre-initiative is to develop novel strategies for prevention, diagnosis and therapy of Asthma and Chronic-Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).

During its first funding period from 2010- 2012, AsCoNet consisted of two research associations: COSYCONET “COPD and concomitant disease” and Asthma-MRI “Imaging of obstructive pulmonary disease using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)”. COSYCONET was organized and coordinated by a central office in Marburg.  Asthma-MRI was coordinated by a branch office at the University Hospital Heidelberg. After the successful completion of the first funding period projects, the two branches were joint and their contents became the basis of seven different sub-projects continued within AsCoNet during a second funding period from 2012-2015. The Department of Diagnostic and interventional Radiology in Heidelberg covered the subprojects 5 and 7 with radiologists, computer scientists and physicists.

Imaging Bank

The Imaging Bank was established during the first funding period to collect, store and analyze retrospective CT Data from COPD-patients recruited for the COSYCONET cohort. In the second funding period, prospective CT and MRI data from the same cohort will be acquired and integrated into the database. This Imaging Bank will be integrated into the Imaging Platform of the German Center of Lung Disease ( DZL) in the near future.

Functional Imaging

The subproject 7 contributed to COSYCONET with new concepts and a multi-center trial for high end diagnostic imaging of lung structure and function in COPD patients. This directly continued the research work of the network Asthma-MRI and  translated the results of the first funding period into clinical practice. The driving hypothesis is that the identification of different COPD phenotypes, such as the “emphysema-type”or the “airway-type”, will be important for the prognosis of disease development and future therapy. The objective of this project was to study the sensitivity and specificity of radiation free magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) compared to computed tomography (CT), which is at present considered the best available method in image-based phenotyping of COPD. However, CT involves ionizing radiation and provides only a limited amount of functional information. With MRI, these limitations can be overcome.

The core activity of SP 7, the prospective multi-center trial „Image-Based Structural and Functional Phenotyping of the COSYCONET Cohort using MRI and CT (MR-COPD) “ was designed to demonstrate the reliability of MRI and to prove that MRI can replace CT for the characterization of COPD by structural and functional phenotyping. The trial was performed from 2013 to 2015 on 602 patients from the COSYCONET cohort.