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Aerosol Biopsy: Breathing New Life Into Pulmonary Testing

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    February 2020

    Innovative technologies continue to impact the world of health care and the insurance industry. Biopsies and bronchoscopies have long been considered the gold standard for diagnosing lung diseases, however these procedures, while common, can be costly and complicated.

    An alternative technology known as the aerosol biopsy uses the lung’s natural function of coughing out bacteria or particles to gather necessary information in a non-invasive manner.1,2 Aerosol biopsy is intended to simplify the process of diagnosing major lung diseases by capturing and testing expelled droplets from the lungs. This approach could significantly reduce medical costs and evaluation time – while having a profound effect on the medical field and, in turn, the life insurance industry. 

    Recognized in 2017 by the National Institute of Health (NIH) for addressing a large unmet clinical need and awarded the NIH Small Business Innovation Research Contract, this technology will make diagnosing lower respiratory infections easy, rapid and reliable while paving the way for targeted treatments and better patient outcomes.3

    Aerosol biopsy is intended to simplify the process of diagnosing major lung diseases by capturing and testing expelled droplets from the lungs.

    A few potential uses in healthcare may include:

    Pneumonia: If used as a point of care test, rather than needing to generate a pulmonology referral, a patient could start a tailored antibiotic therapy for the particular infection quicker. This could save time and trouble for the patient and save costs to the healthcare system.1

    Lung Nodules: When a chest CT shows a suspicious lung nodule, the current protocol is to repeat the scan after a certain interval. At that time, a decision would be made to either proceed with a lung biopsy or schedule yet another follow-up CT to ensure stability of the nodule. The hope is that with the aerosol biopsy, a diagnostic finding could be made following the initial scan. With the particles analyzed on-site, cancer cells could either be ruled out or positively identified.1

    Cystic Fibrosis: Aerosol technology has already been tested when diagnosing cystic fibrosis. One hundred patients from the University of California at San Diego showed a 94 percent sensitivity in detecting pseudomonas, one of the major bacterial causes of pneumonia in cystic fibrosis.1

    Research: Aerosol biopsy may demonstrate further benefit in lung disease research. A current hurdle is being able to secure a healthy control base willing to undergo an invasive lung procedure like a traditional biopsy. As an alternative, the quicker, cheaper and non-invasive aerosol biopsy test would allow samples to be collected without putting volunteers through an uncomfortable procedure. This may prove to be a boon for lung research by vastly increasing the control pool.1

    Replacing the gold standard of diagnostic testing for lung disorders with an aerosol biopsy is not a simple task, and future use is uncertain. However, insurance companies should remain informed to see if new technologies such as the aerosol biopsy gains traction in the medical marketplace, and take into consideration how to assess the impact on pricing and underwriting.
    Contact the Author
    Russell Scott, FALU
    Underwriting Consultant
    This article was originally featured in the December 2019 Issue of OTR and is re-printed with permission of ON THE RISK, Journal of the Academy of Life Underwriting ( References 1 Zhou, Cici (7 Sept 2018). Deton is Developing ‘Aerosol Biopsy’ to Detect Lung Diseases. Medgadget. Retrieved from 2Idea Connection, Ltd. (8 Sept 2018). Denton Aerosol Biopsy. Idea Connection: Build on the Genius of Others. Retrieved from 3Deton Corporation (12 June 2018). General information on Deton Corporation. Retrieved from