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NMDID Aids in COVID-19 Research

Johns Hopkins Researchers Compare CT Scans of Lung Tissue

Johns Hopkins School of Medicine researchers are using a health information database compiled by the New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator (OMI) to compare lung tissue from patients with COVID-19 pneumonia with that of people who have died from other causes, such as lung cancer.

The New Mexico Decedent Image Database (NMDID), which is widely used in biomedical research, includes health information on as many as 69 different variables collected from bodies brought to OMI. All personal information is removed so that there are no identifying markers.

The research, “Novel Radiomic and Deep Learning Metrics for Covid-19 Disease,” is led by Michael A. Jacobs, professor of radiology and oncology and the director of the Imaging Radiological Assessment Team at Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins. He hopes to conduct clinical trials to determine whether CT scans can help predict which COVID-19 patients will respond to targeted therapy.

“The bottom line is we may be able to develop tissue signatures, using radiomic imaging to determine what the outcome will be for patients who are diagnosed with COVID-19 pneumonia,” Jacobs says. 

“As we move forward, if we can get these patients to get two or three of these scans, we may be able to predict which ones will have better overall survival and maybe respond to a treatment if one becomes available – because there really isn’t any treatment yet,” he says.

Jacobs, who is board-certified in diagnostic medical physics by the American Board of Radiology, says he’s grateful for having access to the database. “It’s very helpful,” he says.

Heather Edgar, associate professor of anthropology at The University of New Mexico and a forensic anthropologist at OMI, says the database includes information collected from more than 15,000 bodies. The data may be accessed by qualifying researchers.

“I thought this was super cool research,” Edgar says of Jacobs’ project. “It’s making a difference.”

Edgar says she hopes more scientists will take advantage of the New Mexico database, because it is a unique resource. So far, it has 200 users from throughout the world.

“We’re getting the word out that this is available to researchers in a number of fields, including anthropology and forensics,” she says.

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