Professional Headshot of Dr. MeiLan Han.
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MeiLan Han, M.D., M.S.


MeiLan Han has spent years trying to understand why some people develop and progress more rapidly from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, compared to others. A leading cause of death in the United States, COPD typically is diagnosed by spirometry—a breathing test that measures lung function. But Han, professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan, said that incorporating advanced techniques, such as CT, provides an opportunity to better characterize, monitor, and treat the disease. “We need more clinical trials that use CT so we can better characterize and identify which patients would benefit from new or existing therapies,” said Han. As Michigan’s principal investigator for both the SPIROMICS (SubPopulations and InteRmediate Outcome Measures In COPD Study) and COPDGene studies, Han has learned that patients without airflow obstructions on spirometry still have symptoms and are often prescribed bronchodilators—drugs that help open the airways of the lung. But these types of patients have never been studied in a therapeutic clinical trial. This led to Han serving as co-investigator on the RETHINC (Redefining Therapy In Early COPD for the Pulmonary Trials Cooperative) study, which examines whether dual bronchodilators provide relief for symptomatic patients with risk factors for COPD but who have not yet developed airflow obstruction on spirometry. Han and colleagues have validated a CT imaging technique called parametric response mapping (PRM). Demonstrated by Han and colleagues, PRM can help physicians to identify areas of the lung with small airways disease in patients who are at risk for more rapid disease progression. Han is also director of the Michigan Airways Program, a combined clinical and research program at the university that works to improve the lives of patients with airways disease including both COPD and asthma.

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