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Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is derived from one technique – nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) – but its many variations enable changes in tissue structure, function and metabolism all to be investigated to aid diagnosis, and monitor disease progression and treatment response. We work closely with clinical teams to study a variety of diseases, and not just in the brain, as highlighted below. We also develop strong industrial collaborations to help facilitate widespread clinical translation of novel image analysis methods.

Principal investigators:

  • Dr Tom Barrick

  • Professor Franklyn Howe.

Research highlights

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Multimodal MRI and neurodegenerative disease

Neurodegeneration is prevalent in age-related diseases. We are using multimodal MRI to better understand the patterns and mechanisms of brain damage in vascular and non-vascular dementia using MRI techniques that provide measurement of macroscopic (ie from tissue volume), microscopic (from diffusion MRI), metabolic (from MR spectroscopy) and cerebral blood flow (ie from arterial spin labelling). We are developing techniques to identify early signs of dementia and to predict cognitive decline and are investigating the mechanisms of brain damage and cognitive decline in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The image shows changes in macroscopic and microscopic brain tissue (relative to a healthy ageing individual) over a three-year period for a patient with cerebral small vessel disease that are associated with cognitive decline over the same period.

 A series of MRI scans showing neurodegeneration over time.

Tissue-type maps of brain tumours

Gliomas are infiltrative brain tumours and improvements in clinical MRI are needed to better map out the various tissue types that can be observed. We have been developing pattern-recognition methods that use the metabolic signature from MR spectroscopy (MRS) combined with quantitative MRI to provide colour-coded images that show the tumour necrosis (blue), the core high-grade tumour regions (red), the region of infiltrative tumour (green) and areas of oedema (black). Tissue-type maps could help with surgical and radiotherapy planning to improve treatment response and we are currently developing these techniques with Innovate UK funding.

Multimodal MRI scans of a brain tumour.

MRI of the knee

Knee osteoarthritis (OA) is a degenerative disease which produces pain and disability. MRI provides highly detailed pictures from which structural changes such as cartilage damage (see figure A below ) and bone marrow lesions (see figure B below) can be quantified. We are collaborating with researchers in Infection and Immunity to investigate how these changes relate to a patient’s pain and whether patients can be stratified for better treatment response.

Multimodal MRI scans showing osteoarthritis in the knee. 

Cardiac MRI

Cardiac MRI has become the gold standard for noninvasively evaluating cardiac function, volumes and viability, offering new levels of excellence in the diagnosis and treatment of cardiac disease. By providing detailed information on the type and severity of disease, cardiac MRI is able to help doctors find the best solution. In addition, cardiac MRI can help explain results from other imaging tests such as x-rays and CT scans. We are performing novel studies in order to maximise patient care by linking the scientific and technical development with a variety of heart disease including:

  • heart failure

  • heart valve problems

  • coronary artery disease

  • congenital heart disease

  • damage caused by a heart attack

  • pericardial disease

  • cardiac tumours.

An animated multimodal MRI of a heart.



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