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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/J013250/1
Title: Understanding the impact of the microvasculature on quantification of fibre orientation in the heart using Diffusion Spectrum MRI and computer models
Principal Investigator: Schneider, Professor JE
Other Investigators:
Smith, Professor N Grau, Professor V Lee, Dr J
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: RDM Cardiovascular Medicine
Organisation: University of Oxford
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 30 October 2012 Ends: 29 April 2016 Value (£): 643,778
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Medical Imaging Medical science & disease
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
03 Feb 2012 Engineering Prioritisation Meeting - 3 Feb 2012 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
The heart is a highly efficient and effective electro-mechanical pump for supplying the continue flow of blood that is essential for life. The critical importance of its function is represented by the very high number of deaths associated with heart disease both in the UK and the western world. The pump function crucially depends on the complex architecture of the heart: individual muscle cells are arranged in chains often referred to as muscle fibres. These muscle fibres are ordered in complex three-dimensional (3D) arrangements, joined together by non-muscle 'connective' tissue. In addition, an extended network of blood vessels is embedded within the heart muscle to provide vital blood supply to the individual cells. It is this micro-structural architecture that fundamentally defines both the electrical conductivity and mechanical stiffness of the muscle wall, and thus determines the function of the heart.

This central role of cardiac micro-structure in both, health and disease has motivated the development of non-invasive techniques to image cardiac structure. Particularly, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), which allows for increasingly detailed insight into the structure and function of tissues and organs. The value of MRI data means this type of imaging has gained rapid acceptance within both the pre-clinical and clinical domains. Even though these recordings are not yet sufficiently detailed to reliably identify fibre orientation in hearts of individual patients, major research efforts are underway to achieve this goal.

Underpinning these efforts is that a precise understanding of detailed cardiac tissue architecture will be of great importance for an accurate diagnosis of cardiac diseases, prediction of their progression, and identification of useful treatment approaches. The key role of the heart's structure also means that MRI data are increasingly being used to validate computer models, which describe the electrical conductivity and mechanical function of the heart. These computer models of the heart are not only essential in basic science research, but will also play a fundamental role in personalized medicine where doctors can use these models to assess treatment options, and predict treatment outcomes for a specific individual before the patient even enters the operating theatre.

However, there is a fundamental question that has to be answered before this technique can be considered as a reliable tool for structural assessment in the heart: is the reading of MRI indeed reflecting the orientation of the muscle-fibres, or is it dominated by the many (small) blood vessels supplying the heart muscle with nutrients? The answer to this question is of particular relevance for the diseased heart, where the highly regular micro-structure (fibres and blood vessels) of the muscle is distorted.

This proposed project exactly aims to answer this open question by combining the expertise of leading teams in cardiac MRI (Cardiovascular Medicine at the John Radcliffe Hospital Oxford), and image analysis and computational modelling (Department of Bioengineering, Kings College London). The teams will jointly develop techniques and validate them in small rodents models, with the vision that all algorithms can in future be adapted to the investigation of human hearts.

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Organisation Website: http://www.ox.ac.uk