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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/S025901/1
Title: An integrated MRI tool to map brain microvascular and metabolic function: improving imaging diagnostics for human brain disease
Principal Investigator: Wise, Professor RG
Other Investigators:
Hicks, Dr YA Staffurth, Professor J
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Cardiff and Vale University Health Board Erasmus University Medical Centre Siemens
Thornhill Research Inc Velindre Hospital
Department: Sch of Psychology
Organisation: Cardiff University
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 October 2019 Ends: 31 March 2023 Value (£): 909,591
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Medical Imaging
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Healthcare
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
05 Feb 2019 Healthcare Impact Partnership February 2019 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Brain diseases such as tumours, head injury, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and dementias have considerable personal, social and economic costs for the sufferers and their carers. While magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has revolutionised the management of many brain conditions in the last 40 years, there is a need for better tools for quantifying the brain's supply of energy in terms of blood flow and vascular function and it use of energy in terms of metabolic function. For example, in the case of the most common forms of brain tumour, glioma, we lack detailed information about the heterogeneity of tissue function that could help guide better treatments such as more targeted and individualised combined radiotherapy and drug programmes. Understanding more about the tumour microenvironment will also promote the development of more effective treatments. For high-grade gliomas, particularly glioblastoma, the prognosis remains poor, highlighting an urgent clinical need.

Recently, we at Cardiff University Brain Research Imaging Centre (CUBRIC), and others, have developed MRI-based tools (termed dual calibrated fMRI) to map across the human brain, with a spatial resolution of a few millimetres, the amount of oxygen that the brain is consuming (known as CMRO2) along with measures of the efficiency of blood supply. CMRO2 reflects neural activity and can be altered with disease such as tumour where there is cell proliferation and energy metabolism is changed. Knowing also the functional properties of brain blood vessels and the oxygen status of brain tissue is important for understanding whether blood supply is sufficient or the vasculature is abnormal as is often seen in tumours where vessels proliferate. Our newly developed methods have shown promise in revealing abnormalities of brain tissue energy consumption in multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. In epilepsy they may offer an alternative to the use of radiation-based PET scans in the evaluation of patients for brain surgery by identifying areas in the brain with abnormally low metabolism.

However, to produce a wider clinical impact it is necessary to advance the MRI and data analysis further, such that they could then be taken forward for commercial development and routine clinical use, initially within clinical trials. Two-thirds of the proposed project will address engineering and physical science challenges to (i) speed up data acquisition to about 10 mins, a clinically feasible time, by optimising the MRI data acquisition and analysis, (ii) widen the range of tissue pathology that we can reliably measure through collection of additional MRI information and detailed biophysical modelling of tissue properties and (iii) implement efficient artificial intelligence (neural network) based data analysis that can rapidly feed the images to the clinician at the MRI scanner. The remaining one-third of the project will demonstrate the feasibility of the method and its value in application to brain tumour (glioma). We aim to show that we can map the heterogeneity of tumour tissue that can reveal the type of tumour, where it is actively growing, where it is and is not responding to treatment and where radiotherapy may be damaging healthy tissue, all helping to guide treatment decisions for maximum efficacy.

Central to the success of our proposal are our partnerships with industry and the NHS. Siemens will contribute the expertise of its onsite scientist at CUBRIC for the development of the MRI technology. The Velindre Cancer Centre, South Wales' principal centre for oncology, will partner on the clinical pilot studies and help to evaluate imaging for future patient benefit. Our partners will help us to bring the methods to the point within this project, if successful, of commercial development for healthcare benefit and larger scale clinical trials to demonstrate how the methods may be used in clinical practice for diagnosis, treatment planning and monitoring.

Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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