Novel and Emerging Technologies Grant (PhD studentship)

Prof Vivek Muthurangu, University College London and Great Ormond Street Hospital

Amount: £217,373

In the UK, at least 1 in 180 babies is born with congenital heart disease which means a heart defect that develops in the womb, before a baby is born. Not all of these infants will need treatment, but in those that do it is important to understand the structure and function of the heart. There are several ways this can be done, including creating images of the heart, and cardiovascular magnetic resonance (CMR) is recognised as one of the best methods of imaging children with heart disease. In an ideal world CMR would be used routinely in all cases but CMR takes a long time to perform, requires an expert to do the scanning and is very costly. Also, due to the long scanning time and because it can be a distressing experience for young children, in many cases a general anaesthetic must be used.

The aim of this project is to develop an imaging technique that can be carried out rapidly – in 5 minutes – and which doesn’t need expert input. The research team will build on their experience in the technical aspects of CMR, computer science, mathematics and performing CMR in children.

The new technique involves imaging the whole of the heart multiple times throughout the heartbeat which will allow any part of the heart to be assessed after the scan has been carried out. However, this approach is time consuming, often taking more than 30 minutes. Therefore, they will attempt to speed up the scan by combining the most efficient methods of collecting CMR data with computer algorithms that generate high quality pictures. Also, they will use cloud based computing to more rapidly generate images. The new technology will then be tested in children undergoing conventional CMR.

It is hoped that the new technology will dramatically reduce the cost and patient discomfort of CMR, so that more children can benefit from CMR. Also, the better information may help doctors to decide on the best ways to treat these children. The new technology could have benefits in other areas of medicine and science, for example for scanning children with diseases such as cancer and epilepsy.

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