New magnetic resonance technology for the University of Oxford

Establishing human cardiac hyperpolarised magnetic resonance: initial development and application

Damian Tyler (lead researcher)

Oxford, University of

Start date: 01 October 2012 (Duration 2yrs+1yr+6mnths)

Heart failure is a debilitating condition and can cause breathlessness, making it almost impossible for patients to do even simple exercise such as walking up stairs.

During heart failure, changes occur in heart muscle. BHF-funded scientists discovered that one important change to heart cells during heart failure – and diabetes – is in the way they use energy.

It’s more efficient for heart cells to break down, or ‘metabolise’, carbohydrates than fats to get the energy they need. But during heart failure, cells stop producing energy as efficiently as they should, making the heart work harder to pump blood around the body. We don’t properly understand why this happens, but if we can work out what makes heart metabolism less efficient, we might be able to develop new treatments for heart failure.

Some technologies have been developed that can look right into the body, including Magnetic Resonance (MR) technology, which uses powerful magnets to produce detailed images. MR doesn’t use radiation, so it’s safe for most patients, and it’s good at taking measurements of moving objects, such as a beating heart. But current techniques that use MR to measure heart metabolism are not very precise.

Dr Damian Tyler and colleagues at the University of Oxford have spent several years perfecting a new type of MR imaging called ‘hyperpolarized’ magnetic resonance, specifically to use in measuring the changes that occur in the heart during disease. To take their research into the next stage – to human patients – they need one of the world’s first ‘SpinLab Polariser Systems’, a new product developed by an American company.

This new machine can make the measurements of how hearts use energy much more sensitive and accurate, but it costs almost £1.2 million. The majority of our grant – more than £760,000 – goes towards buying it, with the rest going towards other equipment and staff salaries.

Project details

Grant amount £1,430,667
Grant type Programme Grant
Start Date 01 October 2012
Duration 2yrs+1yr+6mnths
Reference RG/11/9/28921
Status Complete

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