New advanced imaging centre to investigate cardio and inflammation disorders

Yorkshire to benefit from imaging centre using MRI signal enhancement technique

The new centre's MRI facilities will also perform conventional scanning
The new centre’s MRI facilities will also perform conventional scanning

An imaging technique developed at York University is at the heart of a new £6.8m medical imaging centre in Yorkshire. The centre, which will have facilities in Leeds and York, aims to transform the diagnosis of musculoskeletal diseases, heart disorders and cancer using MRI.

The centre will use a technique originally developed at York University, known as Signal Amplification By Reversible Exchange (SABRE). This involves using a metal catalyst to transfer the polarisation of a specific type of hydrogen to molecules in the body, which could be part of the body’s own chemistry or drug molecules. This does not change the chemistry of the molecule involved, but makes it more visible to MRI scanners with the result that the signal of the MRI is boosted by up to 200,000 times. Sabre is said to have proved its effectiveness in laboratory trials, and the new imaging centre will develop the technique for use with patients. It is hoped that this will not only provide better insights into the workings of the human body, but may also help develop new drugs.

The leader of the SABRE research team, British Heart Foundation Prof Sven Plein, from the School of Medicine at Leeds University, said: “The new method has the potential to transform the way patients are diagnosed because we will be able to see bodily processes such as metabolism, or inflammation, in much greater detail than with current methods. Eventually we hope that this technique, developed here in Yorkshire, can be applied to many MRI centres in the country and worldwide as a low cost alternative to methods in current use elsewhere.”

The BHF, along with Arthritis Research UK, has funded development of the technique along with the Medical Research Council through its Clinical Research Infrastructure Initiative. “The funding we have received is crucial and timely, and recognises the strategic importance of the combined Leeds and York teams,” commented Gary Green, Professor of neuroimaging at York University.