Academic Unit of Radiology

tubesThe Academic Unit of Radiology (AuR) at Sheffield has seven senior academics (three academic radiologists and four MR physicists), one clinical research fellow (post CCT) and twelve Research assistants/PhD students. There are four MR scanners, each with ring-fenced research time, and the research in the section is based around that technique. We recently installed a state of the art Philips Ingenia wide bore 3T scanner funded by the Wellcome Trust. Research grant income for the preceding five years exceeds £5m and commercial income was over £5m.

The AuR is situated within the Clinical Radiology Department on the Hallamshire Hospital site. The department routinely publishes 30-35 papers per year in peer-reviewed journals.

The AuR has developed strong collaborations in obstetrics and is leading a multicentre HTA trial of in utero MR imaging; Sheffield is an internationally recognised centre for multinuclear (3He, 129Xe and 13C) MR imaging and collaborates with Europe’s largest clinic for pulmonary hypertension based in Sheffield; we undertake fMRI with the academic departments of Psychology and Psychiatry; more recently we have developed collaborations with the NIHR metabolic bone BRU including design of novel bone turnover MR contrast agents; we have recently be granted a £3m+ Welcome Trust grant is to develop 3TMR scanners for neonatal ITU use with GE medical systems. The unit is firmly embedded in a new University Institute, Insigneo, which has internationally recognised modelling and image processing groups that compliment the medical imaging undertaken in the unit and there are numerous opportunities for collaboration. Insigneo is addressing such areas as stratified and personalised medicine and engineering for life.

Our previous ACFs have collectively generated over 20 publications whilst in post. We have an established track record for developing and creating academic radiologists; we have a NIHR academic clinical lecturer, two are currently in post as HEFCE funded senior lecturers and another is in a senior academic position at the Sick Children's Hospital, Toronto.

Research

The Academic Unit of Radiology at the University of Sheffield performs the majority of its research using Magnetic Resonance techniques. Our particular areas of interest are neurological imaging, foetal imaging and the use of hyperpolarised agents for MR. The MR Unit opened in 1991 followed by the creation of the Academic Unit of Radiology in 1996 after the appointment of Professor Paul Griffiths as head of unit.

We currently operate four MR scanners at different sites across Sheffield; two based at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital (1.5T and 3T), Sheffield Children's Hospital (1.5T) and a small bore 0.2T system based at the Jessop Wing of the Royal Hallamshire Hospital.

The Academic Unit of Radiology has research partnerships with two major MR manufacturers (Philips Medical Systems and General Electric Health Care) and has an active research programme which is progressing on a variety of fronts, including:

Hyperpolarized gas MRI of lungs

We have been working on novel inhaled contrast enhancement mechanisms for imaging lung ventilation using the signal of inhaled hyperpolarised (HP) noble gases. The images produced are supplying clinicians with anatomical and functional information of the pulmonary system that has previously been unattainable. The first clinical studies in the UK to use inhaled hyper-polarised 3He MRI have taken place at the University and much technological development work has been done to establish the group as a world centre in this emergent branch of diagnostic imaging.


MR physics & Engineering

The Unit of Academic Radiology has an active research group in MR physics and engineering. Areas of research include:
• Pulse sequence development
• Hardware development including Specialised MR Systems Engineering
• Flow measurements
• Image processing and artefacts
• Parallel Imaging
• Direct Detection of Action Potentials In-Vivo
• Relaxometry and novel contrast agents
• Hyperpolarized gas MRI
• Physics Theory

Human neuro-imaging

new 3T scannerThe explosion in MR technology over the last 30 years has led to an imaging modality that not only depicts human neuro-anatomy and pathology but is also capable of depicting various aspects of central nervous system function. The implications of this to our understanding of the normal and diseased brain are only starting to be realised, as is the use of such information in the context of caring for people who have diseases which affect the central nervous system.

The main thrust of human neuro-imaging research can be grouped into 3 main areas:
• cerebrovascular
• spinocerebellar/spinothalamic
• neuro-oncology

One of the three main areas of research activity within the Academic Unit of Radiology encompasses MR imaging in the context of disease associated with the adult central nervous system (CNS). The major goals surrounding this research are to:
• develop and implement novel diagnostic MR techniques and to maximise their sensitivity and specificity
• integrate advanced MR techniques into large-scale clinical research programmes and clinical practice
• with the aid of clinical-MR data, further our understanding of the mechanisms underlying CNS disease and the time-course of pathological progression
• assess MR-based markers for patient prognosis
• develop, assess & use MR to monitor and evaluate therapies and interventions

A lot of clinical topics are covered, relating to both CNS development and degeneration and these are investigated using a multitude of MR investigative techniques. The human neuro-imaging research group studies many diseases including diabetes, stroke, CVA and chronic carotid disease, aneurysms, arteriovenous malformations, brain haemorrhage, neoplasia, ataxias, neurofibromatosis type-1, dyslexia, schizophrenia and Alzheimer´s.

Maternal, fetal & neonatal imaging

The Unit of Academic Radiology has an active research group in maternal, fetal and neonatal imaging and we are currently in the process of setting up the Sheffield Institute for Maternal, Fetal and Neonatal Imaging (SIMFANI) which will use a range of dedicated and specialised MR imaging equipment over a range of field strengths from 0.01T to 8.5T. These include:
• In-utero MR imaging of the fetal Central Nervous System (CNS)
• In-utero MR imaging of the fetal abdomen, lungs & limbs
• Post-mortem MR imaging of the fetus & comparison with autopsy
• Neonatal imaging using a dedicated low field MR scanner on the NICU
• High field neonatal imaging, spectroscopy and function using an MR compatible incubator
• Optical spectroscopy of neonates
• Hyperpolarised Helium imaging of the neonatal lungs
• Imaging and spectroscopy of the placenta
• Image processing & analysis

Academic Lead: Dr Nigel Hoggard, Clinical Senior Lecturer in Radiology nigel.hoggard@sheffield.ac.uk