23 September 2020

Sheffield Scanner to join Dementias Platform UK imaging network

The new Sheffield PET-MRI scanner will join the Dementias Platform UK (DPUK) to support research into detecting and treating dementia.

Sheffield Scanner
  • Sheffield’s new PET-MRI scanner will join the Dementias Platform UK (DPUK).
  • The Sheffield Scanner will be used to focus on a number of clinical research areas to speed up the diagnosis of, and lead to the development of new treatments for some of the most devastating diseases.
  • The scanner was made possible by the generous donations and fundraising done by the staff, students and alumni of the University, along with members of the public from across the region.
  • Dementias Platform UK (DPUK) is a public-private partnership funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC), which aims to detect and treat dementia earlier than ever before..

The new Sheffield PET-MRI scanner will join the Dementias Platform UK (DPUK) to support research into detecting and treating dementia.

The University of Sheffield has a strong reputation for world-class research in neurodegenerative diseases that lead to motor impairments and cognitive decline in older age. With the new PET-MRI scanner, Sheffield is able to rapidly expand existing research with in-vivo molecular imaging. Joining the DPUK imaging network with the other seven sites, Sheffield is a strategically important centre in the growing network.

Dementia affects over 50 million people globally and yet to date there are no successful treatments. In 2014, the MRC launched DPUK to revolutionise dementia studies and cohort research. DPUK is transforming research through partnering with Universities, the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and industry. In addition, DPUK has developed expert technology networks - imaging, stem cell and informatics - that are increasing our understanding of how dementia starts.

The new PET-MRI facility will enhance the University of Sheffield’s medical research, with academics able to take exciting discoveries and breakthroughs from the laboratories into clinical trials to give patients in Yorkshire access to ground-breaking new treatments.

Professor Dame Pamela Shaw, Director of the Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience (SITraN) and NIHR Sheffield Biomedical Research Centre said, “Sheffield is a tertiary clinical referral and world leading translational research centre for neurodegenerative disorders including Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, motor neurone disease (MND), Parkinson’s disease and the ageing brain. I’m delighted that, having completed construction and installation of our own PET-MRI facility this year, Sheffield has gained membership into the DPUK imaging network which will allow more patients to participate in experimental medicine studies and clinical trials.”

Professor Wendy Tindale, Scientific Director for Medical Imaging and Medical Physics at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals said, “We are delighted to have PET-MRI available to the patients of Sheffield. We know how important clinical research is for the delivery of high quality outcomes and this participation in the DPUK network will ensure extensive collaboration in support of new diagnostic techniques.”

Professor Franklin Aigbirhio of the University of Cambridge, the DPUK imaging network lead, said: "It’s a pleasure to have the University of Sheffield join the DPUK imaging network. With its internationally leading research programmes in neurodegenerative disorders, coupled with its new state-of the-art PET-MR imaging infrastructure and expertise in molecular imaging – recently strengthened with several excellent new appointments – Sheffield will truly enhance the capability and expertise of the network. This will help enable the network to achieve its overarching aim of creating a world-leading environment for applying advanced imaging to support experimental medicine and clinical trials in dementia research in the UK."

Dementia research at Sheffield has recently expanded with several new appointments, including Professors Karl Herholz, Steven Sourbron and Li Su, to enhance our expertise on molecular (PET) and MR imaging.

Li Su, Professor of Neuroimaging, and his team will pioneer a number of exciting studies based on the PET-MRI scanner. Their research will investigate how early changes in tau, amyloid, neuroinflammation and other pathologies contribute to Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative conditions.

He said, “It is widely recognised that early detection and intervention are the key strategies to slow down or stop dementia. Although MR scans have been routinely used in assisting the clinical diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease and many other neurological conditions, breakthroughs have been made in advanced molecular imaging and novel PET tracers. This allows us, for the first time, to study not only the ‘consequences' of these diseases, but potential ‘causes’ at the same time.”

Professor Jim Wild, Head of Imaging, MR physicist and technical lead for the Sheffield Scanner said, “We look forward to developing new clinical applications and tackling technical challenges for PET-MRI working with other sites in the UK through the DPUK network. My personal research interest in the technology is the potential to integrate additional functional information from non-proton and hyperpolarised MRI with the structural and functional capability of PET-MRI.”

The PET-MRI facility was made possible by the Sheffield Scanner appeal - launched by the University of Sheffield in 2017 - which received more than 11,000 generous donations from staff, alumni and students of the University, as well as members of the public from across the region.

The work of the neuroscientists forms part of the University of Sheffield’s Neuroscience Institute, which aims to bring academics together from across varied specialties, to translate scientific discoveries from the lab into pioneering treatments that will benefit people living with neurodegenerative diseases.

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