BioMedEng18: Peter Charlton Wins Early Career Researcher Award

On September 6-7, Imperial College London hosted BioMedEng18, the UK’s largest gathering of biomedical engineers, medical engineers and bioengineers. The conference included presentations, workshops, and talks on developments and challenges within the biomedical engineering field, including medical devices and diagnostics, cardiovascular bioengineering, personalised medicine, imaging, robotics, AI, and machine learning.  

The CME sponsored two awards: the Early Career Researcher Award, and Best Student Talk. Prof Reza Razavi, Director of CME, said:

“The ultimate aim of the Centre is to improve the care of patients through exceptional research, particularly in the important area of medical engineering. As such we are delighted to support the work of new researchers by sponsoring these awards.”

CME also works closely with other sponsors of BioMedEng18 such as the British Heart Foundation, the Wellcome Trust, and EPSRC.

Professor Razavi presented the Early Career Researcher Award, and Best Student Talk to the winners, Peter Charlton (King’s College London) and Ugur Tanriverdi (Imperial College London) respectively. Charlton’s research focused on creating a valuable database for developing pulse wave analysis algorithms, while Tanriverdi’s talk spoke to the development of a soft robotic liner (SRL) for prosthetics.  

Dr Jordi Alastruey of the Biomedical Engineering Department of the School of Biomedical Engineering and Imaging Science (BMEIS) at King’s chaired a session on reduced-order modelling and pulse wave analysis. Dr Alastruey, and Head of the Biomedical Engineering and Imaging Sciences School at King’s, Seb Ourselin, both sit on the conference’s Scientific Committee. 

Dr Samantha Terry Wins Outreach and Engagement Award 2018

Dr Terry has been recognised for her outstanding outreach work

Dr Samantha Terry has won one of two Royal Society of Biology (RSB) Outreach and Engagement 2018 Awards. The award aims to acknowledge and celebrate public engagement by biosciences researchers who educate, encourage and engage with audiences about their field of study.

Dr Terry, a lecturer and researcher from the Centre for Medical Engineering, has organised several events about her work on radiation biology, including an exhibit called Hot Stuff at the Royal Society Summer Exhibition 2018 on how radioactivity is used in early cancer diagnosis and targeted treatments. You can watch this video about her work on YouTube. In addition to arranging training for over fifty research volunteers on how to engage with the public that visited the exhibition, Dr Terry has also spoken to primary school children about her work and its role in society.

“I have been an advocate for public engagement and outreach since first realising we could influence policy, public opinion and make a difference to patients’ lives,” said Dr Terry of receiving the award. “Public engagement can be a scary and vast concept to someone whose research is fairly removed from the clinic and who spends the majority of the time in the lab or speaking to fellow scientists.

Winning this award has been made possible by not only a dedicated and supportive public engagement team here at the Wellcome Trust/EPSRC Centre for Medical Engineering at King’s College London, but also by the encouraging stance of my mentor and Head of Department, Professor Philip Blower.”

Dr Steve Cross, the chair of the award’s judging panel, said, “The key to being a leader in public engagement is being willing to challenge your institution and change it. Samantha is a great example of a biologist doing just that.”

Dr Samantha Terry will present her work at this year’s Biology Week Annual Awards Ceremony.

Milestone Reached as 100 Participants Partake in Child Brain Research

August 6, 2018 marks a key milestone for the high-profile Developing Human Connectome Project, having now conducted 100 fetal MRI scans to contribute to and support their research. The project aims to treat and prevent brain disease in children using cutting-edge imaging and scanning technology. The project was recently featured by the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) in a film series led by Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH), shining a spotlight on the future of children’s research.

The Developing Human Connectome Project (dHCP), led by King’s College London, Imperial College London, and Oxford University, has been studying and documenting how the brain works in foetuses and new-born babies since 2013. Conducted at Guy’s and St. Thomas’ Hospitals, the 100 foetuses scanned return to the hospital to be re-scanned soon after birth in the neonatal period and have a neurocognitive assessment around 18 months of age to uncover how their brains have developed and identify problems areas, if any.

Ivan, father of Lotte-Tulip, says when he was approached by the nurse at the hospital after Lotte-Tulip’s birth to have her brain mapped – who is now 2-years-old – that he didn’t hesitate to take part in the project. Ivan says:

“I think research is important because without it lots of us wouldn’t have even been here in the first place.”

The pioneering clinical trials are conducted at NIHR Clinical Research Facilities (CRFs), dedicated and purpose-built facilities, where specialist clinical research, support staff from universities, and NHS Trusts work together on patient-orientated experimental medicine studies. NIHR CRFs are specially designed to support high-intensity studies and overnight stays, providing mindful and high-attentive care to patients. In the dHCP project, for example, new-borns are well-fed, sleeping, and have an inflated pillow placed around their head to muffle out noises and ensure their comfort as they are scanned. Likewise, pregnant women have several pillows placed around them and are given noise-cancelling headphones with the option to listen to music of their choice during the scan. Participants are also given a buzzer equipped with a microphone to talk to the radiographers if they’d like to ask any questions, feel discomfort, or stop the scan at any point should they wish not to continue.

Professor David Edwards, the principal investigator of dHCP, says:

“The work that we’re doing has a lot of implications for improving health and helping patients. We’re working in particular on problems of brain damage. Using imaging facilities, we can understand what goes wrong with the brain when things do go wrong. Recently, we’ve been linking imaging data from our imaging facility to genetics from the babies and discovered a gene that seems to be involved in the problems of pre-term babies having brain development. This is a target we can now look at in the clinic.”

To date, over 850 babies’ brains have been mapped, with the goal of reaching 1000 scans. The dHCP is a part of NIHR’s focus on supporting children’s clinical research. You can find out more about the future of children’s clinical research here. For more information on how to work with NIHR’s Clinical Research Facilities click here.

Featured image shows Diffusion Imaging of the neonatal brain. The images show an anatomical scan of a baby born at term overlaid with directionally resolved properties of the brain tissue and a visualisation of anatomical connections which were both derived from multi-shell high angular resolution diffusion data.

Films developed by Great Ormond Street Hospital in partnership with Birmingham Women’s and Children’s Hospital, Cambridge University Hospitals, Manchester University Hospitals, Leeds University Hospitals and Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospitals.

Research funded and supported by National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), Wellcome Trust, Aimmune Therapeutics, The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, JDRF, Ultragenyx Pharmaceutical, Kyowa Hakko Kirin and the European Research Council.

New study will explore why children with heart disease have brain development problems

New study will explore why children with heart disease have brain development problems – and pave the way towards life-improving treatments

Around 100 babies each year in the UK are born with congenital heart disease.

Thanks to advances in early diagnosis and treatment, around eight out of 10 children with congenital heart disease will now grow up to become adults.

But these children tend to do worse at school, with up to half experiencing neurodevelopmental problems. These can include difficulties with movement, coordination, memory, hyperactivity, attention, speech and language skills – and can severely affect their life chances.

Now, with funding of £174,035 from children’s charity Action Medical Research, Professor Serena Counsell at Centre for Medical Engineering, King’s College London is investigating the causes of neurodevelopmental delay in children with congenital heart disease, paving the way towards new life-improving treatments.

Professor Counsell explains:

“We need to understand why so many of these children go on to experience neurodevelopmental difficulties that can have a major impact on their life chances.”
“Our aim is to reduce the long-term effects of congenital heart disease on brain development, helping children to achieve their full potential. But first, we need to find out more about how brain development is affected.”

Professor Counsell’s team includes leading doctors and scientists who collected cutting-edge magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scans of 80 newborn babies with congenital heart disease, before they underwent surgery.

Now that the children are around two years old, the researchers will carry out a range of tests to assess the toddlers’ movement, learning and language skills.

They will then analyse the data, comparing it with that from healthy two-year-olds, to establish if there are specific changes that they can link to neurodevelopmental delay.

The team will also compare brain scans from each child before and after surgery, to investigate whether heart surgery has had an impact on their brain development.

“We hope we can improve our understanding of why many children with congenital heart disease experience neurodevelopmental problems, and achieve a more accurate way of measuring brain development – giving us the tools we will need to test new treatments in the future,” says Professor Counsell.

London’s most powerful MRI scanner to transform research

London is to benefit from a massive 20-ton scanner which is set to transform clinical research in the capital.

The state-of-the-art ultra-high field magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine will be the first of its kind in London and will be located at St Thomas’ Hospital, where a new clinical imaging research facility will be created to support its use. The facility will allow world-leading scientists to increase the understanding of a wide range of conditions and ultimately improve patient care. A special focus will be research into diseases affecting babies and children.

In order to get the huge scanner, which is three metres wide and three metres high, inside St Thomas’ Hospital, part of a wall will need to be removed and special foundations will be put in place to support its weight.

The 7 tesla (T) MRI scanner MAGNETOM Terra, made by Siemens Healthineers, operates with a very strong 7T magnet, whereas most MRI scanners operate with 1.5T or 3T magnets. The higher magnetic field results in much more detailed, higher quality images which can detect the more subtle changes diseases cause in the body.

The pioneering equipment will be hosted by the School of Biomedical Engineering and Imaging Sciences, King’s College London, and will provide a facility for researchers from King’s Health Partners Academic Health Sciences Centre, Imperial College London and University College London, The Institute of Cancer Research, London, and other leading research institutions in the capital to work together.

Research will focus on neurological, heart and musculoskeletal conditions, as well as cancer and diseases affecting babies and children. The facility will make use of the vast range of services offered at St Thomas’ Hospital to care for people during all stages of life, to ensure that patients can be scanned safely and can have access to wards, operating theatres and other investigations if needed.

The research facility will have its own dedicated entrance and waiting area, a large space for the scanner and a control room, a lab, an anaesthetic and recovery room which can also be used as a two-bed ward with a nurses station, and substantial office space. Using the scanner requires the technical expertise of highly-trained doctors, biologists, physicists, engineers and computer scientists.

Joseph Hajnal, Professor of Imaging Science at the Department of Biomedical Engineering, King’s College London, is the lead researcher. He said: “The 7T MRI scanner will offer enormous potential for research and investigation into a wide range of conditions. The new facility is truly collaborative and will be made available to all of the best researchers across London who are doing exciting work. It will bring together London’s high concentration of world-leading researchers, expertise from the city’s many national medical centres and a huge patient group living in the capital.

“The scanner is a real powerhouse and will be one of only a few in the UK used to research many different conditions in an integrated way between several organisations.

“We expect that using it will lead to many benefits for patients, including faster diagnosis and more targeted treatments. If research shows that it does then in future it will be used for patients in clinical settings, as well as for research.

“The new research facility is expected to build on the world-class research taking place in London and will benefit the whole of our city.”

The 7T scanner is expected to arrive at St Thomas’ Hospital later this year, with the new research facility up and running by the end of 2018. The project is funded by King’s College London and the Wellcome Trust.