Our Research Strengths
Within the neuro theme, MRI is an Oxford strength, particularly at the WIN Centre that forms a hub of human neuroimaging activity and combines expertise in imaging physics, analysis and applications. The WIN Centre has two 3 tesla human scanners with a state-of-the-art 7 tesla human scanner, along with pre-clinical 3 tesla and 7 tesla scanners. Together with the OCMR magnets the human neuro MRI portfolio can cover all patient cohorts from normal volunteer and out-patient (FMRIB, OCMR) to sub-acute in-patient (OCMR). We also have close ties with the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and the Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust.
Cognitive neuroscience imaging research is also strong and growing in Oxford. A particular strength is in combining diffusion MRI tractography developments with novel cognitive neuroscience insights. Current areas of neuroimaging clinical applications strength include pain, stroke, MS, mood disorders and schizophrenia and psychosis. We also have strong research programmes in brain plasticity, and in using techniques such as transcranial magnetic stimulation, transcranial direct current stimulation, and transcranial ultrasound stimulation. Another area of growing strength is in developmental neuroimaging. This theme is an important one at the Warneford MEG facility, where the building is particularly suited to studying children.
Human cardiac MR is also a particular strength in Oxford, which has become a world centre for cardiac MR research and training. There is also a complementary cardiac MR physics programme, with a particular interest in the use of hyperpolarized MR to study cardiac metabolism. The 7 Tesla human scanner initiative at WIN is also of importance to the cardiac research community, where it provides a unique platform for performing multi-nuclear spectroscopic assessment of myocardial integrity and tissue energetics. Beyond MRI the AMIIC facility has state-of-the-art human CT imaging and x-ray angiography research tools. These place Oxford in a strong position to conduct research in cardiovascular disease and atherosclerosis.
The human oncology imaging programme is based in the Dept of Oncology, where both animal models of cancer and patient cohorts are studied with imaging. The collaborative colorectal project between Oxford University and GE Healthcare is regarded by both sides as a highly successful model for University-industry imaging projects. The programme focuses on drawing together in a single interpretive package for analysis and integration of the results of magnetic resonance imaging with bioinformatics data such as cellular and DNA markers. This model is being extended to the study of lung cancer.
An area of continued growth in Oxford is in molecular imaging. The University is well placed to capitalise on the broad expertise in imaging sciences and medicinal chemistry, backed up by expertise in cellular microscopy and labelling. These programmes are ideally placed to facilitate translation of novel chemistry from test-tube to man, as well as providing crucial animal models of disease processes.
There are strengths in PET and SPECT agents for tumour hypoxia and angiogenesis markers, and MRI agents as inflammation markers. Other targets would be pH, apoptosis and metabolism. With increased radiochemistry capacity there is also the prospect of producing agents for cardiac metabolism and neurotransmitter applications. The Dept of Physics is developing novel nanostructures with potential application in drug delivery with imaging contrast payloads. Finally, the Dept of Engineering Science is developing novel image analysis algorithms to exploit molecular imaging data, and is developing image-guided drug delivery agents contained in ultrasound microbubbles.
The image analysis research programmes fall broadly along the main clinical themes with Steve Smith (neuro), Alison Noble (cardiac/oncology) and Mike Brady (oncology) leading the analysis efforts. The image analysis community in Oxford also has good experience with wider networked collaboration. The image analysis community is also bolstered by activity at the Institute for Biomedical Engineering.
There is a large span of activity in microscopy, ranging from the development of new instrumentation, including adaptive optics microscopes (Engineering Science) to the study of basic biological processes and the improvement of microscopy methodologies (Biochemistry, Dept of Physiology and Human Generics, Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine, Pharmacology, Physics).