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New research centre to aid clinical diagnosis

Posted on 23 October 2014

Research started in the Chemistry Department at the University of York leads to way to a new national centre to transform medical imaging

Simon Duckett and Gary Green in front of NMR

A new £7.6 million research grant from the Medical Research Council with co-funding from British Heart Foundation and Arthritis Research UK will be used to establish a research centre that spans the universities of York and Leeds, and the Leeds Teaching Hospitals to use hyperpolarisation in clinical diagnosis. 

The funding is part of a package worth more than £230 million for universities across Britain that was announced by Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne today (Thursday, October 23).

The technique, which is known as Signal Amplification by Reversible Exchange, or SABRE, was been developed by scientists in the Chemistry and Psychology Departments at the University of York. It works by magnetically labelling drugs or substances that occur naturally in the body, without changing their molecular structure, making the method very safe and versatile.

This technique will give medical professionals new insights into the workings of the human body in health and illness. The new method also has the potential to make the development of new drugs more effective.

Professor Sven Plein, leader of the research team from the School of Medicine at the University of Leeds, said: “This is a great example of bench to bedside research that we hope will have a profoundly positive impact on the lives of patients.

“Together with colleagues at the University of York, we hope that this technique could in future be applied to every MRI scanner in the country, massively enhancing how medical professionals diagnose illness in patients.”

Professor Gary Green from the York Neuroimaging Centre (YNiC) and Professor Simon Duckett, from York’s Department of Chemistry, lead the development of SABRE. Professor Green said: “It is wonderful and very exciting that our Wellcome Trust sponsored research will be made available for use in the clinic. This funding will also allow us extend the use of the methodology to a much wider range of pharmaceutical and diagnostic agents.”

The development of the SABRE technique in York is being driven forward at a £7m purpose-built research facility that opened last year. The Centre for Hyperpolarisation in Magnetic Resonance (CHyM) houses over 30 research scientists and combines the world-class expertise of research scientists from the University of York’s departments of Chemistry, Psychology and Biology, as well as the Hull York Medical School.

The SABRE project has already gained over £12m of support from the Wellcome Trust, Bruker Biospin and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

Professor Duckett said “This investment will enable us to compress the timescale to convert our research into clinical applications and we look forward to working with the Leeds team to realise these aims. The groundwork for this award started over 20 years ago, and I would like to thank all the researchers who contributed to getting us to this exciting new stage of development.”

Notes to editors:

Further information is available about the award on the University news pages.

Further details are available about the Centre for Hyperpolarisation in Magnetic Resonance (CHyM)

More information is available about the work of Professor Simon Duckett

More information is available about the work of Professor Gary Green and the York Neuroimaging Centre (YNiC).