Barts Charity funding creates world first at Barts Heart Centre

31 Oct 2017

A new method for calibrating cardiac MRI scanners developed with our funding has been rolled out to 70 centres worldwide, helping patients with heart diseases globally.

Two years ago, with £18,000 Barts Charity funding, the team at Barts Heart Centre – part of St Bartholomew’s Hospital – developed a tool called a ‘phantom’, which are used to make sure that all cardiac MRI scanners are working in exactly the same way.

Gaby Captur, cardiology training doctor and post-doctoral researcher at the Centre, explains:

“Phantoms are jars of tightly defined composition that can be used for scanning, to calibrate the MRI machines.

“We developed them to give us – and centres worldwide – an operating standard for the machines.”

They’re called phantoms because essentially the living subject is missing and replaced by a ‘mysterious’ object mimicking a human body. Phantoms are also more readily available and provide more consistent results.

The new technique supports the pioneering work of Professor James Moon (pictured), who has been leading the ‘T1 mapping’ MRI method. T1 mapping is a type of heart imaging which creates a better understanding of cardiac fibrosis (scarring), which in turn helps doctors choose the most effective treatments for patients with heart disease.

To be able to extend T1 mapping worldwide, it is crucial that all MRI scanners operate to equivalent standards – and phantoms enable just this.

70 cardiac centres around the world have taken part, with results being analysed at Barts Heart Centre. This ‘global calibration’ allows for high-quality T1 mapping to be carried out.

This means a big step change in cardiac patient care.

“This infrastructure represents a significant step forward for the NHS,” said Gaby, “and we’re proud to have led the innovation.

“Cardiac patients with both common and rare heart muscle diseases are now benefiting from this development – worldwide, and on a daily basis.”

Clinical guidelines are now also recommending all cardiac centres calibrate their scanners using phantoms like the ones developed with our funding, and the phantoms are being manufactured commercially – a global quality control system thanks to the pioneering work here.

This new progress at Barts Heart Centre builds on our £2.2m funding of two cardiac MRI scanners in 2013, as well as £10m to help establish the Barts Heart Centre and its innovation in cardiac medicine.

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