13 September 2013

Expertise combined at pioneering £7m research facility

The expertise of research scientists from HYMS and the University of York's departments of Chemistry, Psychology and Biology will be combined in a pioneering £7m research facility which has opened at the university this week.

The new Centre for Hyperpolarisation in Magnetic Resonance (CHyM) is developing technology which could increase the sensitivity of hospital Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans by up to 200,000 times.

The new purpose-built facility on York Science Park was opened by Sir William Castell, Chairman of the Wellcome Trust. Sir William gave a public lecture on how our understanding of the human body has been transformed through the application of engineering.

Over 30 research scientists work at the centre which includes a chemical laboratory and the latest research instrumentation.

The new technique, known as Signal Amplification by Reversible Exchange (SABRE), means that chemical analysis that once took 90 days to record can now be obtained in just five seconds, and detailed MRI images can be collected in seconds rather than hours. It could improve diagnoses and detection in many areas of medicine including cancer treatment, cardiovascular and neurodegenerative conditions.

Professor Simon Duckett from the University’s Department of Chemistry is leading the research, along with Professor Gary Green from the York Neuroimaging Centre (YNiC), supported by a Strategic Award from the Wellcome Trust.

Professor Duckett said the official opening marked a significant milestone in the development of new scanning technologies at York.

"The new technique we are developing here at York means that patients who once had to wait days or even weeks for scans to be completed and interpreted can, in some cases, now be diagnosed in hours allowing earlier treatment for serious illness," he said.

Professor Green said: "The technique will bring significant benefits to diagnosis and treatment in many areas of medicine and surgery ranging from cancer diagnosis to orthopaedics and trauma. It could ultimately replace current clinical imaging technologies that depend on the use of radioactive substances or heavy metal based contrast."

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