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01 Aug

Microstructural imaging of immune-mediated inflammation

Allocated Projects

Microstructural imaging is a recent paradigm of non-invasive imaging that can directly produce 3-D maps of biological features of bodily tissue in living beings. The ultimate aim is to achieve virtual histology, i.e., to create these maps of such fidelity that they can one day replace highly-invasive biopsy procedures which are required today to establish firm diagnosis in many diseases. Current-generation techniques, such as neurite orientation dispersion and density imaging (NODDI), have shown the great potential of the microstructure imaging paradigm in the brain.

However, to date there has been little research into diseases that involve immune-mediated inflammation (where the body – particularly the skeleton – is ‘attacked’ by its own immune system). Therefore, the development of new microstructural imaging methods for characterising inflammation is a novel and important research area with the potential for significant advances across diverse sectors, including tissue modelling, image acquisition/analysis and immunobiology.

In areas of inflammation, inflammatory cytokines cause profound changes in the tissue biology, with changes in capillary permeability, blood flow, cellular makeup and enzymatic activity. This project will harness the potential of microstructural imaging methods and aims to disentangle the components of this inflammatory process. It will develop new methods for characterising the nature and size of the cells and fluid in the extracellular space, and will explore the effect of inflammation on these tissue elements. Long term, this approach has the potential to improve the diagnosis and treatment of patients with inflammatory diseases, and to generate biomarkers enabling us to better monitor the new generation of ‘biologic’ anti-inflammatory treatments which are now becoming available.

Person Specification
We particularly welcome applications from individuals with a strong background in computing, mathematical or physical sciences, imaging or related disciplines, who are highly motivated to pursue a research career in healthcare engineering.

The studentship will be based jointly between the Microstructure Imaging Group of the Centre for Medical Image Computing and the Centre for Medical Imaging at UCL. The successful candidate will join a multi-disciplinary team to develop the next-generation microstructure imaging techniques based on MRI. The project will leverage the state-of-the-art in image acquisition and biophysical modelling, and will provide an ideal opportunity for any talented and motivated individual to develop technical skills and gain practical experiences in these cutting-edge areas of research. The work will involve stimulating collaborations with world-leading research groups at UCL, including those in medical physics, engineering, radiology, statistics and immunology/rheumatology.

The candidate must be a UK passport holder, or be an EU citizen who has been in the UK for 3 consecutive years at the time of application. The required qualifications can be found here.

How to Apply
Interested applicants are invited to email Dr Tim Bray (t.bray@ucl.ac.uk), Dr Gary Zhang (g.zhang@ucl.ac.uk) and Professor Margaret Hall-Craggs (margaret.hall-craggs@nhs.net) to discuss the application.