Nuclear medicine physics: research and development

We have an active and wide-ranging research and development portfolio within the nuclear medicine physics group. We work in conjunction with the department of nuclear medicine and with other groups at UHS and the University of Southampton who wish to carry out research and development projects involving radionuclides. We also have links with other hospitals and institutions, both in the UK and internationally.

Our work has focused on the development and application of techniques for quantifying nuclear medicine images. Our interest has included the synergistic combination of other modality imaging with radionuclide data, and the use of image simulation to help develop and validate methods of analysis. Find out more about our work below. Also, please see the story of nuclear medicine research in Southampton.

Principle research areas

Three dimensional imaging of the distribution of inhaled aerosol

We are involved in studying what happens to inhaled aerosol in the body, using combined three-dimensional radionuclide and magnetic resonance imaging. Combining this methodology with analysis software we have developed provides unique new experimental data on the pattern of aerosol deposition within the lung. This research is valuable in optimising inhaled delivery of drugs for the treatment of asthma, and helping us understand the health effects of particulate pollution in the atmosphere.

A key area of our work is developing techniques to estimate the distribution of deposition within the airway tree from spatial imaging data. This will enable improved interpretation of deposition data by clinicians as it is provided with relation to anatomy. The process requires a description of the airway tree in 3D space. A corresponding conceptual model has been created, and methods for calculating deposition by airway generation derived. 

3D representation of the first few generations of the airway tree from CT imaging.More recently, a more realistic airway model have been provided using CT images of both airways casts and real human subjects.

The picture to the right is a 3D representation of the first few generations of the airway tree from CT imaging.

The team also forms part of the Southampton respiratory imaging group.

Quantitative analysis of radionuclide imaging of the brain

Cerebral perfusion imaging is currently attracting renewed interest, as a result of the possibility of drug treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Imaging provides a valuable method of objectively assessing the response to treatment. We are investigating statistical parametric mapping (SPM) and other approaches to image analysis.

Typical 3D gamma camera images of cerebral perfusion displayed in pseudo colour     Example of the output from SPM analysis

On the left are typical three dimensional gamma camera images of cerebral perfusion displayed in pseudo colour. On the right is an example of the output from SPM analysis, showing areas with significantly reduced perfusion indicative of disease.

Radiotherapy dosimetry

We have been involved in targeted radiotherapy dosimetry for a number of years. Methods for macrodosimetry have been developed but more recently this has been extended to include microdosimetry.

The use of simulation in radionuclide image evaluation

We have developed a technique for the simulation of the gamma camera imaging process. This could potentially be used to evaluate qualitative image interpretation and quantitative image analysis. Simulated lung images have already been used in a national audit of quantitative lung imaging. We are now developing brain and renal models to produce simulated radionuclide images of these organs. This will allow improved evaluation of methods for quantitative analysis of brain and kidney imaging.

Computer model of the lung showing the different lung segments     Example of a simulated lung perfusion image with significantly impaired perfusion in the upper part of the right lung

The image on the left is a computer model of the lung showing the different lung segments. The image on the right an example of a simulated lung perfusion image with significantly impaired perfusion in the upper part of the right lung.

Nuclear medicine physics figure 4Nuclear medicine physics figure 4b

Our simulation also includes simulation of the CT data and the ability to include 4D motion of most major organs during the gamma camera imaging process. Inclusion of CT in the nuclear medicine model is an important part of overall image quantitation, with correction algorithms, such as those for scatter and attenuation likely to rely on registered CT data.

The images above are of the same transverse abdominal CT slice: on the left is the “perfect” slice. On the right, simulated transverse and coronal Hawkeye II CT, including noise, beam hardening, truncation and respiratory motion.

Technical improvements in nuclear medicine procedures

We are also involved in improving nuclear medicine procedures, and have ongoing work in the areas of simultaneous ventilation-perfusion imaging and in parathyroid subtraction imaging.

Example of a parathyroid image after optimal subtraction of overlying thyroid activity

The picture above is an example of a parathyroid image after optimal subtraction of overlying thyroid activity.

Meet the team

The nuclear medicine research team includes:

  • Dr Matt Guy (head of imaging group)
  • Dr Livia Tossici-Bolt
  • Gemma Lewis
  • Efstathios Varzakis

Contact us

Email matthew.guy@uhs.nhs.uk or livia.bolt@uhs.nhs.uk.