Research

We're involved in a range of research and development projects, working with other groups at the Trust and the University of Southampton, as well as other trusts and universities. We also work with commercial partners who wish to carry out research and development projects involving unsealed radioactive materials and associated image processing techniques.

Our research focuses on developing and applying techniques for quantifying nuclear medicine images, and we use other imaging modalities to help achieve this. Image simulation helps us to develop and validate methods of analysis. Find out more about our work below.

Principle research areas

Three dimensional imaging of the distribution of inhaled aerosol

Studying the pathway of inhaled radiolabelled aerosols in the body provides unique 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 conditions such as asthma and COPD, and helping us understand the health effects of particulate pollution in the atmosphere.

A key area of our work, carried out with the NIHR Respiratory Biomedical Research Centre at UHS, is developing techniques to estimate the distribution of deposition within the airway tree from spatial imaging data.

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The team is part of the Southampton Respiratory Imaging Group (SRIG).

Quantitative analysis of radionuclide imaging of the brain

The group has an established record of designing, validating and implementing a range of quantitative methods of analysing DaTSCAN datasets. With their high binding affinity for pre-synaptic dopamine transporters (DAT), these scans are able to diagnose Parkinson’s disease and offer a differential diagnosis over other neurological disorders with a similar clinical presentation. The group has experience of using regional uptake, shape and pattern recognition to aid the diagnosis.

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 and also the possibility of aiding and confirming diagnosis. We have pioneered the routine clinical use of statistical parametric mapping (SPM) and other quantitative and highly-sensitive approaches to image analysis of these scans, enabling response and diagnosis to be called with greater confidence.

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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.

Molecular radiotherapy dosimetry

Optimal safe and effective use of molecular radiotherapy (MRT) techniques requires similar techniques to those utilised in external beam radiotherapy. We have developed pragmatic, patient-specific dosimetry solutions for a number of target and organs at risk. We use these techniques clinically and as part of multi-centre clinical trials evaluating the safety and efficacy of MRT.

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The picture above shows an example of bone marrow uptake of labelled antibody (colour) superimposed on the grey scale CT image of anatomy. The very high uptake in marrow is used to treat patients with haematological malignancies such as leukaemia. All the bone marrow is ablated including the disease and the patient then undergoes a bone marrow transplant.

The use of simulation in radionuclide image evaluation

We have developed a fast analytical 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.

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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.

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.

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These images are of the same transverse abdominal CT slice: on the left is the 'perfect' slice. On the right, simulated transverse and coronal hawkeye CT, including noise, beam hardening, truncation and respiratory motion.