Astronomers focus on brain scans

Brain scan patients could have faster diagnosis and avoid repeat appointments, with a technique developed by astronomers.

Staff using a Magnetic Resonance Imaging Scanner

Astronomers and clinicians at the University have adapted an algorithm designed to process data from studies of distant galaxies for use in Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scanning.

Accurate results

We estimate that in two or three years this technology, derived from pure astronomy research, will be bringing benefits to patients.

Prof Alan HeavensProfessor of Theoretical Astrophysics

MRI scanning can record images of parts of the body from several angles and is used to examine organs or tissue.

Patients having scans may have to lie still for half-an-hour or more, while the scanner records successive layered images of their body.

If the patient moves, the images become distorted.

The astronomy algorithm corrects distortions, making the technique especially suited to use with children or seriously ill patients.

It also avoids patients having to undergo repeat scans to get accurate results.

Saving time

The new technology can deliver scan results instantly - without an expensive supercomputer.

Presently many scans are useless because of distortion errors and have to be repeated.

This technology could save time and allow more patients to have faster access to appointments.

It could also deliver substantial savings for healthcare providers.

This is a classic example of technology transfer from one field into another, where blue-sky research can lead to real practical clinical and social benefits.

Trevor WhittleyCommercialisation Manager, ERI