The CUBRIC project was chosen for its potential to develop innovative technology to improve the diagnosis and treatment of serious illnesses including neurological diseases, improve patient outcomes, and help severely disabled people.
Based in the School of Psychology, CUBRIC has secured £570,000 to utilise magnetic resonance imaging to develop non-invasive neuroimaging to map the amount of oxygen that the brain uses. The rate of oxygen consumption, known as CMRO2, reflects neural activity and can change through disease processes.
Led by Professor Richard Wise, this new method has the potential to map the functional characteristics of brain blood vessels whose health is crucial for the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the brain. It is hoped that the technique will offer a marker for disease and treatment effects in neurological conditions such as epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and dementia, as well as psychiatric conditions such as depression and schizophrenia.
Diseases of the brain including neurological conditions, such as epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and dementia, and common psychiatric conditions such as depression and schizophrenia, have considerable personal, social and economic costs for the sufferers and their carers.
Professor Richard Wise said: “Improving the tools at our disposal for quantifying brain function would help with diagnosis of such conditions, choosing the right treatment for the patient and developing new, more effective, treatments.
“Until recently, it has only been possible to quantitatively map the human brain’s metabolic energy use through positron emission tomography (PET), which relies on radioactive tracers, which hampers the repeated study of disease or treatment progression and the study of normal brain development and aging. This method would avoid the use of ionizing radiation, would be cheaper than PET and more widely available, and would expand the applications of quantified CMRO2 mapping to more centres, leading to improved treatment targeting and potential healthcare cost savings”.
Richard Prager, from the University of Cambridge, who chaired the panel assessing the research proposals, said: “Technology for rehabilitation, acute care and imaging has huge potential to transform lives and improve medicine. It is great that such an exciting set of ambitious projects has been funded. The referees and review panel were greatly impressed by the large number and outstanding quality of proposals received”.