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Evelina Newborn Imaging Centre launched

Posted on 25/02/2013
Brainscanner

Newborn imaging facility will enable scientists to understand brain development and test new treatments for brain damage

A new state-of-the-art MRI imaging facility is being officially opened today, by Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies, at Evelina Children’s Hospital which is based at St Thomas’ Hospital.

The new Evelina Newborn Imaging Centre is part of the Centre for the Developing Brain at King’s College London, and is based in the Evelina Children’s Hospital, as part of King’s Health Partners Academic Health Sciences Centre. The new imaging centre will improve care for the smallest and sickest babies, and allow research into normal brain development and its problems, as well as, crucially, the testing of new therapies aimed to treat brain damage.

The new MRI scanner is part of a dedicated new NIHR Clinical Research Facility within the neonatal intensive care unit. This location means that premature or ill babies – those most in need – have immediate access to the imaging facilities, and will allow researchers to study this most vulnerable group of infants.

 

Professor David Edwards, Director of the Centre for the Developing Brain at King’s and consultant neonatologist at Evelina Children’s Hospital, said: 'I am delighted to welcome Dame Sally Davies and our keynote speaker Sir Mark Walport, Director of the Wellcome Trust, to the opening of the Evelina Newborn Imaging Centre today.

'This new unit is world-leading, providing a Clinical Research Facility with a state of the art MRI scanner in the safe environment of the neonatal intensive care unit. The most vulnerable babies will have access to these facilities, and it’s these infants that we need to know the most about in order to develop new treatments for brain damage. It’s a huge step forward and we are grateful to King’s College London, the Evelina Children’s Hospital, the Medical Research Council, and the National Institute for Health Research for supporting this important development in newborn medicine.

'We will use this scanner to test new treatments and to understand brain development, for example in the Developing Human Connectome Project which will map brain connections as they form, even before birth while babies are still in their mother’s wombs.'

The Developing Human Connectome Project – a €15 million collaboration funded by the European Research Council and led by King’s College London with Imperial College London and the University of Oxford – will look at how regular brain development compares with brain development after premature birth and in babies with autism. As autism is passed on genetically in about a third of cases, the researchers can follow pregnancies where the child is more likely to have autism. The new scanner measures connectivity by monitoring the water flow running up and down nerve fibres, and the project will involve 1,500 babies.

Notes to editors

For further media information please contact Emma Reynolds, PR Manager (Health) at King’s College London, on 0207 848 4334 or email emma.reynolds@kcl.ac.uk

Evelina Newborn Imaging Centre
To celebrate the official launch of the Evelina Newborn Imaging Centre, Guy’s and St Thomas’ and the Centre for the Developing Brain are holding a scientific symposium on Monday 25 February. Dame Sally Davies, the Chief Medical Officer for England, is officially opening the imaging centre. The keynote speakers are:
•    Professor Sir Mark Walport, the Director of the Wellcome Trust, and from April 2013 will take over as HM Government Chief Scientist
•    Professor Daniel Rueckert, Head of Biomedical Image Analysis, Imperial College London

Centre for the Developing Brain at King’s College London
The Centre brings together researchers from King’s College London and clinicians from Guy’s and St Thomas’, as part of King’s Health Partners. The team also works collaboratively with colleagues around the world, particularly with Imperial College London.

Researchers from the Centre will use the Evelina MRI scanner for research aimed at reducing the number of children who suffer brain damage in the perinatal period through:
•    Understanding human brain development around the time of birth
•    Creating new capabilities to map cerebral development in health and disease
•    Exploring and exploiting the underlying biology of brain development disorder to create new therapies
•    Conducting clinical trials of novel neuroprotective and neural rescue therapies – members of the Centre helped to show that cooling babies who had been deprived of oxygen during labour as soon as they were delivered minimises brain damage; this is now standard practice around the world.

The Centre for the Developing Brain receives support from the following funders: Medical Research Council; National Institute for Health Research; European Research Council; Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council; Wellcome Trust; Garfield Weston Foundation; Action Medical Research; British Heart Foundation; Sparks; The Belvedere Trust.

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