Research projects aimed at addressing issues such as heart disease in babies and head injuries have been showcased at a special event.
Judges selected six researchers at Imperial who are currently undertaking clinical academic training to present their projects as finalists at a conference organised by the Clinical Academic Training Office (CATO), a network established to provide training for clinical staff, and allied healthcare professionals at Imperial College London and Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust.
Out of the six researchers, four were awarded prizes by judges for their work in the categories of Academic Clinical Fellows (ACFs), Research Training Fellows (RTFs) and Academic Clinical Lecturers (ACLs). The prize winners were:
Dr Katherine Ordidge, Academic Clinical Fellow, for a study that aims to develop a non-invasive imaging based test to predict brain tumour aggressiveness. Currently, patients who are suspected of having a brain tumour are referred for a biopsy, an invasive procedure that involves surgically removing a small piece of brain tissue so it can be diagnosed. The study is assessing whether using non-invasive imaging technology such as PET/CT scans and magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) could be as accurate at diagnosing tumours through biopsies.
Dr Timothy Dawes, Clinical Research Training Fellow, for his study that aims to create detailed three-dimensional (3D) models of the heart from conventional MRI images, for patients with pulmonary hypertension. This is a condition where raised blood pressure occurs in the pulmonary arteries, blood vessels that carry blood from the heart to the lungs. The condition can cause damage to the right side of the heart, making it less efficient at pumping blood around the body and getting oxygen to the muscles. The results showed that 3D models are better at identifying patients who are at a higher risk of dying from pulmonary hypertension than current tests because it reveals more subtle changes in heart structure and function. The 3D models can be used to identify patients who might benefit from more aggressive treatment and closer monitoring.
Dr Rita De Campos Pires Santos E Sousa, Clinical Research Training Fellow, for a study that examines how brain damage develops following a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and investigates potential drug treatments such as xenon, a noble gas and general anaesthetic, to tackle this. The latest findings showed for the first time in an animal model that xenon reduces brain injury and improves neurological outcomes in the short and long term. According to the research team, xenon could be used to treat TBI patients in the future.
Dr James Ware, Clinical Lecturer, for a study that aims to identify genetic causes of Congenital Heart Disease (CHD) in babies. CHD is a term used to describe a range of birth defects that affect the workings of the heart. Dr Ware’s study has identified genes that cause CHD, and has found an important genetic link between CHD and abnormal brain development.
Dr Jeremy Levy, Director of the Clinical Academic Training Office that made the awards, said: “Training and developing the next generation of clinical academics is a key part of CATO’s activities. This event was designed to showcase what can be achieved when we support our staff who want to undertake clinical academic training and progress in their careers. The findings from these research projects have the potential to make their way from the lab into new innovative treatments for patients.”
The conference was attended by 45 participants and their supervisors from Imperial College London and Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust representing a broad range of medical specialities. All participants are involved in research work while undertaking their clinical academic training. Matthew Pickering, Professor of Rheumatology, at Imperial College London, also gave delegates an insight into developing a successful clinical academic career at the event.
The event concluded with an open discussion about the support and resources currently available to clinical academic trainees such as research fellowships. Delegates were also invited to comment on their experience of training and research at Imperial and how this can be enhanced. The feedback will inform further development of CATO priorities and initiatives over the next five years.
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