Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and spectroscopy (MRS) are powerful tools to non-invasively determine structure, function and metabolism of the heart and vasculature. For this purpose, Oxford has been awarded funding from the British Heart Foundation (BHF – Second Cardiovascular Initiative) to build a new experimental MR-unit (Directors: Prof Stefan Neubauer and Dr Jürgen Schneider) for cardiac MRI and MRS at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics in Headington, Oxford. This unit, which is equipped with a horizontal 9.4 T/21 cm magnet and an Agilent (formerly Varian) console, is integrated in the Department of Cardiovascular Medicine. In the same initiative, funding was also awarded to University College of London, Kings College, London and The University of Edinburgh.
The research in BMRU aims to develop novel, fast, high-resolution MRI-methods that can be applied to define function, structure and viability of the heart. Another major focus will be to develop and to apply experimental MRS methods. Despite major methodological difficulties of MRS, such as low sensitivity and metabolite concentrations resulting in low spatial and temporal resolution, cardiac and respiratory motion or heterogeneous tissues, this extremely versatile technology can provide important and novel insights into cardiac ion homeostasis, intermediary and energy metabolism. Technical developments and applications will lead to a greater understanding of cardiac pathophysiology, and the MR methods developed here may well impact on clinical applications.