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Our group aims to make early diagnosis and continuous check-ups for (vascular) diseases accurate, affordable, and accessible for everyone. We focus on women’s vascular health and global health and aim to better understand the impact of hypertensive disorders of pregnancy on the brain.

Small vessel images taken by a VITA device show clear differences between a healthy participant and a participant with cardiovascular risk factors and worse brain health.
Small vessel images taken by a VITA device show clear differences between a healthy participant and a participant with cardiovascular risk factors and worse brain health.

Hypertensive Disorders of Pregnancy and the brain

Hypertensive disorders of pregnancy are associated with earlier occurrence of stroke and cognitive impairment than would be expected given their baseline characteristics and blood pressure levels. By imaging post-partum brain and microvascular changes in women with and without a history of hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, we aim to better understand how hypertensive disorders of pregnancy affect brain health over time. This could help improve outcomes of women who have had hypertensive disorders of pregnancy through the right interventions at the right time.

3D brain vessel structure3D brain vessel structure


VITA: novel device for microvascular and blood cell imaging

In addition, we develop and test the Vascular Imaging Tool for the Auricle (VITA) in collaboration with Dr. Elliot Bentine at the Department of Physics. VITA is a medical imaging device that measures characteristics of small vessels and blood cells. The device is portable, non-invasive, and easy to use, which enables use in resource-poor settings and community care. VITA could be used to measure and monitor early signs of microvascular changes associated with cardio- and cerebrovascular disease, diagnosis of different types of anaemia, and monitoring inflammatory response to infections.

We have been using VITA to study microvascular health in research participants with a range of cardiovascular health risks due to their blood pressure and/or pregnancy history. We also collect deep phenotyping measures such as cardiac and brain MRI, retinal vascular imaging, blood samples, and blood pressure measures in these participants, which allows us to investigate the relationship between microvascular health measured in the ear and end organ health. VITA is also used to look at microvascular health in patients admitted to the Acute Ambulatory Unit.

VITA can also be used to measure blood cell health. Clinical validation of VITA’s blood cell measurements against the gold standards is funded by the MRC and the Medical Life Science and Translational Fund (supported by the MRC and the Wellcome Trust). We test VITA’s ability to measure red blood cell characteristics in healthy volunteers (VITA-A study) and in pregnant women (NITA study).


VITA examplesThe VITA device is non-invasive and clips onto the outer ear. Multiple small vessel and blood cell parameters can be identified from the resulting images (image above). 

Our team

Division of Cardiovascular Medicine Administration Team

Our administration team is led by Heidi Crook.


  • Dr Elliot Bentine, University of Oxford, Department of Physics
  • Dr Christina Aye, University of Oxford, Nuffield Department of Women’s and Reproductive Health
  • Dr Manisha Nair, University of Oxford, Nuffield Department of Population Health, National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit
  • Dr James Fullerton, University of Oxford, Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Sciences
  • Claire Litchfield, Women’s Centre, Oxford University Hospitals
  • Prof Nils Forkert, University of Calgary, Cumming School of Medicine, Department of Radiology
  • Dr Christina Malamateniou, University of Oxford; City University of London

Related research themes