Our aim is to improve how we identify and prevent heart disease in young people. To achieve this our group focuses in two major areas (1) finding better ways to look after young people known to be at high risk, in particular mothers and offspring affected by pregnancy complications, such as pre-eclampsia and preterm birth (2) improving current technologies, such as echocardiography, used to diagnose early disease.
Pregnancy Complications and Cardiovascular Health
It is estimated that up to 1 in 3 young adults with hypertension will have been born to a mother who suffered severe pregnancy complications and the mother is also at risk of hypertension and stroke early in life. The realisation that the biology of pregnancy complications may also be of central importance to long term maternal health and risk of cardiovascular diseases in the offspring offers a new research paradigm relevant to the health of a significant number of young people.
We use multimodality imaging, including echocardiography, magnetic resonance, vascular ultrasound and microvascular imaging to identify the unique differences in cardiac, vascular and cerebrovascular systems that predipose these adults, neonates, and children to heart disease and stroke. In conjunction, we assess changes in cardiovascular responses under physiological stress conditions and study molecular mechanisms from blood and tissue collection that underlie the increased cardiovascular risk. We have now embarked on trials to determine whether current clinical advice effectively targets these differences or whether new strategies are required.
As part of this work, we have formed strong collaborations with groups within the UK and internationally and work closely with the Nuffield Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Department of Paediatrics and Department of Primary Care Health Sciences at the University of Oxford to ensure findings can be translated into clinical practice.
Advanced Echocardiography Research Group
Echocardiography is the most widely used cardiac imaging modality and the first imaging test most patients have to identify early signs of heart disease. Over the last ten years we have established an extensive digital image research archive including 3D imaging, speckle tracking, stress imaging and contrast studies. We are using these images to identify novel ways to quantify echocardiography so that diagnostic accuracy is improved and prevention advice can be more targeted.
Our advanced echocardiography research programme relies on active collaborations between Cardiologists, Cardiac Physiologists, Biomedical Engineers, Computational Biologists and Industry. We have provided clinical support for the Institute of Biomedical Engineering in Oxford in the field of ultrasound as well as other biomedical engineering groups, particularly in the area of computational modelling. Our current echocardiography research studies involve multiple sites and hospitals within the UK and also rely on international collaborations in Europe and North America. This work has now contributed to development of significant intellectual property including patents and two ultrasound-focused spin out companies.
Our experience in advanced analytics means we have also been asked to act as an imaging core lab reference centre for academic groups and commercial companies including development of bespoke imaging and quality control protocols for large scale cardiovascular imaging studies, such as UK Biobank.