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Life Sciences | Biotechnology

Expertise at the cutting edge

Staff within the University of Hull?s interdisciplinary Clinical Biosciences Research Institute (CBRI) are undertaking cuttingedge work in a variety of fields, from simulation and visualisation in radiotherapy training to applications of Magnetic Resonance (MRS & MRI) in heart disease, immunotargeting of photodynamic agents against tumours and parasites, to biomedical applications of microfluidic technology

Visualisation of radiotherapy treatment of tumour. The radiation beam (in green) is uniquely shaped by computer control (see inset), the internal anatomy (i.e. the tumour and surrounding critical structures) of the patient and the diagnostic CT are used to plan the treatment.

The combination of expertise within the CBRI, drawn from many departments across the University of Hull including Biological Sciences, Chemistry, Computer Sciences, Engineering and the Hull York Medical School, facilitates translation of research undertaken at the boundaries of conventional disciplines. The Institute?s work is focused on three major clinical areas: Cancer, Cardiovascular disease and Musculoskeletal disorders.

The CBRI has benefited from recent investment in new facilities (high-field, wide-bore NMR spectrometer for Biomedical applications; a Centre for Medical Engineering and Technology comprising biomechanical test and analysis laboratories, and a biomechanical motion analysis laboratory; and a state of the art microscopy suite) that, together with on-going investment in fully equipped new laboratories (1050 sq m) on the University campus, and a £6.5 million clinical trials unit with integrated laboratory support on the local NHS acute trust hospital site, reinforce support for the Institute?s activities.

Key areas of expertise:

Virtual Environment for Radiotherapy Training ? VERT

This provides a life-size virtual replica of a radiation therapy room for the training of radiographers, nurses and doctors. It has been jointly developed by the Hull Immersive Visualization Environment centre (Prof R Phillips and J Ward) at the University in collaboration with the Radiation Physics Department (Prof A Beavis), Hull & East Yorkshire NHS Trust. VERT has been established over the past four years and the first system was delivered to the Aarhus University, Denmark, in January 2007. The UK government has since provided £5m to install VERT at the 10 universities that train radiographers and at 52 hospitals in England that treat cancer patients using radiotherapy; thus all future trainee radiographers in England will learn how to treat cancer using VERT

Musculoskeletal research

The multidisciplinary nature of this area of work is exemplified first by Medipex awarding Dr C M Langton and Prof A Mohsen their ?Innovation of the Year 2007? for an Improved Walking Crutch, and second through the development of a novel MRI approach for quantifying bone marrow composition. The latter work, building on the University?s international reputation in clinical and biological MRI, has major clinical applications, including the prediction of bone loss and response to treatment associated with osteoporosis, plus the risk of cancer patients developing bony metastases.

Applications of Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy and Imaging

LEFT: Microfluidic device. RIGHT:Pseudo-coloured MRI bone scan of spine quantifying bone marrow composition

The 500MHz wide-bore spectrometer is equipped to carry out a broad range of MR measurements from investigations of cellular systems, microimaging, to high resolution liquid-state NMR and ?magic-angle spinning? of solids. Prof J Cleland and Dr A-M Seymour are UK leaders in the use of 13C NMR for studying cellular remodelling in cardiovascular disease, whilst their chemistry colleagues are developing tissue and diseasespecific MRI contrast agents for rapid diagnosis of heart disease. The Biological MR suite complements the well-established clinical MRI work, conducted at the Yorkshire Cancer Research endowed unit, directed by Prof L Turnbull (see

Photodynamic Therapy (PDT)

Work on chemical synthesis of novel porphyrinbased PDT reagents, as well as their application in targeting tumours and protozoan parasites such as Leishmania, continues to be highly productive. Dr Boyle, who leads this work, is a partner on a major EU FP6 funded proposal on PDT of tumours and works closely with the clinically based Yorkshire Laser Centre. The group in Hull has a range of light sources, including those currently in use clinically, facilitating translation of research reagents into clinical applications.

Biomedical Applications of Microfluidic Technology

Hull has carried out over 240 man-years of research, funded jointly by industry and the EPSRC (approximately 50:50) to establish the fundamental design and operational parameters (channel shape, size, flow methodology and surface functionalisation) of microfluidic devices. The University supports an in-house facility for designing and fabricating prototype devices. Recently, work has focused on biomedical applications such as DNA detection and systems integration (EPSRC, EP/D040930); design and validation of novel microfluidic-based methodologies for monitoring and characterising cell:cell and intercellular processes that occur in complex tissue samples such as tumours (BBSRC, BB/E002722/1); and the development of a system that will allow analysis of cardiac tissue in response to alterations in cellular environment, drugs or injury (Heart Research UK RG2538/07/10). This work, led by Prof S Haswell and Dr J Greenman, has attracted over £1.6M grant funding over the past two years, that supports an expanding interdisciplinary team of 15 academics and research scientists.

Membership of CBRI includes a group of 35 academic staff and associated postdoctoral research assistants and postgraduates, linked through substantial, collaborative grant funding. Staff have extensive links with clinicians at the local hospitals, and industry through the University?s Doctoral Training Accounts.

The University?s Business and Community Knowledge Exchange ( actively promotes industrial collaboration as well as exploitation of Intellectual Property through its co-ordination of the network of business associates in the Institutes and departments.

For more information, contact:
Prof Nicholas D Stafford, Director
or Dr John Greenman
Tel: 01482 466032
Fax: 01482 466996
Email: or