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MRC DiMeN Doctoral Training Partnership: New MRI scan technologies to measure pulmonary structural and functional change associated with lung disease

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  • Full or part time
    Dr P Thelwall
    Prof A Blamire
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

We are developing MRI-based methods to image lung ventilation and perfusion properties. These new methods provide quantitative measures of lung function in a non-invasive and radiation-free scan, and the goal of our research is to develop these technologies towards use in the clinic. In our current lung MRI research we have used an inhaled MR-visible tracer gases (perfluoropropane) and intravenously injected MRI contrast agents to visualise and quantify lung ventilation and perfusion properties. This PhD project will focus on quantifying changes in lung tissue density and blood content over the cardiac and respiratory cycles to produce MRI-based measurements of lung ventilation and perfusion properties that are entirely non-invasive and tracer free.

The new lung imaging methods are significant for patients because current methods to assess lung function either lack spatial information (eg. spirometry) or incur an ionising radiation dose (eg. gamma camera ventilation/perfusion scans, CT scanning). Development of these methods can bring quantitative radiation-free assessments to the clinic that are well suited to assessing disease progression or response to therapy over time.

We will implement these methods on the research-dedicated scanners at our centre, and also on the hospital scanners in our local NHS Trust. In our centre we will compare measures of ventilation and perfusion obtained by our scans with our existing tracer gas and contrast agent measurements of lung ventilation and perfusion, in both healthy volunteers and patients with lung disease, to measure and quantify the ability of the new scan methods to report on lung functional properties. In our local NHS Trust we will acquire ventilation and perfusion measurements from patients with lung disease (specifically, patients with pulmonary embolism, chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and patients with lung perfusion defects (specifically, pregnant women with suspected pulmonary embolism), then compare these measures with conventional clinical measures of assessing lung function to gauge their utility.

Project supervisors are Dr Pete Thelwall ( and Prof Andy Blamire ( If you are interested in this PhD then you are encouraged to contact Dr Thelwall ([Email Address Removed]) to learn more about the project and the research and training environment.

Benefits of being in the DiMeN DTP:
This project is part of the Discovery Medicine North Doctoral Training Partnership (DiMeN DTP), a diverse community of PhD students across the North of England researching the major health problems facing the world today. Our partner institutions (Universities of Leeds, Liverpool, Newcastle and Sheffield) are internationally recognised as centres of research excellence and can offer you access to state-of the-art facilities to deliver high impact research.
We are very proud of our student-centred ethos and committed to supporting you throughout your PhD. As part of the DTP, we offer bespoke training in key skills sought after in early career researchers, as well as opportunities to broaden your career horizons in a range of non-academic sectors.

Being funded by the MRC means you can access additional funding for research placements, international training opportunities or internships in science policy, science communication and beyond. See how our current DiMeN students have benefited from this funding here:
Further information on the programme can be found on our website:

Funding Notes

Studentships are fully funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC) for 3.5yrs
Stipend at national UKRI standard rate
Tuition fees
Research training and support grant (RTSG)
Travel allowance
Studentships commence: 1st October 2020.

To qualify, you must be a UK or EU citizen who has been resident in the UK/EU for 3 years prior to commencement. Applicants must have obtained, or be about to obtain, at least a 2.1 honours degree (or equivalent) in a relevant subject. All applications are scored blindly based on merit. Please read additional guidance here:

Good luck!


Dynamic susceptibility contrast 19F-MRI of inhaled perfluoropropane: a novel approach to combined pulmonary ventilation and perfusion imaging. Neal MA, Pippard BJ, Simpson AJ, Thelwall PE. Magn Reson Med. 2019 Aug 29. doi: 10.1002/mrm.27933.

Optimized and accelerated 19F-MRI of inhaled perfluoropropane to assess regional pulmonary ventilation. Neal MA, Pippard BJ, Hollingsworth KG, Maunder A, Dutta P, Simpson AJ, Blamire AM, Wild JM, Thelwall PE. Magn Reson Med. 2019 May 17. doi: 10.1002/mrm.27805.

How good is research at Newcastle University in Clinical Medicine?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 147.13

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