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The UK7T Network: developing the ultra-high field MRI platform for biomedical research.

The UK7T Network serves as a platform for future UK-wide, collaborative research programmes in 7T magnetic resonance bringing together the five sites in the UK that currently have 7T Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scanners (Cambridge, Cardiff, Glasgow, Nottingham and Oxford). 

By providing:

1st UK7T Network Ultra - High Field Symposium
1st UK7T Network Ultra - High Field Symposium, Leeds University, 2016
  • acceleration in the exploitation of the clinical potential of 7T MRI
  • building capacities and developing consistent approaches to image data acquisition
  • future collaborative research programmes, including multi-site clinical studies


Title: The UK7T Network: developing the ultra-high field MRI platform for biomedical research.

We will...

  1. Increase the level of expertise in UHF magnetic resonance that the UK 7T sites can call upon, by sharing the experience that has been built up at the two established 7T sites, training a cohort of postdoctoral researchers and delivering a programme of targeted UHF training workshops.
  2. Organise a series of UHF symposia and workshops, establish a Network Advisory Committee and open up access to 7T scanning for pilot studies, to ensure that the wider community of researchers in the UK who develop and apply MR have the opportunity to exploit the UK's investment in 7T infrastructure.
  3. Produce a set of optimised 7T protocols for brain imaging that can be used by all of the 7T sites. These will include: (i) relatively straightforward anatomical and functional brain imaging methods that can applied quickly; (ii) more advanced methods, such as diffusion imaging and arterial spin labelling, that require additional development work; (iii) standardised quality assurance protocols that can be used to maintain a high level of scanner performance at all sites.
  4. Work with the Dementias Platform UK's national image sharing and analysis platform to develop the capability to share and aggregate data acquired across the UK7T Network sites, and to develop analysis pipelines that are optimised for 7T data.
  5. Demonstrate that the UK7T Network can act as a platform for large-scale multi-site studies by evaluation of two demonstrator cohorts: (i) a core data-set of high-resolution anatomical brain images from 1000 healthy adults across the age lifespan, including at least 100 data-sets from healthy subjects in the 50-80 years age range; (ii) a pilot clinical study of twenty five, early-stage Alzheimer's disease patients.
  6. Establish a robust UK7T Network management structure that will support the development and exploitation of the UK's UHF infrastructure, through the period of the Partnership Grant and beyond.

Key information

Principal investigator:

Funder: Medical Research Council (MRC) MR/N008537/1

Value: £1,050,150

Start to end date: April 2016 - March 2019

Useful links

2nd UK7T Ultra High Field Network Symposium: 07 April 2017Gateway to Research: Project informationVisit our Facebook page

Planned impact
Ultra High Field (UHF) MRI technology lies at the cutting edge of biomedical imaging, and has the potential to provide unique insights into key medical conditions, including dementia, cerebrovascular disease and mental health. The MRC and other funding bodies have recently invested heavily in UHF infrastructure and this Partnership Grant aims to establish a UK7T Network to enable and encourage collaborative work on the development and application of UHF technology. This Network will form an enduring platform for future work, which will impact positively upon the UK's medical technology and pharmaceutical sectors, and also on clinical research, ultimately leading to benefits for health and well-being. 

Through a series of network interactions, including UK7T Network UHF Symposia and a programme of training workshops, we will share expertise between the sites and present the wider biomedical research community with an insight into the potential of UHF technology for a range of applications. Importantly this will enable researchers who currently have no access to or expertise in UHF MRI to evaluate how it might positively impact their research. Practicing clinicians will be included in the UK7T Network Steering Committee to ensure that the network focuses on the needs of the clinical community and by training a cohort of post-doctoral physics researchers we will build the UK's capacity to apply cutting edge methods to clinical problems. Furthermore, UHF MRI promises to be an important tool for experimental medicine, and the UK7T Network can therefore provide a valuable platform for the pharmaceutical industry.

The UK has played a pioneering role in the development of MRI and, to date, all of the UHF MRI magnets used worldwide have been manufactured in the UK. Furthermore, the UK's medical technology sector has shown consistent growth over the past few years, and UHF offers many opportunities for the development of new technology that will also impact upon lower field MRI systems. The postdoctoral researchers trained by the UK7T Network will have been exposed to the full range of challenges facing MR and to the clinical needs that are of importance to the UK, and will thus be in a good position to contribute to maintaining the UK's strength in biomedical technology. 

The methods, protocols and results arising from this Partnership Grant will be published widely in both specialist and general interest journals, and the strong track record of the applicants in working with the technology vendors, will ensure that access to new developments will not be restricted to the UK7T sites. 

All the UK7T sites are committed to taking every opportunity to engage the public in their science, as evidenced by their involvement in a wide range of outreach activities to adults and children, and the outputs of the UK7T Network will be disseminated to the general public via these means. 

The most important outcome of the UK7T network will be the establishment of a platform for future large scale, cross-site, clinical trials which will have significant impact upon human health and the pharmaceutical industry. Multi-site studies involving large cohorts are recognized as being essential if meaningful inferences are to be made at a population level. However there are significant barriers to the successful implementation of such studies at UHF. By focusing on delivering a portfolio of common protocols, coupled with the tools for data sharing and management, we will produce the infrastructure needed to enable such large scale studies to succeed. This work will also have impact on similar large scale, cross-site and cross-platform studies that are carried out at lower field.
1st UK7T Network Ultra - High Field Symposium. Group image after Dr. Simon Shah delivering his talk
1st UK7T Network Ultra - High Field Symposium
Dr Simon Shah delivering his talk at 1st UK 7T Network Symposium
Dr. Simon Shah delivering his talk at the 1st UK7T Network Symposium