Friday, 14 September 2018 10:18

He is zooming in on traces in the brain caused by diseases

Senior Researcher from Hvidovre Hospital has been granted DKK 11 mill. by EU to develop more accurate MRIs which may result in better treatment of e.g. multiple sclerosis.

 Henrik Lundell 570x280

In June 2018, Senior Researcher Henrik Lundell from the Danish Research Centre for Magnetic Resonance at Hvidovre Hospital stood before a panel of 18 members from the European Research Council in Brussels. For 10 minutes, he pitched his project about developing more accurate brain scan methods than those used today.

The purpose of his pitch was to be selected as the winner of a grant from EU for his research, and the tension was relieved when the Council recently granted him EURO 1.5 mill., meaning approx. DKK 11 mill. This meant cake for the colleagues.

More detailed “map” of the brain

Henrik Lundell wants to develop technical methods to develop far more detailed “maps” of cell changes in the brain, compared to what MRIs can provide today. In the end, it might result in earlier and more accurate diagnoses and treatments of the individual patient with, at the initial stage, multiple sclerosis, and in the future e.g. dementia, depression and Parkinson. In his research, he will use the two 7 tesla MR scanners located at Hvidovre Hospital. These have a magnet field which is more than double as powerful as the most powerful scanners used today at hospitals.

“MR scanning is a very sensitive but not very precise method. We can identify a lesion, but we are not as good at displaying individual disease processes. What we want now is to move the scanning methods to the next level where it is possible for us to differentiate changes in different inflammatory processes or degeneration of cells, which is e.g. found with patients with multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer,” Henrik Lundell explains.

Scanning of living brains

Today, one can look at this type of cell changes by looking at a biopsy or a dead brain in a microscope. However, using this new method, Henrik Lundell moves the microscope into a living human brain, so to speak, because one can see the cells and changes while the scanning takes place, and then the imaging can be analyzed more thoroughly.

“We develop a method to scan in vivo, i.e. on living human brains, where we can color de different cells and look at changes as clearly on the scans as we currently do under the microscope,” Henrik Lundell continues.

“I’m a technical nerd”

Henrik Lundell is an engineer and physicist with a key focus upon the technical development of scanners, analysis programs, etc. Thus, he intends to build up a project team consisting of three Postdocs and one Ph.D. Student, which is to broadly consist of persons with both technical, biological and medical background.

“I’m a technical nerd with a great interest in biology and medicine, and it is fascinating to be able to develop machines which can increase the number of things seen in the brain. To develop this and open new and unexplored doors is very interesting. I contribute with technical interest and knowledge, but we need to work as a broadly constructed team, supplementing each other.

Cake for the colleagues

The colleagues from the MR Research section has during the whole process, from application to nomination to presentation of his project to the European Research Council contributed with great support, Henrik Lundell acknowledges. So, when the decision was finally made in mid-July, it seemed only natural to celebrate with the colleagues.

“Of course, we cannot drink champagne at the hospital, so we celebrated with cake. At my level, 1.5 mill. euro is quite a bit of money, but this type of research is also expensive. We need expensive equipment and many competencies.”

About the European Research Council

The European Research Council is appointed by EU and has as its key focus on encouraging research in Europe through financial means and on supporting established research across all fields on the basis of scientific excellence.

You can find more about ERC’s starting grants here.

Other grant recipients from Hvidovre Hospital

Troels Scheel from the department of infectious diseases at Hvidovre Hospital was also awarded with a grant worth 1.5 mill. euro from the European Research Council for his research in virus infections within the framework of the Institute for Immunology and Microbiology at Copenhagen University.

 

You can also find articles about Henrik Lundell's grant in newspapers such as:

Lokalavisen Fredensborg - click here, and

Politiken - click here.

Kristeligt Dagblad - click here.