We are developing a mathematical model that can further the understanding of the mechanical processes that underpin the formation of fluid-filled cysts (called syrinxes) in the spinal cord of patients with syringomyelia. The presence of these syrinxes can lead to irreversible damage to the spinal cord which in turn can lead to progressive pain and paralysis of the patient's extremities. Surgery is the treatment of choice; however it carries significant risk and it would be important to identify patients who require treatment at an early stage. Currently, the mechanism for the formation and growth of syrinxes is not fully understood; some syrinxes appear stable and do not change in size, while others grow over time leading to worsening clinical symptoms.
Quantitative MRI is an incredibly versatile technique that opens a window on a number of microstructural properties within bodily tissues. We will use a state-of-the-art MRI scanner at the Clinical Imaging Sciences Centre (Brighton and Sussex Medical School) to collect quantitative imaging data of the spine that will provide vital structural parameters of the spinal cord to help inform the mathematical model. Properties such as elasticity, porosity and permeability have all been quantified elsewhere in the body using MRI, but this project will develop and optimize the existing techniques to deliver these parameters for the spinal cord. This will be a particular novelty for this project and would represent a valuable step in quantitative imaging of the spine.
This project has been submitted to the Collaborative Research Fund of the Universities of Sussex and Brighton (budget: £6,750) with an aim to apply for external funding from the Medical Research Council (MRC) or Spinal Research to continue the research in a patient population.
This project is intended to begin in spring 2018 and the first phase will conclude in February 2019.
This project aims to develop a reliable mathematical model of the stress and strain in the cord to provide a convenient means to assess the potential mechanical processes of the progression of the condition. This could be used to identify individuals at risk of developing the condition, or advise patients or their clinicians of therapy.
Quantitative MRI will be used to determine microstructural and mechanical properties of the tissue that are important to generate an accurate mathematical model of the cord.
To follow on completion of the project.
Professor Mara Cercignani (BSMS)
Dr Paul Harris (School of Computing Engineering and Mathematics)
Dr Nicholas Dowell (BSMS)
Dr Samira Bouyagoub (BSMS)
To follow on completion of the project
Carl Hardwidge, a consultant neurosurgeon at the Hurstwood Park Neuroscience Centre in Haywards Heath.