A research project funded by our BRC has won a Research Impact Award, to make a video about a project to diagnose heart conditions in unborn babies.

The Research Impact Awards are for research taking place within the NIHR Clinical Research Network (CRN) South London. The winner receives a £3,000 award to make a film about their work. The shortlisted applicants presented a three-minute pitch at the NIHR CRN South London’s Annual Research Day.

Clinical Research Fellow Dr David Lloyd told the audience how the team would use the prize money to tell the story of their research, and acknowledge the contributions of staff and the hundreds of women who took part in scans to build the technology.

Dr Lloyd said: “With the video we want to tell the full story of what was involved in the research, including thanking the patients who volunteered. We have scanned over 240 pregnant women, who have given us their time and energy and made a huge contribution to the research. This new technique has now been fully translated into clinical practice here at St Thomas’, something we wouldn’t have been able to do without them.”

“There were seven other people pitching, and their presentations were all really high quality, so it’s great to win this award. This project is the result of a huge team of people working together over the last few years. This is an opportunity to showcase the work of the whole team.”

Image of a fetal MRI scan showing the blood flow to the heartThe research will allow doctors to get detailed 3D images in unborn babies with a congenital heart condition, allowing them to plan ahead and ensure they get the correct treatment from birth.

Because the babies cannot be exposed to radiation, the team used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to get additional images. However, they had several problems to overcome. They had to develop techniques that would deal with the small size of babies’ hearts, and the fact that foetuses move around in the womb.

The team developed computer software to piece a series of 2D images together and then build an unprecedented 3D image.

Professor Andrew Shennan OBE, Clinical Director of the NIHR CRN South London said: “There was more than one outstanding presentation in our first ever Research Impact Award. David’s presentation was voted best by our audiences demonstrating excellent research into foetal heart imaging. The new techniques that David described deserve more attention and we’re glad that the funding that comes with this award will support the production of an impact video for this research.”