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New £2M medical imaging centre to tackle major disease

A new £2million state-of-the-art medical imaging centre, set up to develop innovative diagnostic techniques in the battle against major illness and diseases such as cancer and brain and heart disease, was officially opened in Aberdeen today (Wednesday, May 9).

The University of Aberdeen’s new Lilian Sutton Building, based at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, was opened by Principal C Duncan Rice, on behalf of Mrs Sutton, who also attended the event.

The new centre is home to the latest Research MRI Scanner, which will be used to research the three main areas of disease supported by the Chief Scientist’s Office in Scotland.

Professor Rice said that he was honoured that Mrs Sutton had agreed to attend the opening of the new facility, which will help maintain the University’s position at the leading edge of medical imaging technology.

“I am delighted that Mrs Lilian Sutton is able to attend the opening of this new centre which has been named in her honour and to see the development of medical imaging techniques that her funding has provided. We have been given the opportunity to see today how this centre is developing innovative diagnostic techniques to help tackle major illnesses and diseases,” he said.

“This new facility is a major boost for the University’s world-renowned MRI Group and will enhance our on-going medical research. Given the magnificent contribution which Mrs Sutton and her late husband have provided to the University, it is highly appropriate that we name the building after Mrs Sutton.”

The Roland Sutton Academic Radiology Trust was set up in the late 1980s through generous donations from Mrs Sutton and her late husband Roland Sutton, to promote radiological research in Aberdeen for the benefit of the people of the North East of Scotland. Professor Fiona Gilbert was appointed to the Roland Sutton Chair of Radiology and heads the University’s Department of Radiology.

Professor Gilbert said that the Lilian Sutton Building embodies the unique partnership between the private and public sector, through the generosity of Mrs Sutton and the skill and expertise of scientific and medical teams in the city.
”I believe this new building in Aberdeen will foster high quality collaborative studies in both basic science and health care. Patients in Scotland and far beyond will ultimately benefit,” she added.

The new centre was commissioned following the award of a successful grant from the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council (SHEFC) for a state-of-the-art research magnetic resonance scanner by the University’s Radiology and Bio-medical Physics Departments to further imaging research into cardiovascular and neurological disease and cancer.  Mrs Sutton and the Grampian University Hospitals NHS Trust Endowments Committee also made further substantial donations towards the building.

The new centre shows the continuation of the development of MRI technology and its clinical use, which the Aberdeen team has been working on since the 1970s and which has made such a major contribution to medical research.

The University’s international contribution to the world of medicine reaches back to the establishment of the first Chair of Medicine in the English-speaking world at Aberdeen in 1497. In addition, Aberdeen is the only university in Scotland to have received the Queen’s Anniversary Prize 2000 in developing new techniques for medical imaging early this year.

Notes to Editors:
Background information on the three main areas of research conducted within the Lilian Sutton Building:

Cardiac Imaging
Heart disease in Scotland is one of the leading causes of death.  Work in cardiac imaging demonstrates close collaboration between the Departments of Radiology and Bio-medical Physics and cardiologists. The MRI scanner has the unique ability to accurately demonstrate the heart anatomy and the function of the heart muscle.  The blood supply to the heart can be shown and the amount of heart disease can be calculated.  It is hoped that the MRI examination of the heart will assist heart surgeons predict which patients would benefit from heart bypass surgery.  A further aim is to develop a one-stop heart imaging test which will not only demonstrate the presence of heart disease but also the potential capability of heart muscle repair.

Brain Imaging
Stroke is a common, serious disease in Scotland and this is a major area of research in the new MRI centre.  MRI is able to show the affected areas of the brain almost immediately after the stroke has occurred.  This has huge implications for stroke victims as it can improve their outcome by demonstrating the effect of new drugs that may limit the stroke damage.  The MRI scanner is able to look at how the brain uses its blood supply and increases the oxygen delivery to active areas of the brain.  Using this technique we can demonstrate which areas of the brain are responsible for different activities, for example, finger tapping and looking at an image on a screen.  This technique is being used to study autism and also early Alzheimer’s disease (dementia).  The neuro team at the MRI centre is studying the relationship of brain abnormalities to various inherited risk factors and the blood supply to the brain.

Cancer Imaging
Contrast enhanced MRI is a sensitive technique for detection of breast cancer.  Women at high risk of breast cancer are being studied in trials of MRI as a screening technique.  MRI is being compared with positron emission tomography (PET) in the diagnosis, staging and assessment of response to chemotherapy of breast cancer.  MRI can assess the vascularity of the tumour and can be used to test new drugs developed to treat breast cancer.  MRI of the axilla has also been investigated in the centre as a non-invasive alternative to surgical staging of the lymph nodes.

Issued by Public Relations Office, External Relations, University of Aberdeen, King's College, Aberdeen, telephone: 01224 272014, fax: 01224 272086.

University Press Office on telephone +44 (0)1224-273778 or email