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Strathclyde mathematician wins prize for stroke research

Dr Victorita Dolean, a mathematician at the University of Strathclyde, has been awarded a prestigious prize for research into methods for accelerating the diagnosis of strokes using high-performance computing.

Dr Dolean was part of the team of researchers which jointly won the Bull-Joseph Fourier Prize. The award recognised in France and internationally, rewards work in numerical simulation and data processing and highlights skills in high-performance scientific computing.

Dr Dolean, a Reader in Strathclyde’s Department of Mathematics and Statistics, said: ‘We are delighted and proud to have won this award for research in a very important area of health. In our research, we demonstrated an imaging technique, based on microwaves, which allowed the two types of stroke to be distinguished within less than 15 minutes. This technology can be used from the time when a patient is collected and throughout their hospital care.’

The research uses medical imaging to help clinicians distinguish more quickly between the two main types of stroke, which have different effects and require different types of treatment.

Dr Dolean commented on how this research may improve the outcomes of future stroke victims. She said: ‘Speed of diagnosis is crucial to a patient’s safety and, often, survival in strokes. Part of the reason for this is that there are different types of stroke. The more common type is ischemic, which accounts for 80per cent of cases and requires a patient’s blood to be thinned; the other 20 per cent of cases are haemorrhagic, where the patient’s blood pressure needs to be lowered.

Dr Dolean and her four colleagues received their prize of €15,000 at a ceremony in Paris. The award is made by digital services organisation Atos and French national computing agency GENCI. There are up to 152,000 strokes per year in the Uk alone.

 ‘Clinicians need an image every 15 minutes but the equipment used for these tests is expensive and isn’t portable; it can cost €300,000 for a CT scanner and €1 million for an MRI scanner.’

The research team used two types of open source software, FreeFem++ and HPDDM, developed by project partners at Laboratoire Jacques-Louis Lions in Paris. FreeFem++ generates a three-dimensional image of the brain by solving basic electromagnetism equations known as Maxwell's equations. Coupled with this, HPDDM (High-Performance Domain Decomposition Method) is a highly efficient parallel computing library that enables the solving of problems of great complexity and size.

Dr Dolean said: The combination of these two tools can simulate any physical phenomenon. All this has been made possible through a combination of new algorithms and powerful supercomputers.’

Dr Dolean’s colleagues in the prize-winning research were: Frédéric Nataf, Research Director at CNRS (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique), Paris; Professor Frédéric Hecht, and Pierre-Henri Tournier, Researchers at Laboratoire Jacques-Louis Lions, Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris; and Pierre Jolivet, CNRS Researcher at IRIT-ENSEEIHT, Toulouse.

Dr Dolean said: ‘Two prototypes of this technology are in a hospital in Vienna. An even smaller system is under development; it is the size of a helmet, which allows for even more precise measurements. It could eventually be something which people could have in their home.’

Vienna-based company EMTensor has created a machine consisting of a cylindrical chamber of data acquisition, with five rings of 32 antennae each. It works by placing the patient's head at the centre of the cylinder to measure electromagnetic fields following the emissions from each antenna.

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