SUSTAIN SouthWest secures £300K from the Medical Research Council for groundbreaking stroke research

Written by: unknown author Dec 04, 2023

Strokes represent one of the leading causes of death and disability in the UK, impacting around 100,000 patients each year. However, with one in seven strokes seen as preventable, a new project aims to enhance health the ability to predict whether a person is at a increases risk of stroke. Funded by a £300,000 grant from the Medical Research Council, the project is being led by experts at the University of Plymouth, working with colleagues at the University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust and the University of Exeter.

It will assess past brain scans and other medical test rtesults of stroke survivorsand aim to establish if there are patterns which could have identified them as being a stroke risk. The researchers will then look to develop a series of artificial intelligence models that can predict whether someone is at greater risk of experiencing a stroke at any point over the next decade. With the first five years of care post stroke costing the NHS around £3.6billion, and 13.7% of strokes regarded as being preventable, the project team hopes its work will not only improve lives but also prove cost effective at a time when the health system is under greater financial pressure than ever.

Dr Stephen Mullin, Associate Professor in Neurology in the University of Plymouth’s Peninsula Medical School and the project’s principal investigator, said: “Strokes can have a significant impact on the people who experience them and their families. Often when we review the brain scans people who have had a major stroke, we see features - including what we call ‘silent strokes’ – that could have identified them as being at risk. We hope that by applying our expertise to create a way of improving stroke prediction, it will both prevent people developing a stroke and in the process save money which can be used to improve patient care elsewhere .” The project, funded by the Medical Research Council, comprises researchers with expertise in health data science, data governance, statistics, radiology/imaging, and neurology. It will initially build a database of results from patients seen at University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust, and benefits from the support and collaboration of the national Sentinel Stroke National Audit Programme (SSNAP) and NIHR South West Peninsula Academic Research Centre (PenARC).

This database will include the results of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computer tomography (CT) brain scans, electrocardiograms (ECG) and echocardiograms (ECGs), standard tests currently carried out when a person is suspected of having had a stroke.This data will be used to train an artificial intelligence computer model, which the researchers hope can predict who will later develop strokes based on patterns within the data collected. An opportunity will be given for patients at UHPNT to opt out of use of their data in this project,

The work will leverage state of the art techniques with artificial intelligence, collectively known as ‘explainability’. These tools allow visualisation and identification of the factors driving predictions. This allows us to be certain that the predictions being made are accurate and will hopefully will identify new factors which contribute to the risk of developing a stroke. The research team – which also includes two commercial providers of medical investigations, Express Diagnostics and Ultracardiac – is currently compiling the database which we be used in the analysis. They will start their work in earnest in February 2024, with the project scheduled to last three years.

Notes to Editors For more information about this news release, contact University of Plymouth Media & Communications Officer Alan Williams on 01752 588004 or email About the University of Plymouth The University of Plymouth is renowned worldwide for its high-quality research, teaching and innovation. With a mission to Advance Knowledge and Transform Lives, the University drives the global debate in disciplines from marine and maritime to medicine, law, computing and climate action. With a city centre campus and further state-of-the-art facilities spread across Plymouth and beyond, plus Devon and Cornwall’s stunning coast and countryside on the doorstep, the University provides a unique blend of urban and outdoor lifestyle opportunities for everyone who studies and works here. A three-time winner of the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education – most recently in respect of its pioneering research on microplastics pollution in the ocean – Plymouth consistently ranks among the world’s leading universities for its innovation, research and teaching in relation to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. Plymouth’s teaching and learning excellence is reflected in one of the highest numbers of National Teaching Fellows of any UK university. With over 18,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students, plus a further 7,000 studying at partner institutions in the UK and around the world, and over 175,000 alumni pursuing their chosen careers internationally, the University of Plymouth has a growing global presence.