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Strathclyde mathematician wins prize for research into speeding up stroke diagnosis

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A mathematician at the University of Strathclyde has shared in a prestigious prize for research into methods for accelerating the diagnosis of strokes.

Dr Victorita Dolean was part of the team of researchers which jointly won the Bull-Joseph Fourier Prize, awarded for their research aimed at saving lives. The prize, recognised in France and internationally, rewards work in numerical simulation and data processing and highlights the skills of teams in high performance scientific computing.

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 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.

Stroke occurs approximately 152,000 times a year in the UK alone and is the world's second largest single cause of death, according to the Stroke Association.

Dr Dolean, a Reader in Strathclyde's Department of Mathematics & Statistics, said: "We are delighted and proud to have won this award for research in a very important area of health.

"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 80% of cases and requires a patient's blood to be thinned; the other 20% of cases are haemorrhagic, where the patient's blood pressure needs to be lowered.

"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.

"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 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 by using powerful algorithms.

Dr Dolean said: "The combination of these two tools can simulate any kind of 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.

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.

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 own home."

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