Dr Tarique Hussain is a Clinical Senior Lecturer in Paediatric Cardiology in the Department of Cardiovascular Imaging, King’s College London. He is also a consultant at Evelina London Children’s Hospital.
On Tuesday 23 June, the British Heart Foundation held an event at the Houses of Parliament to showcase their work and highlight the need for the Government to protect funding for research. The Government contributes towards the indirect costs of academic research that is otherwise funded by charities: covering expenses like heating and lighting, HR, and general administration. This contribution helps to ensure that the money invested by charities goes directly into funding research, putting them on a level pegging with the UK research councils.
My King’s colleagues Kawal Rhode, Nick Byrne, and I were invited by the British Heart Foundation to showcase some of the pioneering research presently being funded by them so we made the short trip over Westminster Bridge, to talk about some of our research with MPs.
Kawal, Nick and I have all been working with 3D printed models of the heart. It’s now possible to transfer the information from an MRI scan into a plastic model, which surgeons can use to plan the work they are going to perform. For instance, Kawal is working with models of the left atrium. These are used in ablation procedures, where a catheter is inserted into the heart. Surgeons can use the models to set the right angle for the catheter, so that they can put the tube straight in when the heart is opened. This helps to make operations shorter, safer and more efficient. In other instances, doctors can use 3D printed models of the whole heart to see or devise a solution to a complex problem that they might not have been able to solve without the model to work on.
We have just acquired a 3D printer at St Thomas’ so we’re now able to produce our own 3D hearts, which makes them an even more useful and practical resource. We’re also encouraging other departments across the hospital to think about the ways in which they could use this technology themselves.
The hearts always get a lot of attention at roadshows and science fairs, because they’re so tactile and it is easy to understand their use. The audience at the Houses of Parliament was no exception: we spoke to several MPs, some of whom knew a great deal about the issues associated with medical research and some of whom knew very little, but all of whom were very interested in what we did and what we had to say. We even turned up on some of their Twitter feeds!Overall the event was a great experience, and a great opportunity to talk about our work with some of the people making decisions about the future of the health service and the research we conduct within it.