Development of Hyperpolarised 129Xe Magnetic Resonance Imaging to provide a Novel Translational Drug-development Imaging Framework

University College London

Developing new medical imaging techniques for studying the lungs
Yohn’s research is set to augment our process for developing novel treatments for lung-related illnesses, such as emphysema or pulmonary fibrosis. Through our current techniques, drugs that show significant promise at the pre-clinical phase often struggle to translate into successful treatments for human diseases. These failures can add further expense to an already costly process and prolong the process of bringing new drugs to market. Gathering as much information as possible during the pre-clinical stage is crucial to increasing the likelihood of medical successes later on, and to do this we must augment our pre-clinical research methods.

Yohn is investigating how to optimise hyperpolarised xenon (Xe) MR – a powerful imaging technique – for evaluating the lungs of mice, which are commonly used in medical research.

Hyperpolarised Xe MRI has been used to study human lung function for many years, but in smaller mammals like mice, it can be difficult to distinguish between different compartments such as alveoli, tissue, and blood vessels. Yohn’s project will develop new Xe MRI techniques for lung imaging in mice to help differentiate between these key compartments and provide a more detailed insight into this organ than ever before.

The research will also employ machine learning techniques to help detect key indicators of lung conditions, such as lesions and other abnormalities. With improved imaging researchers will more accurately be able to assess the impact of trial drugs on the lungs of mice and build a solid base of data which will improve the chances of drug success in humans further down the development pipeline. Building on this research will enable scientists to investigate how this process can be translated onto other organs and organ systems such as the large intestines or blood-brain barrier, improving drug discovery in other disease areas.

Yohn graduated from Loughborough University in 2017 with a Master’s degree in Engineering and Physics having been awarded a Distinction in Research at the Centre for Renewable Energy Systems Technology’s. He has previously taken up Medical Physics positions at Christies Proton Centre and Northampton General Hospital.


“This research will provide a solid foundation for medical researchers to translate more effectively their successes in pre-clinical trials into health benefits for the human population. I am looking forward to working alongside experts from both academia and industry to make this project a reality.”