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Physical Sciences

Imaging research at Sunnybrook Research Institute

Researchers in the physical sciences platform at Sunnybrook Research Institute (SRI) use physics, mathematics and engineering to develop and improve ways to visualize molecules, cells, tissues, organs and whole organisms. They also create image databases and devise new ways to extract and interpret information from images.

Their aims are to develop and improve imaging technologies to diagnosis and assess disease, and to guide and monitor therapies.

Main areas of focus include ultrasound, including high- and low-intensity focused ultrasound; magnetic resonance imaging, structural and functional; digital mammography; X-ray technology; and optical and positron emission tomography. Scientists in this platform routinely partner with many medical device companies in the development and assessment of new technologies. Major partners include GE Healthcare, Philips, Toshiba, Insightec and many others.

Select advances in physical sciences include the following:

Dr. Stuart Foster invented the world's first high-frequency ultrasound microimaging scanner for preclinical imaging. Responding to demand, Foster formed VisualSonics in 1999 to manufacture the preclinical systems for universities, research institutes and drug companies worldwide. In 2010, SonoSite purchased VisualSonics for $71 million to adapt the technology for clinical care.

Dr. Kullervo Hynynen, working with industry partners, has invented and commercialized a device that ablates tumours through the application of high-intensity focused ultrasound, guided by magnetic resonance imaging. With this technology, no surgery is needed to destroy a tumour or lesion. At Sunnybrook, it in clinical trials for the treatment of uterine fibroids and brain tumours, and palliation of cancer that has metastasized to bone. He also invented and commercialized a device that combines high- and low-frequency ultrasound that, guided by MRI, enables the delivery of therapy across the blood-brain barrier into previously inaccessible regions of the brain. This device is being tested preclinically in models of stroke and dementia.

Dr. Alan Moody
has developed a three-dimensional magnetic resonance imaging technique that provides radiologists a closer, deeper look into diseased arteries. The technique, magnetic resonance imaging of plaque hemorrhage, can detect the bleeding that occurs within a plaque in an artery and that can lead to thrombosis or even blockage in the artery, causing a heart attack or stroke. This new noninvasive method has the potential to change the standard of imaging.