Research at TMU:
For years, TMU science professors collaborated informally with clinician researchers just steps away at St. Michael’s Hospital. In 2013, the relationship was formalized. The Institute for Biomedical Engineering, Science and Technology (iBEST) was born — and the exchange of biomedical ideas and expertise flowed more freely than ever before.
Almost a decade later, iBEST includes TMU professors in mathematics, computer science, physics, chemistry, biology and engineering. Along with clinician researchers at the hospital’s Keenan Research Centre, iBEST also provides real-world training for talented TMU graduate students and postdoctoral researchers.
Two spotlights from our Department of Physics illustrate the exciting new technologies in health and medicine coming out from the institute.
TMU professor, Associate Dean of Research, Innovation and External Partnerships
Biomedical Physics ‘20
Banting Postdoctoral Fellow at St. Michael’s Hospital
The world’s first photoacoustic scanner for donated kidneys
For TMU physics professor and iBEST researcher Dr. Michael Kolios, the intellectual journey with students is one of the best parts of scientific discovery. PhD graduate Eno Hysi is a perfect example.
Learning from Dr. Kolios since his undergraduate days, Hysi eventually invented a ground-breaking imaging technology that could revolutionize kidney disease treatment — and help transplant patients receive the best-matched, longest-lasting kidney possible.
“Until now, painful biopsy is the only way for doctors to ‘guesstimate’ the amount of fibrotic scarring, and therefore quality, of a donated kidney,” says Dr. Kolios. “But this new device lets doctors see and measure fibrotic scarring with clarity and accuracy.”
Hysi explains: “By combining ultrasound, lasers and innovative algorithms, we can produce 2D and 3D images of a donor kidney’s scarring just minutes before surgery. Depending on the quality seen, doctors can decide whether to proceed with the transplant.”
Clinical trials are now under way at St. Michael’s Hospital in collaboration with nephrologist and iBEST researcher Dr. Darren Yuen. To date, they’ve scanned 43 transplant recipients. Hysi’s work under Dr. Kolios earned him distinction as TMU’s first graduate to receive a Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship and a prestigious John Charles Polanyi Prize.
TMU professor, Canada Research Chair in Quantitative Imaging
New ways to understand lung disease
Many lung diseases, if caught early, could be halted from worsening, yet accurate, timely detection remains elusive. Even worse, patients sometimes exhibit symptoms of multiple illnesses, but treatments — typically, puffers to manage symptoms — are often one-size-fits-all.
Doctors urgently need to better understand how lung disease begins and progresses — both keys to better treatment. TMU physicist and iBEST researcher Dr. Miranda Kirby is creating new tools for just that through quantitative imaging.
“There’s still so much we don’t yet understand about lung disease. Through artificial intelligence, we may learn to recognize it much earlier, diagnose it more accurately, and even predict how the disease might progress.”
By analyzing many, many medical images of diseased lungs, her methods measure quantitatively how both the structure and function of the lungs change over time. One of these methods has already been successfully applied to describe the typical course of emphysema.
Her lab is also developing algorithms to teach computers to do the work with machine learning — and to spot nuances that human eyes couldn’t possibly detect. The results could eventually put better, more accurate tools into doctors’ hands, cut healthcare costs, and most importantly, improve outcomes and quality of life for patients around the world.