Sunnybrook to house Toronto’s first 7T MRI
March 17, 2021
TORONTO – A $13.9 million grant from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), made to the University of Toronto (U of T), will bring a powerful new MRI scanner to Sunnybrook Research Institute (SRI). Scientists across Toronto will gain access to the scanner, as part of a new multi-site collaborative research initiative focused on neuroimmunology and neuroimaging for diseases such as stroke, multiple sclerosis and cancer.
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced more than $518 million to support the infrastructure needs of universities and research institutions across the country.
“Sunnybrook would like to thank the Government of Canada for this significant investment in the future of healthcare,” says Dr. Kullervo Hynynen (pictured), vice president of research and innovation at Sunnybrook Research Institute and professor of medical biophysics at the U of T Temerty Faculty of Medicine.
“With the latest scientific technology and the collaboration of researchers across Toronto’s Academic Health Sciences Network (TAHSN), we’ll be able to better understand how the central nervous system (CNS) works with other systems in the body and how these interactions can become damaged in disease.”
The successful research initiative led by principal investigators Dr. Hynynen and Dr. Jennifer Gommerman, professor of immunology at the U of T Temerty Faculty of Medicine, is a first of its kind collaboration, leveraging multidisciplinary expertise from the Temerty Faculty of Medicine at U of T and six affiliated hospital research institutions.
Together, they form a collaborative new research group called the Toronto Neuro-Immunology/Imaging Consortium (TONIIC), which will apply distinctive research strengths in neuroimmunology and neuroimaging.
The 7T MRI will be used by researchers across this unique network. “Questions of CNS health are increasingly interdisciplinary,” says Dr. Gommerman. “So we think it’s a great strategy to marry neuroimmunology and imaging, and study this on multiple scales.”
Currently, more than 4 million Canadians live with diseases impacting the central nervous system. Although significant advancements have been made in recent years, effective therapies to treat many of these diseases are still lacking. Researchers from across the TONIIC network will use the new 7-Tesla MRI to better understand issues such as spinal cord structure and function, potentially developing new treatments for diseases such as multiple sclerosis, dementia, stroke and Parkinson’s disease.
The 7T MRI produces images in unprecedented detail, allowing researchers to see areas of the nervous system never seen before with MRI. “Compared to commonly used 1.5T or 3T MRIs, the 7T has a much stronger magnetic field, increasing the signal and contrast, which generates a higher resolution image. We will be able to see clearly defined areas of the brain that were previously grainy or invisible,” says Dr. Hynynen.
As a result, researchers will be able to see the brain in microscopic detail, visualizing structures as small as one tenth of a millimeter. The 7T will:
- Enable scientists to see small areas of the brain including sub-regions of the hippocampus, the area of the brain responsible for memory retrieval and function and linked to diseases including epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease.
- Provide improved visualization of targets within the brain, enabling researchers to better target tumours or areas of the brain responsible for disease.
- Detect subtle traumatic brain injury and microbleeds impossible to detect on other scanners.
- Allow researchers to visualize individual nerve bundles and brain circuitry.
- Provide insight into the chemical make-up of the brain and nervous system.
- Enable researchers to better monitor disease progression in patients with multiple sclerosis or Alzheimer’s.