Exploring New Frontiers

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UHN researchers gain federal support for interdisciplinary and fast-breaking health solutions.

The federal government’s New Frontiers in Research Fund – Exploration Stream program has awarded 12 projects that are led or co-led by UHN researchers. Each team will receive up to $250,000 to explore new research directions that bring together disciplines in non-traditional ways.

The projects, which are listed below, represent some of the most original and potentially transformative research into developing health solutions in Canada. The approaches to be taken include the use of polarized light to diagnose disease, the development of smart clothing to support rehabilitation, and material science approaches to fight multidrug resistant bacteria.

• Drs. Suze Berkhout (TGHRI) and Kelly Fritsch (Carleton University) will explore central challenges across the organ transplant process and how they can be radically transformed through critical disability studies, feminist science and technology studies

• Dr. John Byrne (TGHRI) will use an advanced imaging technique to detect immune cells called macrophages in abdominal aortic aneurysms to determine the risk of aneurysm growth

• Drs. Frances Skinner and Aylin Reid (Krembil) will merge mathematical models and experimental data of brain rhythms to identify cell-specific pathways that are modified by brain injury

• Drs. Alex Vitkin (PM) and Sharon Nofech-Mozes (Sunnybrook) will use novel polarized light technologies to develop image-based prognostic tools for cancer

• Dr. Azadeh Yadollahi (KITE) will develop customized treatments for people with sleep disorders to minimize damage to the heart and lungs and to prevent long-term disability

• Drs. Jane Batt (Unity Health Toronto) and Sunita Mathur (KITE) will develop smart textiles to deliver neuromuscular electrical stimulation to overcome acquired weakness in people recovering from intensive care

• Drs. Katherine Duncan (University of Toronto) and Taufik Valiante (Krembil) will use precisely-timed deep brain stimulation to better understand brain memory

• Drs. Benjamin Hatton (University of Toronto) and Allison McGeer (TGHRI) will attempt to stop the spread of antibiotic-resistant microbes in hospital plumbing networks using an engineered silicone material that minimizes bacterial colonization

• Drs. Hossein Kassiri (York University) and Georg Zoidl (Krembil) will design, develop and validate a wireless, battery-free and digitally-programmable optical device to precisely control the stimulation of brain cells

• Drs. Naomi Matsuura (University of Toronto) and James Drake (Techna) will use ultrasound-activated materials for the diagnosis and treatment of childhood brain cancers

• Drs. Joshua Milstein (University of Toronto) and Jonathan Rocheleau (TGHRI) will use microfluidics, time-lapse microscopy and genetically-encoded biosensors to uncover the role of metabolism in the persistence of infectious bacteria

• Drs. Andrei Yudin (University of Toronto) and Cheryl Arrowsmith (PM) will leverage the novel concept of ‘dark chemistry space’ to develop an entirely new approach for the rational design of cell-permeable drugs for childhood developmental diseases