Winnipeg, June 14, 2004 – A powerful new beamline planned for the Canadian Light Source (CLS) will yield incredibly detailed images of the body and new tools for research into a wide range of maladies including cancer, arthritis, reproductive dysfunction, circulatory ailments and lung disease.
As the only source of coherent, monochromatic light in Canada, the $17-million BioMedical Imaging and Therapy (BMIT) beamline will be a terrific boon to the medical physics community. The beamline and its associated research facility got the green light to proceed March 8th, thanks to $6.8 million in funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI).
The BMIT, expected to take about two and a half years to build and commission, will be unique in North America and one of only three such facilities in the world. The $173.5-million CLS synchrotron at the University of Saskatchewan is expected to open for business with a call for research proposals later in 2004.
“This project illustrates the capabilities of this synchrotron,” says CLS Executive-Director Bill Thomlinson. “With BMIT, we are attaching world-class research tools to the CLS, tools that will be directly important to the lives of everyone.”
The BMIT project enjoys support from more than 60 researchers across the country. This team of researchers is currently putting the final touches on the facility design, as well as lining up the remaining funding.
“BMIT will be the only biomedical imaging beamline in the world located on a university campus,” says project leader Dean Chapman, a professor with the U of S College of Medicine. “The synchrotron is literally a few minutes’ walk from the offices of people doing research in human medicine, veterinary medicine, and pharmaceuticals.”
CFI’s Innovation Fund will provide 40 per cent of capital project costs, with the balance made up by other funding partners. More than $2.7 million has been committed from outside agencies. These include: the Alberta Cancer Board, Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM), Royal University Hospital Foundation, Saskatoon Health Region, Hospitals of Regina Foundation, Regina Qu'Appelle Health Region, Heart and Stroke Foundation of Saskatchewan, Saskatchewan Cancer Agency, Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation, Canadian Cancer Society-Saskatchewan Division, and the Breast Cancer Society of Canada.
Synchrotron-based imaging techniques offer images that are far superior to conventional X-ray imaging. For example, Chapman and Thomlinson, working with colleagues from several institutions in the U.S. and Europe, developed a technique called diffraction enhanced imaging (DEI). The technique delivers high-resolution images of organs, muscles and ligaments – even the insides of bones. Mammograms taken with DEI require no tissue compression, and the radiation dose is much smaller than with conventional X-rays.
BMIT also promises advances in cancer treatment research, says Gino Fallone, oncology professor and director of medical physics for the University of Alberta and the Cross Cancer Institute.
“For years the main goal of radiation therapy for cancer was to prescribe radiation doses to eradicate or control the tumour, while at the same time spare the surrounding healthy tissues,” he says. “The astonishing aspect of the microbeam therapy provided by the CLS is that it spares healthy tissue much better than any other radiation-delivery system. This aspect alone will revolutionize the way we treat cancer with radiation.”
Ian Cunningham, a scientist with the John P. Robarts Research Institute in London, Ont., plans to take part of his research program to the new beamline for development of new X-ray diffraction medical imaging techniques that have implications for vascular disease, bond diseases, and urology.
“A synchrotron offers us the ability to do experiments that cannot be done anywhere else,” Cunningham said. “This is going to speed up research tremendously.”
The new beamline will require an addition to the building. This will allow the “fan” of X-ray light to spread wide enough for advanced imaging capabilities, allowing researchers to safely look at the effects of therapeutic drugs in living patients. Already, synchrotron techniques are leading to safer ways to evaluate and treat lung and heart disease.
Synchrotron light – millions of times brighter than sunlight – is used to view chemical reactions and the micro-structure of materials, paving the way for new drugs, more powerful computer chips, better engine lubricants, more effective medical imaging and a host of other applications for science and industry.
CLS funding partners include the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the Canadian government (including Western Economic Diversification, Natural Resources Canada, the National Research Council, NSERC, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research), Saskatchewan Industry and Resources, Ontario Innovation Trust, Alberta Innovation and Science, Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research, U of S, the City of Saskatoon, SaskPower, and Boehringer Ingelheim, University of Western Ontario, and University of Alberta. GlaxoSmithKline has also provided funding for a U of S chair in an area of synchrotron science.
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For more information, contact:
Professor Dean Chapman
Dept. of Anatomy and Cell Biology
College of Medicine
Phone: (306) 966-4111
U of S Research Communications
Phone: (306) 966-2427