Professors Sylvain Baillet (left) and J. Matt Kinsella (right)
Professors Sylvain Baillet (left) and J. Matt Kinsella (right)

Professors Sylvain Baillet and Matt Kinsella have won the first Biomedical Engineering Collaborative Research Project competition held by McGill’s Department of Biomedical Engineering, for their project titled “Millisecond in vivo imaging of nanoparticle circulation and uptake in brain cancer therapy.” They have been awarded a research grant of $15,000 as a result.

“This grant will allow Dr. Baillet and myself to collect preliminary data in an exciting new area of research using engineered nanomaterials to be utilized as contrast dyes in magnetoencephalography (MEG) imaging,” says Professor Kinsella, who is Associate member of Biomedical Engineering and Associate member of Materials Engineering and is an expert in the area of magnetic nanomaterials and nanoparticle contrast media for functional and anatomical imaging. “We believe that this could translate into several future clinical applications in neurological diagnostic imaging.”

Magnetic nanoparticles have been investigated for a broad range of clinical and diagnostic applications including immunoassays, targeted drug delivery, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) contrast agents, and magnetic hyperthermia. Specific targeting of tumours using ligands on the nanoparticle surface has been recently demonstrated, for a number of cancer types. The molecular signature of tumors can provide a route to deliver contrast enhancing agents in a site-specific manner.  This project proposes to develop a new non-invasive technique to image dynamically at the millisecond scale, the targeting of neurological cancer sites, using a ferromagnetic nanoparticle labeled with targeting peptide, or protein, specific to the tumour type.

“This is a high-risk research project and we are grateful the Biomedical Engineering Department is giving us the opportunity to explore these unchartered territories,” says Dr. Baillet, an expert in the development of new methods for brain imaging who is Professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery associated with the Department of Biomedical Engineering, is the founding Director of the Montreal Neurological Institute’s MEG program, and is the present acting Director of the McConnell Brain Imaging Centre.  “This collaboration with Matt has true potential to open a completely new field of utilization of MEG scanners in cancer research, with transfer to therapy.”

To track the flow and targeting of nanoparticle delivery in the bloodstream,  MEG source imaging techniques developed in the Baillet lab will be used, in coordination with Kinsella’s group’s expertise in nanoparticle production and testing.

MEG is a non-invasive imaging modality typically used for mapping brain electrical currents at the sub-millisecond time scale. MEG measures magnetic fields in the femto-Tesla range. Very preliminary tests performed by Kinsella and Baillet have shown that the instrument is sensitive enough to detect the magnetic field perturbations created by the movement of typical concentrations of nanoparticles in water.

Congratulations Professor Baillet and Professor Kinsella!