Research Projects for Residents and Medical Students

We are compiling a list of research projects suitable for Residents and Medical Students, detailing the location, time commitment and skills required. These research projects are open to medical students and to residents in any medical speciality depending on skills and interests. Please respond to the contact details given in the table for each project.

New projects will be added as they arise. Please contact jwilliams@robarts.ca to add new projects.

BIRC RESEARCH PROJECTS FOR RESIDENTS AND MEDICAL STUDENTS

Project NameMolecular imaging of the cardiac growth hormone secretagogue receptor
LocationSt. Joseph's Hospital
Time Commitment2 days per week from 11:00am to 6:00pm
Description
Molecular imaging of the cardiac growth hormone secretagogue receptor. We are developing a PET molecular imaging agent that can potentially be used clinically to detect early onset cardiomyopathy. The agent we are using is based on the peptide hormone Ghrelin. Ghrelin binds to the growth hormone secretagogue receptor (GHS-R), which is expressed in human vascular tissues, such as the left ventricle, aorta, and coronary and pulmonary arteries. In rodent studies, the activation of GHS-R by ghrelin links to myocardial metabolism and cardiomyocyte growth and survival, thus indicating that ghrelin may play a vital role in the evolution of cardiomyopathic states that lead to the clinical syndrome of heart failure. Therefore, we postulate that PET imaging of the myocardial GHS-R will provide mechanistic insight into the development and progression of some forms of cardiomyopathy, and potentially may be a biomarker of early-stage cardiomyopathies, stimulating timely intervention to improve patient outcomes.
Aim: To characterize a PET molecular imaging agent that targets myocardial GHS-R. We have generated a radiolabelled analogue, 68Ga-ghrelin, for the detection of GHS-R using positron emission tomography (PET). We are currently working on the preclinical characterization of this analogue for its use in imaging early onset heart disease. The project will involve working with mice and the resident will acquire expertise in small animal PET imaging. The resident will also gain experience in the process of developing new PET imaging agents for clinical use. The resident will work in a collaborative manner with an animal technican and a postdoctoral fellow who has expertise in preclinical evaluation of new PET imaging agents. The resident will be expected to be available at St. Joseph’s hospital 2 days per week. Each day usually runs from 11:00 am – 6:00 pm. Drs. Savita Dhanvantari (Metabolism and Diabetes and Imaging) and Leonard Luyt (Chemistry and Imaging) will directly supervise the resident.
Skills RequiredSuited to Residents in Nuclear Medicine and Cardiology. The resident will work in a collaborative manner with an animal technican and a postdoctoral fellow who has expertise in preclinical evaluation of new PET imaging agents.
Supervisor(s)Dr. Savita Dhanvantari and Dr. Len Luyt
Contactsdhanvan@lawsonimaging.ca
  
Project Name3D Ultrasound System to Investigate Post-Hemorrhagic Hydrocephalus in Pre-Term Neonates
LocationRobarts Research Institute and LHSC
Time Commitment1-2 hours per week
Description
Clinical intracranial ultrasound (US) is performed as a standard of care on neonates at risk of intraventricular hemorrhaging (IVH) and is also used after a diagnosis to monitor for potential ventricular dilation. However, it is difficult to estimate the volume of ventricles with 2D US due to their irregular shape. We developed a 3D US system to be used as an adjunct to a clinical system to investigate volumetric changes in the ventricles of neonates with IVH.  A Radiology resident can participate in this project and help to image the neonates and analyze the 3D images.  The results of this analysis may result in a publication and a conference presentation.
Skills RequiredSome familiarity with ultrasound imaging
Supervisor(s)Dr. Aaron Fenster
Contactafenster@robarts.ca
  
Project NameRegistration of prostate histology to MR Images
LocationRobarts Research Institute
Time Commitment1-2 hours per week
Description
Accurate determination of stage and grade from in vivo prostate cancer imaging would support improved biopsy guidance, therapy selection and, possibly, focal therapy guidance. Validating prostate cancer imaging ideally requires accurate 3D registration of in vivo imaging to histopathology, where accurate diagnoses can be made.  A Radiology resident can participate in this project and help to register the prostate MR images with histopathology whole mount images..  The results of this analysis may result in a publication and a conference presentation.
Skills RequiredSome familiarity with MR Imaging
Supervisor(s)Dr. Aaron Fenster and Dr. Aaron Ward
Contactafenster@robarts.ca or aaron.ward@uwo.ca
  
Project Name
Validation of Automated Brain Segmentation Software
Location
Robarts Research Institute
Time Commitment
20-30 hours total
Description
The progression of Alzheimer's disease and other neurodegenerative conditions can be monitored by measuring the change in volume of structures in the brain including hippocampus, ventricles, thalamus, and caudate nucleus.  The purpose of this project is to develop improved image segmentation tools that allow automated and rapid measurement of brain volume changes.  These tools will then be used to characterize brain changes over time as a function of diagnosis, cognitive capacity, and other potential indicators of disease status.  In order to validate these tools, gold standards must be established by manual segmentation of the relevant brain structures.  This project will involve the manual segmentation of 5-6 easily identifiable structures in the brain in about ten subjects.  These gold standards will be used by students and post-doctoral fellows in the lab to measure the accuracy of their novel automated image segmentation tools.  The manual segmentation of images can be completed by a Radiology resident at their convenience and using their own laptop or computer if preferred. This work will be included in an upcoming manuscript and conference abstract.
Skills Required
Familiarity with neuroanatomy
Supervisor(s)
Robert Bartha
Contact