KITE scientists receive $1.3 million in funding from CIHR

The funding will support research that will advance health-related knowledge, care and outcomes.

 A pair of teams at the KITE Research Institute have received a combined $1.3-million in funding as part of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR)’s Spring 2023 Project Grant funding competition.

The aim of the spring competition is to support research that will advance health-related knowledge, care and outcomes. 

The goal of the first project, which is led by KITE Associate Director, Scientific Dr. José Zariffa, is to establish methods to measure how people with spinal cord injuries use their hands in their everyday lives, using a novel form of video-based wearable technology.

“Hand function is key to regaining independence after spinal cord injury, but observations in the clinic don’t always correspond to what is happening at home in daily life,” said Dr. Zariffa, who is the project’s principal investigator, a senior scientist at KITE and an associate professor at the Institute of Biomedical Engineering at University of Toronto.

“By combining video from wearable cameras with artificial intelligence, our work will help to directly measure the true impact of new treatments” 

KITE affiliate scientist Dr. Sukhvinder Kalsi-Ryan, Dr.  Janelle Unger and Dr. Dalton L Wolfe are co-investigators on this project. The team will receive approximately $515,000 in funding over five years. 

The second project, led by CRANIA co-director Dr. Luka Milosevic, and CRANIA scientist Dr. Milad Lankarany, seeks to utilize computational modelling techniques to better understand how deep brain stimulation (DBS) works and to develop new patterns of stimulation. 

DBS is a form of neuromodulation technology in which a surgically implanted medical device delivers electrical pulses to particular parts of the brain. It has been successfully used to reduce symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease, Tremor, Tourette Syndrome and Dystonia.

Dr. Lankarany’s team, together with other investigators in this project, will develop a biologically-realistic computational framework that optimizes synaptic efficacy using specific patterns of DBS in a controlled manner. 

“Although DBS offers a promising approach for reducing the disease symptoms, we have a limited physiological understanding of the cellular and network impact of stimulation patterns,” said Dr. Lankarany, who is the project’s principal investigator, an Affiliate Scientist at KITE, a Scientist at the Krembil Research Institute, and an Assistant Professor at the Institute of Biomedical Engineering and Department of Physiology at University of Toronto.

“We will use mathematical models to formulate the relationship between DBS and recorded neuronal activities in patients with movement disorders. Our approach offers a new strategy for model-based neuromodulation technology which can be applied to several neurological disorders,” he said.  

This new method of DBS will be developed at the Krembil Research Institute and tested on patients with Parkinson’s Disease at Toronto Western Hospital. 

Drs. Milosevic and Lankarany’s team will receive just over $840,000 over five years for this research.

CRANIA scientists Drs. Suneil Kalia, William Hutchison, Mojgan Hodaie, Andres Lozano as well as UofT professor Dr. Gabriele M D'Eleuterio are co-investigators and collaborators on this project. 

At UHN, 23 research teams were awarded a total of $12.1 million from CIHR’s Spring 2023 Project Grant funding competition. The competition invested a total of $325 million in projects across Canada.