A Stroke of Genius

The work of a Lawson Health Research Institute scientist is saving and changing lives of stroke patients world-wide and proving that investing in research pays off

Medical imaging at St. Joseph’s Hospital in London is giving research supporters big value for their dollars. Thanks to ongoing public support, life-saving stroke research is moving from bench to bedside to market to clinic faster than ever before—with big benefits for patients and the system.

A stroke is a brain attack. When blood flow in the brain is interrupted, cells can be injured or even die. For some people, stroke can cause difficulty seeing, speaking, reasoning or remembering. For others, it can lead to paralysis, difficulty breathing and heart problems.

Currently, more than 300,000 Canadians are living with the side effects of stroke, significantly impacting quality of life and costing the economy billions of dollars each year.

To avoid serious complications after a stroke it’s critical to find and treat brain cells at risk immediately. This is no small task: It requires sophisticated science, advanced technology and easy access to these advances. One Lawson Health Research Institute scientist is tackling the challenge. Based at St. Joseph’s Hospital in London, Dr. Ting-Yim Lee specializes in computed tomography (CT) imaging, a type of X-ray technology that captures images of slices of the body.

 Dr. Ting Yim-Lee
Medical imaging research by Lawson Health Research Institute scientist Dr. Ting-Yim Lee has had an international impact on stroke care.

As a young scientist, Dr. Lee dreamed of using CT imaging to measure how blood flows in the human body. The idea was to develop software that could be installed on existing CT scanners to make quick, easy work of a very complex algorithm. If a patient came to the emergency room suffering from a stroke, it would allow the doctor to quickly analyze and address the damage.

Thanks to decades of public and private sector support, Dr. Lee’s idea has evolved from concept to prototype to clinically approved product. Through a licensing deal with GE Healthcare, his software is now installed on 70 per cent of the company’s new CT scanners on the market. It’s currently in use in more than 8,000 hospital imaging departments around the world, and counting. It is easy to use, produces quick results, and, most important, is helping patients live longer and healthier lives.

“Stroke is a situation where every minute of delay in treatment has grave consequences on the recovery of the patient,” says Dr. Lee. “The software we have developed will help physicians to quickly decide on the best treatment for the patient.”

Moving forward, Dr. Lee is extending his technology to measure blood flow in whole organs. Poised to be another breakthrough, this new model will allow physicians to predict and monitor how cancer and heart attacks respond to treatment.

“We will soon be able to show not just whether there is surviving tissue, but also how much time is left for the tissue to remain viable,” he explains. “This will further improve the treatment and outcomes for patients.”

Stroke is a situation where every minute of delay in treatment has grave consequences on the recovery of the patient. The software we have developed will help physicians to quickly decide on the best treatment for the patient.