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INTPART-International Partnerships for Excellent Education and Research

Yield of Ultrasound for the Next Generation (YOUNG) - Heart and Brain Interactions in Children

Alternative title: Ultralyd for neste generasjon (YOUNG) – Ny kunnskap om hjerte-hjerne samspillet hos barn

Awarded: NOK 10.0 mill.

Advancements in the treatment of children born prematurely or affected with congenital heart disease have led to improved survival rates. This has however resulted in a rapidly growing group of survivors with long-term brain and heart complications. The YOUNG-INTPART project aims to develop an innovative network for the development and testing of gentle imaging technology targeted at these vulnerable children, with the goal of optimizing treatment and improving long-term outcomes. The ultrasound group at NTNU has been at the forefront of ultrasound technology development in close collaboration with St. Olavs Hospital and Norwegian industry. In this project, we closely collaborate with the clinical team at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto, Canada, to test and further develop two new ultrasound technologies: Ultrafast ultrasound for heart imaging and NeoDoppler, a system for continuous monitoring of cerebral blood flow. We are collecting data for these projects collaboratively. Ultrafast ultrasound opens new possibilities in blood flow assessment. The "Blood Speckle Tracking" method allows for the detection of echoes from individual blood cells, providing a more detailed representation of blood flow in the heart. In various publications and presentations, we have demonstrated the accuracy of "Blood Speckle Tracking" and its improved imaging of blood flow in the hearts of children with various heart diseases. A visual version of the method called "Blood Speckle Imaging" is now available in commercially accessible ultrasound devices. In addition to the visual aspect, we are currently developing and testing quantitative flow parameters. Preliminary results show that these parameters can provide valuable additions in the clinic, such as assessing the heart's ability to fill (diastolic function). We also aim to make quantitative blood flow measurements available in commercially accessible ultrasound devices. Our goal is to contribute to improved heart diagnostics and new hemodynamic knowledge. The invention of NeoDoppler has progressed from idea to product. Clinical data collected in Norway laid the foundation for CE approval (October 2022), meaning that the NeoDoppler system meets European regulatory requirements. Commercial sales of the first version of the product started in 2023. The product will be further developed, with a focus on software development based on clinical experiences so far. In 2023, the collection of NeoDoppler data continued in Norway and began at The Hospital of Sick Children. A Norwegian PhD candidate in the YOUNG-INTPART network had a research stay at The Hospital for Sick Children from August 2022 to July 2023 to contribute to the project's progression including planning, education of users and patient inclusion. Two abstracts were submitted from this work (November 2023), and we have had frequent Norwegian/Canadian meetings in the group since the start. The YOUNG-INTPART network aims to expand and formalize our existing partnership between our institutions into a leading hub for innovation, clinical research, and education. So far, we have organized five joint workshops, prioritizing mobility between our centers and facilitating digital collaboration methods.

Advances in treatment have improved the survival of preterm infants and newborns with congenital heart defects and other diseases. This has however created a rapidly growing group of survivors affected with the impact of events in early life on their heart and brain function. To improve long-term outcomes techniques that can detect the impact of disease on heart and brain function could help to optimize treatments. Through our partnership between NTNU and The Hospital for Sick Children (Sick Kids) in Toronto, we want to develop a highly innovative network for non-invasive pediatric imaging technology targeting the most vulnerable population of children. The ultrasound group at NTNU has for many years been an international leader in cardiovascular ultrasound technology development, working in close collaboration with St. Olav’s hospital and Norwegian industry. It is hosting CIUS, the second center of innovation. Over the last years, the Trondheim group has closely worked with the clinical team at SickKids and the University of Toronto to develop and clinically validate novel ultrasound technology for children. SickKids is one of the world’s leading pediatric health-care institutions. As part of their mission of “Healthier Children. A Better World” it engages in a variety of initiatives to improve child health around the world. The University of Toronto is the largest Canadian University and is ranked within the top-20 in different international academic rankings. The YOUNG-INTPART network aims to further expand and formalize the existing partnership between our institutions into a hub for world-class innovation, clinical research and education. This will be achieved through shared research PhD students; organization of joint courses and workshops improving our international visibility and develop teaching and training programs at masters and PhD-level. Our long-term goal is in line with UN’s sustainable development goal number 3 “Good health and well-being”.

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Funding scheme:

INTPART-International Partnerships for Excellent Education and Research