STTARR Innovation Centre (Spatio-Temporal Targeting and Amplification of Radiation Response Program)

University Health Network, Toronto, Ontario
What the facility does

Provides imaging services and technologies for cellular and preclinical research studies.

Areas of expertise

STTARR provides access to state-of-the-art imaging technology for cellular studies at the level of DNA and proteins, multi-modality imaging of pre-clinical models, and a correlative pathology lab in an integrated environment located in Toronto’s medical discovery district.

The Centre’s advanced imaging instruments and experimental capabilities include Computed Tomography (CT), Magnetic Resonance (MR), Positron Emission Tomography (PET), Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography (SPECT), ultrasound, photoacoustics, optical, and radiation therapy.

STTARR’s expertise is in radiation research, but is involved in more than 300 multidisciplinary imaging projects.

Research services

Preclinical Imaging

  • Multimodal in vivo imaging in small and large animal models
  • Fluorescence and bioluminescence imaging
  • High resolution 3D ultrasound and photoacoustic imaging
  • Small animal 1T, and 7T MRI
  • Clinical 1.5T MRI for imaging large animals
  • MR-guided HIFU at 1.5T and 7T
  • MicroCT imaging
  • Image-guided, flat-panel cone-beam CT radiation therapy units
  • Veterinary support through the Animal Resources Centre


Radionuclides and Radiotracers expertise

  • Radiolabeling proteins, antibodies, antibody fragments, liposomes, and other nanoparticles in one of its two Intermediate Level laboratories
  • Performing pharmacokinetic and biodistribution studies
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) and single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) imaging
  • The STTARR Innovation Centre has a nuclear substances permit to possess, transfer, store and use:
    Ac-225, Cu-64, F-18, Ga-67, Ga-68, I-123, I-125, In-111, Lu-177, Mn-52, Tc-99m, Y-86, Y-90, and Zr-89


Histopathology: The STTARR Pathology Core services all research laboratories within UHN, academic institutes and industry sponsors on pre-clinical research projects with full Histopathology services. These services include:

  • FormalinFixed Paraffin-Embedded (FFPE) tissue services
  • Frozen tissue services
  • Microtomy
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • In situ hybridization
  • Special Stains
  • H&E staining
Sectors of application
  • Healthcare and social services
Equipment Function
Mediso nanoScan® PET/MRI

PET: Positron Emission Tomography

MRI: Magnetic Resonance Imaging

MR 1T:  Magnetic Resonance 1 Tesla


The PET/MRI 1T system delivers co-registered images with the MR demonstrating good anatomical resolution and the high-sensitivity PET displaying physiological processes of an injected radiopharmaceutical. The system enables translational in-vivo imaging of small animals and benefits from the same main clinical applications.

Mediso nanoScan® SPECT/CT/PET system

SPECT: Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography

CT: Computed Tomography


This triple modality system combines all benefits of the PET/CT and SPECT/CT in a single, fully integrated device. The SPECT subsystem images radiotracers with absolute quantification, high sensitivity and high spatial resolution down to 0.3 mm in vivo. Patented multi-pinhole collimators are available with optimized performance for any applications: from whole-body to focused scanning; imaging of mice and rats, multiple mice; from low-energy tracers to theranostic isotopes. The PET subsystem is equipped with the finest detector crystal needles ensuring high spatial resolution down to 700 μm in vivo. Quantitative results delivered over the widest range of radioactivity levels from 60 Bq to 60 MBq (1.6 nCi 1.6 mCi).

GE Revolution Gen 2 ES CT system (large animals) Spectral (dual-energy) CT allows for soft tissue differentiation without the use of contrast agents. Because of its fluoroscopy capabilities, researchers can perform image-guided biopsies and other interventional procedures.
Bruker SkyScan 1276 μCT in vivo micro-CT system

μCT: micro-computed tomography (X-ray imaging in three dimensions).


High-performance standalone system that gives researchers flexible options for scanning preclinical models and biological samples. Non-destructive handling allows for longitudinal studies of the same sample. The platform enables both round and spiral (helical) scanning, reconstruction, and low-dose imaging for longitudinal studies. Continuously variable magnification allows users to scan samples with high spatial resolution down to 2.8 μm pixel size. Variable X-ray energy combined with a range of filters ensures optimal image quality for diverse research applications, including lung tissue and bone.

Precision X-Ray X-Rad SmART+ Image-Guided Radiation Therapy System with Cone-Beam CT and BLI

BLI: bioluminescent imaging


Mimicking clinical radiation therapy, the SmART+ system is designed to image, target and irradiate small animals such as mice, rats and rabbits. Cone-beam CT enables the researcher to accurately target the anatomy or tumor of interest. Use of the BLI feature can further advise the irradiation of specific cells or tissues.  X-ray radiation can be delivered as one large dose or fractionated over time.

Bruker Biospec 7T MRI Allows for high-resolution structural and quantitative MRI applications in rodents and ex vivo tissue specimens.
Siemens Aera 1.5T system (large animals)

The 1.5T large-bore Siemens Aera is equivalent to a system found in a clinical radiology setting. It enables application of clinical imaging protocols to large animal models, tissue specimens, and phantoms.

MR-guided HIFU at 1.5T and 7T

HIFU: High-intensity focused ultrasound


Image Guided Therapy. MR-guided focused ultrasound systems suitable for both high and low power applications in rodents and large animal models, are installed on 7T and 1.5T MRI systems respectively.  Both systems also share a common platform for hyperthermia applications incorporating feedback control based on real-time MR thermometry,

PerkinElmer Xenogen IVIS Spectrum Imaging system

IVIS: In Vivo Imaging System


Provides optical imaging of small animals. Researchers can track and quantify bioluminescent and fluorescent reporters with twenty-eight high efficiency filters spanning 430-850 nm. Spectral unmixing algorithms allow for simultaneous imaging of multiple fluorescent reporters within the same animal. Applications include tumor growth tracking, metastases identification, and two-dimensional assessments of therapeutic biodistribution.

FUJIFILM VisualSonics Vevo 2100 Ultrasound Imaging System Ultra high frequency platform with linear array technology, which produces ultrasound images at a very high visual (down to 40 µm) resolution and temporal resolution (up to 700 frames per second depending on the mode). It features colour and pulse wave Doppler modes for blood flow quantification, ECG-gated kilohertz visualization modality for cardiac and vascular imaging, 3-dimensional imaging for structure and volume analysis, and non-linear contrast imaging to evaluate and quantify relative perfusion in organs and tumours. The 3-dimensional software allows for various measurements and imaging planes in small animals ranging from zebrafish to rats.
FUJIFILM Visualsonics Vevo LAZR Photoacoustic Imaging System In conjunction with the Vevo 2100 ultrasound system, the Vevo LAZR combines ultra high frequency ultrasound and photoacoustics into one platform for a type of hybrid optical-ultrasound imaging.  Researchers can non-invasively visualize and quantify tissue and molecular structures, observe the movement and behaviour of cells, and measure the delivery patterns of administered imaging dyes and nanoparticles in mouse models and reconstructed tissues. Anatomical, functional, physiological, and molecular data are collected simultaneously and in real-time, with spatial resolution down to 40 μm.
  • University Health Network (UHN) Animal Resource Centre (ARC)
  • UHN Advanced Optical Microscopy Facility (AOMF)
  • UHN Guided Therapeutics Program (GTx)
  • Nanovista
  • Princess Margaret Radiation Medicine Program
  • UHN Techna Institute
  • The DCE (Dynamic Contrast Enhancement) Tool
  • Aspect Imaging
  • Precision X-Ray Inc.
  • Nucro-Technics