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About Sickkids
About SickKids

Hai-Ling Margaret Cheng, PhD

Research Institute
Adjunct Scientist
Translational Medicine

University of Toronto
Assistant Professor
Institute of Biomaterials & Biomedical Engineering

Phone: 416-978-4095
Fax: 416-978-4317
Email: hailing.cheng@utoronto.ca

For more information, visit:

Mailing Address: 164 College Street, Rosebrugh Building, Room 407, Toronto, ON, M5S 3G9

Brief Biography

  • B.Sc., University of Calgary, 1994
  • M.Sc., University of Calgary, 1996
  • PhD, University of Toronto, 2003

Dr. Cheng is currently an Adjunct Scientist in Translational Medicine at SickKids and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Medical Biophysics at the University of Toronto. She received her B.Sc. in 1994 and her M.Sc. in 1996 in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Calgary, and spent two years in industry working on real-time synthetic aperture radar development for Canadian defense surveillance aircrafts. In 1999 she joined the Department of Medical Biophysics at the University of Toronto, where she received her PhD in 2003 on interventional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)-guided focused ultrasound thermal ablation therapy and developed an interest in using MRI to assess microvessel function. In September of 2003, she joined SickKids to develop a program in quantitative MRI for paediatric applications with an emphasis on microvascular physiology.

Research Interests

  • Development of rapid 3D high-resolution quantitative MRI methodologies
  • Development of new non-invasive MRI methods to measure microvascular physiology
  • Study of angiogenesis in animal models of cancer and inflammation
  • New humoral and cellular approaches to vascularization and regeneration for tissue-engineering and regenerative medicine
  • New methods for cellular and molecular MRI

Research Activities

Rapid 3D high-resolution quantitative MRI
Relaxation times T1 and T2 are the two fundamental mechanisms for image contrast on MRI. Their quantification is necessary to use MRI as a measuring instrument. For example, T1 is required in quantitative dynamic contrast-enhanced (DCE) MRI of cancer, perfusion imaging in ischemia, magnetization transfer studies, and quantitation of Gadolinium-based contrast agents. T2 is useful in tissue oxygenation studies and quantitative cell tracking where iron oxide contrast agents are used. However, long acquisition times have been the major roadblock to clinical implementation of T1 and T2 mapping. To make these measurements clinically practical, we have developed rapid 3D high-resolution mapping of T1 and T2. These techniques have been adopted in our own and also collaborative projects, spanning a spectrum of areas, including: DCE-MRI of cancer, stem-cell therapy of stroke, cartilage proteoglycan loss, inflammatory arthritis, the developing neonatal brain, and cellular MRI.

Quantitative MRI of microvascular physiology
Quantifying microvessel physiological parameters, such as blood volume, flow and endothelial permeability, is important in the assessment of cancer, inflammation, stroke, and ischemia. However, accurate quantification of these parameters on an absolute basis is a challenge and has been a major technical focus of our lab. Towards achieving reliable and absolute quantitation, we have made a number of advances: more rapid yet high-resolution imaging, pharmacokinetic model and novel non-model approaches for analysis, and non-contrast-agent based perfusion measurement in the body.       

Vascularization and regeneration for tissue-engineering and regenerative medicine

Tissue-engineering and regenerative medicine (TE/RM) is an emerging discipline for treating diseases, injuries, and congenital abnormalities. Prompt creation of a blood supply and adequate cell growth are essential to regenerating tissue and organs with proper structure and function. Our lab has been investigating new biological approaches involving natural tissue scaffolds, growth factors, and cells to vascularize and regenerate thick tissues, using MRI for monitoring tissue on a structural, functional, and cellular level throughout the course of regeneration.

External Funding

  • Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, Grant-in-Aid
  • Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Discovery Grant


Loai Y, Sakib N, Janik R, Foltz WD, Cheng HL.  Human aortic endothelial cell labeling with positive contrast Gadolinium oxide nanoparticles for cellular magnetic resonance imaging at 7 Tesla.   Mol Imaging  (Epub 2012)

Winter JD, St. Lawrence KS, Cheng HL.  Quantification of renal perfusion: comparison of arterial spin labeling and dynamic contrast-enhanced MRI.  J Magn Reson Imaging (Epub 2012).

Cheng HL, Loai Y, Farhat WA.  Monitoring tissue development in acellular matrix-based regeneration for bladder tissue engineering: multiexponential diffusion and T2* for improved specificity.  NMR Biomed 25(3):418-426 (2012).

Cheng HL, Holowka S, Moineddin R, Odama I.  Liver iron overload assessment by T2* magnetic resonance imaging in pediatric patients: an accuracy and reproducibility study.   Am J Hematol 87(4):435-437 (2012).

Winter JD, Estrada M, Cheng HL.  Normal tissue quantitative T1 and T2* MRI relaxation time responses to hypercapnic and hyperoxic gases.  Acad Radiol 18(9):1159-1167 (2011).

Nossin-Manor R, Chung AD, Morris D, Soares-Fernandes JP, Thomas B, Cheng HL, Whyte HE, Taylor MJ, Sled JG, Shroff MM.  Optimized T1- and T2-weighted volumetric brain imaging as a diagnostic tool in very preterm neonates.  Pediatr Radiol 41(6):702-710 (2011).

Winter JD, Akens M, Cheng HL. Quantitative MRI assessment of VX2 tumour oxygenation changes in response to hyperoxia and hypercapnia.  Phys Med Biol 56(5):1225-1242 (2011).

Kershaw LE, Cheng HL. A general dual-bolus approach for quantitative DCE-MRI. Magn Reson Imaging 29(2):160-166 (2011).

Kershaw LE, Cheng HL. Temporal resolution and SNR requirements for accurate DCE-MRI data analysis using the AATH model. Magn Reson Med 64(6):1772-1780 (2010).

Cheng HL, Islam SS, Loai Y, Antoon R, Beaumont M, Farhat WA. Quantitative magnetic resonance imaging assessment of matrix development in cell-seeded natural urinary bladder smooth muscle tissue-engineered constructs. Tissue Eng Part C Methods 16(4):643-651 (2010).

Cheng HL, Loai Y, Beaumont M, Farhat WA. The acellular matrix (ACM) for bladder tissue engineering: A quantitative magnetic resonance imaging study. Magn Reson Med 64:341-348 (2010).

Sussman MS, Vidarsson L, Pauly JM, Cheng HL. A technique for rapid single-echo spin-echo T(2) mapping. Magn Reson Med 64(2):536-545 (2010).

Beaumont M, DuVal MG, Loai Y, Farhat WA, Sandor GK, Cheng HL. Monitoring angiogenesis in soft-tissue engineered constructs for calvarium bone regeneration: an in vivo longitudinal DCE-MRI study. NMR Biomed 23(1):48-55 (2010).

Beaumont M, DuVal MG, Loai Y, Farhat WA, Sandor GK, Cheng HL. Monitoring angiogenesis in soft-tissue engineered constructs for calvarium bone regeneration: an in vivo longitudinal DCE-MRI study. NMR Biomed 23:48-55 (2010).

Cheng HL. Improved correlation to quantitative DCE-MRI pharmacokinetic parameters using a modified initial area under the uptake curve (mIAUC) approach. J Magn Reson Imaging 30:864-872 (2009).

Beaumont M, Odame I, Babyn PS, Vidarsson L, Kirby-Allen M, Cheng HL. Accurate liver T2* measurement of iron overload: a simulations investigation and in-vivo study. J Magn Reson Imaging 30:313-320 (2009).

Cheng HL. Investigation and optimization of parameter accuracy in dynamic contrast-enhanced MRI. J Magn Reson Imaging 28:736-743 (2008).

Cheng HL
, Haider MA, Dill-Macky MJ, Sweet JM, Trachtenberg J, Gertner MR. MRI and contrast-enhanced ultrasound monitoring of prostate microwave focal thermal therapy: an in vivo canine study. J Magn Reson Imaging 28:136-143 (2008).

Cheng HL
. Dynamic contrast-enhanced MRI in oncology drug development. Curr Clin Pharmacol 2:111-122 (2007).

Cheng HL
. T(1) measurement of flowing blood and arterial input function determination for quantitative 3D T(1)-weighted DCE-MRI. J Magn Reson Imaging 25:1073-1078 (2007).

Cheng HL, Wallis C, Shou Z, Farhat WA. Quantifying angiogenesis in VEGF-enhanced tissue-engineered bladder constructs by dynamic contrast-enhanced MRI using contrast agents of different molecular weights. J Magn Reson Imaging 25:137-145 (2007).

Cheng HL
, Wright GA. Rapid high-resolution T(1) mapping by variable flip angles: accurate and precise measurements in the presence of radiofrequency field inhomogeneity. Magn Reson Med 55:566-574 (2006).

Cartwright L, Farhat WA, Sherman C, Chen J, Babyn P, Yeger H, Cheng HL. Dynamic contrast-enhanced MRI to quantify VEGF-enhanced tissue-engineered bladder graft neovascularization: pilot study. J Biomed Mater Res A 77:390-395 (2006).

Cheng, HL, Chen J, Babyn PS, Farhat WA.  Dynamic Gd-DTPA enhanced MRI as a surrogate marker of angiogenesis in tissue-engineered bladder constructs: a feasibility study in rabbits.  J Magn Reson Imaging 21(4): 415-423 (2005).

PubMed link