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About Sickkids
About SickKids

Brian J. Nieman, PhD

Research Institute
Translational Medicine

Other Positions
Ontario Institute for Cancer Research
Level 2 Investigator

Phone: 416-813-7654 ext. 309555
Fax: 647-837-5832
Email: brian.nieman@sickkids.ca
Alternate Contact: Katie Polanic
Alternate Phone: 416-813-7654 ext. 309536
Alternate Fax: 647-837-5832
Alternate Email: katie.polanic@sickkids.ca

Brief Biography

Dr. Brian Nieman is currently a scientist at the Mouse Imaging Centre (MICe) at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) and a Level 2 Investigator with the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research.  He is appointed to the Department of Medical Biophysics at the University of Toronto. His current research focuses on development of cellular imaging methods and evaluating the impact of paediatric cancer treatment on development, with particular focus on the brain.

Nieman received his PhD in 2006 from the Department of Medical Biophysics at the University of Toronto. His thesis described the development of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) methods for the analysis of mouse models of human disease. From 2006 to 2009, he was a post-doctoral fellow with Dr. Daniel H. Turnbull at the New York University School of Medicine. His post-doctoral work featured development of MR imaging methods for study of mouse development—including in utero imaging of late stage embryos—and cellular imaging for study of neural progenitor cell migrations during homeostasis and disease in the brain.

Research Interests

  • development of new imaging technologies for 3D, cell-specific imaging
  • phenotyping in murine disease models
  • study of development
  • study of cellular involvement during brain tumour development

The Nieman lab focuses on characterization of disease or development processes both spatially and temporally in relevant mouse models. Non-invasive imaging methods incorporating cellular or genetic specificity are a priority, especially as related to cancer and development. Examples include:

Development of genetically-expressible MR markers
Technologies permitting the visualization of specific cell types or gene expression patterns are critical to biomedical research, but are generally limited in the information they can provide in vivo. To date, in vivo methods enabling genetic specificity cannot also provide high-resolution images through the entire body. It is attractive to consider that MRI might be adapted for this purpose, as it already provides excellent anatomical context at high-resolution. We are investigating protein binding of metal ions for their ability to generate contrast in MR images with the aim of identifying candidate transgenes providing MR readouts of gene expression.

Understanding Cognitive Late Effects After Cancer Treatment
Treatment of children’s cancers has improved substantially in recent decades, such that the most common childhood cancers are frequently cured. With a growing survivor populations, side effects from the cancer treatments that appear months or years later—often called late effects—have become apparent and are an increasing concern. Craniospinal radiation, an important part of treatment for childhood brain tumours, is particularly likely to result in impaired brain development resulting in difficulties with learning and memory and long-term challenges in school. The Nieman lab is using a mouse model to understand the mechanism of radiation-induced impairments in brain development, using MRI to measure how radiation changes brain growth in different brain regions and in mice with different genotypes.

In the aim of avoiding late effects, some cancer treatments avoid radiation altogether and use chemotherapy only treatments. The treatments are based on the administration of many different chemotherapy agents over a period of up to three years. Although this reduces the incidence and severity of late effects, some individuals are still affected. Here, the complexity of the treatment protocol, which includes ~10 or more chemotherapy agents, makes it very difficult to identify the cause of late effects. The Nieman lab is using a mouse model, in which individual chemotherapy agents can be test, to identify which chemotherapy agents are most toxic. Comparison to patient outcomes are enabled by MRI measurements of brain structure, which can be performed similarly across species.

For more information, visit the Mouse Imaging Centre (MICe)


J. A. Gleave, J. P. Lerch, R. M. Henkelman, B. J. Nieman.  A Method for 3D Immunostaining and Optical Imaging of the Mouse Brain Demonstrated in Neural Progenitor Cells.  PLoS One 8(8):e72039, 2013.  DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0072039  PMID 23936537

K. U. Szulc, B. J. Nieman, E. J. Houston, B. B. Bartelle, J. P. Lerch, A. L. Joyner, D. H. Turnbull.  MRI Analysis of Cerebellar and Vestibular Developmental Phenotypes in Gbx2 Conditional Knockout Mice.  Magnetic Resonance in Medicine 70(6):1707-1717, 2013.  DOI 10.1002/mrm.24597  PMID 23400959

L. M. Gazdzinski, B. J. Nieman.  Cellular Imaging and Texture Analysis Distinguish Differences in Cellular Dynamic in Mouse Brain Tumors.  Magnetic Resonance in Medicine 71(4):1531-1541, 2014.  DOI 10.1002/mrm.24790  PMID 23661610

L. S. Cahill, C. L. Laliberté, X. J. Liu, J. Bishop, B. J. Nieman, J. S Mogil, R. E. Sorge, C. D. Jones, M. W. Salter, R. M. Henkelman.  Quantifying Blood-spinal Cord Barrier Permeability after Peripheral Nerve Injury in the Living Mouse.  Molecular Pain 10:60, 2014.  DOI 10.1186/1744-8069-10-60  PMID 25216623

E. van der Plas, S. Ito, J. Hitzler, R. Weksberg, D. Butcher, B. J. Nieman, R. Schachar.  Killing Cancer But Hurting the Brain: The Impact of Chemotherapy on Brain Development and the Interaction with Genetic Risk Factors.  Canadian Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (CACAP) 24(1):25-32, 2015.

A. E. de Guzman, L. M. Gazdzinski, R. J. Alsop, J. M. Steward, D. A. Jaffray, C. S. Wong, B. J. Nieman.  Treatment Age, Dose, and Sex Determine Neuroanatomical Outcome in Irradiated Juvenile Mice.  Radiation Research 183(5):541-549, 2015. DOI 10.1667/RR13854.1  PMID 25938769

K. U. Szulc, J. P. Lerch, B. J. Nieman, B. B. Bartelle, M. Friedel, G. A. Suero-Abreu, C. Watson, A. L. Joyner, D. H. Turnbull.  4D MEMRI Atlas of Neonatal FVB/N Mouse Brain Development.  NeuroImage 118:49-62, 2015. DOI 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2015.05.029  PMID 26037053

Nieman BJ, Flenniken AM, Adamson SL, Henkelman RM, Sled JG. Anatomical phenotyping in the brain and skull of a mutant mouse by magnetic resonance imaging and computed tomography. Physiol Genomics 2006; 24:154-162.  DOI 10.1152/physiolgenomics.00217.2005