Heart and lung innovation

Promise Magazine: Spring/Summer 2015

Some of the world’s leading researchers call the Centre for Heart Lung Innovation (HLI) at St. Paul’s home.

Their work, examples of which are featured here, could potentially transform health care by unlocking the link between our genes, the environment and heart, lung and blood vessel diseases.

Understanding cholesterol

Dr. Gordon Francis, director of the Healthy Heart Program Prevention Clinic at St. Paul’s and an associate director of the HLI, and a team of researchers are examining smooth muscle cells from HLI’s heart tissue registry to uncover how cholesterol accumulates in arteries. Through this research, they hope to find new ways to treat and prevent heart attacks and stroke.

Studying cells with advanced technology

The fluorescence-activated cell sorting machine uses advanced technology to separate and label cells with fluorescent dye. By isolating certain cells, researchers are able to study how the cells behave and interact with other cells in a sample and possibly identify new treatments for diseases such as asthma, COPD and HIV.

Analyzing human tissue

The HLI’s heart and lung tissue registries are two of the world’s largest collections of heart, lung and blood vessel tissues, including more than 50,000 lung specimens and more than 14,000 specimens from heart transplant surgery patients. These tissues, taken at various stages of health, provide valuable insight on the progression of cardiovascular disease.

Diagnosing a deadly lung disease

Dr. Don Sin, head of Respiratory Medicine at St. Paul’s, and colleagues are conducting research to develop a simple blood test that could identify patients at the early stages of the deadly lung disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), as well as those at risk of “lung attacks.”