Heart and lung health

The number of people affected globally by heart and lung diseases is growing exponentially. The World Health Organization projects that by 2030, ischemic heart disease will continue to dominate as the leading cause of death worldwide, while chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) will be the third leading cause of death.

In considering what can be done to accelerate the discovery of innovative solutions, one thing is clear: the various methods for improving heart and lung health—research, clinical care, pharmaceutical and diagnostic development, and policy-making—should not be carried out in isolation.

Recognizing the opportunity to lead change, members of the UBC Faculty of Medicine are integrating research, clinical care, public policy and public outreach in the arena of heart and lung health.

This integration ensures patients with the risks, signs and symptoms of complex cardiopulmonary conditions are seen by consulting teams with co-competencies in heart and lung disease prevention, diagnosis, management, therapeutics, and care modeling. As patients are evaluated for both heart and lung risks and diseases, the outcomes of these tests and appraisals will be recorded in linked registries that will allow researchers, caregivers, and policy makers to better develop and track disease interventions and outcomes, to understand who is at greatest risk for heart and lung disease or progression, and to use these and related public data to better inform clinical care in real time.

Investigators and trainees at the UBC James Hogg Research Centre are using the best available technology to image and measure changes in molecules, cells, tissues, organs and whole organisms, including patients, to understand the link between our genes and the environment, in causing heart, lung, and blood vessel diseases. The centre is transforming our capability to pursue major hypotheses about these devastating diseases, and provides a unique reference centre and training facility for our many partners in the academic and industrial sectors across Canada and North America.

COPD is a chronic, progressive disease characterized by loss of lung function and breathlessness that reduce quality of life, productivity and mortality. Its course is frequently complicated by periods of exacerbation related to infections, pollution, other diseases or poor management of disease.

  • UBC faculty members James Hogg, Peter Paré and Don Sin are world leaders in COPD research, making ScienceWatch.com’s 2010 list of top 20 scientists in this field. UBC also ranked 3rd on ScienceWatch.com’s 2010 list of 9,945 institutions publishing on this topic, with 244 papers cited a total of 5,608 times.
  • Harvey Coxson (Department of Radiology) is validating methods to categorize subjects with COPD. He is also integrating novel molecular and genomic methods for the earlier diagnosis of lung cancer.

A team of clinician-scientists led by Bruce McManus (Department of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine) galvanized around a compelling idea -- developing definitive and scalable tests to answer questions that now depend on painful, invasive procedures or educated guesses.

The PROOF Centre, a national Centre of Excellence for Commercialization and Research based at St. Paul’s Hospital and UBC, has created a pipeline that runs thousands of blood samples through “high-throughput platforms” in search of gene and protein expression signatures that correlate with particular diseases. Given its location at St. Paul’s, with its array of expertise in pulmonary and cardiac care, the PROOF Centre has naturally focused on the heart and lungs.

PROOF Centre’s most advanced biomarker set – the one that started it all – indicates whether a transplanted heart is surviving the patient’s immune system during the first year.

Mark FitzGerald (Division of Respiratory Medicine) and colleagues received $1 million to create a respiratory health economics unit, correlating basic research questions with patient care demands and population health needs, and facilitating the application of new research findings to clinical care and population health decisions.

Following his research on asthma medication and hospitalizations, Dr. FitzGerald has produced educational videos about asthma self-management that are specifically tailored to Chinese and Punjabi patients.

Andrew Krahn (Head, Division of Cardiology) is an internationally recognized expert in the management of cardiac arrhythmias, the genetic causes of arrhythmias, causes of loss of consciousness and implantable heart rhythm devices.

In addition to his research into inherited arrhythmias, Dr. Krahn is working with Laura Arbour (Medical Genetics) to create a province-wide network that would refer individuals with inherited arrhythmia – and their relatives – to specialized clinics, or use telemedicine technologies to provide remote examinations and counselling.

Clinician-scientist John Webb led a team of surgeons and cardiologists in pioneering a revolutionary heart valve replacement technique for patients who are not candidates for open heart surgery. Transcatheter aortic-valve implantation significantly reduced the mortality rate for patients who were considered unsuitable for standard heart valve replacement surgery.

Karin Humphries, the UBC Heart and Stroke Foundation Professor in Women’s Cardiovascular Health, is leading the first research program in British Columbia to focus on gender-based differences in cardiovascular disease. She is developing a focused and integrated vision for cardiovascular care, education and research for women throughout the province, including rural communities.

To support Heart and Lung Health initiatives at UBC, please contact us to explore opportunities.