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Former ICS grad student and St. Boniface Hospital Research alumni, Dr. Justin Deniset, has published recent work which made headlines last week for a discovery that could lead to new treatments for patients with heart damage.

Published in Immunity and generating extensive media coverage across the country, Deniset’s work is being touted as a breakthrough that could fundamentally change how cardiac surgeons operate and how heart damage can be treated.  Dr. Deniset carried out this ground-breaking work at the University of Calgary.

“This is one of the most important advances in recent memory in the post-MI cardiac fibrosis area of study – truly a gamechanger,” said Dr. Ian Dixon, Principal Investigator. Molecular Cardiology, Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, St. Boniface Hospital Research.

The heart is known for its very limited capacity to repair itself making heart disease the number one cause of death in North America. This is the first time that a team of cardiac surgeons and basic cardiovascular scientists have explored the possibility that cells outside the heart could participate in the healing and repair of hearts post-injury. 

“It will be exciting to see how this translates to the clinical world and benefit people living with damaged heart tissue,” said Dr. Grant Pierce, Executive Director of Research, St. Boniface Hospital. “Naturally we are exceptionally proud of our alumni like Justin, a St Boniface boy, born and bred, who has gone on from his research training at the Albrechtsen Research Centre at St Boniface Hospital to undertake top-tier postdoctoral research – truly outstanding!”

The study was led by Drs. Paul Kubes, PhD, Justin Deniset, PhD and Paul Fedak, MD, PhD. and the specific cell is called a Gata6+ pericardial cavity macrophage. In mice, it has been found to help heal injured hearts. The team is hopeful the discovery will lead to novel techniques that will facilitate quicker recovery times for people who have suffered heart attacks.