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Dr. Grant Pierce

Dr. Grant Pierce

Principal Investigator
Cell Biology Laboratory, Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences

Principal Investigator
Cell Biology Laboratory, Canadian Centre for Agri-Food Research in Health and Medicine

Professor of Physiology and Pharmacy
University of Manitoba

Research Focus

There are currently 2 primary research directions being followed within our laboratory:

1) We are interested in the role that dietary flaxseed may play in providing significant benefits to our cardiovascular health. We have initiated several studies investigating the effects of flaxseed on cardiovascular performance in animals. We are currently studying the effects of dietary flaxseed on i) recovery from a heart attack; ii) its effects in hypertensive humans to determine its capacity to replace drug therapy; iii) non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

2) We are interested in collaborative work on the identification of biomarkers in stroke.

Why is this work important?

Our clinical work has shown dietary flaxseed may be capable of regulating high blood pressure to such an extent that it would have a major impact on the incidence of heart attacks and stroke.

Identification of biomarkers of stroke would radically change how we treat strokes and reduce brain injury.

What techniques and equipment are used in this laboratory?

In general, our lab is primarily of basic science, and mechanistic emphasis but has been translated into clinical research and major clinical trials as well.

About Dr. Grant Pierce

Dr. Pierce is a Distinguished Professor at the University of Manitoba in the Department of Physiology and Pathophysiology in Winnipeg. He has published over 250 peer-reviewed research manuscripts and 8 textbooks on topics in medicine and health. He has served as Chair of the Executive Scientific Review Committee for the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada where he oversaw all peer review for three years. Dr. Pierce was Editor-in-Chief of the Canadian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology from 2003 to 2016. He is the President of the International Academy of Cardiovascular Sciences.

Dr. Pierce received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for service to Canada, the 2016 Research Canada Leadership Award and is an elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, the highest distinction for a scientist in Canada. He was awarded the Order of Manitoba, the highest distinction for a citizen of Manitoba. In 2023, Dr. Pierce has been appointed to The Order of Canada.

For more information, please contact:

Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences
St. Boniface Hospital Research
R4020, 351 Taché Avenue
Winnipeg, MB R2H 2A6 Canada

Phone. (204) 235-3414
Fax. (204) 235-0793

Searching for the key to how cells grow or die

Most disease processes include an alteration in the rate of cell death or of cell growth. Cells may grow by simply getting larger or they may grow by dividing into more cells. The majority of deaths from heart failure and stroke – some 70% — are due to atherosclerotic blockages. Cells in these blockages are known to have accelerated rates of both cell growth and cell death at different stages of the development of these blockages. The goal of our research in this program is to understand how the cell controls these life/death processes through a signaling process into the cell nucleus. The nucleus of a cell contains all of the genetic material of the cell. This is where the genes are turned off and on and where the process of making new proteins is initiated or stopped. This process allows the cell to adapt to its changing environment and demands. The movement of signaling proteins into and out of the nucleus to turn the genes on or off then becomes an important switch to regulate cell life and death. These signaling proteins move into the nucleus through giant pores or channels. Dr Pierce’s research focusses on how this transport is controlled, what factors alter it and if this movement of proteins through the nuclear channels is involved in diseases like atherosclerotic heart disease. This is a major focus of his laboratory’s studies.

Understanding the association of infectious disease with heart disease

Atherosclerosis is the process whereby lipid-filled cells invade and block the artery and reduce blood flow needed to provide energy to a working tissue. The factors that lead to this growing blockage is, therefore, important information to obtain if we are to ever discover new therapies to limit or slow the atherosclerotic process in the body. Our lab investigates the involvement of infectious disease with this vascular problem. Specifically, we are studying the role that Chlamydia pneumonia, a respiratory pathogen, plays in inducing atherosclerosis. We have identified what we believe are key proteins involved in the action of Chlamydia pneumonia to induce heart disease and are pursuing ways to regulate this interaction and thereby prevent the induction of atherosclerosis by this infection.

Insights into using flaxseed as a dietary intervention for heart disease

A major focus for our lab in the past decade has been to understand the capacity for dietary flaxseed to modulate cardiovascular disease. We have now identified that in animals models of heart disease, dietary flaxseed has several important actions on both the heart and the vasculature. It is anti-arrhythmic during ischemic reperfusion challenge to the heart, it is anti-atherogenic, acts as an anti-inflammatory agent, reduces cell proliferation in the vascular wall, and blocks the atherogenic action of both dietary cholesterol and trans fats. This has allowed us to move into nutritional trials with healthy volunteers and patient populations. We have confirmed the cholesterol-lowering effects of flaxseed in humans, and identified a significant blood pressure lowering effect in patients with peripheral arterial disease. Continuing work in both animals and humans will contribute to furthering our knowledge of the potency of dietary flaxseed in the fight against cardiovascular disease.

 Selected Publications

Dibrov, P., Dibrov, E., Maddaford, T.G., Kenneth, M., Nelson, J., Resch, C. and Pierce, G.N. Development of a novel rationally designed antibiotic to inhibit a nontraditional bacterial target. Can. J. Physiol. Pharmacol. 95:595-603, 2017

Czubryt, M. P., Stecy, T., Popke, E., Aitken, R., Jabusch, K., Pound, R., Lawes, P., Ramjiawan, B. and Pierce, G.N.. N95 mask reuse in a major urban hospital – COVID-19 response process and procedure. J. Hosp. Infect. 106(2):277-282, 2020.

Parikh, M., Kura, B., Garg, B., Austria, J.A., Yu, L., Maddaford, T.G., Proctor, S., Netticadan, T. and Pierce, G.N. Dietary flaxseed reduces myocardial ischemic lesions, improves cardiac function and lowers cholesterol levels despite the presence of severe obesity in JCR:LA-cp rats. J. Nutr. Biochem. 98:108829, 2021.

Resch, C., Parikh, M., Austria, J.A., Yu, L., Maddaford, T.G., Proctor, S.D., Netticadan, T., Blewett, H. and Pierce, G. N. The influence of diet, obesity and sex on the gut microbiome. Microorganisms. 9:1037, 2021.

Rodriguez-Leyva, D. and Pierce, G. N. The impact of nutrition on the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on nutrition. Nutrients. 13:1752, 2021.

Karmazyn, M., Pierce, G.N., and Fliegel, L. The remaining conundrum of the role of the Na+/H+ exchanger isoform 1 (NHE1) in cardiac physiology and pathology: Can it be rectified? Rev Cardiovasc Med. in press, 2022.

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Appointment as a Member of the Order of Canada


Distinguished Professor, University of Manitoba

Lifetime Achievement Award from the Cuban Society of Cardiology, Havana, Cuba

Lifetime Achievement Award in Cardiovascular Science, Medicine and Surgery from the International Academy of Cardiovascular Sciences

Order of Manitoba


Research Canada Leadership Award

Makato Nagano Award for Distinguished Achievements in Cardiovascular Education from the European Section Meeting of the International Academy of Cardiovascular Sciences, Marseille, France

Suresh K. Gupta Award for Excellence in Cardiovascular Sciences from the International Academy of Cardiovascular Sciences India Section, Anand, India


Laufberger Medal from the Czech Physiological Society and the Czech Medical Society in Recognition of Scientific Excellence and Contributions to the Enhancement of International Scientific Collaborations


Bohuslav Ostadal Award for Excellence in Cardiovascular Sciences, European Section Meeting of the International Academy of Cardiovascular Sciences, Balatongyoruk, Hungary

Plaque of Merit in Recognition of Research Excellence and Support of Slovak Young Scientists Education, from the Slovak Medical University and the Institute for Heart Research, Slovak Academy of Sciences, Bratislava, Slovakia

Medal of the Serbian Physiological Society for “Lifetime Achievements and Contributions in Physiology”, Belgrade, Serbia

The Ramesh K. Goyal Award for excellence in cardiovascular research at the 6th International Conference of IACS on “Recent Advances in Cardiovascular Sciences”


Elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada

Named Competition “Grant Pierce Biomedical Award Competition for Graduate Students and Postdoctoral Fellows” at the “Cardiovascular Forum for Promoting Centers of Excellence and Young Investigators”, Louisville, Kentucky

Special Distinction Award from Mariana Grajales University of Medicine, Holguin, Cuba for Lifetime Achievements in Cardiovascular Sciences Worldwide at the 4th Cuba-Canada International Heart Symposium in Holguin, Cuba

Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal from the Government of Canada


Outstanding Contributions in Cardiovascular Science Award from Amity University Institute of Pharmacy at an International conference on Recent Advances in Cardiovascular Sciences and Translational Medicine, New Delhi, India

CIHR Foundation Operating Grant “Dietary Flaxseed as a nutritional intervention for cardiovascular disease”

CIHR Operating Grant on “The Effects of Specific Fatty Acids on Cardiovascular Health”

CIHR Operating Grant on “Nuclear Protein Import in Vascular Smooth Muscle Cells”

Flax2015 Operating Grant on “Dietary flaxseed to control symptoms of cardiovascular disease in patients with peripheral arterial disease”

Agri-Food Research and Development Initiative Operating Grant on “Dietary flaxseed to control symptoms of cardiovascular disease in patients with peripheral arterial disease”