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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 3 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 recovery from myocardial infarction and, in collaborative work, its capacity to assist medications used for cancer therapy. We are continuing to investigate its effects in hypertensive humans to determine its capacity to replace drug therapy.

2) We are interested in collaborative work on the role of oxidized phospholipids in cardiovascular diseases like cardiac ischemia/reperfusion injury. We continue a long-standing interest in understanding the molecular basis of ischemic-reperfusion damage to the heart.

3) We have recently extended our interest in the role of infectious agents like Chlamydia pneumonia in promoting atherosclerosis to the development of new antibiotics that can attenuate the growth of a great number of pathogenic bacteria without affecting the viability of eukaryotic cells and gut microbiota. We have currently affected the viability of bacteria responsible for gingivitis, periodontitis, Chlamydia trachomatis, Chlamydia pneumonia, Legionnaire’s disease and gonorrhea.

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. Our work in vitro with the new antibiotics we have rationally designed has the potential to play a major role in counteracting multi-drug resistance to antibiotics. Multi-drug resistance is a serious threat to all life on this planet. The resistance of diseases like gonorrhea to any and all antibiotics poses a significant concern to the medical community and our new drugs represent a breakthrough platform of therapy.

What techniques and equipment are used in this laboratory?

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

About Dr. Grant Pierce

Dr. Pierce is Executive Director of Research at St. Boniface Hospital and a Distinguished Professor at the University of Manitoba in the Department of Physiology and Pathophysiology in Winnipeg. He has published over 225 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 currently President-Elect of the International Academy of Cardiovascular Sciences. He 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 recently was awarded the Order of Manitoba, the highest distinction for a citizen of Manitoba.

For more information, please contact:

Distinguished Professor,
Department of Physiology and Pathophysiology,
Rady Faculty of Health Sciences,
University of Manitoba,
Winnipeg, 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

Rodriguez-Leyva, D., Zahradka, P., Ramjiawan, B., Guzman, R., Aliani, M. and Pierce, G.N. The effect of dietary flaxseed on improving symptoms of cardiovascular disease in patients with peripheral arterial disease: The rationale and design of the FlaxPAD randomized controlled trial. Contemporary Clin Trials, 32:724-730, 2011.

Bassett, C.M.C., McCullough, R.S., Edel, A.L., Patenaude, A., La Vallee, R. and Pierce, G.N. The alpha linolenic acid content of flaxseed can prevent the atherogenic effects of dietary trans fat. Am. J. Physiol., 301: H2220-H2226, 2011.

Deniset, J.F., Cheung, P.K.M., Dibrov, E., Lee, K., Steigerwald, S., and Pierce, G.N. Chlamydophila pneumoniae infection leads to smooth muscle cell proliferation and thickening in the coronary artery without contributions from a host immune response. Am. J. Pathol., 176: 1028-1037, 2010.

Maddaford, T.G., Dibrov, E., Hurtado, C., and Pierce, G.N. Reduced expression of the sodium-calcium exchanger in adult cardiomyocytes via adenovirally delivered shRNA results in resistance to simulated ischemic injury. Am. J. Physiol., 298: H360-H366, 2010.

Chahine, M.N., and Pierce, G.N. Therapeutic targeting of nuclear protein import in pathological cell conditions. Pharmacol. Rev., 61: 358-372, 2009.


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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”