UBC Reports | Vol. 48 | No. 3 | Feb.
Centre investigates lung, heart disease
Facility pools experts and resources to find answers
by Hilary Thomson staff writer
Allison Banting had no reason to know about lung disease research
in Vancouver until last spring.
That's when a near-fatal asthma attack put her in St. Paul's Hospital's
intensive care unit where she was treated by members of the iCAPTURE
The $17-million research centre -- one of only a handful of similar
centres in North America -- is based in Providence Health Care and
is a partnership of St. Paul's Hospital, the Vancouver Hospital
and Health Sciences Centre and UBC.
Co-directed by Dr. Bruce McManus and Dr. Peter Paré, the
centre seeks to find cures for the heart, blood vessel and lung
diseases that each year kill 55 per cent more Canadians than all
An asthma sufferer for the last 22 years, Banting was sitting
in the hospital's emergency ward awaiting help for a bad attack.
She left the hospital after a life-threatening episode that left
her nearly unconscious and on a respirator for three weeks. "My
understanding of this disease has changed," says the 47-year-old.
"I never thought that it could kill me."
Physicians, nurses and respiratory therapists helped to educate
Banting about asthma and develop an action plan that includes self-monitoring
of lung function.
"I wouldn't be here without the knowledge that those doctors and
nurses have," she says.
Banting was treated with an experimental helium therapy in addition
to conventional treatment, says Dr. Del Dorscheid, one of the centre's
researchers who is also an intensive care physician. He and Paré
specialize in asthma research, trying to better understand causes
of the chronic inflammation that scars the airways and leads to
There are currently 23 principal investigators at the centre and
a total staff of 155 that comprises research associates, undergraduate,
graduate and co-op students, technicians and post-doctoral fellows.
Disciplines range from virology to computational biology and pathology.
National and international collaborations include investigations
into viruses as a cause of asthma, emphysema and heart failure as
well as studies aimed at reducing the accelerated hardening of the
arteries that follows heart transplantation.
Former vice-president, Research, at St. Paul's, Dr. James Hogg,
whose vision helped create iCAPTURE, is part of a major project
that investigates why some lifetime smokers develop lung disease
and others remain healthy.
"I feel tremendously privileged and excited to be engaged with
this unique combination of people and resources," says McManus who
is also a Canadian Institutes of Health Research director.
Recent funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation meant
the existing infrastructure of the 25-year-old McDonald Research
Laboratories, a part of St. Paul's Hospital, could be renewed and
expanded by 1,800 square metres to create iCAPTURE.
Technology at the centre will include a digital electron microscope
to examine tissue and cells at enormous magnification and an atomic
force microscope to map the activities of living cells.