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UBC Reports | Vol. 48 | No. 3 | Feb. 7, 2002

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 Centre.

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 cancers combined.

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 airflow obstruction.

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.


Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

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