Could stem cells repair the heart, fight infections, mend premature lungs, and heal the brain after stroke?

April 11, 2018

Ottawa researchers closer to finding out, thanks to $999,900 from the Stem Cell Network

Researchers from The Ottawa Hospital, CHEO and the University of Ottawa are bringing discoveries made in the lab closer to human trials and therapies, thanks to five new peer-reviewed research grants from the Stem Cell Network worth $999,900, part of an overall investment of $4 million across Canada. The Ottawa-based grants include:

Treating major heart attacks

Dr. Duncan Stewart (The Ottawa Hospital, uOttawa) and colleagues were awarded $500,000 to advance their world-first clinical trial of a genetically-enhanced stem cell therapy for heart attack. The new funding will help them open an additional trial site and run a preliminary analysis of the first 60 patients. Collaborators: David Courtman, Michael Kutryk, Michel Lemay, Chris Glover, Hung-Ly Quoc, Josep Rodes-Cabau, Dominique Joyal, Alexander Dick, Howard Leong Poi, Kim Connelly.

Clinical trial for septic shock

Dr. Lauralyn McIntyre, Dr. Shirley Mei (The Ottawa Hospital and uOttawa) and colleagues were awarded $200,000 to develop a stem cell bank and the final cell product to be used in the first multi-centre Phase 2 clinical trial of mesenchymal stem cell therapy for septic shock. This deadly condition occurs when an infection spreads throughout the body and over-activates the immune system, causing multiple organs to fail.

The trial will involve 114 patients at 10 academic hospitals across Canada. A Phase 1 trial found no adverse events associated with this treatment. Dr. McIntyre was awarded an additional $100,000 for preparing regulatory and ethics review documents and operational training and practice enrolling one to two patients at each of the participating sites.

Collaborators: Duncan Stewart, Dean Fergusson, John Marshall, Keith Walley, Claudia dos Santos, Brent Winston, Shane English, Alexis Turgeon, Geeta Mehta, Robert Green, Alison Fox-Robichaud, Margaret Herridge, John Granton, Paul Hebert, Kednapa Thavorn, Timothy Ramsay, The Ottawa Hospital Biotherapeutics Manufacturing Centre, Dana Devine, Canadian Blood Services

Repairing the brain after stroke

Dr. Eve Tsai (The Ottawa Hospital, uOttawa) and colleagues were awarded $100,000 to test whether a new biomaterial can stimulate the brain’s own stem cells to repair damage after a stroke in animal models. This biomaterial could be inserted during routine surgery after stroke. It would slowly release molecules that have been shown to boost the ability of brain stem cells to restore motor function after stroke. Collaborators: Xudong Cao, Ruth Slack.

Making new blood vessels in newborn lungs

Dr. Bernard Thébaud (The Ottawa Hospital, CHEO, uOttawa) and colleagues were awarded $99,900 to test umbilical cord blood cells called endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) for treating high blood pressure in the lungs in experimental models. In newborns this condition doubles the risk of death, and survivors have long-term health problems. Dr. Thébaud’s team was the first to show that EPCs can lower lung blood pressure and encourage the lungs to grow by making new blood vessels in experimental models of newborn lung injury. This research may lead to a treatment that could benefit patients with other cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack, stroke or preeclampsia. Collaborators: Mervin Yoder, Dylan Burger.

These projects are examples of how research at The Ottawa Hospital is helping to make Ontario Healthier, Wealthier and Smarter.

Photo by Ahmed Galuta

The Ottawa Hospital: Inspired by research. Driven by compassion: The Ottawa Hospital is one of Canada’s largest learning and research hospitals with over 1,100 beds, approximately 12,000 staff and an annual budget of over $1.2 billion. Our focus on research and learning helps us develop new and innovative ways to treat patients and improve care. As a multi-campus hospital, affiliated with the University of Ottawa, we deliver specialized care to the Eastern Ontario region, but our techniques and research discoveries are adopted around the world. We engage the community at all levels to support our vision for better patient care. See for more information about research at The Ottawa Hospital.

CHEO Research Institute: The CHEO Research Institute coordinates the research activities of the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) and is affiliated with the University of Ottawa. Its three programs of research include molecular biomedicine, health information technology, and evidence to practice research. Key themes include cancer, diabetes, obesity, mental health, emergency medicine, musculoskeletal health, electronic health information and privacy, and genetics of rare disease. The CHEO Research Institute makes discoveries today for healthier kids tomorrow. For more information, visit and @CHEOhospital

University of Ottawa —A crossroads of cultures and ideas: The University of Ottawa is home to over 50,000 students, faculty and staff, who live, work and study in both French and English. Our campus is a crossroads of cultures and ideas, where bold minds come together to inspire game-changing ideas. We are one of Canada’s top 10 research universities—our professors and researchers explore new approaches to today’s challenges. One of a handful of Canadian universities ranked among the top 200 in the world, we attract exceptional thinkers and welcome diverse perspectives from across the globe.

Stem Cell Network
Supporting and building Canada’s stem cell and regenerative medicine research sector has been the raison d'etre of the Stem Cell Network (SCN) since its inception in 2001. Its work has been supported by the Government of Canada from the beginning. SCN’s mandate is to act as a catalyst for enabling the translation of stem cell research into clinical applications, commercial products and public policy. In just over 15 years SCN has forged a national community that has transformed stem cell research in Canada, brought research to the point where regenerative medicine is changing clinical practice and established an outstanding international reputation. SCN has pushed the boundaries of what was a basic research area towards translational outcomes for the clinic and marketplace.

Media contacts

Amelia Buchanan, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute;; Office: 613-798-5555 x 73687; Cell: 613-297-8315

Aynsley Morris, CHEO Research Institute, 613 737-7600 x 4144; 613 914-3059,, @CHEOHospital

Véronique Vallée, University of Ottawa, 613-863-7221,, @uOttawa