$950,000 to help develop stem cell treatments for septic shock, lung injury and muscle degeneration

May 17, 2019

Muscle stem cells. Image by Dr. Fabien LeGrandMuscle stem cells. Image by Dr. Fabien LeGrandResearchers 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 four new peer-reviewed research grants from the Ontario Institute for Regenerative Medicine (OIRM). These grants are worth $950,000, part of an overall investment by OIRM of almost $3 million across Ontario. The Ottawa-based grants include:

Stimulating muscle repair for Duchenne muscular dystrophy

Dr. Michael Rudnicki (The Ottawa Hospital, uOttawa) and colleagues were awarded $300,000 to develop drugs which mobilize muscle stem cells to stimulate muscle regeneration as a new therapeutic approach to treat Duchene Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) and other muscle disorders. DMD is a devastating lethal disease for which no effective therapy is currently available. The Rudnicki lab previously identified novel molecular targets for drug development using animal models and validated these targets in human muscle stem cells. The multidisciplinary team will deploy funding from this grant to advance both existing and new drug candidates towards testing in first in human clinical trials. Evidence-based clinical trial design will also support a pathway to first-in-human studies. This project is partnered with Satellos Bioscience Inc., a company co-founded by Dr. Rudnicki. Co-investigators: Penney Gilbert, Patrick Gunning, Jodi Warman Chardon, Collaborators: William Stanford, Hugh McMillian.

Healing damaged lungs in premature babies 

Dr. Bernard Thébaud (The Ottawa Hospital, CHEO, uOttawa) and colleagues were awarded $300,000 to conduct research necessary to prepare for a clinical trial of umbilical cord stem cell therapy for premature babies. It is hoped that this therapy would help babies with a chronic lung disease called bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD), the most common complication of preterm birth. To ensure the success of a clinical trial, the researchers will use the most rigorous methods to collect and analyze existing research, test the treatment in a world-wide unique model of BPD, determine feasibility and outcomes of a clinical trial by engaging patients, calculate whether the treatment is economically viable, and develop a protocol for a clinical trial. If this research is successful, the team hopes to launch a clinical trial by 2020. Collaborators: Steven Seidner, Marius Möbius, Maria Hurskainen, Christian Mühlfeld, Chanele Cyr-Depauw, Arul Vadivel, Marissa Lithopoulos, Marc Schmitz, Wehner, Mario Ruediger, David Moher, Sajit Augustine, Maria Pierro, Manoj Lalu, Soll, Justin Presseau, Mireille Guillot, Sarah Asad, Gisell Castillo, Chantal Horth, Kednapa Thavorn, Sasha van Katwyk, Sajit Augustine, Dean Fergusson, Brigitte Lemyre, James Chan.

Translational research for septic shock trials

Dr. Lauralyn McIntyre (The Ottawa Hospital, uOttawa) and colleagues were awarded $200,000 to build upon their first-in-human clinical trial of mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) therapy for septic shock. This deadly condition occurs when an infection spreads through the body and over-activates the immune system, causing the heart and other organs to fail. The team will use the funding to optimize the experimental treatment, perform a larger randomized controlled trial and calculate whether the treatment is economically viable. Co-investigators: Shirley Mei, Dean Fergusson, Kednapa Thavorn, Claudia dos Santos, Jason Acker.

Identifying new populations of muscle stem cells

Dr. Alexander Lin (The Ottawa Hospital, uOttawa) in Dr. Michael Rudnicki’s lab was awarded a fellowship grant of $150,000 to identify new populations of muscle stem cells and find out what molecules govern them. He previously found a small population of muscle stem cells that had increased regenerative potential when transplanted. He will use single cell RNA sequencing to help understand what regulates those cells and other populations. His work will provide fundamental new insights into muscle stem cell biology.

Research at The Ottawa Hospital is possible because of generous donations to The Ottawa Hospital Foundation.

These projects are an example of how The Ottawa Hospital is helping to make Ontario Healthier, Wealthier and Smarter.

About 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.

About the CHEO Research Institute: The CHEO Research Institute coordinates the research activities of 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

About the 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.

Media Contacts:

Amelia Buchanan, Senior Communication Specialist, 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