New innovation in cardiac surgery


U of T professors performed the first cardiac stem cell transplant in Ontario, using a novel medical procedure that, so far, is unique to Canada.


The patient’s bone marrow was isolated in the operating room to derive stem cells, which were transplanted to the heart during the coronary bypass surgery. The transplant took place at the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre in Toronto and was led by Dr. Terrence Yau, a U of T professor of surgery and the director of the Cardiac Stem Cell Therapy Program.


This procedure has made an impact on research for the development of a treatment for the 50,000 Canadians diagnosed with heart failure each year. The traditional treatments for heart attacks have not been able to reverse its effects. Researchers hope that stem cell therapy will help improve the functioning of hearts damaged by heart attacks.


James Culross, a 67-year-old man from Etobicoke, was the first patient to receive this type of transplant. A team of doctors transplanted about 2.83 million stem cells into seven sites of his damaged heart.


Dr. Richard Weisel, a U of T professor of surgery, states that once the stem cells are isolated from the patient’s bone marrow, injecting them into the heart in an efficient manner makes an important difference in improving the heart function. The process of stem cell isolation lasts four to six hours.


The leading cause of death in Canada is heart disease; almost one in two Canadians will suffer from a coronary disease at some point. Not only has stem cell therapy proven to be a leading development in treating heart diseases, it has also helped pave the way for further research in human disease.