July 18, 2022
Research on heart failure and improving cardiovascular function earns national recognition for 2 Libin Cardiovascular Institute researchers
Two cardiovascular researchers, Dr. Vaibhav Patel, PhD, and Dr. Aaron Philips, PhD, within the Cumming School of Medicine recently received New Investigator Awards from the Heart & Stroke Foundation (HSF).
Phillips, an associate professor in the departments of Cardiac Sciences, Physiology & Pharmacology and Clinical Neurosciences, also received the HSF McDonald Scholarship, an award given to the country’s top-rated new investigator.
Phillips’s research program focuses on improving cardiovascular function for those with spinal cord injuries. His team has developed a new electrical stimulation device to stabilize blood flow and pressure for these people.
“This award is a terrific honour as it acknowledges my research program as being amongst the top autonomic cardiovascular research groups in Canada,” says Phillips. “I am honoured and humbled to have that recognition.”
The research has the potential to vastly improving quality of life for the approximately 100,000 Canadians with spinal cord injuries. This population is at four times the risk of dying of a heart attack or stroke.
Phillips’s work has been published in several prestigious peer-reviewed journals, including Nature.
Patel says being a recipient of the New Investigator Award makes him want to work even harder.
“It’s pretty exciting,” he says. “It is very motivating and encourages me to continue working on a very exciting line of research.”
Patel’s research program focuses on heart failure, a progressive condition that impacts an estimated 750,000 Canadians, causing decreased heart function and decreased quality of life, with symptoms like breathlessness, heartbeat irregularities, weakness and fatigue.
Because heart failure often develops after a heart attack, Patel’s lab is investigating whether tiny particles found in stem cells, called exosomes, can help prevent the changes, such as scarring, that occur in the heart after an attack and lead to heart failure.
His lab often works with diabetic animal models because individuals with diabetes are two to four times more likely to develop heart failure than those without diabetes.
He hopes to continue studying the particles within the stem cells in hopes of discovering the tiny fragment of genetic material, micro-RNA, that is responsible for the protective effect. This would enable researchers to focus on finding treatments using that particle to bypass potential immune responses.
“Our work is exciting because it has a great potential clinical impact,” says Patel.
Dr. Paul Fedak, MD, PhD, the director of the Libin Cardiovascular Institute, says the studies these investigators are involved in are excellent examples of the translational research happening at UCalgary.
“The Libin Cardiovascular Institute has been nationally and internationally recognized as a centre of research excellence since its inception,” he says. “The institute is proud of its early-career researchers, who are ensuring the institute will continue to be recognized around the globe.
"I want to personally congratulate Drs. Phillips and Patel for their important work, which has the potential to vastly improve the lives of patients.”
Aaron Phillips is an associate professor in the departments of Cardiac Sciences, Physiology & Pharmacology and Clinical Neurosciences at the Cumming School of Medicine. He is the director of the RESTORE Network and a member of the Libin Cardiovascular Institute and Hotchkiss Brain Institute.
Vaibhav Patel is an assistant professor in the Department of Physiology & Pharmacology at the Cumming School of Medicine. He is a member of the Libin Cardiovascular Institute.
Paul Fedak is a professor in the Department of Cardiac Sciences at the Cumming School of Medicine. He is academic head of the Department of Cardiac Sciences and the director of the Libin Cardiovascular Institute.