$870,000 to help develop stem cell treatments for septic shock, glaucoma, lung injury and muscle degeneration

May 9, 2018

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 Ontario Institute for Regenerative Medicine (OIRM). These grants are worth $870,000, part of an overall investment by OIRM of $2.6 million across Ontario. The Ottawa-based grants include:

Translational research for septic shock trials

Dr. Lauralyn McIntyre (The Ottawa Hospital, uOttawa) and colleagues were awarded $370,000 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. Collaborators: Shirley Mei, Dean Fergusson, Kednapa Thavorn, Claudia dos Santos, Jason Acker.

Combination therapies for Duchenne muscular dystrophy

Dr. Michael Rudnicki (The Ottawa Hospital, uOttawa) and colleagues were awarded $250,000 to implement therapies using drugs that they have identified to mobilize muscle stem cells to stimulate muscle regeneration as a treatment for Duchene Muscular Dystrophy. This genetic muscle wasting disorder is caused by the loss of the dystrophin protein, leading to progressive muscle weakness and death in the second or third decade of life. Dr. Rudnicki’s team will conduct the preclinical research necessary to bring these innovative therapeutic approaches to human clinical trials. Several of the drugs they are looking at have already been tested in human trials and could potentially be brought to patients more quickly if they prove effective. Collaborators: Penney Gilbert, Patrick Gunning, William Stanford, Jodi Warman Chardon, Hugh McMillian.

Healing damaged lungs in premature babies

Dr. Bernard Thébaud (The Ottawa Hospital, CHEO, uOttawa) and colleagues were awarded $100,000 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 collect and analyze existing research, interview parents and physicians, 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 in the near future. Collaborators: Dean Fergusson, Steven Seidner, Roger Soll, David Moher, Mario Ruediger, Justin Presseau, Kednapa Thavorn, Manoj Lalu. Marc Schmitz, Christian Mühlfeld.

Stem cell exosomes for acute lung injury

Drs. Manoj Lalu and Dean Fergusson (The Ottawa Hospital, uOttawa) and colleagues were awarded $75,000 to conduct the world’s first “multicenter preclinical trial” to test a stem cell product. This means that four different laboratories at two hospitals will all test the therapy using the same instructions. The team hopes that this rigorous approach will generate more accurate results, and lead to therapies that are more likely to succeed in clinical trials. The team will specifically study whether tiny pieces of cells called exosomes taken from mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) could treat acute respiratory distress syndrome. This leaking of fluid into the lungs can affect people in hospital who are critically ill or have severe injuries, and many do not survive. If successful in this trial, the team hopes to translate this therapy into clinical trials. Collaborators: Bernard Thebaud, Haibo Zhang.

Replacing nerves damaged by glaucoma

Dr. Pierre Mattar (The Ottawa Hospital, uOttawa) and colleagues were awarded $75,000 to test ways to generate new nerve cells in the eye that could replace ones damaged by glaucoma. Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness, with an estimated 400,000 Canadians affected. A buildup of pressure in the eye kills the retinal ganglion cells that transfer information from the eyes to the brain. Transplanting healthy retinal ganglion cells is a promising solution that could potentially restore lost vision, but currently there is no practical source for these cells. Dr. Mattar and his team will use genetic tools to reprogram immature cells to become retinal ganglion cells. This will lay the groundwork for future studies that will test whether these cells can integrate into damaged retinas and help restore sight. Collaborators: William Stanford, Cathy Tsilfidis.

Support Regenerative Medicine Research at The Ottawa Hospital.

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

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

[GJ1]Link to OIRM release