Mining for Miracles, the BC mining industry’s long standing fundraising campaign for BC Children’s Hospital Foundation, is raising $3.385M to establish the BC Children’s Hospital Cellular and Regenerative Medicine Centre (CRMC). The first of its kind in Western Canada, the CRMC will give clinicians at BC Children’s the tools to better understand the genetic cause of heart arrhythmias so they can provide the best possible care to children in BC. It will result in improved diagnoses, identification of optimal treatments, and potentially, cures – improving and saving the lives of children across the province and beyond. In the future, the CRMC may also be used to provide answers for the thousands of children living with other conditions, like diabetes, cancer, bowel disease, and epilepsy.
Why is establishing the CRMC so important?
- It was predicted that in 2019, 50,000 Canadians, including children, would die suddenly because of a cardiac arrest.
- 10% of children with heart rhythm disorders are at high risk for sudden cardiac arrest – a condition where the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating, which, if not treated within minutes is fatal.
- There are 800 families followed by the BC inherited heart rhythm disorder program.
- Health care is transitioning to a system that uses genetic information to identify why diseases occur. The CRMC will give clinicians at BC Children’s the tools to better understand the genetic cause of heart arrhythmias so they can provide the best possible care to children in BC.
- Currently to find the appropriate treatment options to prevent cardiac arrest, doctors must determine through trial and error which of more than 30 possible heart arrhythmia medication combinations is the right one for each individual child.
- Through the CRMC using only ten drops of blood, researchers will be able to create a “disease in a dish” where they can generate and study a specific child’s beating heart cells.
- By studying cells in a lab, researchers can determine if children are at high risk of sudden cardiac arrest and help determine the best treatment options.
- The CRMC will be the first of its kind in Western Canada.
- The CRMC has the potential to prevent years of uncertainty and reduces potential risks and side effects of ineffective drug options. BC’s kids need the CRMC so that they can receive a more accurate diagnosis and tailored treatment options.
- The future vision for the CRMC is to expand beyond childhood heart arrhythmias and apply this state of the art technology to ultimately improve care for children living with other conditions, such as diabetes, cancer, bowel disease, and epilepsy.
- BC Children’s has the clinical and scientific expertise to be leaders in pediatric cellular and regenerative medicine, but they require infrastructure and equipment to do this.
What is the CRMC?
Tragically, 10% of children with heart rhythm disorders are at high risk for sudden cardiac arrest and the first sign can be very frightening and sometimes fatal. The death of a young child who faints while playing with friends or a high school athlete who collapses on a basketball court or ice rink can come without warning. In 2019, it was predicated that 50,000 Canadians, including children, would die suddenly because of a cardiac arrest.
In order to predict which children with inherited heart arrhythmia are at high risk for sudden cardiac arrest, and to find better, tailored treatments, BC Children’s wants to expand and enhance their capacity to generate and study patient-specific heart cells in the lab to give researchers the ability to study a child’s condition, in a personalized manner, with minimal discomfort or inconvenience to them and their family.
The CRMC, with the generous support of Mining for Miracles, will have the state of the art technology and infrastructure required to generate human-induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs). HiPSCs are cells, often collected from a patient’s own blood that are reprogrammed in the lab and used to develop any type of human cell. From a simple blood draw, a child’s own hiPSCs will be transformed into beating heart cells allowing researchers to test the effects of different medications on the cells in the lab, not the child. Medications have different side effects that vary with each unique patient and using this approach, researchers and clinicians can determine which drugs have positive or negative effects on an individual child’s heart cells before they are given to that child. This personalized medicine approach decreases the need to try a variety of drugs for each patient, reducing potential risks and improving outcomes. This will result in more accurate diagnoses and identification of better, personalized treatments – saving the lives of children across the province and beyond.
In the first few years, the CRMC will focus on the immediate and high-priority area of children with arrhythmias who are at risk of sudden cardiac arrest. Once the CRMC is established, the future vision is to expand the scope and help provide answers for the thousands of children living with other conditions, such as diabetes, cancer, bowel disease, and epilepsy.
Support from Mining for Miracles will establish first in Western Canada, leading-edge infrastructure including:
- A Stem Cell Generation Facility that has the state-of-the-art tools needed to generate human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) from patient’s own blood, which will then be transformed into heart cells in the Cell and Tissue Phenotyping Facility.
- A Cell and Tissue Phenotyping Facility including:
- hiPSC differentiation centre containing technology to transform hiPSCs into heart cells in the lab. This will allow researchers to investigate these cells to help determine a child’s condition with minimal discomfort and inconvenience to the child and family.
- Microfluidic tissue 3D bioprinter which prints heart muscle tissue from hiPSC-derived heart cells to better mimic each child’s unique disease, allowing researchers to identify problems and facilitate personalized treatments in the lab that will help inform a child’s treatment.
- Tissue characterization infrastructure which contains the necessary equipment to identify unhealthy cells at genetic and functional levels, determine the cause of the disease, and identify the best treatment options for each child.