Behind-the-Scenes of Medical Innovation

Imagine a world where heart attacks are treated when and where the patient presents symptoms. In such a world, organ transplantation has no waitlist because organs can be hibernated until they are needed, and diabetes is a disease of the past.

Welcome to the world the University Hospital Foundation and our many donors are striving toward – a world of cutting-edge medical innovation.

One of these incredible healthcare wonders requires no imagination because it already exists. The Vital Heart Response (VHR) program, developed right here in Edmonton at the University of Alberta Hospital, is used in every ambulance and community hospital from Red Deer to the Northwest Territories. In Alberta alone, more than 60 per cent of the roughly 1000 heart attacks that occur every year in northern Alberta are treated through the VHR program. Others, such as hibernating organs until they are needed for transplantation are being researched right now by some of the most brilliant minds in the healthcare world.

These are just a few of the medical innovations that donors to the UHF are helping to bring into reality. For those of you whose interest is piqued, we’re pleased to share that there are ongoing opportunities to learn about the incredible research underway through our Virtual Expeditions – and directly support innovation.

Behind the Scenes of Medical Innovation, with the Innovators Themselves
Created during the height of the pandemic, Virtual Expeditions are our way to bring donors, healthcare professionals and members of the community behind the scenes to find knowledge and hope in the exciting medical research that is currently taking place at the Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute, Edmonton Kaye Clinic and the University of Alberta Hospital . Each presentation, lasting about an hour with a dedicated Q&A period, is delivered by the innovators conducting the research and helping to bring these ideas into our reality.
An End to Diabetes

On June 7, 2022, University of Alberta transplant surgeon and Director of the Clinical Islet Cell Transplant Program Dr. James Shapiro joined our Virtual Expedition and presented on the history of diabetes, how far we’ve come, the next stages of treatment and a cure. In 2000, Dr. Shapiro acted as the lead on the research team that developed “the Edmonton Protocol,” a safe and effective procedure now known worldwide for transplanting insulin-producing islet cells into people with hard-to-control diabetes to stabilize their blood sugar.

However, while the Edmonton Protocol reduces the need for daily insulin injections, it leaves patients with a lifelong dependency on anti-rejection drugs, and, due to a shortage of available islet cells for transplantation, can only help a limited range of people.

Today, Dr. Shapiro and his team at the University of Alberta are developing a way for diabetes’ patients to produce their own insulin – thereby curing diabetes.

Sign up so you don’t miss the next Virtual Expedition

Virtual Expeditions are held roughly four times a year, with the next one occurring in September 2022. If you’d like to sign up to be notified when the next Expedition will be held, or to learn more about the important healthcare conditions the UHF is fundraising for, type your email in the “Add Impact to you Inbox” box at the bottom of the page.

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