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Dr. Keith Brunt, Translational Cardiovascular Medical Research, Regenerative Medicine and Experimental Therapeutics

Posted by Erinor Jacob on November 6, 2012 in Research

New to the Maritimes and the Faculty of Medicine, Dr. Keith Brunt is helping to build Dalhousie’s research program in New Brunswick. Dr. Brunt’s area of focus is translational cardiovascular medicine. Translational medicine is a two-way exchange between scientists and clinicians to improve healthcare for patients. “I have a major interest in understanding how cells adapt to stress and how the body heals. I believe in enhancing and mimicking those mechanisms in order to develop innovative therapeutic strategies to treat cardiovascular disease” Dr. Brunt explained.

Dr. Brunt is an assistant professor in the Department of Pharmacology at Dalhousie Medical School’s Saint John, New Brunswick location.

“I am excited to focus on translational research, and hope to combine the New Brunswick Heart Centre’s clinical expertise with my experience in gene therapy and regenerative medicine” Dr. Brunt said.

For his doctoral thesis, he evaluated mechanisms for stem cell and gene therapy for cardiovascular disease. Dr. Brunt was awarded the prestigious Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada Research Fellowship to specifically study stem cell dysfunction in cardiac patients in the Department of Cardiovascular Surgery at Toronto General Hospital.

Dr. Brunt explained that, historically, the stem cell transplant to help hearts recover has been variable in its success. It has worked very well in some patients and not at all in others. Research has been conducted to determine the reason for the discrepancy and enable researchers to predict who would best benefit from this type of therapy. The age of the stem cells themselves were the most positively correlated determinant as to the effectiveness of the therapy.

 “Stem cells act like paramedics to save heart cells after a heart attack. Now we’re trying to get them to act like engineers to rebuild new heart tissue” Dr. Brunt explained. Dr. Brunt’s research looked at isolating the stem cells and treating the stem cells outside the body prior using them in patients. He estimates that this type of procedure can improve the dramatic stem cell benefit from helping one-in-three patients to two-in-three patients or more.

The New Brunswick Heart Centre will be one of the collaborators for Dr. Brunt’s research. It is the centralized cardiovascular care center in New Brunswick, where a majority of patients are treated. This provides an excellent starting point from which to gather data for research and launch improved strategies.  

 “New Brunswick is a perfect testing-ground for Canadian health studies because of its demographics (consistent population, bilingualism, an urban/rural population that access the same care facilities, native population, etc). Basically NB has the opportunity to become the next Framingham; just bigger, and more Canadian-centric.”  The Framingham, MA Heart Study is a famously large and long running study on cardiovascular risk factors. Dr. Brunt envisions that NB has the potential to be the new phase, not in determining risk factors, but in defining future policy and therapy for a nation. Why? “NB is unique, it has all the room to grow into this role without the hurdles of entrenched ideology; the new medical school is the spark that was needed to explode ahead in this direction; its all very exciting!”, explained Dr. Brunt.

So what will this research mean to patients in the Maritimes? “We will be better equipped to make new changes to the standard of care than most places in North America. Also, the population may be able to benefit even sooner through clinical trials – years earlier than the change in the standard of care. Essentially it’s improved healthcare for the patients, growth for the economy and reduced costs for government; it’s a triple win.” Dr. Brunt responded.

Dr. Brunt’s interest in cardiovascular regeneration comes partly from his family’s experience with cardiovascular disease, but also because of the challenge cardiovascular disease poses to the researcher. “This disease is caused by a multitude of factors and it’s a disease without a cure. This is an obstacle. Human history is filled with overcoming obstacles!”

 

 

Media enquiries:

Allison Gerrard, Dalhousie Medical School, (902) 494.1789 / (902) 222.1917, allison.gerrard@dal.ca