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Canadian Cardiovascular Society recognizes trailblazing work by U of Alberta heart researcher

EDMONTON - A University of Alberta medical researcher being hailed as a world leader in his field will receive a major national award for his pioneering work in the development of a new class of drugs for the treatment of heart failure.

The Canadian Cardiovascular Society is giving its 2009 Young Investigator Award in the basic science category to Dr. Gavin Y. Oudit (pronounced OO-diht), an assistant professor in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry's Department of Medicine (Division of Cardiology). The prestigious award is to be presented at the society's awards ceremony on Sunday, Oct. 25, during the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress being held in Edmonton.

Millions of people around the world who have high blood pressure and/or heart failure are treated with a class of drugs called ACE inhibitors. Oudit and his collaborators are working on an alternative drug that wouldn't have the negative side effects that often occur with ACE inhibitors while providing a new type of therapeutic benefit. It could also be a potential therapy for kidney, liver and lung diseases as well as cardiovascular conditions.

Oudit, a clinician-scientist trained at the University of Toronto, moved to Edmonton from Toronto in 2008 to continue his groundbreaking research at the University of Alberta and his clinical practice at Alberta Health Services's Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute and the University of Alberta Hospital.

The co-chair of the society's award committee said Oudit was their unanimous choice. He has established a "highly innovative and productive research program" that has yielded major discoveries, said Dr. Philippe Pibarot, professor in the Department of Medicine at Laval University.

"The committee has been highly impressed by the translational nature of (Oudit's) program, from fundamental molecular advances in our understanding of ACE2 biology to clinical applications," Pibarot added.

"Dr. Oudit has become a world leader in this exciting new area of research, which is very impressive considering the stage of his career."

Oudit was instrumental in a new discovery about the body system that regulates blood pressure and body fluid levels. He was among a group of researchers who made waves with an article published in the scientific journal Nature in 2002, when they reported they had identified the critical function of a new enzyme called ACE2 (angiotensin-converting enzyme 2) as an essential regulator of heart function.

Oudit is funded by the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research as a Clinical Investigator, and has received a "grant-in-aid" from the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Alberta. As well, his work has been recognized with a five-year operating grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to study the biochemical and physiological effects of ACE2 in heart disease.

Oudit is the third and latest outstanding young clinician-scientist in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry to receive recognition and funding for their work from not just one, but all three, of these major granting agencies:

  • Dr. Ken Butcher, a neurologist, is an authority on hemorrhagic stroke, which occurs when a blood vessel bursts in the brain and bleeds into the surrounding tissue. It leaves 80 per cent of victims dead or disabled. No effective treatment is available at this time. Butcher uses a special CT (computerized tomography) technique to see how people respond to treatments that drastically lower their blood pressure right after a stroke.

  • A pilot study by Dr. Justin Ezekowitz and his research team, published by the European Journal of Heart Failure in 2008, found that one-third of heart-failure patients were sent home from emergency. On the strength of this initial research, the three agencies have awarded him grants and other support so he can lead a larger study that will examine the emergency treatment given to patients with acute heart failure.


Contact: Lindsay Elleker
University of Alberta Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry

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