Dr. Kishore Pasumarthi
Mending Broken Hearts: Dr. Kishore Pasumarthi explores new territory in cardiac regeneration
Popular wisdom says you can’t mend a broken heart—but Dr. Kishore Pasumarthi is determined to try. He and his team are exploring groundbreaking cell transplant and gene therapy technologies, to see if they can improve the function of hearts that have been damaged by heart attack or compromised by frailty.
“We're going a step beyond stem cell transplants in myocardial repair,” says Dr. Pasumarthi, a professor in the Department of Pharmacology at Dalhousie Medical School. “We are isolating the specific stem/progenitor cells that give rise to heart cells into a into a pure culture and transplanting these cardiac progenitor cells into heart-attack-damaged hearts. Then we're observing the cells to see if they develop into functional heart muscle cells that help the heart beat efficiently in spite of the damage."
Dr. Pasumarthi is also using gene therapy to reactivate cell division in adult heart muscle tissue. Cell division in the heart stops in early childhood, which is why heart muscle cells that die in heart attacks are replaced by scar tissue instead of new cells. Dr. Pasumarthi believes his approach could heal heart attack damage with minimal scarring. This would prevent both arrhythmias and heart failure, which commonly develop after a heart attack or simply over the course of many years.
At the same time, Dr. Pasumarthi has embarked on new collaborative projects with Dalhousie colleagues, Dr. Susan Howlett and Dr. Robert Rose, to see if transplanting cardiac progenitor cells can improve heart function in experimental models of frailty. He and his team are also interested in the role of genetic mutations in heart failure and plan to work with Dr. Greg Hirsch and Dr. Jean-François Légaré to explore genetic mutations involved in heart disease.