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OVC Researchers Further Heart Research

Graphic of a heart and heartbeatAt the University of Guelph’s Ontario Veterinary College (OVC), several researchers are focusing on heart health and disease. During February, Canada’s annual Heart Month, we are highlighting some of this ongoing work.

Heart Month is a time to bring attention to the importance of cardiovascular health, as well as what can be done to prevent cardiovascular disease.

The Canadian Heart Month campaign began over 50 years ago and has since expanded across the country to educate on heart healthy behavior as well as make a difference in the fight against heart disease.

Dr. Sonja Fonfara, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph Dr. Sonja Fonfara is joined by Dr. Shari Raheb, both professors in OVC’s Department of Clinical Studies and board-certified specialists in companion animal cardiology in the OVC’s Health Sciences Centre. This team of researchers is studying how the feline heart changes with cardiovascular disease and age, as well as how it adapts to whole-body diseases. With improved knowledge, Fonfara hopes their findings could lead to improved diagnostic tests or help to identify medications for disease treatment.
Read more about Fonfara’s ongoing work.

Dr. Tami Martino, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph Dr. Tami Martino and her team are conducting research to better understand the mechanisms behind cardiovascular disease and develop new therapies for animals and humans. Martino, a professor in OVC’s Department of Biomedical Sciences, is the founding Director of the Centre for Cardiovascular Investigations (CCVI), which brings together hundreds of undergraduate and graduate students and faculty from across UofG to help combat cardiovascular disease. Her laboratory focusses on applying circadian biology – the body’s 24-hour sleep and wake cycle – to clinical cardiology.
Read more about Martino and her team’s research at the CCVI.

Dr. Peter Physick-Sheard, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph Dr. Peter Physick-Sheard is conducting equine heart health research, and his studies aim to advance understanding of the equine heart muscle’s fundamental characteristics by analyzing the electric signals controlling the heart’s normal rhythm. He hopes to better understand why some exercising horses are more susceptible to arrhythmia – a condition where the heart beats with an abnormal rhythm. Physick-Sheard, Professor Emeritus in OVC’s Department of Population Medicine, believes that some cardiovascular issues in performance horses likely arise from pre-existing arrhythmic heart conditions.
Read more about his equine cardiovascular studies.

Dr. Glen Pyle, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph Dr. Glen Pyle and students in OVC’s Department of Biomedical Science are researching the impacts of heart disease and developing an innovative treatment to reduce the damage caused by a heart attack. Pyle hopes to identify why high-risk groups such as post-menopausal women, are experiencing higher mortality rates associated with Ischemic Heart Disease, and aims to create effective treatments to appropriately target the underlying problem. He hopes to identify risk factors that are unique to women and develop novel therapies that could reduce the risk of death following a heart attack.
Read more about Pyle’s research on sex differences in heart function and disease.

Dr. Shari Raheb, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph Dr. Shari Raheb is researching possible factors leading to canine heart disease, as well as potential indicators for its early detection. Raheb, working closely with colleague Dr. Sonja Fonfara and other members of the OVC clinical cardiology team, aims to discover what external factors associated with dilated cardiomyopathy could lead to changes in the heart, as well as identify future markers for its early detection. She is currently exploring how to use advanced techniques in echocardiography, or cardiac ultrasound, to assist in early detection of canine cardiomyopathies.
Read more about Raheb’s research on canine dilated cardiomyopathy.

Dr. Tarek Saleh, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph Dr. Tarek Saleh is studying antioxidants and their potential role in the preventing heart disease in pets and people alike. His research also includes evaluating a new compound that may improve patient outcomes after experiencing a stroke. Saleh, a professor and chair of OVC’s Department of Biomedical Sciences, is seeking to improve preventative methods ultimately to reduce the number of people suffering from heart disease.
Read more about Saleh’s work in this area.

Dr. Matt Vickaryous, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph Research conducted by Dr. Matthew Vickaryous seeks to answer one of the most fundamental questions in biology: why are some tissues, organs, and animals able to self-repair, whereas other cannot? Vickaryous and colleagues recently discovered that lizards can also spontaneously re-grow portions of their heart, skin and brain. Previously, it was known that many species of lizard could naturally regenerate their tails following injury. These new findings demonstrate that lizards are also capable of regenerating heart tissue without any medical intervention.
Read more about Vickaryous’ ongoing studies.