Dr. Billia
Dr. Phyllis Billia says the goal of the Biobank is to discover new treatments for various types of cardiovascular disease. (Photo: The Globe and Mail)

There are over 163,000 outpatient visits to the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre (PMCC) each year, where cardiovascular diseases that range from arrhythmia to heart failure are treated.

Over the last three years, a growing number of these patients have also become contributors to the centre's biobank – an ambitious research infrastructure project that's opening the way to a deeper understanding of cardiovascular disease and the treatments that work best for each patient.

"What we have at the PMCC is a unique opportunity to examine specimens from thousands of patients [in order] to look for biological markers and novel pathways of cardiovascular disease," explains Dr. Phyllis Billia, a scientist and Co-director of the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre Cardiovascular Biobank.

"The goal ultimately is to use this information to discover potential new treatments for the various types of cardiovascular disease."

Housed in a secured facility at the PMCC, the biobank is a massive repository containing more than 25,000 blood and tissue samples – a significant increase from the roughly 2,000 samples collected two years ago.

The recent acceleration of blood and tissue sample collection can be attributed to the efforts of the PMCC's Ted Rogers Centre for Heart Research site, where biobanking is an essential pillar to many of the research activities.

To build the biobank, the PMCC asks patients who go through procedures that require the collection or removal of biological specimen – such as blood tests or surgery – for permission to store their tissue or blood.These samples are then linked to patients' clinical data, including MRI and other imaging.

"This is one of the largest biobanks of its kind in Canada, representing a full gamut of cardiovascular diseases," says Dr. Billia, who notes that all samples and data are scrubbed of any details that could identify their source.

PMCC Magazine 

The third annual Peter Munk Cardiac Centre (PMCC) magazine published by The Globe and Mail focuses on why Canada's premier cardiac centre is known for being “the heartbeat of innovation.” The magazine explores the PMCC model that supports the creation, development and evolution of innovative ideas into action – making “today's idea, tomorrow's practice.” It also examines the impact that a culture of innovation has on the way cardiovascular care is delivered now and into the future.

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