Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Doing Good in the World of BAV and Thoracic Aortic Disease

BAV and aorta research in Ottawa involves mice like this one

My thoughts return often to the research in progress at the University of Ottawa.

 It is hard to find words that will convey what the efforts there mean to those of us with BAV and thoracic aortic disease.

I will try. 

One of the memories I have from my visit to Ottawa is holding the upper half of a human heart in my gloved hands. The lower half had been cut away. As I looked inside at the upper chambers and valves, to my surprise I saw this was a heart whose aortic valve had been replaced. The biological aortic valve that had been so carefully stitched in place by a surgeon's hands was still firmly in place.

I cannot describe the emotions that flowed through me then, and once again now, thinking of an unknown someone whose heart somehow came to be donated to medicine, to be studied after their life ended. I think of Dr. Abbott's work with preserved hearts in what is today the Maude Abbott Medical Museum in Montreal. There are hearts with BAV there. I hope to see them one day.

The cost of progress that others might live longer and more fully can indeed be very high. The cost of someone else's life. An even greater cost, a tragedy, occurs when lives are lost without learning from them how to help others. It means others will continue to suffer and die.

Everything about these mice, including diet, is meticulously tracked

Mice Hearts and BAV - Families Just Like Ours
We need not learn from our human families alone. At the University of Ottawa there are two different mice groups with specific genetic deficiencies that produce BAV. Like human families, some have BAV, some do not. Each one has their only individual experience, although having the same genetics. They are teaching researchers there about BAV, and they are very good teachers, accurately representing the variability of BAV and aortic aneurysm.  It was a great thrill to visit them and listen to what researchers are learning from them. This research is performed in the Nemer Lab, which is contained within the Department of Biochemistry, Microbiology, and Immunology. 

MRI for research in Ottawa
(Note the small, mouse-size opening!)

Echocardiogram machine
just right for mouse hearts!
Research is Costly

Dr. Sharo Raissi (BAF) with Dr. Daniel Figeys
Dr. Daniel Figeys heads the Department of Biochemistry, Microbiology, and Immunology within the School of Medicine at the University of Ottawa. This department includes the Nemer Lab and BAV research. Dr. Figeys very kindly gave us a tour of the research facilities.  It was impressive to see so much equipment in this facility that is solely aimed at understanding disease and alleviating human suffering.

 Doing Good in Our World
Dr. Sharo Raissi (BAF), Arlys Velebir (BAF), Dr. Daniel Figeys
At the Bicuspid Aortic Foundation, thanks to donations from the public, we have been able to fund scholarships to support BAV research in the Nemer Lab in Ottawa. They are adding important understanding to the knowlege Dr. Abbott established so long ago.
Some of us with BAV in our families will be called upon to teach the doctors who care for us more about BAV and TAD than they currently know. Those who have wise, skilled and compassionate physicians to walk beside them will indeed add to medical knowledge as their experiences unfold.

However, anyone so moved can make a contribution to help. In these last days and weeks of 2018, our thoughts may turn  to many things, including where we might give financially that will truly do good in our world.

This is to tell you that you can do good in the world of those with BAV and thoracic aortic disease through a donation to BAF, as we collaborate with those working to understand BAV and thoracic aortic disease. You may donate online at MightyCause 

Thank you for joining with us and
Creating a Climate of Hope,
~ Arlys Velebir, Chairman
        Bicuspid Aortic Foundation