Sons have big hearts

Winnipeg’s Order Sons of Italy, Garibaldi Lodge, planted a seed with their gift of $100,000 to St. Boniface Hospital Research in 2013; the Canada Italy Tissue Engineering Laboratory (CITEL) was born.

The program focuses on cardiac stem cell therapy and tissue engineering through a relationship between the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences (ICS) and the Università degli studi di Roma Tor Vergata in Rome.

The Order Sons of Italy, Garibaldi Lodge, planted a seed that has grown and grown.

CITEL was a perfect match, said Tat-Liang Fabio Cheam, who was the Garibaldi Lodge president at the time. “It spoke to our organization’s mission of expanding our help from our local community to, potentially, people all over the world. The St. Boniface people were extremely helpful and fabulous team players, and they made a strong case,” he said.

The Sons’ “seed money” has grown over the last 5 years, having established roots for a stem cell culture facility and the ability to recruit a part-time technician, and two PhD students. Those elements in turn helped attract and secure more than $2 million in federal and provincial grants, as well as private donations, for the CITEL investigators.

Dr. Sanjiv Dhingra, Principal Investigator, Cardiac Regeneration and Tissue Engineering Laboratory, ICS, heads the program at the Sons of Italy Garibaldi Lodge Laboratory, located in St. Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen Research Centre.

He and his colleagues, with their Italian counterparts, have been working with ethical stem cells to create a polymer patch – something like a bandage – that would be applied internally after a heart attack, to help repair damaged heart tissue that does not otherwise heal.

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