SMYL’S current commitment is an ambitious pledge of $500,000 towards Scar Wars, a groundbreaking research project that has the potential to revolutionize treatment for a range of diseases and address a major cause of mortality in the developed world.

What is Scar Wars?

After an injury such as a cut, the body forms scar tissue to heal and repair itself. For reasons still unknown, the process of scarring known as fibrosis also occurs in internal organs. When fibrosis affects internal organs, however, the results can be devastating and even fatal. “Unless we come up with ways to reduce organ scarring, patients will continue to die and have poor quality of life,” says St. Michael’s renowned cardiologist Dr. Kim Connelly. “The goal of Scar Wars is to fix this problem.”

More than 600,000 Canadians are living with heart failure, and that number is on the rise. Each year, 50,000 more Canadians are diagnosed with the disease which costs more than $2.8 billion each year. It occurs when the heart is unable to pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs. Dr. Connelly’s research focuses on the impact of fibrosis (scarring) on the heart which develops when heart muscles swell and thicken in response to a heart attack. This thickening helps to stabilize heart function, but the long-term consequences are heart failure and often, death. Dr. Connelly is working to better understand this process and mitigate its harmful effects. His research program focuses upon developing news drugs, as well as using “supercharged” stem cells to reduce scar tissue formation. Dr. Connelly and his team have focused on drugs which activate “anti-aging” enzymes. This not only reduces scar tissue formation but improves heart function in animals. This research may hold the key to improving cardiac function and reducing scarring.