The Running Researcher: A University of Ottawa Heart Institute scientist takes strides to revolutionize heart health

There are reasons, beyond fitness, that we run.  39-year-old Emilio Alarcon remembers clearly why he started.

"I started running when I was 15-years-old in Chile," he recalled.

"Running was the only thing my family could afford. Just buy me running shoes."

After moving from Chile to Canada, Emilio would discover new motives for running.

"I started running here in Canada because of my son. He was born with a little hole in his heart, so to support the Down syndrome community, I started running," said Alarcon.

Alarcon is a member of Team Heart.  He runs with others in the community to raise funds and support the life-saving work of the University of Ottawa Heart Institute.  But Dr. Alarcon is also one the UOHI’s world-class, ground breaking researchers.  He’s passionately committed to saving lives, changing futures.

"When you cross the door of the Heart Institute you see patients, you see families. So that changes you," he said.

"When we do research it’s not for awards, it’s not for recognition, it’s not for papers. We’re developing the next generation of materials for helping patients and helping families. And that is the most important thing for me."

Dr. Alarcon and his colleagues are developing new therapies and technologies that heal chronic wounds in tissues and failing organs. Notably, he and his team are developing a revolutionary, injectable gel made with human collagen to repair cardiac muscle post heart attack.

"For example, we’re working on a technology that’s able to repair cardiac tissue in your heart after you’ve had a heart attack.  We’re developing a material that you can inject, within your heart, so your heart is able to beat better after," he explained.

Researchers at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute are working to give people a better quality of life in the future

"Canadians are living longer.  We have organs now that are failing that didn’t used to fail because we didn’t have a life-expectancy of 75 or 85 years old. So now, we have patients who are 85 and they want to go play golf. So, we need to really help those patients to have a truly good quality of life. And that is what we do," said Alarcon.

When you join Team Heart to support the University of Ottawa Heart Institute, or when you donate, you’re helping researchers get much needed equipment, set up labs and recruit new scientists.  And according to the Institute, your donation is multiplied up to seven times, as scientists go on to obtain highly competitive grants from government agencies to undertake their research.

"When you donate to the University of Ottawa Heart Institute Foundation, you’re donating to the next generation of treatments, technologies, therapies and things that will help patients and their families," said Alarcon.

"You will save lives, change lives.  And that’s a beautiful thing." 

To donate to Team Heart, visit teamheartottawa.com

To sign up for Team Heart, visit  https://raceroster.com/events/2021/34303/tamarack-ottawa-virtual-race-weekend-2021?aff=RNTPT