Heart disease patients often have genetic factors that increase their risk, which is why genetic testing is such a powerful tool.
Calgary-based biotechnology company BioAro Inc. is on a mission to help patients who may be experiencing heart disease and people who may be at higher risk of developing heart disease. Heart Month brings more attention to this disease, which is growing every year. Cardiovascular diseases affect over three million Canadians, with over 750,000 Canadians living with heart failure. Additionally, over 100,000 Canadians are diagnosed with heart failure every year.
Understanding the role of genetics
Genetics plays a significant role in the development of heart disease — as often seen in South Asian Canadians, who are at 3 to 5 times higher risk of developing heart diseases versus other Canadians. Familial hypercholesterolemia is a genetic condition that causes high cholesterol, and if left untreated, it can cause heart attacks in 30 per cent of women by age 60 and 50 per cent of men by age 50. It’s estimated that up to 50 per cent of patients with dilated cardiomyopathy (a type of heart failure condition where people don’t have a history of blockages in the heart arteries or haven’t had heart attacks) could have genetic mutations that could further increase their risk of sudden cardiac death.
Harnessing the power of precision medicine
“Genetic testing is a powerful tool to guide physicians in diagnosis, making precise medical predictions, individualizing therapy, and counselling on health risk assessment,” says Dr. Anmol Kapoor, a cardiologist and CEO of BioAro. “The goal of precision medicine is to provide the right treatment, at the right time, tailored to a patient’s individual needs, considering the unique genes and environment of each patient.”
As all tests are done in Calgary, rather than sent out of the country, BioAro can deliver results on a faster and more efficient timeline. The five major testing cardiac panels include heart failure, high blood pressure, sudden cardiac death, ischemic heart disease, and high cholesterol. Testing can be done with a simple cheek swab (done at home or at a designated clinic) or with a small blood sample collected at the lab/clinic. Reports are delivered in three to four weeks. BioAro also offers Genetic, Cardiology, and Dietitian consultations.
Q&A with Cardiologist
Dr. Anmol Kapoor
There’s a new way of diagnosing heart disease — genetic testing. For Canadians who experience heart failure, it’s important to understand their genetics and for health care professionals to know their genomics to support better patient outcomes and give patients the best options available.
How’s personalized medicine advancing for cardiac patients and what is BioAro Inc. doing to support quality of life for Canadians with cardiovascular diseases?
Heart disease has affected us all, whether personally or through a loved one. Over 750,000 Canadians suffer from heart failure. Many of those people have a condition called dilated cardiomyopathy. Cardiomyopathies have a strong genetic association and tend to be linked with increased risk of heart failure and sudden death. Cardiomyopathies are one area that genomics is helping us identify these individuals at risk, as well as family members to implement better clinical management strategies. It’s important to triage these patients and provide genetic tests along with counselling in a timely manner. BioAro is the first Canadian biotech company that offers comprehensive assessment for cardiac patients using genomics and provides consultations. Precision medicine-based approaches can help us improve the quality of life and focus on prevention and management more accurately.
How is heart failure affecting Canadians and the Canadian health care system?
As the population ages, so does the diagnosis of heart failure. Heart failure is one of the top 5 causes of hospitalizations and readmissions in Canada. Currently, the Canadian health care system is facing a shortage of healthcare workers leading to improper management of patients with chronic diseases. This has a huge impact for individuals living with congestive heart failure, as patients with heart failure often require multiple visits to the hospital and are admitted for longer periods of time. Often, prior to diagnosis, an individual may develop symptoms of heart failure. However, by the time they go to the hospital, it’s often too late for physicians to manage the condition in an outpatient setting. Heart failure is an expensive condition for the health care system and takes a toll on a person’s quality of life. Paired with long COVID-19 symptoms, the number of incidences is expected to increase further. Canada doesn’t have the infrastructure to manage such a significant increase of heart failure cases. We need to find a better solution for helping these patients in the community.
Discuss the collaboration with the DilWalk Foundation — what prompted you to launch this clinic?
As we’re aware, heart failure is on the rise in Canada. We need to focus on helping patients manage symptoms in the community before they get worse. This can be accomplished by supporting outpatient clinics with healthcare providers that are comfortable dealing with heart failure. This allows us to teach patients the importance of self-management and understanding the severity of their symptoms. This can help stop the cycle of readmissions and know that there is support available for them in the community. Canada may never have enough cardiologists to manage these patients, but nurses and other allied health professional can truly be an asset. By training these professionals, we can reduce the stress on the system. This is what led to the development of Alberta’s first Charitable Heart Failure Clinic in Calgary, as a pilot – to show that nurses and other health care providers can be trained and empowered to look after these patients with chronic diseases — reducing hospitalizations and readmissions.
Thus far, this pilot project in partnership with the DilWalk Foundation has been very successful and prevented hundreds of hospitalisations. DilWalk Foundation is a 100 per cent volunteer run charity, helping raise awareness of heart disease in vulnerable populations, such as visible minorities, women, and kids through various community initiatives. By implementing these types of pilots throughout Canada, we can help to reduce the burden off the hospital system and improve patient outcomes with heart failure. BioAro is proud to work with charitable organizations like DilWalk foundation and improve access to genetic testing for heart patients.
Visit bioaro.com to learn more about how BioAro Inc. is changing heart health outcomes.