When a person undergoes surgery, there is always a risk of complications, including during the recovery stage. For those who need abdominal and pelvic surgery, abdominal adhesions are a serious issue that can come up during healing, sometimes leading to life-threatening small bowel obstructions or even infertility in women. Researchers at the University of Calgary and the University of Bern, Switzerland, have made critical discoveries into what causes this. Through Medhesion, they are developing a novel therapeutic drug that can prevent abdominal adhesions and solve one of the most common and costly complications of abdominal surgery.
Abdominal adhesions are a scar formation that can result in chronic pain, impaired bowel function and life-threatening bowel obstruction. Dr. Paul Kubes, a Professor at UCalgary’s Cumming School of Medicine and Dr. Joel Zindel of the University of Bern, used specialized imaging equipment in Dr. Kubes’ lab to examine macrophages, a type of white blood cell, to see how they responded after surgery. They found that it was the involvement of the macrophages that caused the scarring problems. Their research, published in prestigious journal Science in 2021, has led to discoveries of ways to inhibit this natural response by either removing the macrophages or using a drug to block them.
Medhesion is working to develop a safe and effective drug that can prevent abdominal adhesions. With this complication resulting in 350,000 revision surgeries each year in the U.S., this discovery will not only help a tremendous amount of people but will create significant savings for the healthcare system. The company plans to move to trials on human cells soon and eventually to clinical trials.
Medhesion has received investment from UCeed, a venture philanthropy fund accelerating UCalgary and community-based start-up companies to advance problem-solving research, create jobs and fuel the economy. A key program in the UCalgary innovation ecosystem, UCeed bridges the gap between innovation, demonstration and commercialization, and is managed by UCalgary’s knowledge-transfer and business incubator, Innovate Calgary.
UCeed Health Fund is supported by the generosity of the River Fund at the Calgary Foundation and their mission to build a healthy and vibrant community where everyone belongs.