On 23 May, a team of researchers from the Memorial University of Newfoundland received the Governor General’s Innovation Award for their great work in finding the cause of the “Newfoundland curse.”
The “Newfoundland curse:” Healthy Young Men Dropped Dead
According to Advocator, many families in Newfoundland had unexplained deaths of their young men, for centuries. The condition is called arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC). It’s a genetic disorder affecting the cardiac muscle that has no other symptoms than sudden cardiac arrest.
However, researchers Daryl Pullman Terry-Lynn Young, Kathy Hodgkinson and Sean Connors have teamed up and found a way to identify the genetic disorder. Their efforts have been rewarded with the award. But what’s most rewarding is knowing that their discovery will save many lives from now on, says Daryl Pullman:
“It really is a life-saving kind of research endeavor. We’re accepting the award on behalf of many others, on behalf of the many families who have participated, coming forward to donate their samples and their histories.”
People all over the world are affected by ARVC, but in Newfoundland, there are over 20 families with this condition. Many of them are perfectly healthy before the fatal heart attack.
By the age of 50, 80% of men and 20% of women with ARVC die. Many of the people with the genetic mutation don’t reach the age of 20.
A Simple Test to Save Lives
The team has developed a blood test that can detect the condition, which couldn’t be tracked until now. Then, they developed a small device to kick-start the patient’s heart.
Connors is a cardiologist, and he developed a small defibrillator to be inserted in the heart and restore the rhythm of the heart when it catches signs of an incoming heart attack.
Their work began twenty years ago, and it finally paid off. Pullman explains that in the past, research on this issue was done, but not by local scientists:
“It was a major issue for us in Newfoundland. Researchers were coming from outside the province, taking valuable information with them, but not sharing it with local people.”
All the findings at the Memorial University will be available worldwide to help medical practitioners identify and treat patients with ARVC.
Pullman explains that their research is not completed. They want to find out why men are more affected by ARVC than women, although they all carry the same mutation. He also hopes to find out more about this mysterious disease, what makes it tick and how it can be prevented to save more lives. Pullman concludes that “there’s still work to be done.”
Rex Austinwas born and raised in Thunder Bay Ontario on the shores of Lake Superior. Apart from running his own podcast (Ice Fishing And Other “Cool” Things), he spends his time canoeing and backpacking in Northern Ontario.. As a journalist Rex has published stories for Global News (Thunder Bay) we well as Buzz Feed and Joystiq. As a contributor to Great Lakes Ledger, Rex most covers science and health stories. Contact Rexhere