Pioneered surgical technique of cardiomyoplasty for failing hearts
Born in Tokyo and educated in Taiwan and Montreal, Chiu pioneered a new surgical technique for damaged hearts. Following Chiu's technique, cardiac surgeons remove some of a heart patient’s back muscle, attach it to the ribs, and wrap it around the heart. A specially designed pacemaker contracts the back muscle in time with the heart’s own contractions, thus helping a weak heart to function. Chiu was the first to overcome the physiological obstacles to using other types of muscles to assist the heart’s function. Heart muscle is the only kind that can contract regularly without tiring; other muscles require periods of rest. Thus the physiological and chemical factors of the back muscle have to be modified to become more like the heart. Collaborating with David Inuzzo, a biochemist of York University, Chiu subjected the back muscle with four to six weeks of constant low frequency electrical stimulation, after which it came to resemble heart muscle. The stimulation alters the expression of certain genes in the muscle cells. The process was actually discovered by biochemists in the late 1960s, but was not applied to heart surgery until Chiu and researchers like him began to work on the problem.
Sources: McGill News, Fall, 1990; Photo: Dr. Chiu's website.
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