Daniyil Svystonyuk

Killam Predoctoral Scholarship Recipient

University of Calgary

In middle school, I remember picking up my parents’ human physiology textbooks and being fascinated with the basic concepts of blood flowing through the chambers of the heart.  As I progressed through different levels of schooling, I found myself increasingly passionate about being able to translate textbook knowledge to meaningful scientific contributions.

Heart failure is a growing epidemic in Canada that is the result of progressive maladaptive remodeling in response to cardiac injury. During remodeling the heart significantly changes its size, shape and function, becoming increasingly unable to meet the basic needs of the body it is supplying. In addition, this causes a radical change in the extracellular matrix (ECM) biology. The ECM plays a crucial role in the maintenance of tissue architecture and since it has been shown to influence structural remodeling, the ECM has emerged as a key target for novel therapy development.

Recently, Daniyil’s lab has leveraged their understanding of ECM biology to develop a novel surgical technique using a biological ECM patch. This patch has been safely used in a number of clinical procedures as tissue replacement therapy.  It is hoped that this research will lead to more targeted development strategies to improve their therapeutic efficacy. Since heart failure remains one of the most taxing diagnoses in medicine, both to the patient and the health care system as a whole, Daniyil hopes that his work will translate into an effective therapy that changes clinical practice and improves the outcomes of this ever expanding patient group.

The University of Calgary’s Libin Cardiovascular Institute is one of the premier heart institutes in Canada. Dr. Paul Fedak, is a cardiac surgeon-scientist who has built a successful research program around the core principle of “bench-to-bedside” research.  Working with him, Daniyil has the unique opportunity to be involved in all areas of the translational process from cells in a dish to being a part of a full-blown clinical trial.

It’s not all work.  One of the great things about the Killam scholarship is the ability to effectively use downtime to relax and recharge.  Daniyil has been taking advantage of the great Alberta outdoors – something he’s not used to coming from Toronto!  He and his girlfriend have enjoyed rafting down the Bow river and hiking through the mountains, His goal is to become a better skier by the time he’s done his degrees in Alberta although he’s worried that might be an exercise in futility.

“I believe that the Killam trusts are an invaluable source of support that inspire me to continue achieving and hitting milestones throughout my career development.  I am very grateful for the people I work with and my ongoing success would not be possible without their continued support and mentorship.”


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