Toronto was central to the development of heparin, providing the first reliable and inexpensive means to control blood clotting, making possible for a wide range of life-saving surgical interventions.
The heparin project began in 1928-29 and was spearheaded by Dr. Charles H. Best, Head of the Department of Physiology. The first phase involved the production and standardization of a purified product by Dr. Arthur F. Charles and Dr. David A. Scott of Connaught Laboratories. Eventually, Dr. Gordon Murray of Toronto General Hospital began the first human surgical trials of heparin in 1935.
The availability of heparin led to a number of major surgical advancements that were pioneered in Toronto, including the artificial kidney and the biological oxygenator. By the early 1950s, the most significant advances were led by Dr. Wilfred Bigelow – particularly the use of hypothermia to cool the body to enable open-heart surgery, and the invention of the artificial pacemaker.