It started with a tube of pink lipstick, past its best-by date. Professional makeup artist Nicole Abbott was partial to a particular shade of pink. When the company that produced the line discontinued it, she went online and tracked down the last tubes. But lipstick has a shelf life. That’s when it struck her. “Makeup is my passion,” Nicole says. “For years, I’d been dreaming of starting my own cosmetics company. I figured, it’s time now.” So she collaborated with a local manufacturer, and Hey Babe Cosmetics was born.
Nicole wanted her passion to have a special purpose. So she is donating a portion of the proceeds from the sale of Hey Babe Cosmetics to support pioneering fibrosis research at St. Michael’s Hospital, in memory of her late husband Allen, who passed away from kidney disease in 2017.
Fibrosis is the formation of excess fibrous connective tissue in an organ in response to an injury or disease. Scarring, in short. Few people know about it, but fibrosis is responsible for nearly half of all deaths in the developed world. It is at the root of most types of heart and kidney failure, including what claimed Allen’s life. And its incidence is on the rise.
The Holy Grail for doctors is a treatment that can stop—or even reverse—scarring. This is what researchers at St. Michael’s Hospital’s Keenan Research Centre for Biomedical Science are pursuing relentlessly.
Why focus on fibrosis? Dr. Darren Yuen, the clinician-scientist with the Keenan Research Centre who treated Allen, explains that scarring is the common pathway by which all kidneys get diseased, regardless of whether the root cause is diabetes or high blood pressure or one of many other conditions. The Allen David Abbott Scar Wars Fellowship will fund research and support the next generation of clinician-scientists whose goal is to make breakthroughs in drug therapies that prevent or reverse fibrosis.
Dr. Yuen recalls, “Allen inspired me because he did not let kidney disease stop him from living his life. The fellowship that Nicole is creating reflects his desire to fight his disease, to challenge the status quo, to push his doctors and nurses to find the next solution. We want to come up with the answers we didn’t have for Allen, so we never have to face the problem where a kidney fails and the patient is left with no options.”
Nicole herself embodies this spirit of perseverance in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges. After her first husband, Charles, passed away from cancer, she rebuilt her life with Allen. Now she is rebuilding yet again. “I embraced life with Allen knowing he had had a kidney transplant,” Nicole says. “We learned to function as a family with kidney disease. I want to support St. Michael’s because the doctors kept my husband alive for so many years; he received great kidney care from the entire team.” Her hope for the fellowship is that kidney disease will be identified before end-stage renal failure. “It was too late for Allen, but I want others to have hope.”
Learn more about St. Michael’s Hospital’s efforts to build Scar Wars, a world-leading centre for scarring research.