The Montreal Heart Institute opened a new clinic on Thursday, one that doctors say could potentially detect heart problems long before they begin and save lives in the process.

The Cardiovascular Genetics Centre will help treat and diagnose patients with rare genetic heart problems which can often go fatally undetected, with its resources being made available not just to Montrealers, but people across Canada.

Among the new equipment are two gene sequencers which search a patient’s blood sample for over 100 genes that indicate a predisposition to heart diseases. Officials said machinery like the sequencers make the Heart Institute the most comprehensive cardiovascular genetics centre in the country.

“With the old technology, depending on the number of genes you would sequence, it would take months or even years to come to a diagnosis with an individual patient,” said Centre Director Dr. Mrio Talajic. “Now, we’re talking about a month or so, which is pretty reasonable.”

In Quebec, it’s estimated that 30,000 to 40,000 people have a rare cardiovascular condition, many of them inherited and few of them able to get the tests they need.

“The vast majority of patients who needed the tests probably didn’t get them,” said Talajic.

Among those patients unable to get tests in Canada was Johane Gathier Galli’s son, who suddenly developed a curved spine and sunken chest.

“He started to have some physic symptomology that we didn’t really understand it just started really, really fast,” she said.

His illness stumped doctors in the province, forcing Galli and her family to seek genetic testing in the United States. There, it was discovered the culprit was a rare heart condition. Further testing showed that Galli and another of her children also had the illness.

“In a way, my son saved my life because we know we have this disease and we can be followed properly,” said Galli, whose disease is now being followed by the doctors at the new clinic, as are her sons.