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Giving to medicine and health at the University of Minnesota

October 2009 Archives

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In 1991, Arne Divine began losing his sight because of ischemic optic neuropathy (ION), caused by an obstruction of the blood flowing to his optic nerve. The condition ultimately robbed him of nearly half of his vision and has had a profound impact on his life.

"You lose your independence when you have impaired vision," says Divine, who is 80 years old.

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Nearly one-third of children and adolescents are overweight or obese. That’s one of the troubling facts presented by SPH professor Mary Story at a Congressional hearing on children’s health issues.

Rita Perlingeiro, Ph.D.

For years, Rita Perlingeiro, Ph.D., has been looking for ways to use embryonic stem cells to improve muscle function. Now the University of Minnesota researcher's findings could advance new therapies for muscular dystrophy, a devastating disease characterized by progressive degeneration of the muscles that control movement.

In a study published in the October issue of Experimental Neurology, Perlingeiro and her team showed that transplanting embryonic stem cells that have "specialized" into skeletal muscle stem cells into mice with Duchenne muscular dystrophy can restore function to defective muscles.

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If his research findings are any indication, business should soon be thriving. "Fixing hearts is what I think about all day, every day, 365 days a year," says Metzger, chair of the University of Minnesota Medical School's Department of Integrative Biology and Physiology. "My colleagues and I take a basic science approach to the problem—how we might apply modern technologies to improve the functionality of the diseased heart."

A native of Minnesota, Metzger previously worked at the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor, where he directed its Center for Integrative Genomics. Now back in Minnesota, he hopes to expand and perfect some of his most promising research.

Thumbnail image for Kamakshi Lakshminarayan, M.D., Ph.D., listens to advice from Russell Luepker, M.D., M.S., one of her mentors in the CAPS program. She hopes her research will lead to better outcomes for stroke patients.

Kleptomania, compulsive hair pulling, gambling addiction, and other impulse control disorders are notoriously difficult to diagnose and treat. Recent research through the University of Minnesota's Impulse Control Disorders Clinic offers hope to people suffering from these debilitating and often embarrassing behaviors.

Thumbnail image for Neurologist John Day, M.D., Ph.D., leads a University team of researchers aiming to translate their lab findings into new therapies for muscular dystrophy patients like 10-year-old Luke Kostecky. (Photo: Scott Streble)

A research team led by University of Minnesota biochemist James Ervasti, Ph.D., is yielding promising results in the search for a treatment for Duchenne muscular dystrophy, the most common form of muscular dystrophy in children. Duchenne, which affects only boys (though girls can be carriers), is caused by a genetic mutation preventing the body's production of dystrophin, a protein crucial to maintaining muscle structure. Without it, muscles stop working and deteriorate. The disease is often fatal by age 20.

At age 95, Sister Mary Louis Pihaley — another original Nun Study participant — is a sharp conversationalist. (Photo: Scott Streble)

It's an exciting time in Alzheimer's disease research at the University of Minnesota. The world-renowned Nun Study, initiated here in 1986, returned to the University in March after nearly 20 years away and is still netting key insights into Alzheimer's disease and related disorders. And the leading-edge research conducted in the University's N. Bud Grossman Center for Memory Research and Care continues to gain momentum as it shifts its focus to prevention.

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Curt O'Hagan is fond of remarking that seven years after his diagnosis of primary lateral sclerosis (PLS), a degenerative motor neuron disease similar to the fasterprogressing amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease), he is still a pest to his friends and family. And they're thrilled about it. To honor O'Hagan, they generously support Curt's Classic, a golf event sponsored by Crystal Lake Golf Club in Lakeville to benefit PLS/ALS research at the University of Minnesota.

Ataxia researcher Harry Orr, Ph.D., says partnerships through the new Institute for Translational Neuroscience will help bring researchers closer to finding a treatment for ataxia.

A $100,000 grant from the Bob Allison Ataxia Research Center is making possible a University of Minnesota resource that could help researchers solve the mysteries of a debilitating neuromuscular disease. The funding will allow researchers to collect and store DNA samples from thousands of people with hereditary ataxia.

Thumbnail image for Stroke specialist Adnan Qureshi, M.D., envisions a day when stroke diagnosis can start in an ambulance—shaving off important minutes before treatment begins. (Photo: Richard Anderson)

"Time is brain" is a familiar refrain in neurology circles. That's because the more quickly a stroke victim receives treatment, the greater the likelihood of recovery. The most common kind of stroke, called ischemic stroke, is caused by a blockage of blood flow to a region of the brain. Ischemic strokes account for 85 percent of all strokes suffered in the United States each year.

Emily Gates, M.D.

Dan Falvey, a third‐year medical student at the University of Minnesota, wants to help others through mission work. Thanks to scholarship support, he’s coming closer to reaching that dream every day. “I think health care providers can help people in a way that no one else can,” says Falvey, who is considering emergency medicine as his specialty. “My wife is finishing a master’s of nursing program, and one of our goals is to do medical mission work together.” Making dreams like that possible is just what Emily Gates, M.D., Medical School Class of 1939, had in mind when she established a charitable remainder trust with the Minnesota Medical Foundation (MMF) in 1991.

Peter Argenta, M.D., and Jeanne McGahee.

Jeanne McGahee has always used her talents to help others. She began her career as a program director at the YWCA and worked for the organization in three different states over 17 years. After earning a master’s degree in social work in Colorado in 1966, McGahee was a social worker in the Minneapolis public schools system for 22 years. In her free time, she was an avid traveler. “I went around the world visiting many countries. I have enjoyed freighter trips as well. It was marvelous,” McGahee says. In May 2005, her positive outlook was tested when she was diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer.

Daniel Garry, M.D., Ph.D., is excited that a new collaboration grant will connect the University to a nationwide network of other leading stem cell scientists. (Photo: Scott Streble)

Most major medical discoveries don't happen in a single lab; they result from close collaboration across multiple institutions, often over many years. That's why it was big news when University of Minnesota researchers learned in October that they had received a seven-year collaboration grant to help develop the high-potential field of stem cell therapy.

Kay Quam and a feline friend

Kay Quam has been a "cat person" for as long as she can remember.

She grew up on a farm and was used to dogs and barn cats running all over. In one photograph of her at 18 months old, she's holding a stuffed animal—a cat, naturally. But it wasn't until adulthood that she knew what it was like to have an indoor cat.


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