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November 2009 Archives

Alfred and Ingrid Lenz Harrison

Twin Cities philanthropists Alfred and Ingrid Lenz Harrison challenged other donors in 2007 to give to the Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) Initiative at the University of Minnesota by offering a dollar-for-dollar match—up to $1 million. And generous advocates stepped up to the challenge.

With this $2 million in support from the community, the University is moving forward with the ASD Initiative.

Jian-Min Yuan, M.D., Ph.D.

Tobacco researchers with the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota are on a roll.

In April a team led by Jian-Min Yuan, M.D., Ph.D., announced that it had discovered a direct link between two tobacco byproducts and the development of lung cancer in some smokers. It was the first time a direct link between specific tobacco carcinogens and lung cancer in humans had been identified.

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Researchers at the University of Minnesota have made recent advances in early detection, prevention, and risk reduction related to lung-damaging conditions such as cancer and pulmonary fibrosis. The National Cancer Institute recently awarded University of Minnesota Masonic Cancer Center scientist Jian-Min Yuan, M.D., Ph.D., a five-year grant of more than $3 million to continue his efforts to identify tobacco byproducts in urine that predict lung cancer risk.

Thumbnail image for A Queneau scholarship allows Lacey Arneson to pursue her passion for research.

The Center for Lung Science and Health (CLSH) serves as the University of Minnesota's interdisciplinary home for lung research, education, and public outreach. One facet of the center's mission is to promote and enhance research education and training opportunities in lung science and health.

Thumbnail image for A Queneau scholarship allows Lacey Arneson to pursue her passion for research.

The Center for Lung Science and Health (CLSH) serves as the University of Minnesota's interdisciplinary home for lung research, education, and public outreach. One facet of the center's mission is to promote and enhance research education and training opportunities in lung science and health.

Thumbnail image for University researchers have achieved more than 90 percent accuracy using a noninvasive technology called magnetoencephalography to differentiate people with post-traumatic stress disorder from control subjects. (Photo: Image courtesy o

In the last decade, schizophrenia researchers have emphasized the importance of intervening early to treat this psychiatric disease, which typically first appears in a person's late teens through early 30s, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Generally, the earlier that treatment begins, the better the outcome.

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A baby boy born with Duchenne muscular dystrophy looks perfectly healthy, until he develops coordination problems sometime around age 2 or 3. It's often then that families learn their child has this tragic disease.

Duchenne, which affects only boys (girls may 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.

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"Generous people know how to live, which is not to say they live with abandon, but that they live with the knowledge that life is very precious and very short," actress and guest speaker Kate Mulgrew told attendees at the Minnesota Medical Foundation's 2009 annual dinner October 26.

Mulgrew, who shared the moving story of her mother's battle with Alzheimer's disease, is a passionate supporter of Alzheimer's prevention, including pioneering research at the University of Minnesota.

Leon and Nancy Robertson’s gift honors the work of SPH professor Susan Goodwin Gerberich, Ph.D. (Photo courtesy of Leon Robertson)

Leon S. Robertson, Ph.D., has spent his career saving lives — not on the front lines, but behind the scenes as a transportation injury epidemiologist, where he researched how policy changes such as seat belt laws and lower legal driving limits for bloodalcohol content can improve safety on the roads. His work also has addressed how vehicle and road modifications can significantly reduce fatalities.

A bequest from the late Ann Salovich will help the Center for Bioethics attract top students to its new graduate program. (Photo courtesy of the Center for Bioethics)

As the second wave of the H1N1 flu pandemic hit this fall and health-care providers awaited a vaccine for the fast-spreading virus, questions about rationing loomed large. "Who gets to go to the front of the line, who should be vaccinated first?" asks Debra DeBruin, Ph.D., director of Graduate Studies at the University of Minnesota's Center for Bioethics.

"You start with basic, core principles and work down to goals and then to strategies," explains DeBruin, who has spent three years working with the Minnesota Department of Health to create guidelines for allocating scarce resources during a pandemic.

Karen Hsiao Ashe, M.D., Ph.D., and her lab team are making strides in understanding the mechanisms that lead to impaired memory. (Photo: John Noltner)

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 other brain 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 preventing Alzheimer's altogether.

The Friswold family, from left: Steve, Marie, Fred, Cyndie (Hays), Barry, and Ben. “Mom and Dad have always been generous donors and volunteers, and that spirit of community giving is contagious,” Barry says. (Photo courtesy of Marie Friswold)

As a child, Barry Friswold spent a lot of time in the hospital — but not because he was sick. It was his sister Michelle who had leukemia. Parents Fred and Marie Friswold spent as much time as they could in the hospital with Michelle before she died in 1967 at age 4. But the hospital room was too cramped for the whole family to be together.

First-year medical student Tricia Hadley, who spent a year in AmeriCorps working as a doula and medical interpreter, is the first to receive a scholarship through the Robert Leonard Hart Endowment for Public Service in Medicine. (Photo: Scott Streble)

Robert Hart appreciates the value of skilled physicians who genuinely care about their patients. He has been that patient a few times in his life, and he says the care provided at clinics associated with the University of Minnesota is far and away the best he has received. His wife's son had a similar experience with prompt, outstanding treatment at the University when time really counted.

Research by Patricia Ferrieri, M.D., has been instrumental in developing experimental vaccines that aim to protect mothers and their babies from Group B streptococci. (Photo: Richard Anderson)

A century ago, exposure to infectious diseases often meant serious illness and—too often—even death. But because of medical and technological leaps, vaccines have disarmed many of these infectious agents.

Today vaccines help protect us from many diseases by stimulating our immune systems to fight off the germs we encounter in our daily lives.

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The new home for our University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital continues to take shape.While crews construct the new facility, they're also renovating the adjacent hospital building, which will connect mothers' services and the neonatal intensive care unit to the new children’s hospital building. By winter, crews hope to finish the exterior structure and move on to the interior pediatric intensive care unit and blood and marrow transplant unit.

Ella Rammer

Aseem Shukla, M.D., can't just snap his fingers to fix a problem inside an ailing child’s body. But for all the indications he leaves behind, you might think that’s how he does his job.

Thanks to the late Leo C. T. Fung, M.D., University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital is one of the nation’s pioneering centers in pediatric robotassisted surgery—a tradition that continues today with Shukla’s expertise. He uses the "hands" of a da Vinci® Surgical System to perform intricate surgical maneuvers through tiny incisions.

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The first University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital Champions for Children Golf Classic netted more than $88,000 to benefit UMACH. Minnesota Vikings guard Steve Hutchinson (left), celebrity host, was joined by many other media and sports personalities for the event, which was held June 8 at the exclusive Windsong Farm Golf Club in Independence, Minn.

Mary and Rich Ostlund (Photo: Scott Streble)

As their three children were growing up, Rich and Mary Ostlund had become very involved in their kids' extracurricular activities. But when their youngest child went off to college, Rich and Mary suddenly had more time on their hands—and a bold idea.

"We wanted to find two or three charities that we could give as much time to as [we gave to] our kids," Rich says.

A colleague introduced the Ostlunds to the University Pediatrics Foundation (UPF) through WineFest, the organization’s premier event that raises money for pediatrics research, education, and care at the University of Minnesota.

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U.S. News & World Report has once again named University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital one of the country’s best children’s hospitals.

University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital was nationally ranked 20th in treatment for cancer, 26th for kidney disorders, and 29th for diabetes and endocrine disorders this year.

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University of Minnesota pediatrics faculty and alumni gathered June 4 at the Town & Country Club in St. Paul to reconnect and learn about recent developments in children’s health at the University. Heidi Roy Hubbard, M.D., a member of the resident alumni class of 1997, cohosted the event and spoke about the impact University alumni are making in the community.

Thumbnail image for Vikings guard Jimmy Martin holds 3-month-old Faith Johnson, who was being treated at the University of Minnesota Children’s Hostpital. Vikings players bring smiles to children’s faces on their regular visits to the hospital.

In our fall Children's Health newsletter, we told you about leading-edge vaccine research happening at the University of Minnesota focused on stamping out the spread of infectious diseases among children. Today one infectious disease in particular is top-of-mind: influenza.

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WineFest No. 14, held May 8 and 9 at the Depot in Minneapolis, was yet again the food and wine charity event of the year. This delightful epicurean celebration supports the internationally renowned University of Minnesota Department of Pediatrics and University of Minnesota Amplatz Children's Hospital, where physician-researchers develop and deliver innovative treatments and cures for childhood diseases. Since its inception, WineFest has raised more than $7.5 million for seed funding for promising junior scholars, critical medical equipment, and breakthrough research.

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The new home for our University of Minnesota Amplatz Children's Hospital continues to take shape.While crews construct the new facility, they're also renovating the adjacent hospital building, which will connect mothers' services and the neonatal intensive care unit to the new children's hospital building. By winter, crews hope to finish the exterior structure and move on to the interior pediatric intensive care unit and blood and marrow transplant unit.

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University of Minnesota pediatrics faculty and alumni gathered June 4 at the Town & Country Club in St. Paul to reconnect and learn about recent developments in children's health at the University. Heidi Roy Hubbard, M.D., a member of the resident alumni class of 1997, cohosted the event and spoke about the impact University alumni are making in the community.

Sarah Cooley, M.D., is developing strategies for using natural killer cells to treat solid tumors.

If you had met Duane Cramer in the spring of 2008, it would have been hard to guess that he had run out of options for treating his acute myelogenous leukemia (AML), a fast-growing blood cancer. Even after four rounds of the strongest chemotherapy and full-body radiation, the Blaine resident didn't feel sick.

"Nobody who saw me could believe it," Cramer recalls.

Bruce Blazar, M.D.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded a five-year, $9.5 million grant to Bruce Blazar, M.D., of the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota, and two researchers with Dana-Farber Cancer Institute to further their research on chronic graft-versus-host disease (GVHD).

GVHD can occur after a patient undergoes a stem cell transplant for treating blood cancers including leukemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma. The transplanted donor cells can perceive the recipient’s body as "foreign" and attack the recipient’s organs and tissue.

Masonic Cancer Center director Douglas Yee, M.D., and deputy director Philip McGlave, M.D., reveal the center’s new name at an April 10 news conference announcing the Masons’ $65 million gift. In the background are Worthy Grand Matron Helen Johnson, O

Promising cancer research often stalls out at the concept level because there’s no funding to complete it.

To help get more ideas from the lab into the clinic, the Masonic Cancer Center recently created the Cancer Experimental Therapeutics Initiative (CETI). Director Jeffrey Miller, M.D., says CETI is being established to create the infrastructure needed to help move the best basic science research into clinical trials faster and double the number of patients enrolled in clinical trials at the University of Minnesota in the next five years.

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Clark Starr, Ph.D., was two months away from retiring when he and his wife, Jane, got devastating news. Clark had myelodysplasia, a disease in which the bone marrow doesn't make enough healthy blood cells. It can progress and become acute myelogenous leukemia (AML).

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President Obama in June signed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, giving the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the power to regulate tobacco products. The law now prevents cigarette manufacturers from using terms such as "light," "mild," and "low;" curbs tobacco marketing aimed at children; and opens the door for eventual limits on carcinogens and nicotine in tobacco products.

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The National Cancer Institute (NCI) has renewed the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota’s designation as a comprehensive cancer center for another five years, the longest term possible.

The NCI recognizes different types of cancer research centers, ranging from centers specializing solely in laboratory science to centers with a broad range of research and patient services.

Badrinath R. Konety, M.D., M.B.A.

The University of Minnesota welcomed Badrinath R. Konety, M.D., M.B.A., August 31 as director of its Center for Prostate Cancer and head of the Department of Urology. Konety will hold the Endowed Chair in Uro-Oncology.

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With health-care reform debates happening across the country these days, I can't help but think of cancer care as a health-care reform issue in many ways.

Research has led to the development of many new medications to treat different types of cancer. A number of them specifically target an abnormality in the cancer cell and are based on work conducted in basic research laboratories.

Thumbnail image for Ruth Bachman, who publicly shares her personal story of triumph over cancer, donates her speaking fees to the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota and to the Center for Spirituality and Healing.

Because of advances in detection and treatment, people today often live many years after a cancer diagnosis.

And as these survivors live longer, trends in "late effects" of cancer treatment are becoming apparent. Survivors may have special health concerns after treatment because the often-harsh therapies needed to kill cancer cells can take a toll on normal cells and organs, too.

Thumbnail image for Scientists Angela Panoskaltsis-Mortari, Ph.D., and Andrew Price say their research could be a step toward supplementing the supply of donor lungs for transplant. (Photo: Jacob Portnoy)

A new website offers accurate, up-to-date information about more than 250 clinical trials currently available through the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota.

Because finding information about clinical trials is one of the primary reasons patients, their families, and health-care providers visit this site, it has been significantly enhanced. It’s now easier to search for open trials and get answers to questions through our information line.

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PSA: Issues in Screening, Diagnosis, and Treatment Fall 2009 Cancer U: Ask the Experts6-8 p.m. Thursday, October 29A. I. Johnson Great Room, McNamara Alumni CenterUniversity of Minnesota 200 Oak Street SE, Minneapolis Speakers will be Masonic Cancer Center researchers Timothy Church, Ph.D., who was involved in a recent national study of the value of PSA testing, and Christopher Warlick, M.D., Ph.D., a urologic surgeon who treats men who have...

Sophia and Danielle DeTuncq donated the money they raised to brain cancer research in memory of their aunt. (Photo courtesy of Brooks DeTuncq)

Following Leslie Ann Long's death from brain cancer in May 2008, her nieces Sophia and Danielle DeTuncq — 7 and 8 years old, respectively — struggled to find a way to do something in her memory.

Last May, the sisters set up their usual snack stand for participants of the Animal Humane Society's annual Walk for Animals outside of their grandmother's house in Golden Valley. In past years, their Aunt Leslie had joined them to watch the pets and owners parade by, so this year, they donated their $135 in proceeds to brain cancer research at the University of Minnesota in her honor.

Jane Starr hopes her gifts will expedite better treatments for adults who have leukemia.

Clark Starr, Ph.D., was two months away from retiring in 1997 when he and his wife, Jane, got devastating news. Clark had myelodysplasia, a disease in which the bone marrow doesn't make enough healthy blood cells. It can progress and become acute myelogenous leukemia (AML).

Clark's disease progressed to AML within a year. After two rounds of chemotherapy, it became apparent that traditional treatments weren't working. Not even two years after he was diagnosed with myelodysplasia, Clark Starr died. He was 71.

(Photo: Erika Gratz)

Last summer, efforts by University of Minnesota researchers Christopher Pennell, Ph.D., and Kola Okuyemi, M.D., M.P.H., to engage the public in cancer biology merged seamlessly with the goals of St. Louis Park High School teacher Julie Schilz, who hoped to find a new way to captivate the minds of her biology students.

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Her motivation is no secret. Tiffany Beckman, M.D., M.P.H., became an endocrinologist because of the ever-rising rate of diabetes in American Indians.

"People are having heart attacks, strokes, getting their legs cut off, going blind, going on dialysis," says Beckman, who is an enrolled member of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe. "It’s a terrible problem, and American Indians are disproportionately affected by the disease."

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Amid the fanfare over the University of Minnesota’s new TCF Bank Stadium, scientists working in labs across the street from it are engaged in quieter but higher-stakes activities. These leading researchers at the University’s Stem Cell Institute along with others performing stem cell research across the campus may hold in their Petri dishes the keys to unlocking the mysteries of diabetes, cancer, heart failure, brain injury — even aging.

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Franz Halberg, M.D., wears a blood pressure cuff beneath a sleeve of the lab coat that he dons every day in his University of Minnesota office at the Halberg Chronobiology Center. The cuff—which he has worn for 22 years—feeds a stream of information to a monitor in his pocket. Halberg, who coined the term "circadian" decades ago and pioneered the study of biological rhythms soon after his arrival at the University in 1949, believes that strict monitoring of the body’s rhythms and cycles offers some of the most important insights into our health and the complex workings of the human body.

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We remember Medical School alumni who have recently passed away and honor their contributions to improving health and advancing medicine.

School of Nursing founder Richard Olding Beard, M.D., instructing the school’s first class of nursing students in 1909. (Photo: School of Nursing)

Congratulations to the University of Minnesota’s School of Nursing, which is celebrating its centennial anniversary this year. The school, which was established two years before the university’s hospital opened, was the first nursing school in the country to be based at a university and has operated continuously since March 1909.

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Intrigued for years by emergency medicine, fourth-year medical student Rebecca Johnson wasn't aiming for a career in pathology, but, in retrospect, it seems that’s where all roads led.

When Johnson was in elementary school, her father, Stephen, was a volunteer firefighter and a member of the scuba rescue team in Blaine, Minnesota. "He shared his passion for emergency medicine with me, and when I reached high school, I began taking first-responder classes," she says.

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In the late 1960s, Minnesota state legislators agonized over physician shortages throughout the state. After months of debate, in May 1969 they decided to fund a new medical school at the University of Minnesota Duluth campus—one that would encourage students to practice in rural communities.

With that investment, Dean Robert Carter, M.D., was hired to build a staff and a curriculum.

Paul Schanfield, M.D.

For recent Medical School graduate James Klaas, M.D., the practice of medicine is a lifelong journey. And thanks to his mentor, neurologist Paul Schanfield, M.D., Klaas is certain he’s found the right path.

Klaas met Schanfield when he joined the Connections Physician-Student Mentoring Program as a medical student in 2005. Over the next two years, as the duo met regularly and exchanged e-mails, Schanfield helped shape Klaas’s perspective on medicine and, ultimately, his career choice.

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Excitement filled the air at the University of Minnesota in September as the campus literally buzzed with activity. On the same weekend Gopher football returned to campus, Medical School alumni reconnected at this year’s Reunion Weekend.

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Joy Ngobi, M.D., M.P.H., knows hopelessness. One of her brothers was killed in a bar fight the week he graduated from college, and two more of her 11 siblings died of HIV—devastating Ngobi’s family, especially her mother.

The family experienced another blow when Ngobi’s sister—who had been taking care of the seven children her three brothers had left behind in addition to her own three kids—died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

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When fourth-year medical student Amanda Noska arrived in Haiti in January to study human rights, she found no shortage of issues to address. Noska was in Port-au-Prince for a public health fellowship to learn about the face of HIV and AIDS at a free clinic there.

But first, she couldn't help but notice the widespread poverty. About 54 percent of Haiti’s people live on less than $1 a day, according to the United Nations Development Programme, and 78 percent live on less than $2 a day.

Thumbnail image for Ph.D. student Katie Murphy and researcher Scott Selleck, M.D., Ph.D., compare segments of chromosomes from families with autism to those of a control group.

Medical School researchers have discovered that a common antioxidant may help stop the urges of those with trichotillomania, a disorder characterized by compulsive or habitual hair-pulling to the point of noticeable hair loss.

Jon Grant, M.D., J.D., an associate professor of psychiatry and the study’s principal investigator, estimates that 2 percent to 4 percent of the general population is affected by trichotillomania to some degree.

Bruce Blazar, M.D.

The National Institutes of Health has awarded a five-year, $9.5 million grant to Bruce Blazar, M.D., of the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota and two researchers with Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston to further their research on chronic graft-versus-host disease (GVHD).

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Women who experience feelings of hopelessness may have a greater risk for future heart disease and stroke, suggests a recent Medical School study. The researchers found that healthy middle-aged women who experience negative thinking and feelings of uselessness appear to experience thickening of the neck arteries, which can be a precursor to stroke.

Thumbnail image for Lynn Hoke, F.N.P., reviews test results with Rasmussen Center patient Mike Nordberg, while Natalia Florea, M.D., examines an eye scan. (Photo: Richard Anderson)

University researchers led by Michael Mauer, M.D., found that antihypertensive medications commonly used to treat high blood pressure also slow the progression of eye damage in people with type 1 diabetes. They found that the antihypertensives losartan and enalapril slowed the progression of eye damage by more than 65 percent in type 1 diabetics involved in the study.

Roby Thompson, M.D.

Bobbi Daniels, M.D., chief medical officer for University of Minnesota Physicians since 2003, has been named chief executive officer of the group practice following a national search. She assumed her new role on October 1.

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A baby born to an older mother may face an increased risk for some cancers that occur during childhood, according to research from the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota.

"We saw that the risk of 7 of the 10 most common childhood cancers increased slightly, about 7 to 10 percent, with every 5-year increase in maternal age," says Logan Spector, Ph.D., an assistant professor of pediatrics and a cancer epidemiologist, who led the research along with postdoctoral fellow Kimberly Johnson, Ph.D.

Dean Frank Cerra, M.D., and executive vice dean Mark S. Paller, M.D., M.S., now lead the Medical School’s strategic direction and daily operations, respectively. (Photo: Scott Streble)

Mark S. Paller, M.D., M.S., a physician and leader in the University of Minnesota’s research efforts for the last 27 years, in July became executive vice dean of the University of Minnesota Medical School.

As the Academic Health Center’s (AHC’s) assistant vice president for research since 1999, Paller has developed programs to encourage faculty and associate deans to expand research productivity throughout the health sciences.

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.

Researchers at the Medical School's Center for Lung Science and Health received an $8.4 million grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health to study a deadly chronic lung disease called idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, or IPF.


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