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Medtronic partnership allows Visible Heart Lab research to flourish

Paul Iaizzo, Ph.D., has directed cutting-edge research in the Visible Heart Laboratory since 1997, when it was created in collaboration with Medtronic, Inc. (Photo: Brady Willette)

You could call it a long-term, heartfelt commitment.

In addition to its large, ongoing research contract, Medtronic recently committed another $350,000 to the University of Minnesota’s Visible Heart® Laboratory—the only place in the world where human hearts (donated, not suitable for transplantation) are reanimated so scientists can see exactly how they work from the inside.

The gift of $50,000 per year for the next seven years will support the Medtronic Professorship in Visible Heart Research, held by Paul Iaizzo, Ph.D., director of the lab.

“A large portion [of the gift] is allotted to support graduate students seeking Ph.D. degrees in biomedical engineering, as well as medical students gaining research experience,” Iaizzo says. “It also supports the ongoing enhancement of the lab’s free-access website, Atlas of Human Cardiac Anatomy, an interactive educational tool for clinicians, medical students, patients, and the general public.

“Finally,” he adds, “it helps us purchase lab equipment and supplies to further our student-specific research, and allows graduate students to attend specialized training and key scientific meetings.”

Medtronic first established this unique professorship in 2004 and has given $50,000 a year ever since.

According to Tim Laske, Ph.D., vice president of product development for Medtronic AF Solutions, the Medtronic/Visible Heart partnership is “a key means for assessing new products and a real competitive advantage.”

At the same time, he believes, the Medtronic funding improves the medical device industry as a whole.

“In a way, we’re helping to educate everyone in the industry, because so much of what the lab does can be accessed free of charge,” explains Laske, who received his doctorate in biomedical engineering from the University of Minnesota. “It’s in everyone’s best interest to find out what is safest and most effective.”

Growing the Visible Heart Lab is a smart way to advance medical education, adds Laske. “We consider this a premier academic collaboration and a way to have a big impact on medicine.”

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