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Patients as partners

Cindy Martin, M.D. (Photo: Scott Streble)

At the Adult Congenital and Cardiovascular Genetics Center at the University of Minnesota, Cindy Martin, M.D., works with people who were born with heart defects or inherited heart diseases and finds ways to alleviate their symptoms.

But in the laboratory, she conducts research that delves deeper into what exactly in the patients’ genetic makeup caused their disease.

Many of her patients jump at the opportunity to be a part of her lab research—even if it’s early-stage research that likely won’t result in a cure in their lifetimes.

“I think that the people who have entire families that are affected by conditions are just more acutely aware of [the need to participate in research] because they’ve seen it go generation to generation,” Martin says. “We couldn’t do what we do without them.”

Working in the brand-new Cancer and Cardiovascular Research Building, Martin and her colleagues are investigating why a shared genetic mutation doesn’t always affect each family member in the same way. Soon, with patients as their critical partners, they will make family-specific stem cells to study how the heart cells that grow from them are abnormal.

The goal is to improve patients’ lives. Martin says she’s pleased to give her patients opportunities to advance knowledge about their disease—and to give them hope for a healthier future.

“It’s incredibly gratifying to me to potentially be able to offer them something in return for what they’re teaching us,” she says.

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