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Special Initiatives

Discover what’s possible. Browse these features to find out more about the impact of University of Minnesota research, education, and care—and how you can help.

The University of Minnesota's Center for Magnetic Resonance Research (CMRR) is among the first to be awarded a federal grant resulting from President Obama's BRAIN Initiative, an effort to develop next-generation brain imaging technology.


William Lewis Anderson never had the chance to fulfill his dream of becoming a doctor. The combat medic died trying to save a wounded soldier on the battlefield in Italy during WWII. Now, more than seven decades later, a $4 million gift made in his honor will help train today's medics and help heal the psychological scars that haunt some veterans who return home.


Pediatric blood and marrow transplant physician Jakub Tolar, M.D., Ph.D., has been named director of the University of Minnesota’s Stem Cell Institute.

CIDRAP director Michael Osterholm, Ph.D., M.P.H. (Photo: Tim Rummelhoff)

Attention-grabbing specters like bubonic plague, Ebola, or the slim possibility of anthrax attacks make for compelling headlines, and the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) keeps tabs on all of these — along with other nightmarish, if distant, threats. Recently, CIDRAP has made headlines for its work on a more familiar, yet potentially devastating, peril: influenza.

C. Gail Summers, M.D., is leading the first-ever drug trial aimed at improving vision for children who have albinism. (Photo: Jim Bovin)

There are top-notch researchers, and there are first-rate clinicians. But few doctors have both the scientific chops and the extraordinary bedside manner of pediatric ophthalmologist C. Gail Summers, M.D., says donor Michael Cohen.

Cohen's in a position to know; he's a physician himself. The Texas pathologist and his wife, Sandra Cohen, have made two $10,000 gifts to advance Summers's work. Inspired by the superlative care she's given their 15-year-old son, Matthew, the gifts are helping to support her current clinical trial, a study exploring a possible treatment for vision problems associated with albinism.

Clayton and Susan Kaufman (Submitted photo)

Clayton Kaufman knows a high-impact story when he hears it. His judgment is forged by a broadcasting career that spanned more than four decades. That’s one reason he’s keeping tabs on advances in stem cell science—and why he’s supporting the research through current and planned gifts to the University of Minnesota, his alma mater. “The importance of stem cell research cannot be overemphasized,” he says, mentioning its potential impact on a myriad of diseases, such as diabetes, cancer, and Parkinson’s disease. That’s another reason Kaufman is interested in the research: he has Parkinson’s.


University of Minnesota researchers have developed a new method for creating induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS), which can differentiate into many different types of the cells in the body and are used in medical research focused on diabetes, cancer, and many other diseases. This new process will dramatically speed up the creation of iPS cells and improve their quality, which could accelerate the treatment of many otherwise incurable diseases.

This diffusion spectrum image shows brain wiring in a healthy adult. the Thread-like structures are nerve bundles, each containing hundreds of thousands of nerve fibers. (Image courtesy of Van J. Weeden, M.D., MGH/Harvard University.)

Rumors were flying that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) was thinking big. Science's next great frontier would aim to unlock mysteries of the brain, and the NIH was ready to put up big money to make it happen. Kamil Ugurbil, Ph.D., knew that the University of Minnesota's Center for Magnetic Resonance Research (CMRR) had to be a part of that study.

The scene might look something like this: A small group of immigrant men has gathered in Minneapolis to smoke tobacco, talk, and chew a sour-tasting, leafy green plant. The plant, known as khat (pronounced cot), gives users a sense of euphoria and is illegal in the United States. Commonly used and legal in East African and Middle Eastern countries and an emerging problem in some immigrant communities in the United States khat has been linked to a variety of health problems and can lead to serious financial hardship for users who spend excessive amounts of money on the substance.

The Freeman family, Robyn, Margo, Don, and Myles (Photo: Ellen Johnson, Photogen, Inc.)

Ten-month-old Margo Freeman couldn't have looked any healthier. Yet, when Don and Robyn Freeman learned that their adoptive baby girl was waiting for them in Ethiopia, they sought an expert evaluation of her medical records and advice on what to expect when adopting a baby from a foreign country.

University imaging and neuroscience expert Noam Harel, Ph.D., pushes the limits of magnetic resonance technology. (Photo: Scott Streble)

An international team of scientists led by the University of Minnesota and Advanced MRI Technologies of California has discovered a way to produce magnetic resonance images of the brain at speeds dramatically faster than previously possible.

The newly expanded Center for Magnetic Resonance Research will house one of the world's largest and most powerful human imaging magnets. (Photo: Shawn Sullivan)

The University of Minnesota's world-renowned Center for Magnetic Resonance Research (CMRR) in December opened a 65,000- square-foot expansion. The expanded space will house one of the world's largest and most powerful human imaging magnets, a 10.5 Tesla magnet capable of delivering the sharpest images ever seen through magnetic resonance imaging technology. It also houses the new Center for Clinical Imaging Research.

Marian Adcock_thumbnail.jpg

Though she had never before considered herself an artist, life circumstances helped Marian S. Adcock uncover a previously untapped talent. Following the death of her husband of 27 years, she was inspired by the beauty of nature to take up botanical art, an ancient tradition that involves creating scientifically accurate depictions of plant life. Plus, making art provided her with a good outlet for her emotions.

Six-year-old Kira Rogers, with her parents, Michele and Mike, received sight-preserving medical treatment at the University of Minnesota. (Photo: Jason Wachter)

Six-year-old Kira Rogers doesn't know much about the Minnesota Lions, but the Lions' 50-year partnership with the University was intended to help children just like her.

A month after Kira was born, her mother, Michele, noticed something wrong with Kira’s right eye. "Her eyelid looked red. The next day it looked puffier. Each day it looked a little puffier," she says.

Research by Jakum Tolar, M.D., Ph.D., and John Wagner, M.D., moved quickly from mouse studies to showing success in paitents. (Photo: Emily Jensen)

For the first time ever, physician-scientists at the University of Minnesota have demonstrated that a lethal skin disease can be successfully treated with stem cell therapy.

Medical School researchers John E. Wagner, M.D., and Jakub Tolar, M.D., Ph.D. — in collaboration with researchers in Oregon, the United Kingdom, and Japan — used stem cells from bone marrow to repair the skin of patients with a fatal skin disease called recessive dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa (RDEB).

Reconstructive surgeon Peter Hilger, M.D. (right), helps people experiencing facial nerve paralysis regain at least some movement in their faces—including the ability to smile. (Photo: Scott Streble)

In February 2007, 23-year-old Katie Salomonsen woke up with the right side of her face red and swollen. She went to Fairview Southdale Hospital, where doctors found an abscessed wisdom tooth. Three days later, an oral surgeon extracted the tooth. During the surgery, he discovered that the entire roof of Salomonsen’s mouth was black and scattered with ulcers. He had never seen anything like it and he biopsied the tissue.

Image courtesy of Hyperion.

Laurie Strongin’s uneventful pregnancy belied the reality of her firstborn’s medical condition. Born in 1995, Henry had Fanconi anemia, and Laurie and her husband, Allen Goldberg, quickly learned that a matched sibling blood and marrow donor was his only hope.

In 1996, while Laurie was pregnant with their second child—healthy but not a genetic match—the couple learned about the possibility of using preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) and in vitro fertilization (IVF), guaranteeing a healthy child and a match.

Frank Cerra

No one told senior vice president for health sciences and Medical School dean Frank Cerra, M.D., that the average tenure for a medical school leader in this country is only three and a half years. But then there’s been nothing average about Cerra since the day in 1981 when he arrived at the University of Minnesota as a tenured faculty member in the Department of Surgery.

Research by Jakub Tolar, M.D., Ph.D., and John E. Wagner, M.D., moved quickly from mouse studies in the laboratory to showing success in patients. (Photo: Emily Jensen)

Medical School researchers John E. Wagner, M.D., and Jakub Tolar, M.D., Ph.D.—in collaboration with researchers in Oregon, the United Kingdom, and Japan—have used stem cells from bone marrow to repair the skin of children with a fatal skin disease called recessive dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa (RDEB).

It’s the first time researchers have shown that bone marrow-derived stem cells can repair the skin and upper gastrointestinal tract and alter the natural course of the disease. Until now, bone marrow has only been used to replace diseased or damaged marrow.


The University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview and University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital are again among an elite group of hospitals named the nation’s best by *U.S. News & World Report*. The annual rankings are based in part on reputation, death rate, and care-related factors such as nursing and patient services.

Win and Maxine Wallin.

In recognition of a lifetime of support, the University of Minnesota in June named the newest building in its Biomedical Discovery District the Winston and Maxine Wallin Medical Biosciences Building.

The growing district is a biomedical sciences research park located on the University’s East Bank campus near TCF Bank Stadium. In addition to their generous financial support, the Wallins — both University alumni — have contributed their time and talents to the advancement of higher education, particularly in the health sciences.

Neurosurgeon Stephen Haines, M.D., and otolaryngologist Samuel Levine, M.D., work together on a procedure that requires expertise from both specialties. (Photo: Richard Anderson)

Is brain surgery a team sport? Two University of Minnesota faculty members are making a good case that it is.

They're joining forces to treat acoustic neuromas—small tumors that grow on nerves that connect the inner ear with the brain—using new technology to preserve the patient’s hearing.

Thumbnail image for Alzheimer’s disease researcher Karen Hsiao Ashe, M.D., Ph.D., cuts the ceremonial ribbon at the Medical Biosciences Building opening December 1, while scientist Harry Orr, Ph.D., and Medical School Dean Frank Cerra, M.D., look on. (P

The University of Minnesota School of Public Health, the University of Mississippi Medical Center, and three other collaborating academic medical centers have received $26 million from the National Institutes of Health to identify risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease and related forms of cognitive decline.


In a recent study, University of Minnesota researchers discovered that a combination of two cancer drugs may be an effective treatment for HIV. The drugs—decitabine and gemcitabine—are both already approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and now used in cancer therapy. When tested in mice, the two drugs together caused the HIV virus to mutate itself to death—an outcome researchers call "lethal mutagenesis."

A mother keeps a close watch as her baby is treated for jaundice in one of the phototherapy boxes Balsam and her colleagues built. (Photo: Courtesy of Ashley Balsam)

After finishing a 30-hour hospital shift, Ashley Balsam, M.D., a third-year internal medicine and pediatrics resident, doesn't go straight to bed. "I'm going to play soccer," she says. That energy is typical of Balsam. Her normal routine includes doing rotations at University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview, playing soccer on a team with other residents, and caring for her new puppy, Chopper. She also finds the time and passion to volunteer with local outreach programs and travel to Nicaragua, where she’s studying the long-term effects of neonatal jaundice.

John E. Wagner, M.D., performed Molly Nash’s controversial transplant. (Photo: Scott Streble)

In most ways, 16-year-old Molly Nash is a typical teenager. She argues with her parents. She bickers with her younger brother and sister (but admits to loving them, too). And she is a budding actress, recently portraying Chip the teacup in Beauty and the Beast. The science that came together 10 years ago to give Molly these opportunities was revolutionary, controversial, and for her family, intensely personal.

Thumbnail image for Cindy Martin, M.D., and James Moller, M.D., see patients together at the University’s new Adult Congenital and Cardiovascular Genetics Clinic. (Photo: Scott Streble)

Under the mantle of the Minnesota Partnership for Biotechnology and Medical Genomics, the University of Minnesota and Mayo Clinic in June committed to a formal research relationship with the Karolinska Institute of Stockholm, Sweden. Karolinska is the top-rated medical research university in Europe. The partnership aims to accelerate and build on the existing relationships among the three institutions.

Biomedical Discovery District (Image courtesy of Architectural Alliance)

As University of Minnesota leaders continue to refine the design plans for a new Cancer and Cardiovascular Research Complex in the institution’s burgeoning Biomedical Discovery District, investigators are eager to take advantage of the building’s many benefits.

The new facility is expected to house 24 lead cancer researchers plus their staffs. Among those researchers is David Largaespada, Ph.D., who oversees the Masonic Cancer Center’s Genetic Mechanisms of Cancer Research Program.

Jay Krachmer, M.D., head of the department of Ophthalmology; Patty Porter, Minnesota Medical Foundation vice president of development; Lions member Lynn Farley; and Richard Reger, Minnesota Lions Eye Bank, Inc., board chair. (Photo by Tim Rummelhoff)

MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL (July 31, 2010)—Minnesota Lions Eye Bank, Inc., board chair Richard J. Reger presented a $3 million check, representing a pledge to the University of Minnesota to establish the Minnesota Lions Fund to Prevent Blindness in Infants and Children.

The gift, made through the Minnesota Medical Foundation, will advance research, education and care in the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Minnesota Medical School.

Thumbnail image for Win and Maxine Wallin.

MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL (06/21/2010) —In recognition of a lifetime of support, the University of Minnesota has named the newest building in its Biomedical Discovery District the Winston and Maxine Wallin Medical Biosciences Building.


More than 20 students from the University of Minnesota School of Public Health worked abroad this summer on their field experience, the hands-on component of several SPH academic programs. While their projects and settings varied dramatically, the overarching goal is the same: promote health and improve lives. Much of this work is done in collaboration with non-governmental organizations and locally based groups that helped the students connect to the communities they served.


Two SPH faculty members and one student have received Global Spotlight awards from the University of Minnesota Office of International Programs (OIP). The OIP’s global spotlight is a biennial focus on a region of the world and a pressing global issue. The latest focus is on Africa and the issue is water in the world.

Thumbnail image for 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)

The University of Minnesota has been awarded an $8.6 million contract to help speed the development of novel stem cell- and immune cell-based therapies from the laboratory to clinical trials through the Production Assistance for Cellular Therapies (PACT) program.

Alzheimer’s disease researcher Karen Hsiao Ashe, M.D., Ph.D., cuts the ceremonial ribbon at the Medical Biosciences Building opening December 1, while scientist Harry Orr, Ph.D., and Medical School Dean Frank Cerra, M.D., look on. (Photo: Emily Jensen)

A chat between colleagues in the hallway can spark the beginnings of a major medical discovery. For researchers at the University of Minnesota whose offices may be scattered across campus‚ bouncing ideas off of one another in person just got easier.

In December, the University opened a $79.3 million, 115‚000-plus-square-foot Medical Biosciences Building to house scientists who are studying Alzheimer’s disease and other brain-related diseases as well as the immune system.


University faculty from the College of Veterinary Medicine, School of Public Health, Medical School, and other collegiate units will be on the front lines of a global collaboration to fight emerging zoonotic pandemics—diseases that can spread between animals and humans.

Through the project, called RESPOND, faculty are joining a multidisciplinary team that will implement a U.S. Agency for International Development cooperative agreement with funding of up to $185 million, $55 million of which will go to the University’s Academic Health Center over the next five years.


When a group of four University of Minnesota Medical School students and two faculty members visited hospitals in Israel in 2008 through an International Medical Education and Research (IMER) program, they weren't sure exactly what to expect.

They knew not to expect the same Israel they'd seen on the news. They knew not to expect third-world conditions. They just weren't expecting the huge, leading edge simulation center they saw at the country’s largest hospital, Chaim Sheba Medical Center, near Tel Aviv.

Paul G. Quie, M.D.

After his first international medicine experience in China in 1981, Paul G. Quie, M.D., couldn't turn back. Quie, a pediatrician and infectious disease expert who has been on the Medical School faculty since 1958, was struck by the glaring health-care disparities between these countries and the United States.

"That and hearing the 90-10 rule," which, Quie explains, estimates that 90 percent of the world’s wealth spent on health care belongs to 10 percent of its population.


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.


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.


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 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.


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.

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.

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.


Toni Moran, M.D., wasn't sure what to expect when she went to visit Mulago Hospital in Kampala, Uganda, two years ago. What she found haunted her: a disease that is manageable in the United States causing untold preventable deaths for lack of basic medical resources. "Our diabetes work here [in the States] is so high-tech and cutting-edge," says Moran, division chief of pediatric endocrinology and diabetes at the University of Minnesota. "In my career here in Minnesota, I hardly ever see children die."

Research by Ashley Haase, Ph.D., and Pat Schlievert, Ph.D., fuels hope that the inexpensive and naturally occurring compound GML can someday be used to help prevent the spread of HIV. (Photo:Emily Jensen)

Researchers at the University of Minnesota have identified a compound that, when applied vaginally in monkeys, can prevent transmission of the primate version of HIV, called simian immunodeficiency virus, or SIV.

Department of Microbiology investigators Ashley Haase, Ph.D., and Pat Schlievert, Ph.D., found that glycerol monolaurate (GML), a naturally occurring compound the FDA recognizes as safe, prevented SIV infection in monkeys that were exposed to large doses of the virus. The inexpensive compound is widely used as an antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory agent in food and cosmetics.

An ongoing University study has indicated that the vermis and cerebellar hemisphere, both located in the cerebellum, are the brain regions most impaired by AOA2.

Since it was identified through genetic testing in the early 2000s, ataxia with oculomotor apraxia type 2 (AOA2) has become the second most commonly diagnosed form of recessive ataxia. But while more individuals are being diagnosed with AOA2, research on the disease remains scant. That paucity in data shouldn't last long, however, thanks to a team of researchers at the University of Minnesota's world-renowned Center for Magnetic Resonance Research (CMRR).

Renzo Zaldivar, M.D. | Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery

Ophthalmology residents Ophthalmology fellows...


Blindness is second only to cancer when it comes to health conditions people fear most, according to a Gallup poll.

So it may come as a surprise that funding for eye research was practically nonexistent until the organization Research to Prevent Blindness (RPB) was founded in 1960. Before that,ophthalmology was a second-tier medical specialty in the United States. Eye care was relegated to the division of surgery in most medical schools, and few basic scientists conducted research on eyes and vision.

Research by Linda McLoon, Ph.D., has shown that retinal ganglion cells previously thought to be beyond rescue might be repairable.

Research by Linda McLoon, Ph.D., has shown that retinal ganglion cells previously thought to be beyond rescue might be repairable.

Many types of eye injuries can cause irreversible damage and vision loss. For example, when the eye's retina and optic nerve are deprived of oxygen, the consensus among clinicians is that nothing can be done to restore the patient's vision if lost.

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