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Lung Health

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.


In 1964, you could pick up a pack of cigarettes for around 30 cents, stroll into a movie theater, and light up as you watched Mary Poppins. You could blow smoke rings over the produce while you shopped for groceries, chain smoke on planes, even inhale unfiltered Camels in your hospital bed after heart surgery. And you were in good company while you did it: almost 43 percent of Americans were right there smoking with you.

U pulmonologist Rade Tomic, M.D., and psychologist Thyra Fossum, Ph.D., are taking a not-so-typical approach to helping people who have a progressive and incurable lung disease. (Photo by Jim Bovin)

Maintaining a good quality of life sounds like a simple goal. But for people with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), a progressive and incurable lung disease, a good quality of life--emotional health, little stress, enjoyment of everyday things--can be elusive. Enter two University of Minnesota experts, who are starting a study to examine whether cognitive behavioral therapy can help.


On a humid day in urban China, a thick haze of smog can make people across the street virtually invisible. The evidence of air pollution in China is jarring at best. At worst, it's toxic--air pollution can lead to cancer, respiratory infections, nervous system problems, and birth defects. Worldwide, air pollution is to blame for about 7 million deaths every year, according to the World Health Organization. It's a problem too large to ignore, even from halfway around the globe. So the University of Minnesota's David Pui, Ph.D., convened a group of his fellow faculty members and arranged a meeting with colleagues in China to address the health effects of this pollution.

(Photo: Phil Ladisa)

At the University of Minnesota Medical Center today, the lung transplant waiting list is half the length it was six months ago, thanks in part to a new technology that's making more donated lungs worthy of transplantation. "For some patients, that is the difference between life and death," says U assistant professor of surgery and cardiothoracic surgeon Gabriel Loor, M.D.

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Throughout his life, Paul McCarron served as an advocate for public health and human services. As a Minnesota legislator, he was the architect behind the Community Social Services Act (CSSA), landmark welfare-reform legislation. For another project, he went undercover as a janitor so he could see firsthand the conditions at state hospitals.

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A team of University of Minnesota cardiothoracic transplant experts in November performed the Midwest's first "breathing lung" transplant, an innovative surgical approach that uses technology capable of keeping donated lungs warm and breathing during transportation -- which also keeps them healthier before transplantation.


Giving a gift of appreciated stock, bonds, or mutual fund shares that have been held more than one year can provide an immediate benefit to research, education, or care at the University of Minnesota--and it may be more tax-efficient than giving cash.


Meet Gabriel Loor, M.D., the lead surgeon behind the Midwest's first breathing lung transplant, performed in November at University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview.

H. Erhan Dincer, M.D.

Take a deep breath. Exhale. Repeat. For most of us, breathing comes so naturally that we do it without thinking. But for people with asthma, breathing isn’t something to be taken for granted.

As a special gift for Burke Derr, a lifelong teddy bear collector, his friends asked a teddy bear company to create a bear for Burke. The original Burke P. Bear arrived at the hospital five days before Burke died. Today Burke P. Bear is the world-travelin

He has toured 47 states and 23 countries to increase awareness of cystic fibrosis, and he gets hugs everywhere he goes. This furry advocate is Burke P. Bear, a cuddly teddy bear named in honor of Burke P. Derr, who died two days before his 19th birthday in 1997 from complications of CF. Today Burke's memory lives on through the work of his father, Bob Derr, for Pennsylvania Cystic Fibrosis, Inc., and the researchers it supports, including Antoinette Moran, M.D., at the University of Minnesota.

(From left to right) Director of the U of M's Cystic Fibrosis Program, Jordan Dunitz, M.D., with lung transplant recipients Jamie Hammer, Paula Muellner, and Meleah Richter.

Three U of M lung transplant recipients climbed 50 flights of stairs at the IDS Center in downtown Minneapolis as part of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation's Climb for a Cure.

Marcia Fluer (Submitted photo)

Boisterous, spirited, gregarious—all words that describe Marcia Fluer, known to many for her 18-plus years as a Twin Cities TV-news political reporter. Quiet she is not—playfully smiling as she lists “meddling” as a favorite pastime. But Fluer was temporarily silenced in 2001 following a life-threatening bout with acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).

ARDS landed Fluer in the Medical Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at the University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview (UMMC), with respiratory failure requiring a mechanical ventilator and a drug-induced coma for 18 days. When she finally returned home, she couldn’t type or write; she was using a walker and had an oxygen tank in tow. But thanks to the care she received at the U, Fluer made a full recovery—and hasn’t lost her inquisitive nature.


Thanks to recent legislation, you can again benefit from a popular tax-advantaged giving option.

Jordan Dunitz, M.D., director of the Center for Lung Science and Health. (Photo: Shawn Sullivan)

Physician-researchers at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Lung Science and Health (CLSH) have a lot to be excited about in the New Year. Most notably, the Center will be getting a new clinic and an expanded mission that emphasizes clinical care as well as research.


Your annual gifts supporting research at the University of Minnesota have a real impact on treatments for patients living with disease.

Did you know that you can leave a legacy that will make a difference after your lifetime?

Jim Smith. (Submitted photo)

Regular attendees of the St. Francis, Minn., Pioneer Days—complete with amusement park rides, a kids’ tractor pull, and fireworks—came to know the voice of Jim Smith, a parade emcee for many years. In fact, Smith was well known for his community involvement, which extended far beyond his vocal talents.

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University of Minnesota senior Nikolas Job wrapped up his academic year as a communications major and is beginning his third straight summer internship at a company he hopes to work for one day.

Hill-Rom, a medical technology firm, makes the chest-compression vest Job has used since childhood to manage his cystic fibrosis (CF). Not only has the company offered Job the chance to work in marketing, but it often sends him to speak to groups of physicians, nurses, and others about its products and his personal experience.


It’s 5:45 a.m. and attorney David Murphy, 40, is lacing his shoes before heading out of his St. Paul home for a run. This routine is part of a training regimen for Murphy’s numerous 2012 races, which will culminate in his first 26.2-miler—the Twin Cities Marathon—in October.

Murphy is running to bring attention to the work under way at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Lung Science and Health and to honor his late mother, Judy Murphy, who had battled idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) before receiving a lung transplant in 2001. IPF is an incurable lung disease that causes lung scarring; slowly reducing lung function to zero.

A publication for those who support lung health research, education and care at the University of Minnesota.

The latest issue of Breathing Easier is now available.


Learning became a global endeavor for Lan Luu and Emily Olson, both University of Minnesota students in the Medical School and School of Public Health, when they traveled to India last August for a research study on asbestos exposure and mesothelioma, a deadly lung cancer.


If you would like to support groundbreaking research at the University of Minnesota and also receive steady income for life, a charitable gift annuity may be right for you. Through a simple contract, you agree to make a donation of cash, stocks, or other assets to the Minnesota Medical Foundation. In return, we agree to pay you a fixed amount each year for the rest of your life.


Good news for those who suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease — or COPD: A clinical trial involving more than 1,100 people has found that a common antibiotic called azithromycin can reduce the occurrence and severity of COPD exacerbations or flareups.

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Another member of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Lung Science and Health (CLSH) has received a major national award from the American Thoracic Society (ATS). In May, John Marini, M.D., a professor of medicine in the University’s Pulmonary, Allergy, Critical Care, and Sleep Medicine division, received the ATS Distinguished Achievement Award, which recognizes those “who have made outstanding contributions to fighting respiratory disease through research, education, patient care and advocacy.”


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.


Every day in his University of Minnesota lab, researcher Joel McCauley, M.D., confronts a stubborn and challenging adversary -- lung cancer -- but he never labors in isolation. He works regularly with colleagues across the University to find more effective treatments.

Double-lung transplant survivor Jamie Hammer with her husband, Chris, and stepdaughter, Jillian.

For Jamie Hammer, 31, cystic fibrosis (CF) has always been a major part of her daily life. Diagnosed when she was 5 months old, Jamie has always lived with daily chest-pounding therapies, 50-pills-a-day regimens, daily IV treatments, and a host of related complications. But this past winter, all that changed—for the better.

Judy and Ed Schuck

While skiing in Breckenridge, Colorado in, 1991, Ed Schuck found himself gasping for air, and it wasn’t just the altitude. Schuck, who was then age 51, was diagnosed with Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency (Alpha-1) a genetic disease that can cause lung failure and liver disease. Alpha-1 is caused by decreased or abnormal production of a protein called alpha-1-antitrypsin (A1AT), which is produced by the liver and protects the lungs from inflammation and inhaled irritants.


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.

Jason, Ron, and Eric Swain

When Jason Swain was 18 months old, his parents noticed that he was not gaining weight and his sweat seemed salty. After several visits to the doctor, Jason’s family got the devastating diagnosis—Jason had cystic fibrosis. The year was 1972 and at that time children with cystic fibrosis (CF) were not expected to live to age 10.

Liz Johnson

While sitting in the lobby of the Transplant Center at University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview, in May 2010, Liz Johnson spots one of her doctors as he turns the corner to leave the clinic. She quickly turns to her father, Dick: "Dad, there goes Dr. Kempainen. Go see if you can catch him. I want to show him my medal." Around her neck hangs a participation medal that she had earned only a few days earlier for running a half marathon back home in Lincoln, Nebraska.

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.


Each year, surgeons in the University of Minnesota’s Center for Lung Science and Health (CLSH) perform 20 to 50 lung transplants on patients who have pulmonary fibrosis, cystic fibrosis, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)—all devastating illnesses for which transplants are often the only option.

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.


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.

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.


University of Minnesota researchers in the Medical School's Center for Lung Science and Health (CLSH) 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.

IPF affects one out of every 10,000 people in the United States, usually striking people in their 50s, 60s, and 70s. Doctors have not identified the cause of IPF, and currently, there is no treatment. Through this NIH-funded study, University researchers aim to better understand the disease and develop new therapies or even a cure.

Thumbnail image for Oncologist Tufia Haddad, M.D., says real-time MRI monitoring and data analysis through the I-SPY2 clinical trial will help to determine which new drugs are most beneficial for breast cancer patients. (Photo: Richard Anderson)

The University's School of Public Health (SPH) has taken the lead role in a research initiative examining the relationship between a rare form of cancer and taconite mining in northern Minnesota.

The SPH is partnering with the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), which turned over control of the research in June when it came under fire for suppressing information about the number of deaths from mesothelioma among miners on the Iron Range. At least 58 former miners have died of mesothelioma, a cancer that has been strongly linked to asbestos exposure.


Thanks to bipartisan support from the state legislature and Governor Tim Pawlenty, the University of Minnesota will construct four state-of-the-art research buildings as part of the Minnesota Biomedical Research Program. The five-year project, backed by university-sold bonds, will cost $292 million. The state will help repay 75 percent of those bonds, about $219 million. The remainder will come from philanthropy and other sources.


The second meeting of the Minnesota Taconite Worker Lung Health Partnership, led by SPH Dean John Finnegan and representing organizations with an interest in mine worker health, took place in December in Eveleth, Minn. The partnership was formed to study whether particles generated by taconite mining are causing lung disease on Minnesota's Iron Range. Finnegan and Jeffrey Mandel, SPH environmental health sciences associate professor and lead researcher, updated partners on the project. They were joined by colleagues from the University of Minnesota-Duluth's Natural Resources Research Institute, who will study the geology of the Iron Range.

Thumbnail image for University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital is one of three buildings in the country to use these distinctive metal panels that reflect blue, green, purple, maroon, or gold, depending on how the sunlight hits them.

University of Minnesota Medical Center made impressive gains in this year's U.S. News & World Report "Best Hospitals" edition.

Gary Broberg received a new lung and a new life almost two years ago. Today he’s back to the things he enjoys—golfing, traveling, and spending time with his family.

At first Gary Broberg figured it was just a matter of being 49. As winter 2004 turned to spring, the Mendota Heights father of two found he didn't have the energy he once did. He got winded going up a flight of stairs. It seemed he was always out of breath. He felt odd ... and old.

By Memorial Day weekend Broberg decided he'd better see a doctor. He was advised to exercise and lose weight. He also was treated for various ailments, to no avail. Finally, in July he was referred to a pulmonologist.

David Ingbar, M.D., and Marshall Hertz, M.D., are leading the University’s new Center for Lung Science and Health.

When Dave Amato was diagnosed with usual interstitial pneumonitis in 2002, the life-threatening lung disease was already at an advanced stage. Soon his wife, Anne, was on the phone with lung transplant centers all over the country, including the transplant center at the University of Minnesota.

Less than two years later—thanks to two unrelated lung donors and the medical team's expertise—Amato had a successful living-donor lung transplant at the University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview.

Maryam Valapour, M.D.

Center for Bioethics faculty member Maryam Valapour, M.D., hopes to improve living-donor lung transplantation for both donors and recipients with a $750,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health to study barriers to the procedure.

Valapour, who is also an assistant professor of medicine in pulmonary and critical care, will be comparing policies and practices of living-donor kidney transplantation with living-donor lung transplantation at a group of institutions that perform or have performed both types.

David McKenna, M.D.

In research likely to improve understanding of lung development and disease, University researchers have coaxed umbilical cord blood stem cells to differentiate into a type of lung cell.

These lung cells, called type II alveolar cells, secrete surfactant, a substance that allows air sacs in the lungs to stay open so air can flow in and out. They also help to repair injuries to the airway.


No one said quitting would be easy, but it may be more difficult for African Americans than for Caucasians, according to research at the University of Minnesota.

In a study led by Kolawole Okuyemi, M.D., M.P.H., African American smokers showed greater brain responses to smoking cues, such as images of individuals smoking, than did Caucasian smokers.

Thumbnail image for The tournament's four teams raised $3,150 for the Rasmussen Center. (Photo: Alena Demidova)

What started eight years ago as a benefit for one family has blossomed into a full-fledged hockey tournament that raises thousands of dollars a year for breast cancer research.

It all began when a so-called "hockey mom" in the Circle Pines Centennial Hockey Association got breast cancer, explains Jackie Olson, who now organizes the fund-raiser. "The family didn't have enough money to pay the bills, so Sue Olson, another mother in the association, and her family started this tournament," Olson says.


Smokers know that nicotine withdrawal can be extremely tough. But now there's a promising new vaccine that may help smokers quit in an entirely new way.

A new study led by University of Minnesota researcher Dorothy Hatsukami, Ph.D., indicates that the nicotine vaccine NicVax appears to be safe, well-tolerated, and potentially effective for reducing nicotine dependence.

Nurse Denise Stacklie, R.N., helps Dylan with his pulmonary function test at a recent clinic appointment.

Whoever said there was a finite amount of energy in the universe has not met Dylan Mertz. This six-year-old just can't get enough of life. He plays soccer and baseball. He loves to learn just about anything, and then tell you all about it. As far as he's concerned, everyone in the world falls into one of two categories: friend or future friend.

But life was not always this way. When he was born, Dylan had distressingly poor muscle tone. After a couple of months he started to lose weight—even though he was getting plenty of food. When he was five months old his parents, Pam and Lou Mertz, brought him from their home in St. Michael to the University of Minnesota to be tested for cystic fibrosis. They had read about the inherited disease on Internet pages filled with stories of disrupted lives and early deaths.

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