Minnesota Research Firsts in Medical Devices, Procedures,
Health Care, and Bioscience

Today's Firsts - 1981-2002

The diet-cancer connecton

University faculty conducted breakthrough research in the 1980s on the importance of diet in cancer prevention . Lee Wattenberg pioneered the field of "chemoprevention" by identifying the protective effects of vitamins (A, C, E) and chemicals found in many vegetables, work that is being continued today by Stephen Hecht, Wallin Professor of Cancer Prevention. Jorge Yunis showed how deficiency of the B-vitamin folic acid damages chromosomes, the gene-bearing bodies in the nucleus of the cell. [photo USDA - 300K]

The origin of thought

Functional MRI of Broca's area during internal speech. A 1993 breakthrough in basic neuroscience and neurosurgical planning by researchers at the Center for Magnetic Resonance Research. [116K]

Alzheimer's disease

The first genetically engineered mouse model showing both amyloid plaques and dysfunctional learning and memory found in Alzheimer's disease was developed in 1996 by a research team led by neurobiologist Karen Hsiao. [116K]

Human gene therapy

The first gene therapy trial for patients with Hunter syndrome began at University of Minnesota Hospital October 25, 1996 under a team led by pediatrician Chester Whitley. Pediatrician John Wagner is pioneering the field of umbilical cord blood transplantation for treating childhood blood diseases and cancer and for genetically correcting diseased stem cells [198K]

Bacterial genomics sequencing

A University of Minnesota research team led by veterinary pathobiologist Vivek Kapur completed sequencing the genome for the bacterium Pasteurella multocida in March 2000. The bacterium is known to cause multiple diseases in humans, poultry, cattle and swine. One of the first such efforts by a single university group, the work lays the foundation for the development of diagnostic tests and vaccines. Pasteurella multocida is named after Louis Pasteur, the father of modern microbiology. U of M Microbial Genome Project. [schematic of genomic map for P. multocida - 393K]

"An imaginary tour of a biological computer"

Seymour Cray, inventor of the supercomputer and graduate of the University's Institute of Technology, is a tour guide of the "biological computing facility" inside the living cell for the Smithsonian Institution's Monticello Memoirs: An annual gathering of pioneers of the information age, May 30, 1996.

Stem cell biology

Catherine Verfaillie, professor of medicine, led a research team that identified and isolated stem cells from adult bone marrow. Stem cells are the body's "master cells" because they are capable of developing into many different types of tissue. Her work holds the promise of growing therapeutic tissue and organ substitutes by manipulating stem cells into becoming nerve, liver, heart, muscle and other cell types. Verfaillie was named one of the top 10 innovators for 2001 by U.S. News & World Report in December 2000.

Myotonic Muscular Dystrophy

Institute of Human Genetics researchers Laura Ranum and John W. Day discovered a gene that causes the most common form of muscular dystrophy in adults, a disease that affects more than 30,000 Americans. Ranum and Day found that the RNA containing an expanded CCUG repeat accumulates (pink dots) in the muscle cells of patients with myotonic muscular dystrophy, leading to muscular and heart abnormalities. The discovery, made possible with help from a northern Minnesota family affected by the disease, will improve diagnosis through genetic testing and provides key information for the eventual development of new treatments. Reported in Science, August 2001. Figure Copyright (c) Science.

Research History at the Mayo Clinic

Biomedical Technology Gallery and Tours