In northwestern Minnesota, a black bear hibernates unaware that a team of researchers from the University of Minnesota's Visible Heart Laboratory and Medtronic, Inc. are monitoring its state of inactivity. With help from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, researchers have implanted heart monitors into several bears in order to understand how they survive hibernation. The hope is that this research will benefit people who are bedridden or have heart disease.
Led by Dr. Paul Iaizzo, the Visible Heart Lab seeks to understand the behaviors and physiological parameters of hibernating black bears so it can develop “translational applications” for human medicine. People who are bedridden and suffer from muscle atrophy could benefit from a better understanding of what allows bears to emerge from hibernation fully alert and moving. This research also has the potential to protect human organs that have been deprived of oxygen. For example, a transplant organ such as a heart.
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Paul Iaizzo, PhD, University of Minnesota; FHRS, is a professor in the Department of Surgery, the Department of Integrative Biology and Physiology, and the Carlson School of Management at the University. A principal investigator for the Visible Heart Research Laboratory, Iaizzo also is director of education for the Lillehei Heart Institute and associate program director for Education and Outreach for the Institute for Engineering in Medicine.
In 2002, Paul Iaizzo was recognized as a Distinguished University Teaching Professor. He was elected to the College of Fellows in the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering and to the IEM Academy of Medical Device Innovators. He received IEM’s Director’s Award and was selected as a Fellow of the Heart Rhythm Society.