Our physicians are changing lives with major advancements in transplants, biomedical devices, and other techniques for the treatment and prevention of cardiovascular defects and disease.

With more than 90 patents and a series of firsts—including the world's first successful open heart surgery—we are pioneers in heart research.

Recognized for leadership in cardiovascular innovation, the University of Minnesota Medical School has pioneered heart research with a series of firsts. We performed the world’s first successful open-heart surgery in 1952, Minnesota’s first successful heart transplant, and created the world’s first heart-lung machine.

One of our researchers created the first beating heart in a laboratory, and we also developed the first wearable, battery-operated pacemaker. Over the past 15 years, our faculty innovations have produced more than 90 patents.

Today, we continue to take an innovative approach to clinical and basic research. Our researchers are constantly improving surgical techniques and treatments for:

  • Resuscitation science
  • Stem cells and regenerative medicine
  • Tissue engineering for damaged hearts
  • Circulatory assist devices
  • Prevention of cardiovascular disease
  • Pulmonary hypertension
  • Advanced cardiovascular imaging

More cardiovascular milestones

Applying research to new heart treatments

Hibernating bears can spend nearly six months in their dens without food and water. They are more or less immobilized. Their average heart rate slows down significantly, but increases dramatically when they breathe, and they are able to arouse rapidly in defense situations.

Paul Iaizzo, PhD, director of the Visible Heart® lab, along with researchers from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Medtronic have been tracking such cardiac activities in a cohort of Minnesota black bears via the use of implanted heart monitors. They hope to apply their research findings towards the development of cardiac treatments for humans.

Iaizzo also reanimated mammalian hearts (both animal and human) on a routine basis to study their physiological responses and functional anatomies. He works closely with Medtronic to study device-tissue interactions of various cardiac devices like leads, valves, stents, and catheters.


Improving the lives of heart transplant and heart attack patients

Ganesh Raveendran, MD, MS, associate professor of medicine, chief of clinical cardiology, and director of the cardiovascular fellowship program, specializes in interventional cardiology. Raveendran explores the impacts of stem cell therapies for heart health. His translational research involves studying stem cell treatment for heart attack and heart failure patients. His team also studied the impact of stem cells in patients receiving left ventricular assist device (LVAD) and waiting for heart transplants.

His clinical interests include prevention and treatment of heart attack, coronary artery disease, heart valve disease, interventional cardiac catheterization, and percutaneous heart valve implantations.

Cardiovascular research around the U

The Lillehei Heart Institute carries on C. Walton Lillehei’s legacy with groundbreaking research in cardiovascular disease. Current projects focus on heart regeneration, stem cell therapies, personalized medicine, heart failure, vascular biology, and heart devices.

The MN Resuscitation Consortium connects bystander, prehospital and hospital initiatives to improve survival from sudden cardiac arrest.

The University-affiliate uses non-invasive screening tools to detect cardiovascular disease and other conditions that may normally go unnoticed and lead to heart attack, stroke, or heart failure.

Routinely making "the impossible" a reality for over six decades. Focused on innovation and excellence in clinical care to both prevent and treat disease.

Dedicated to developing leaders and providing a complete clinical experience in all aspects of pediatric cardiology as well as to develop independence in clinical or laboratory research related to the subspecialty.

Learn more about the University’s work in cardiovascular disease across the health sciences.

heart cells

Recent publications

  • Duval S, Long K H, Roy SS, Oldenburg NC, Harr K, Fee RM, Sharma RR, Alesci NL, Hirsch AT. 2015. The Contribution of Tobacco Use to High Health Care Utilization and Medical Costs in Peripheral Artery Disease. Journal of the American College of Cardiology 66(14):1566-1574.
  • van Berlo JH. 2014. c-kit+ cells minimally contribute cardiomyocytes to the heart. Nature 509:337–341.
  • Koene RJ, Liao KK, Eckman PM, John R. 2015. Anastomosis of the outflow cannula to the descending aorta in a HeartWare left ventricular assist device. Journal of Cardiology Cases 11(2):66-68.

Grants and awards

  • Lin Yee Chen, MD, MS, Medicine's Cardiovascular Division, receives a $3.74 million R01 grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to support the study "Significance of Atrial Fibrillation and Atrial Fibrillation Burden Detected by Novel ECG Monitoring in Community-Dwelling Elderly" (2016–2021)
  • Demetri Yannopoulos, MD, Medicine's Cardiovascular Division, receives Dean's Distinguished Research Lectureship (2015)
  • Demetri Yannopoulos, MD, Medicine's Cardiovascular Division, named NIH Transformative Research Award recipient (2014)
  • Gary Francis, MD, Medicine's Cardiovascular Division, won the Life Time Achievement Award from the Heart Failure Society of America (2014)