February 2009


What do a gunshot wound, wet film, and a charitable donation to a children’s hospital all have in common?

They all have direct ties to innovative thinking and research in the University of Minnesota’s Department of Radiology.

In 1896 the University paper Aerial described a procedure at the St Paul City Hospital that allowed for the detection of two bullets in a leg with the use of an x-ray machine. Dr. Jones of the Medical School performed the procedure just eleven months after Wilhelm Konrad Roentgen discovered the detection of electromagnetic radiation.

In the early 1930s, then division head Dr. Leo Rigler set up a wet film viewing area in order to allow for almost immediate interpretation of results especially for emergency cases. Until the advancement of film processing, this provided the best means for real time results.

By the late 1960s, Dr. Kurt Amplatz had already become well-known for his innovative work in cardiovascular radiology and specifically in angiography. His research in this area eventually lead him to design his Amplatzer® septal occluder, which allowed for the repair of congenital heart defects in children. The announcement last week of the $50 million dollar gift in Dr. Amplatz’s name to help build the new children’s hospital completes this thread running through the Dept. of Radiology.

To learn more about these people and their contributions read the 1967 essay “A Brief History of the Department of Radiology” by Stephen Kieffer, Eugene Gedgaudas, and Harold Peterson available below.


The long view of islets

A recent article in the Star Tribune highlights current research at the University of Minnesota and the Mayo Clinic to find a cure for diabetes. Researchers are hoping to implant insulin producing islets from genetically modified pigs into humans with diabetes. The projected outcome would be an on-going production of insulin that would reverse the effects of diabetes on the body.

Experimentation with insulin as a cure for diabetes has been a primary focus for curing the disease since the early 1920s. Dr. Frederick Banting, a medical researcher at the University of Toronto, received the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1923 for his research in isolating and producing insulin.

Yet, Dr. Banting always credited his eureka moment in understanding how to extract insulin from reading the article “The Relation of the Islets of Langerhans to Diabetes with Special Reference to Cases of Pancreatic Lithiasis” published in the November 1920 issue of the journal Surgery, Gynecology and Obstetrics. The article’s author was Dr. Moses Barron, a professor in the Department of Pathology at the University of Minnesota.

Dr. Barron’s article not only influenced Banting’s work and the 90-year trajectory of insulin management of diabetes, but it also influenced diabetes related pancreas transplantation research including the work of Drs. Richard Lillehei and William Kelley in the 1960s and 1970s, also at the University of Minnesota.

Read a 1934 letter from Dr. Banting to Dr. Barron where he gives credit where credit is due.