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Perham seniors get to the heart of research

Dr. Paul Iazzo, who heads up the Heart Research Institute at the University of Minnesota, shows Perham seniors a pig heart. Submitted photo.

Nine Perham High School seniors traveled to Minneapolis on Nov. 9 to get to the heart of things.

The students went to the Heart Research Institute at the University of Minnesota to observe an open-heart surgery on a pig, and even hold a human heart.

The students said the trip was very interesting. The university has a library of 170 human hearts, the students said.

"It was awesome," the students said when asked how the experience was.

The students were able to watch doctorate students and advisor, Dr. Paul Iaizzo, test the heart with different chemicals to keep it beating longer, and much more. Perham seniors have been going to the Heart Research Center for several years now, giving them a hands-on opportunity to not only observe medial research, but participate in it.

Many of the students are interested in the medical field, and the trip reinforced their want to help people.

The students had the opportunity to go as part of the GIS research program. The program has been a part of the Perham curriculum for about 15 years, according to science teacher Becky Rennicke.

The students also participate in a yearly research program that allows them to track wild animals.

The students put collars on bears and track them to learn about animals in their natural habitat.

As for the wildlife research, in December the students will go to Camp Ripley, the state-owned 53,000-acre military training center. They will locate bear dens and will locate the bears again in March after hibernation.

The students take blood and tissue samples of the bears to be tested in both December and March. Research is being conducted to learn about healing. Studies have shown that bears heal, even in hibernation, and by isolating a certain chemical, researchers hope to be able to learn how to improve a patient's healing after heart surgery.

Students that participated were Emily Zitzow, Keith Schornack, Sam Stafki, Alex DeConcini, Brita Sundberg, Leah Paulson, David Altstadt, Andrew Riestenberg and T.J. Studer.

For more information on the Perham GIS program, check out

For more on the Heart Research Institute at the U of M, go to