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Amy Klobuchar: Cutting-edge medical research deserves our support

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Klobuchar Amy

From smartphones to computers, our lives are filled with devices that represent remarkable advances in technology. Our country's commitment to innovation and discovery has changed the way we work, learn and communicate — and it's changing the way doctors treat and cure the most devastating and life-threatening diseases, too.

Recently, I invited the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell to Minnesota to visit a few of our world-class medical facilities to see firsthand the ways technological advances are saving lives. At the Mayo Clinic Biobank in Rochester, we saw cutting-edge research underway on individualized, or precision, medicine.

Precision medicine aims to develop a better understanding of how a person's genetic makeup may influence overall health and wellness. By understanding the link between genes and diseases, medical professionals hope to be able to treat their patients more effectively.

Precision medicine was critical for Andrew from Texas, who became sick in the fourth grade. Doctors were not able to pinpoint the exact cause, and Andrew struggled for 16 years with countless new medications and diagnoses before visiting the Mayo Clinic. There, genetic testing revealed Andrew's body doesn't break down medications normally, making it difficult for him to tolerate treatments.

Now, Andrew can get the right medication, in the dosage that's right for him, every time — just like other patients who have benefited from the integration of Mayo Clinic's research and patient care.

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Later, we joined experts from around the state for a roundtable discussion at the University of Minnesota's Center for Magnetic Resonance Research. The CMRR is at the forefront of research in advanced magnetic resonance instrumentation, which is commonly known as MRI. It has partnered with the National Institutes of Health for the Human Connectome Project, an ambitious effort to map the pathways of the human brain. This cutting-edge research helps bring us closer to understanding the processes behind a host of devastating diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease, epilepsy and other psychiatric conditions.

If we are going to continue unlocking the cures and treatments of tomorrow, we need to boost our investments in biomedical research today by increasing funding to the National Institutes of Health. The NIH, which is a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is the largest source of funding for medical research in the world. It is the chief medical research agency of the United States and is helping fund researchers and scientists from across the country, including in Minnesota, who are working hard to develop the lifesaving treatments and cures of the future.

Our day at the Mayo Clinic and the University of Minnesota was a powerful reminder that by working together, we can help more people lead healthy and productive lives. That's why I will continue to advocate strongly for investing in the medical research and innovation that adds to our stores of knowledge about the human body, informs more effective treatment plans and ultimately saves lives.

Amy Klobuchar represents Minnesota in the U.S. Senate.

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Stephen Thibodeau, left, consultant in laboratory medicine and pathology at Mayo Clinic, gives a tour to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell, middle, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar on Friday, Oct. 16, 2015, at the Mayo Clinic Biobank in Rochester.

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