University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Mich.

Hi, I'm Keith Aaronson. I'm an associate professor at the University of Michigan and medical director of the heart transplant program there. For me, probably the most exciting thing is the work that I'm involved in with left ventricular cyst devices. These are pumps that can be implanted within the abdomen. They remove blood from the left ventricle and then pump it to the rest of the body.

We and others working together have shown that these devices can get people successfully to a heart transplant who otherwise would have died with medical therapy alone. But probably what's even more exciting is that we're now using these devices in patients who are not candidates for heart transplantation -- people who are older, people who have more comorbid diseases who wouldn't withstand the rigors of a transplant, but can receive these devices and go on to have marked improvements in both quality and length and life.

I'm also excited about the work that we're doing in electrophysiology, which is the study of heart arrhythmias. We've just brought a very large group of basic science researchers from upstate New York who are working in the basic cellular mechanisms of cardiac arrhythmias. They're excited to try and bring those basic discoveries to our world-renowned clinical electrophysiology group. This group has done some very very exciting work with catheter ablation of atrial fibrillation. There are patients who need to have the arrhythmias suppressed and can't have it suppressed with medical therapy. But by using catheters we can burn regions in the heart that are important in the production of this arrhythmia and cure the arrhythmia completely.

I'm also really excited with the advances that are occurring in pulmonary hypertension, many of which are being pioneered by researchers at my institution. Pulmonary hypertension is a group of diseases that cause elevated blood pressure in the vessels in the lungs. To an effect, people of any age -- there are many causes. But it's most predominant in women who are in their 30s, 40s and 50s. This is a set of conditions that can greatly impair people's quality of life, as well as their length of life. Until recently, we had very little to offer these people. However, there have been tremendous advances in this field, and both quality and length of life are now greatly prolonged with appropriate medical therapy.

I think it's a period of enormous promise for people who have these conditions, and I'm really excited about the work we're doing there.

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