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Research Proves It: Better Mood, Longer Life

Posted on February 13th, 2012 by Gina Chiri-Osmond

I was recently reading through an issue of Science magazine (yes, I do that occasionally) and came across an article about a published study from Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that found that happy people really do live longer!

The study found that of 924 people who reported “least positive feelings” (starting in 2002), 7.3% died within five years. For the 1,399 people who reported the “most positive feelings,” only 3.6% died within five years. The researchers took into account age, gender, signs of depression, current health, and behaviors such as smoking; and even with those adjustments, they reported that the risk of dying in the next five years was still 35% lower for the happiest people.

I also noticed in the February 2012 issue of Mayo Clinic’s LiveWell newsletter that a published study in the journal Health Psychology followed 820 office workers over 20 years. During that time, 53 participants died. Analyzing those deaths, the researchers found that the risk of dying was significantly lower for those who reported higher levels of work friendships and socialness.

Grow your relationships, be more social at work—and above all—don’t worry, be happy. Your smiling face brightens someone else’s day, and it could also add five years to your life!

Mayo Alzheimer's Expert Featured in Nature

Posted on January 23rd, 2012 by Admin

We couldn't let this one go by without commenting. Ron Petersen, M.D.,Ph.D.,  head of Mayo's Alzheimer's Disease Research Center, is the subject of a Q&A article in Nature. As head of the new national task force on Alzheimer's, he minces no words about the burden of the disease on the nation and how it will only get worse as the Baby Boomers age. Calling it an impending "health crisis," he also says that diseases don't rear their head at ideal economic times, but it's something we'll have to deal with.

Mayo Clinic Studies Identify Risk Factors in Rising Trend of Liver Cancer

Posted on January 3rd, 2012 by Admin

Two Mayo Clinic studies published in the January 3 issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings offer a clearer picture of the rise of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), or liver cancer, which has tripled in the U.S. in the last three decades and has a 10 to 12 percent five-year survival rate when detected in later stages.
The studies were funded by the National Institute of Health and the Mayo Clinic Center for Translational Science Activities.

Mayo Research Teams Highlighted in Science

Posted on December 22nd, 2011 by Admin

Science, the general research journal published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has highlighted three Mayo Clinic research teams in its year-end issue, out today online. The editors chose Mayo's recently published discovery on ridding the body of scenesent cells and its impact on aging - Baker et al. Nature 2011 -- as one of the top ten international scientific breakthroughs of the year. This is a list that covers all of science, worldwide, not just medicine or life sciences. That kudo goes to the team led by Mayo researcher Jan van Deursen, Ph.D., who has long been working on the mechanisms of aging in mouse models. This story reached a wide audience a few weeks ago, including the front page of the NY Times.

Another Mayo team highlighted in this issue of Science is one led by Mayo virologist Roberto Cattaneo, Ph.D., whose paper explaining why measles spreads so rapidly, appeared in the same issue of Nature as the van Deursen findings. It received wide play in the international media. The Catteneo study appears in a perspective section. The piece, An Exit Strategy for Measles Virus, is by Vincent Racaniello of the Microbiology and Immunology Department at Columbia University. The findings show how only one person with the measles virus can easily infect up to 20 people.

In both cases the narrative does not directly mention the Mayo researchers, but cites them as the source of the main point of the article. The citations are clickable.

In yet a third section, called Breakthroughs: Areas to Watch, the authors highlight topics expected to provide some news in the coming year. And there, under Stem Cell Metabolism, we find the reference to the team of Mayo's Clifford Folmes, Ph.D, Andre Terzic, M.D., Ph.D. and their paper in Cell Metabolism.

All in all, a pretty good showing for Mayo Clinic fundamental research in America's top Science journal. Congratulations all.

The Outlook on Multiple Myeloma

Posted on December 22nd, 2011 by Admin

The December 15 issue of the journal Nature includes special “Outlook” section focusing on multiple myeloma. According to the National Cancer Institute, multiple myeloma or plasma cell myeloma is the second most common blood cancer in the United States accounting for about 1 percent of all cancers.  While rare, multiple myeloma is often a deadly disease. However, recent advancements in drug and stem cell therapies have improved survival rates and new strategies to identify monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS), a precursor to multiple myeloma, promise even more effective treatment of the disease. Mayo Clinic experts Vincent Rajkumar, M.D., Keith Stuart, M.D. and Steven Zeldenrust, M.D. contributed to stories in the section.

The Power Within the Microbiome

Posted on December 1st, 2011 by Admin

Don’t look now, but you’re not alone.  You may think that it’s just you in those clothes, in that body, but it’s not.  Instead, you are a Supraorganism.  Sound scary?  Not really.

A supraorganism is a group of individual organisms that function together.  Imagine all the components of your car: the pistons, the fuel pump, the windshield wipers. They all perform together to make your car run.  Now imagine those car parts are alive.  Essentially, that is a supraorganism.

Scientist are well aware that human beings are built with more than just human parts. We also contain microscopic organisms, such as bacteria.  That’s why the National Institutes of Health launched the Human Microbiome Project.  The project's goal is to categorize all the microscopic organisms living inside humans.

Tina Hesman Saey recently reported for Science News on a German team studying the microbiome.  The Planck Institute of Neurobiology in Martinsried, Germany has linked the bacteria in the gut to multiple sclerosis.  Using mice, genetically engineered to develop MS, the team discovered that those without gut bacteria never developed the disease.  Using this insight and further research, doctors may someday be able to treat patients with using probiotics – helpful bacteria - to prevent or limit disease.

Mayo Clinic researchers realize the potential of The Human Microbiome Project and have set off to harness its applications.  Mayo’s Microbiome Program – part of its Center for Individualized Medicine - will focus on several different disorders: colon cancer, obesity, preterm labor, diabetes, celiac disease, and wound healing.

For example, Mayo investigators believe that certain microbes living in the colon may give off warning signals before colon cancer develops.  Once these signals are identified doctors can use them to predict risk and identify preventative therapy.

Heidi Nelson, M.D., heads Mayo’s microbiome program. She says one day a preventive adjustment of a patient’s bacterial balance prior to surgery may help reduce risk of infection during recovery. Stay tuned.


Ophthalmology Insights

Posted on November 10th, 2011 by Admin

The American Academy of Ophthalmology recently wound up its annual meeting in Orlando, Florida -- final attendance exceeded 24,000. As part of Mayo Clinic's participation in the event, our interviewers, bloggers and videographers showcased key leaders in the organization. The result: eight videos now on Mayo's YouTube channel. To see them, simply search on "Mayo and AAO" on YouTube. We've also provided the direct links below.

1.) Douglas Koch, M.D., Baylor College of Medicine, President of the AOS -- American Ophthalmological Society.
2.) Ruth Williams, M.D., Wheaton Eye Clinic, President-Elect of the AAO -- American Academy of Ophthalmology.
3.) Mr. Humphrey Taylor, Public Trustee, American Academy of Ophthalmology.
4.) David Parke II, M.D., CEO and Executive Vice President, American Academy of Ophthalmology.
5.) George Williams, M.D., practicing ophthalmologist, Royal Oak, Michigan, and member of the RUC -- Relative Value Update Committee, independent expert panel.
6.) John Clarkson, M.D., Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, Executive Director, American Board of Ophthalmology.
7.) William Rich, III, M.D., Northern Virginia Ophthalmology Associates, Medical Director of Health Policy, AAO.
8.) Richard Abbott, M.D., University of California San Francisco, President, American Academy of Ophthalmology.


Mayo Scores Two Hits in Nature Issue

Posted on November 3rd, 2011 by Admin

Mayo Clinic publishes its findings in the top journals, but it isn't every week that we have two papers in a single issue of Nature. Mayo Drs. Jan van Deursen, Darren Baker and James Kirkland have what's being called an important and significant paper in the field of cell senescence in the Letters section (that's what Nature calls its shorter papers). It's already been picked up by Shirley Wang of the Wall St. Journal and Nicholas Wade in the Times. They found that using a drug to purge the aging cells from specialized mice, they were able to significantly delay aging. Not only is this being noted in the research world, but I saw it's being carried by the AARP.  --- The other paper comes from the lab of Dr. Roberto Cattaneo, a Mayo molecular virologist who has explained why measles is one of the most fast-spreading viral diseases on the planet.

“The measles virus has developed a strategy of diabolic elegance,” says Dr. Cattaneo. “It first hijacks immune cells patrolling the lungs to get into the host. It then travels within other immune cells everywhere in the body.  However, the infected immune cells deliver their cargo specifically to those cells that express the protein nectin-4, the new receptor. Remarkably, those cells are located in the trachea. Thus, the virus emerges from the host exactly where needed to facilitate contagion.”

The researchers were also excited about another aspect of these findings.
Nectin-4 is a biomarker of several types of cancer such as ovarian, breast and lung. Clinical trials are under way that use measles and other viruses to attack cancer — including current ovarian, glioma and myeloma clinical trials at Mayo Clinic.
Because measles actively targets nectin-4, measles-based cancer therapy may be more successful in patients whose cancer express nectin-4. Many researchers believe that modified viruses could be a less toxic alternative to chemotherapy and radiation.

By the way... a plug for the measles vaccine is warranted here:  In recent years, the spread of the virus has increased due to lack of people being vaccinated, and measles is still a significant public health problem in the United States.

The Eyes Have It — An Inside look at the ophthalmology meeting

Posted on October 22nd, 2011 by Admin

Medical society meetings reflect the specialties they are intended to serve. In the case of the 115th annual meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, we have thousands of people in one building focused on one organ (or two, if you rather). Eye diseases, surgeries, and the fine points of the retina, the cornea, glaucoma, macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa are all session or symposia offerings. The press room is equally focused. For every medical specialty there is a specialty media. For example, one publication not on your newsstand is Retina Today. I've attended national conferences before, but I was not prepared for the size. It is truly international, with eye physicians from an estimated 30 foreign countries. And the exhibit floor is very serious. No silly toys or ancillary vendors here. Again, the focus or better yet, the vision is solely on equipment, clinical furnishings, surgical tools and medical books, journals, and software.

AAO's Dr. David Parke II interviewed by Dr. Jay Erie of Mayo Clinic

All in all, it is very well run and organized, at least to my untrained eye. The man in charge is Dr. David Parke II, the executive vice president and CEO of the AAO. He also edits the Academy's journal EyeNet. In an interview today he emphasized the importance of continuing education for eye specialists -- the Academy's primary mission. Then he mentioned some priorities that sounded pretty familiar to Mayo folk: evidence-based treatments, state-of-the-art medicine, and the need to ensure that new standards and techniques are widely shared. When asked about the role of ophthalmology in a wide-ranging multiple specialty practice, he said: "Mayo Clinic is one of those blessed beasts in that it has fine facilities and specialists, but in that it can also be an 'incubator' for best in class health care and system innovation and care."  He also said the combination of M.D.s and O.D.s (optometrists) work well in some practices. He said the right balance and the right training are what's important in meeting the needs of all patients and their economic needs. Care should be patient-centered (that sounds familiar, too) - and he pointed out that roughly 50 percent of ophthalmologists work in integrated teams.  The AAO meeting continues for three more days.

Mayo and India’s CSIR Ink Research Pact

Posted on October 19th, 2011 by Admin


Mayo and Indian Research Leaders sign agreement

The rising sun crept into the historic Plummer Library as the Indian delegation entered. Portraits of Mayo’s founding physicians peered down on the assembling group. Eleven members of India’s Council for Science and Industry Research (CSIR) were visiting Mayo for three days of talks, working meals, and this early morning breakfast gathering that would culminate in the signing of a formal research agreement between the two entities.

The agreement to collaborate on a range of ongoing projects includes emphasis on naturietic peptides in heart disease; metabolomics – genetic-based metabolism studies focusing on obesity; and a range of topics in biological chemistry and medical genomics.

The CSIR is India’s national government-chartered research organization, roughly equivalent to the National Science Foundation in the United States, but with aspects of other federal agencies including the NIH. Professor Samir Brahmachari, who is a noted researcher in molecular biology, is Director General of the CSIR and oversees the Council’s 48 national laboratories and centers.  He signed the agreement, with Robert Rizza, M.D., Mayo’s executive dean for research. Eric Wieben, Ph.D. and J.S. Yadav, Ph.D., signed as witnesses for each institution. The relationship will include joint publications, exchange of visiting scientists and coordinated planning on specific ongoing projects. This is the second global research agreement for Mayo. A formal collaboration with the University of Brno- International Clinical Research Center was signed in September and an agreement with the Karolinska Institute in Sweden is anticipated in December.