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Mayo Receives Federal Award to Launch Radiation Safety Clearinghouse

Posted on September 19th, 2013 by Admin

Mayo Clinic radiology researcher Cynthia McCollough, Ph.D., and her team were awarded a four-year grant from the National Institutes of Health that will allow Mayo to establish a national clearinghouse for CT dose reduction research. Dr. McCollough is internationally known for her work in limiting radiation exposure to patients. She is head of Mayo's CT Clinical Innovation Center.

Their NIH grant application, in response to a request for proposals to reduce CT doses to the level of background radiation, was the only one funded in a highly competitive field. 

“This grant is unique in that it provides funding for Mayo Clinic to establish a national clearinghouse to share the data sets, software algorithms and imaging methods developed by our team with the entire CT imaging community,” says Dr. McCollough.

This will be the first information depository of its kind in the field of CT dose reduction, providing reference data sets for use in developing and validating the many noise reduction and iterative reconstruction methods currently under development. “Mayo Clinic will provide a tremendously valuable resource for all researchers working on dose reduction in CT,” she says.
Other investigators involved include Joel Fletcher, M.D., Shuai Leng, Ph.D., Lifeng Yu, Ph.D., David DeLone, M.D., Jeff Fidler, M.D., David Levin, M.D., Ph.D., Rickey Carter, Ph.D., and David Holmes III, Ph.D. 

How Fast Can You Do Research? Mayo Responds to the NIH Challenge

Posted on July 10th, 2013 by Admin

Mayo Clinic is among the handful of centers launching one-year fast-track studies of existing drugs to determine their value for other conditions. In Mayo's case, Jordan Miller, Ph.D., a Mayo Clinic researcher in the Departments of Surgery and Physiology, and two colleagues were awarded the grant to study the drug from pre-clinical tests through the first clinical trial, all in one year. The targeted condition is aortic valve stenosis -- a type of cardiac stenosis in which the valve area calcifies, leading to serious heart problems.

In a world where some research findings take a decade or more to surface in the world of patients, the National Institutes of Health is trying to whittle that time of translation down to a single year. That includes several rounds of preclinical studies and then a phase one clinical trial to determine efficacy by the end of the twelve months.

“This is highly significant, not only because of the speed of the process, but the impact that it may have on prolonging lives,” says Dr. Miller. “We have a year to determine if there’s a positive change in experimental models and in patients. If so, we move on with more studies.”

Mayo Clinic is one of only nine awardees of a new type of research grant, one that takes an existing but unused drug from a participating pharmaceutical company and studies it for a different disease or condition. In this case the drug is supplied by Sanofi and Mayo’s team led by Dr. Miller, will see if it will work to slow the advance of aortic valve stenosis, in which calcification keeps the heart valve to the aorta from opening fully.

While only three percent of Americans of retirement age develop aortic valve stenosis, calcium can be seen (using x-ray or CT scanning) on the valves of approximately half of the population over 65.  As baby boomers continue to live longer, the actual numbers of patients expected to progress to aortic valve stenosis are expected to grow dramatically, and less than 40 percent survive beyond five years from diagnosis. Right now there is no effective treatment for advanced stenosis, other than replacing the heart valve – a surgical procedure that carries its own risk.

Dr. Miller says this new application of the drug may not remove existing calcification, but it may slow the progression or stop it from getting worse. “Even slowing progression of valve calcification by 50 percent will greatly reduce or delay the need for surgical intervention in these patients.” The first steps of the study are already underway.





Showing the Power of Individualized Medicine through Patient Experiences

Posted on April 26th, 2013 by Admin

CHICAGO -- “Individualized medicine … it’s not just about deciphering your own genome … it’s about you having the power to choose your own care and having access to information that can best keep you well.”

Gianrico Farrugia, M.D., at center of the panel at the Edison Awards

That was the message of Gianrico Farrugia, M.D., director of the Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine, speaking as featured panelist at the 2013 Meet the Innovators Forum at the Chicago Cultural Center. The April 25th event was part of the Edison Awards program dedicated to recognizing, honoring and fostering innovation and innovators to create a positive impact in the world.

Personalization for patients

“Today the promise of individualized medicine has become a reality," said Dr. Farrugia to the forum. "We have gone from talking about it to making it a part of patient care.” To illustrate the power of personalized or individualized medicine, Dr. Farrugia introduced the forum to four patients being treated through the Individualized Medicine Clinic at Mayo.

First, Dr. Farrugia introduced a young patient who had been treated for depression unsuccessfully and who had suffered extensive side effects until he arrived at Mayo. In a video, the patient’s mother said that Mayo seemed like their last resort after 16 years of difficulties with medications. Within two months, Mayo deciphered his needs through an individualized medicine approach, which recognizes that the same medications can have varying results and cause different side effects in different people, she said. Through power of pharmacogenomics, physicians tailored his medications and dosages to achieve the best results, making a significant difference for this patient.

Dr. Farrugia's second example was a patient with an advanced tumor of the bile duct. Using genomics to identify protein fusion, physicians discovered that the tumor could be successfully targeted for shrinkage. This is an example of the fact that tumors must be controlled and killed differently in different people, Dr. Farrugia said.

Next, Dr. Farrugia described a “diagnostic odyssey” involving a family where three generations suffered from kidney disease -- a grandfather, father and young son. The disease was identifiable, but the cause had not been isolated. Through Mayo’s individualized medicine program, the three generations underwent gene sequencing to determine how to prevent future children from having the gene mutation.

Finally, Dr. Farrugia described a patient who suffered from intestinal problems for years until it was figured out at Mayo that certain medications were causing the problems. This, again, he said was another case that was explained through individualized medicine.

Other panelists presenting at the forum included:  Bruce Japsen, Columnist/Blogger, Forbes - Moderator; Hakon Hakonarson, M.D., Ph.D., Associate Professor of Pediatrics, The University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine; Leroy E. Hood, M.D., Ph.D., Founder & President, Institute for Systems Biology; and Scott P. McBride, Shareholder, McAndrews Held & Malloy

Dr. Farrugia was part of a Mayo delegation attending the program where Mayo was recognized with 2013 Edison Awards nominations for two separate innovations. Mayo was nominated and was among the award finalists for Mayo Clinic Patient App and the Asthma Connected Care App in the Innovative Services/Health Management category. The Mayo Clinic Patient App received the gold award and the Asthma Connected Care App received the silver award in their category.

(our thanks to Mayo colleague John Murphy for this report)

Minnesota High Schooler in Science Finals – BIO 2013

Posted on April 23rd, 2013 by Admin

Rena Weis and her proud dad at poster presentation

CHICAGO -- The next generation of scientists from Minnesota and the rest of the nation are making themselves known. The Biotechnology Institute has sponsored another international competition for high school scientists here at BIO 2013 and Minnesota’s finalist is Rena Weis from New Prague High School. She did her research on the impact of biochar (look it up) on soils and greenhouse gases. The fact that she did it all by herself, at home, without the help of a university connection, caught the eye of the judges. Also in the competition this year is Michelle Campeau, who was also present at the BIO conference. The international overall winner will be announced later today. That person will get to go to the White House.  Rena says she finds the conference very exciting and is especially thrilled as she is from, in her words “a small town in Minnesota.” We tried to explain to her that that is a plus, as many of us have learned. Minnesota, all of Minnesota, is very widely respected here and with good reason.

Video Competition: Clinical Lab Science Program Celebrates Profession

Posted on March 29th, 2013 by Gina Chiri-Osmond

In celebration of National Laboratory Professionals Week, students from the Mayo Clinic Clinical Laboratory Science Program produced a short video explaining what sparked their interest in laboratory science. Mayo Clinic has hundreds of young professionals working in its research labs with hundreds of their counterparts in clinical laboratories, often just across a hall.

The video is for a contest hosted by the American Society of Clinical Pathology (ASCP). The video with the most YouTube views wins, so please take a few minutes to watch the video and share it.

Visit the ASCP site and look for the video titled, "Mayo Clinic Laboratory Science Program."

Discovery's Edge New Issue

Posted on February 15th, 2013 by Admin

The print winter issue of Mayo Clinic’s research magazine Discovery’s Edge, is now available. If you'd like a free copy, let us know. Also visit us online Read More ---

Czech Clinical Research Center opens on Mayo model

Posted on October 17th, 2012 by Admin


Opening ceremony at ICRC, Czech Republic

This week they cut the ribbon on what will become the first Euro-wide clinical research center. Located in Brno, the second largest Czech city, the International Clinical Research Center or ICRC will conduct clinical studies with physician-researchers throughout Europe. Conceived by Tomas Kara, M.D., Ph.D. of St. Anne's Hospital in Brno and Virend Somers, M.D., Ph.D., of Mayo Clinic, the "phenotype" of the operation bears a remarkable resemblance to Mayo's Clinical Research Unit and the approach is a lot like how Mayo manages its multisite clinical trials. This is part of Mayo's exporting of its ideas, models and technologies to key locations around the globe. Mayo and the ICRC have numerous research projects already underway, with visiting scientists shuttling between the two institutions.

The ICRC will focus on cardiology and neurology for starters, collaborating with four or five key research centers at medical centers and universities across Europe. The idea is to make the facility in Brno a sort of space station for multi-national clinical studies. The infrastructure (the building will be dedicated in early 2013) was funded by grants totaling $220 million from the European Union and Czech government, in response to a joint application from the ICRC and Mayo. We'll have more here about the projects as things develop.

State of the science facilities to boost clinical research across Europe

Michael Camilleri, M.D., honored with the 2012 Ismar Boas medal

Posted on September 21st, 2012 by Admin

Michael Camilleri, M.D.

The German Society of Digestive and Metabolic Disease awarded Dr. Camilleri with the 2012 Ismar Boas medal in honor of his scientific contributions to the understanding of the integrated regulation of the gastrointestinal tract. In particular, his pioneering work on the causes of motor and functional disorders.  Dr. Camilleri's research into the complex interaction of genetic, mucosal, enteroendocrine, immunological and neuronal mechanisms helped to develop important modern concepts about changes in body function, and therefore forms the basis of modern, causal therapies.

Two other Mayo Clinic physicians have been awarded with the Ismar Boas Medal. Eugene DiMagno, M.D., received the medal in 1994 and Sidney Phillips, M.D., was honored in 2005.

Ismar Boas practiced in Germany prior to World War II and is considered the father of gastroenterology. He studied and published on the stomach, small intestines, and constipation. He started a medical journal dedicated to gastroenterology and metabolic medicine. The journal survives today under the name Digestion.

Thannhauser Medal

Eugene DiMagno, M.D.

Also at this year's meeting of the German Society of Digestive and Metabolic Disease, Emeritus Physician Eugene DiMagno was recognized with the Thannhauser Medal. The medal was given in recognition of his pioneering scientific achievements in the study of regulation of human pancreatic function. Dr. DiMagno's seminal work on deciphering the mechanisms of exocrine pancreatic insufficiency has contributed greatly to the understanding of chronic pancreatic diseases, which is the basis of modern therapeutic strategies.

Mayo Clinic Veterinarian Receives ACLAM Diplomate Certification

Posted on September 10th, 2012 by Admin

It’s no small task ensuring that the animals used in medical research on Mayo’s Florida campus are healthy and properly cared for. C. Douglas Page, DVM, PA, the attending veterinarian at Mayo Clinic’s Department of Comparative Medicine in Florida, the supervisor and the staff of animal care technicians, take this responsibility very seriously. He recently took that responsibility to a higher level in working toward and receiving the Diplomate certification from the American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine. This is a high honor achieved by passing a rigorous eight-hour exam that certifies that Dr. Page has earned the right to be considered a specialist in the field of laboratory animal medicine.

Dr. Page has been a licensed veterinarian for more than 30 years and has worked with everything from exotic zoo animals to a more recent focus on laboratory animal medicine here at Mayo Clinic. He said it’s rewarding caring for animals that will ultimately help researchers uncover new and better therapies for our patients.

“I have two important responsibilities here,” says Dr. Page. “First, my job is to oversee the health and welfare of all of our animals to ensure our researchers have healthy subjects to work with. I also am responsible for making sure our animals are humanely treated and that we are in compliance with stringent state and federal government guidelines.  It’s critical that we maintain a healthy and humanely run animal lab environment.”

“As an independent veterinary practitioner, Dr. Page has provided veterinary care for the research animals at Mayo in Florida for over 20 years,” says Craig Frisk, D.V.M, Ph.D., chair of comparative medicine at Mayo and a Diplomate himself.  “During this time, he’s developed a close working relationship with the veterinary staff at Mayo and recently decided to change his career path to the laboratory animal medicine specialty.  Becoming a Diplomate in the American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine was his ultimate goal in pursuit of this endeavor.”

Dr. Page, who received his Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from Louisiana State University, says this academic advancement was a challenge.

“It took a lot of hard work preparing for this exam with the support of my colleagues and family,” he said. “I’m proud that I was able to earn this certification and exhibit this level of expertise in my field. It is truly an honor to be recognized by my peers for this effort.”

What is the Death Zone?

Posted on May 21st, 2012 by Admin

Another in our series on the science of the expedition, Dr. Jim McEachen, Mayo Clinic aerospace medicine fellow provides background [Editor's note: this was written before the most recent deaths] 

In 1998, the popular PBS series Nova reported an ominous piece of data.  For every six successful summits on Everest, one person will die.  The show was following up on a tragic event that occurred two years prior. In one day, eight climbers died in the so-called ‘death zone’ on Everest.  The term ‘death zone’ is often used in reference to an altitude above 26,000 feet beyond which many researchers believe human life can no longer adequately acclimatize on its own to.  At 17,600 feet (Base Camp), the partial pressure of oxygen (pO2) is approximately half of its value at sea level.  At 29,000 feet (Everest Summit), the pO2 level decreases to approximately one third of its sea-level value. The ability of individuals to survive in such extreme conditions is a reflection of both their short and long term hypoxic compensatory mechanisms.  As an aside, the validity of the term ‘death zone’ does remain in dispute among some researchers who note select cohorts of individuals have survived for extended periods of time under analogous extreme hypoxic conditions.

Extreme hypoxic states are not limited to the mountainside.  They are also a matter of significant concern to both the airline and space industries.  For example, fighter and reconnaissance aircraft which can fly in excess of 50,000 feet must incorporate specialized environmental control systems and life support equipment to ensure the ability of pilots and aircrew to function under such extreme conditions.  Of particular interest, above Armstrong’s Line (63,000 feet) exposed bodily liquids could actually boil in the absence of protective life support equipment.  Such challenges do not diminish our desire to explore, but rather provide the basis for understanding and future innovation.  And so we climb further…