Advancing the Science

Mayo Clinic Medical Science Blog – an eclectic collection of research- and research education-related stories: feature stories, mini news bites, learning opportunities, profiles and more from Mayo Clinic.

December 27, 2018

Be the life [science] of the party

By Caitlin Doran

Looking for a scientific conversation starter for New Year's Eve? Advancing the Science has you covered with this top-10 recap of our hottest medical research stories from 2018.

With this list in your back pocket, you'll never run out of interesting cocktail banter. And we guarantee you'll wow your friends with your scientific smarts.

Human alimentary track#1  ‘Gut touch?’ Mayo Clinic researchers discover important trigger for serotonin release

Researchers at Mayo Clinic have discovered an important mechanical trigger in the gut for releasing serotonin in the body. Serotonin is an important hormone and neurotransmitter in the human body, believed to help regulate digestion, appetite, mood, social behavior, sleep and other important functions.

The researchers were amazed to find that certain cells in the gut has a specific trigger that is not present in the cells around them. They were also surprised to find how effective it was to block or eliminate this trigger to improve serotonin release.  Read more.

Mark Truty, M.D.

#2  A revolution in pancreatic cancer treatment

Mark Truty, M.D., had dedicated his career to giving patients with pancreatic cancer more quality time with their loved ones. His own father died from pancreatic cancer 20 years ago at age 58.

Not content with the status quo, Dr. Truty and his colleagues are looking for ways to improve outcomes. They’ve pioneered a multidisciplinary approach—which other medical centers are copying— that includes boosting patients’ health to endure treatment, providing neoadjuvant chemotherapy and radiation, and performing aggressive operations. Read more.

Normal liver and fatty liver

#3  The rising tide of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease

Liver disease isn’t just for alcoholics. Nonalcholic fatty liver diseases (NAFLD) can affect people who drink little or no alcohol. These diseases are a significant and growing public health issue. NAFLD contribute to development of other diseases, like diabetes and double risk of death.

Mayo Clinic researchers using data from the Rochester Epidemiology Project recently found that five times as many people have this type of liver disease now, compared to 20 years ago. They suspect this is related to the rise in rates of obesity.  Read more.

doctors examine results of clinical test for MS#4  MS or not MS? Mayo Clinic Nureoimmunology Lab answers the question

In 2017, Mayo Clinic launched a first-in-the-U.S. clinical test to help patients with some autoimmune disorders get the right diagnosis faster. The test defines a new form of inflammatory demyelinating disease, myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein (MOG) autoimmunity, which is distinct from multiple sclerosis (MS), with which it is commonly confused.

Having diagnostic-specific antibody tools allows Mayo Clinic researchers to develop tests to help physicians rule out MS and for patients to get correct diagnoses and treatments in the early stages of disease. Read more.

Rock formation#5  Can geology upend decades of medical wisdom about kidney stones?

There may soon be a new, non-surgical way to remove kidney stones, thanks to an unlikely collaboration between a geologist and a Mayo Clinic nephrologist.

By carefully examining kidney stones, they were able to show that kidney stones do not continuously grow (as previously thought). Instead, the minerals seem to dissolve and reform, similar to the stratification of stones and fossils in rock.

The race is on to identify the stone-dissolving process in the kidney so that scientists can develop a treatment. Read more.


Fetal endoscopic tracheal occlusion surgery#6 ‘Extraordinary Ability’ – Fetal surgery program elevates maternal-fetal medicine

Imagine being deemed so critical to a health care organization that the state legislature acts immediately to allow you to practice there. That’s how Rodrigo Ruano, M.D., Ph.D., came to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

Dr. Ruano was recruited to Mayo Clinic to establish a center of excellence for fetal surgery. He specializes in procedures, such as fetal endoscopic tracheal occlusion, to correct severe congenital defects before birth.  At Mayo, Dr. Ruano is now leading the way in research as well as treatment in maternal and fetal medicine.  Read more.

Foods containing gluten#7  The quest to understand the gluten free diet and celiac disease

In recent years, reports in the media have linked gluten to all sorts of health issues ranging from feeling sluggish to the extremes of being linked to autism (debunked here). Some notable individuals have been eating a gluten-free diet without a clinical necessity – but is that the best course of action?

Mayo Clinic researchers recently published a study on the prevalence of gluten-free diets in children age 4-18 who do not have celiac disease. Imad Absah, M.D., a pediatric gastroenterologist, says the increase of gluten-free diet without clinical necessity is concerning as some of these uses may be masking symptoms of unrelated conditions.” Read more.

Diagnosing spinal cord stroke#8  First diagnostic criteria determined for spinal cord strokes

A spinal cord stroke occurs when the blood supply to the spinal cord stops and the cord can’t get oxygen and nutrients.  Mayo Clinic researchers recently published a seminal paper that will help doctors better diagnose spinal cord strokes which can be misdiagnosed as other types of spinal cord disease. Read more.

Sun shining in clear blue sky#9  Shedding light on the ‘sunshine vitamin’

Vitamin D, sometimes referred to as the ‘sunshine vitamin,’ may have a broader role in human health than we once thought.

Mayo Clinic researchers recently found a relationship between vitamin D deficiency and increased risk of death in Caucasian patients.  They did not observe this connection in non-Caucasian patients. Further research with diverse populations will be needed to determine if what constitutes “normal” or “deficient” vitamin D should vary based on race or ethnicity.  Read more.

Two people holding hands#10  Let’s talk about it: Death

Death. Dying. End of life care. Comfort care. These are emotionally loaded words. And that can make these topics hard to talk about between patient and caregiver. There is often a sense of guilt; a feeling that we are giving up on you or that you are giving up on us.

But that’s far from the truth. We say these words and talk about these feelings because we care. Here are six important questions about end of life that may be helpful to discuss.  Read more.

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Tags: celiac disease, end of life care, fetal surgery, gluten free, Imad Absah, liver disease, Mark Truty, maternal and fetal medicine, multiple sclerosis, nephrology, neuroimmunology, News, palliative care, pancreatic cancer, pediatric gastroenterology, People, Rochester Epidemiology Project, Rodrigo Ruano, spinal cord stroke, vitamin D

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