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.

September 12, 2019

Behind the scenes–Mayo Clinic Research

By Elizabeth Zimmermann

Everything health care has to offer for patients is the result of research and education related to that research. At Mayo Clinic, research drives everything we do, resulting in evidence-based treatments and continuous improvements in the way patients, caregivers and others experience health care.

At Mayo Clinic we share information about our programs and projects through many means, including the website www.mayo.edu.

This site provides the opportunity to get behind the scenes with our researchers and learn about new findings and ongoing exploration. Below are brief summaries of what you will find on the pages of our newest research programs, as well as a few areas with substantially updated content to share.


Skeletal muscle is a hub for metabolic health, physical function and quality of life. In the Muscle Physiology and Metabolism Lab, Ian Lanza, Ph.D., and his team focus on understanding how skeletal muscle can be leveraged as a therapeutic target to lessen the burden of such chronic diseases as Type 2 diabetes, cancer cachexia and sarcopenia of aging.

Skeletal muscle is critical to health and quality of life. Beyond allowing us to navigate our environment and live independently, muscle is important to metabolic health through influence on glucose homeostasis, redox balance and whole-body energy metabolism.

A major goal of the research in Dr. Lanza's lab is to gain new insights into the molecular events that either promote or interfere with adaptive responses to exercise. An area of particular interest is the impact of such lifestyle interventions as exercise and nutrition on skeletal muscle function, energy metabolism and adaptations to exercise.

Related lab: Skeletal Muscle Wasting and Progenitor Cell Biology, led by Jason Doles, Ph.D.


Cellular therapies taken to the next level. This is the mission of the Cancer Research and Cellular Therapies Lab, led by Januario Castro, M.D., which is working to improve existing cancer treatments, such as chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-T cell therapy, and investigating new treatment targets, including alternative splicing mechanisms and epitope spreading.

Dr. Castro's team studies advanced cellular therapies for cancer, with a particular emphasis on hematological malignancies. They also collaborate on research projects involving solid tumors.

Special areas of research interest include:

Related labs and programs include:


Patient-centered research is the focus of the Cardiovascular Disease and Outcomes Research Program. Led by co-directors Veronique Roger, M.D., and Suzette Bielinski, Ph.D., the program's research agenda is to drive improvements in prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular disease. Their multidisciplinary team investigates the individual differences in cardiovascular disease that can ultimately be used to tailor care to a patient's specific molecular and risk profile. Their research also informs models of patient-centered care and can be used to design more-effective interventions to manage patients with cardiovascular disease.

Much of the work in the Cardiovascular Disease and Outcomes Program originates from a massive amount of patient data collected through the Heart Disease in Communities cohort. The cohort is comprised of comprehensive electronic health records indexed by the Rochester Epidemiology Project. The research team is able to analyze cohort data, developing accurate and scalable computable phenotypes (patient groupings based on observable physical, behavioral and environmental characteristics). Identifying phenotypes allows the development of more individualized interventions.


Research in the Renal Disease Laboratory focuses on understanding the development and treatment of bone disease seen in patients with kidney failure, osteoporosis and hypophosphatemia. Led by Rajiv Kumar, M.D., some of the team's work is in examining the role of phosphate in the body, and novel phosphate-regulating hormones. Another area of investigation is the function of vitamin D in muscle, bone and the central nervous system.

Specific projects include:

  • The regulation of serum and whole body phosphate by novel phosphate-regulating hormones
  • The mechanism of action 1α,25-dihydroxyvitamin D in muscle, bone and the central nervous system
  • The regulation of vascular remodeling in arteriovenous fistulas (AVFs) that is required for hemodialysis and the treatment of vascular stenosis in AVFs with various novel chemical agents
  • The pathogenesis of urinary stone disease focusing on defects in vitamin D metabolism
  • The pathophysiology of skeletal muscle loss, cardiac abnormalities and bone loss in cancer cachexia
  • The structural biology of DNA polymerase ζ (zeta)
  • Clinical bone mineral physiology in health and disease

Addressing right and wrong is what the Biomedical Ethics Research Program at Mayo Clinic exists for. The team, led by Richard Sharp, Ph.D., assesses and addresses difficult questions about right and wrong in medicine and biomedical science.

As scientific discoveries are made and health care evolves, the values at stake in biomedical science and health care are contested and debated. The solutions to these debates are rarely straightforward, and they involve complex trade-offs for scientists, clinicians and health care organizations.

Members of the Biomedical Ethics Research Program conduct rigorous research, teach and engage in policy discussions about ethical questions. Their work helps ensure that biomedical science and health care are conducted with human decency and fairness.


Hemodialysis — filtering the blood of a person whose kidneys don't work correctly — requires a permanent point of entry into the body's vascular (blood vessel) system. This access allows blood to be pumped through an artificial kidney machine, cleaned, and returned to the body. In the Vascular and Interventional Radiology Translational Research Laboratory, the team led by Sanjay Misra, M.D., is working on ways to improve the function and longevity of these access points.

There are two types of permanent vascular access used in hemodialysis — arteriovenous fistulae and arteriovenous grafts. In the Vascular and Interventional Radiology Translational Research Laboratory, Dr. Misra's team is trying to identify the cause for graft failure, as well as potential interventions. They also are developing new ways to improve patency (how well it stays clear and open) of the hemodialysis vascular access.

The team has clinical trials ongoing in support of this research.


Elbow and Shoulder Laboratory team members study the development and refinement of techniques to repair and reconstruct injured elbows and shoulders. Led by Shawn O'Driscoll, M.D., Ph.D., projects in the Elbow and Shoulder Lab include studying the biomechanics of prosthetic radial head (top of radius bone, just below elbow) replacement and the development of a coronoid (projecting part of the ulna bone) fracture classification system to help determine the best course of action to treat posteromedial rotatory instability (a common type of elbow instability).

Research advances that translate into new and better treatment options would improve outcomes for patients with elbow and shoulder injuries and decrease long-term health care costs.


Unmet needs in health care drive research at Mayo Clinic. One major need in modern medicine is preventing the neurodegeneration that is responsible for the development of Alzheimer's disease, dementia, cognitive impairment and related cognitive disorders. Led by Zvonimir Katusic, M.D., Ph.D., the research team in the Vascular Biology Laboratory hopes to help meet that need.

Dr. Katusic and his team focus their research efforts on the blood vessels of the brain, and their role in the pathogenesis of neurodegeneration (how and why the brain loses neurons, resulting in breakdown of neurological function).

Specifically they are looking for keys to cognitive disorders by studying endothelial dysfunction, microglia and the role of proteins in the protection of vascular function. They hope to expand treatment and prevention options in Alzheimer's disease and dementia.

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Tags: About, biomedical ethics, CAR-T, cardiology, cellular therapy, clinical trials, dialysis, Ian Lanza, Januario Castro, kidney disease, medical research, metabolism, neurology, orthopedic surgery, orthopedics, osteoporosis, Progress Updates, prosthesis, Rajiv Kumar, Richard Sharp, Rochester Epidemiology Project, Sanjay Misra, Shawn Driscoll, Suzette Bielinski, Veronique Roger, Zvonimir Katusic

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