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.

November 5, 2019

Research News Roundup–October 2019

By Elizabeth Zimmermann

If you were camping near the Boundary Waters, hiking the Grand Canyon, or snorkeling off the Florida Keys last month, you might have missed some of Mayo Clinic's research news.

The Mayo Clinic Research News Roundup includes brief summaries and links to research news releases from the past month. It also connects readers to related resources. Read on for more information from Mayo Clinic Research.

Mayo Clinic-led study involving 488 cardiac patients whose cases were followed for up to 12 years finds that microvascular endothelial dysfunction, a common early sign of cardiovascular disease, is associated with a greater than twofold risk of cancer.

The study, published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, finds that microvascular endothelial dysfunction may be a useful marker for predicting risk of solid-tumor cancer, in addition to its known ability to predict more advanced cardiovascular disease, says Amir Lerman, M.D., a Mayo Clinic cardiologist and the study's senior author.

New research from the Well Living Lab, a Delos and Mayo Clinic collaboration, shows that office areas with windows, which provide people with natural light and views of the outdoors, improve workers' cognitive performance and satisfaction with their office environment. Modern shading and glass tinting techniques can mitigate eyestrain, reducing discomfort from daylight glare.

These findings are published in the November volume of Building and Environment. The study was conducted by researchers from the fields of environmental, health and behavioral science.

In cell and mouse models, Mayo Clinic researchers and collaborators have identified a way to slow and reverse the process of uncontrolled internal scarring, called fibrosis.

This disease process has few effective therapies, no cure and can be fatal when it occurs in organs such as the liver (cirrhosis) or lungs (pulmonary fibrosis). The findings appear Wednesday, Oct. 30, in Science Translational Medicine.

Among other Mayo Clinic research, four studies were of particular interest - the news release describes these more fully:

  • Patients with microscopic colitis do not have reduced risk of developing colon polyps
  • Anti-tumor necrosis factor (TNF) therapy linked to preeclampsia in women with inflammatory bowel disease
  • Positive polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test results may not predict recurrence of common infection
  • Study proposes new method, protocol to study stomach function after bariatric surgery

The largest randomized trial in asymptomatic patients with smoldering multiple myeloma suggests that lenalidomide, a cancer drug, may delay the onset of bone and other myeloma-related organ damage.

Results of the study, which was conducted by the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group and funded by the National Cancer Institute, were published Friday, Oct. 25, in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Courtesy of The New England Journal of Medicine. This figure shows photos of four participants (top two rows) and corresponding reconstructions of their faces (bottom row) created from their research MRI scans.

Though identifying data typically are removed from medical image files before they are shared for research, a Mayo Clinic study finds that this may not be enough to protect patient privacy.

The study, described in a letter published in The New England Journal of Medicine, finds that it's possible to use commercial facial recognition software to identify people from brain MRI that includes imagery of the face, despite steps that researchers typically take to protect patient privacy. 

In a consensus report released Wednesday, Oct. 23, the National Academy of Medicine makes recommendations for system-level change needed to improve the professional well-being of clinicians, students and trainees across health care.

Lotte Dyrbye, M.D., co-director of Mayo Clinic's Program on Physician Well-Being, was on the committee that developed the report and presented its findings to Congress and the nation.

Clinician burnout has been identified as a major problem in the U.S., affecting 35%–54% of nurses and physicians, and 45%–60% of medical students and residents. Some research suggests that these numbers are reflected in all areas of health care (oral, pharmacy, etc.). Along with burnout comes a corresponding threat to organizations' abilities to provide high-quality patient care.

The new report, "Taking Action Against Clinician Burnout: A Systems Approach to Professional Well-Being," hopes to reduce these numbers, and states, "Taking action to mitigate burnout requires a bold vision for redesigning clinical systems — one which focuses on the activities that patients find important to their care, and which enables and empowers clinicians to provide high-quality care."

Chronic kidney disease, which afflicts an estimated 6.4% of U.S. adults 45 and older, is associated with an increased risk of heart attack and other adverse cardiovascular outcomes, according to new research from Mayo Clinic.

The retrospective review of 1,981 patients who were treated for chronic kidney disease at Mayo Clinic between 1997 and 2000 found that over a 10.2-year follow-up period, these patients had significantly elevated cardiac biomarkers, and were at increased risk of heart attack, congestive heart failure, stroke and other adverse cardiovascular events.

According to the study, which is published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, the results regarding heart attack were especially striking: Chronic kidney disease was associated with a 95% increased risk of heart attack during the follow-up period.

Frontotemporal lobar degeneration is the overarching term for a group of disorders that involve shrinkage of the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain.

Frontotemporal lobar degeneration is the overarching term for a group of disorders that involve shrinkage of the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain.

The National Institutes of Health has awarded a five-year, multi-investigator research grant expected to total more than $63 million to Mayo Clinic and the University of California, San Francisco, to advance treatments for frontotemporal lobar degeneration.

Frontotemporal lobar degeneration is the overarching term for a group of neurodegenerative disorders that primarily affect areas of the brain associated with personality, behavior, memory and language. These disorders are estimated to account for 10%–20% of dementia cases in the U.S.

Unlike Alzheimer's disease, which typically affects people over 65 and often progresses slowly, frontotemporal lobar degeneration frequently affects people in their 40s, 50s and 60s who are still working and raising families. It often leads to rapid cognitive and physical decline, and death, in less than 10 years. There are no effective treatments.

Although this release was mainly to provide reporters with some experts to contact during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it also offered a glimpse of the results of new research showing that young breast cancer patients may experience more advanced cancers.

Judy Boughey, M.D., a Mayo Clinic breast surgeon, recently conducted a study of more than 46,000 women ages 15–49. This study found that while adolescents and young women account for less than 2% of breast cancer patients, they tended to be diagnosed with more advanced breast cancer and more aggressive tumor biology, including triple-negative and HER2-positive breast cancers.

"Our study found that very young women, ages 15–29 years, experienced more advanced disease than women ages 30–39 years, so it's very important that these women take note of any changes in their breasts and discuss those changes with their physician," says Dr. Boughey.

Research into the pathology of vaping-associated lung injury is in its early stages, but a Mayo Clinic study published in The New England Journal of Medicine finds that lung injuries from vaping most likely are caused by direct toxicity or tissue damage from noxious chemical fumes.

Researchers reviewed lung biopsies from 17 patients, all of whom had vaped and were suspected to have vaping-associated lung injury. The study was the first to examine a group of biopsies from patients with lung injury due to vaping. Researchers found no evidence of tissue injury caused by accumulation of lipids — fatty substances such as mineral oils — which has been suspected as a possible cause of the lung injuries associated with vaping.

Brandon Larsen, M.D., Ph.D., a surgical pathologist at Mayo Clinic Arizona, and a national expert in lung pathology, discusses the vaping-associated lung injury study.


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Tags: Amir Lerman, artificial intelligence, basic science, Brandon Larsen, breast cancer, cardiology, cardiovascular disease, clinical trials, colitis, colon polyp, dementia, fibrosis, Findings, gastroenterology, IBD, inflammatory bowel disease, Judy Boughey, kidney disease, liver disease, Lotte Dyrbye, Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, Mayo Clinic Proceedings, myeloma, neurology, News, pathology, patient safety, physician burnout, Research News Roundup, vaping, Well Living Lab

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