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 18, 2019

10 scientific conversation starters for New Year’s Eve

By Caitlin Doran

Never know what to say at New Year’s Eve parties? The Advancing the Science blog is here to help with this top-10 recap of our most popular medical research stories from 2019.

Everyone loves talking about their health. So keep this list queued up on your phone for quick reference and you’ll never run out of interesting scientific anecdotes. 

#1 Buh-bye, breast cancer

Keith Knutson, Ph.D.

Can breast cancer be prevented with a vaccine? Mayo Clinic immunology researcher Keith Knutson, Ph.D, thinks so. And he thinks it will happen during his lifetime. He also thinks it will be possible to prevent breast cancer from recurring by stimulating the immune system.

Read more.


#2 Zooming in on colon polyps

colonoscopy scope camera view

Gastroenterologists agree that removing a colorectal polyp is an important step in preventing colon cancer. But removing them can be tricky if they’re large and flat. A new minimally invasive approach, called endoscopic mucosal resection, makes it possible to remove large polyps without surgery.

Read more.


#3 The sky’s the limit

Jared Ausnehmer

In the first-ever clinical trial of its kind, Jared Ausnehmer had stem cells from his own bone marrow injected into his heart to treat hypoplastic left heart syndrome. The therapy surpassed all expectations. Two months later, he was cleared to return to normal life and his favorite sport, basketball. 

Read more.


#4 Hospice research aims to understand process of dying, help loved ones with end-of-life care

Man sits with his elderly father's head on his shoulder

Death, ultimately, is inevitable. But for patients at Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato’s Hospice Program, the process of dying is becoming more bearable for themselves and their families as a result of research studies aimed at understanding more.

"Even though it's the end of life, it's incredibly important for patients to have closure and resolution, and feel good about their life's story and what they're leaving with other people," says Greg Kutcher, M.D. "We need to better understand how to do that."

Read more.


#5 Chemo first for better outcomes in bile duct cancer

a medical illustration of bile duct cancer

Oncology patients usually receive chemotherapy along with surgery to treat bile duct cancer. However, recently Mayo Clinic researchers found that patients who receive chemotherapy before surgery to remove their cancer were more likely to live longer than patients who received chemotherapy after surgery.

Read more.


#6 Researchers look at possible link between low vitamin B12 and Parkinson’s symptoms

stock photo of elderly woman with intergenerational family members around her

Low vitamin B12 levels can worsen some symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. While it’s not clear why, there may be a relationship between B12 and a neurochemical that’s believed to be key to cognition and postural control.

Read more.


#7 McArdle’s sign, long overlooked, is an indicator of multiple sclerosis

Dr. Weinshenker works with a patient to measure finger strength

McArdle's sign is a distinctive muscle weakness that affects patients with spinal cord disease and researchers are looking at it as a possible indicator of multiple sclerosis. The namesake of the "sign," M.J. McArdle, was a professor of neurology in London, and one of his patients with advanced multiple sclerosis needed to extend his neck and tip his head back to maintain a steady gait.

Read more.


#8 Why doctors might need to go back to 6th grade

stock photo of nurse meeting with elderly woman and her grandson

When patients are feeling tired and sick, it can be difficult to understand discharge instructions, particularly when they’re written in complicated medical language. Mayo researchers are working to change that by studying ways to improve readability and comprehension through the use of simpler language and other teaching tools.

Read more.


#9 Business innovation with an eye on improving vision

medical illustration of macular degeneration

If the eyes are the window to the world, Timothy Olsen, M.D. is building high performance window frames. The opthalmologist has set his sights on developing and bringing to market a first-of-its-kind implantable device for treating age-related macular degeneration.

Read more.


#10 Bone marrow stem cells stall out in chronic lymphocytic leukemia

traffic stopped in snow storm

For patients who have chronic lymphocytic leukemia, fighting off a serious infection can be difficult and often is just not possible. And a team of Mayo researchers is starting to find out why. They hope that by understanding how bone marrow function is impaired in chronic lymphocytic leukemia patients, they can develop unique strategies to boost bone marrow function or find alternate treatments that do not block or modify marrow function.

Read more.


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Tags: age-related macular degeneration, bile duct cancer, breast cancer, cholangiocarcinoma, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, colon polyp, colorectal cancer, end of life care, gastroenterology, Greg Kutcher, hospice, hypoplastic left heart syndrome, Keith Knutson, News, oncology, Parkinson's disease, Timothy Olsen, vitamin B-12

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