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.

February 3, 2020

Merging minds to accelerate research discovery

By Advancing the Science contributor

Mayo Clinic and Arizona State University formed the Mayo Clinic and Arizona State University Alliance for Health Care in 2010 to merge minds and accelerate research discoveries, improve patient care through innovation and transform medical education to enhance health outcomes. Highlights of two of the joint research efforts follow.

Identifying a blood-based biomarker for early-stage Parkinson’s disease

Charles Adler, M.D., Ph.D.

Researchers know that patients with Parkinson’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders have abnormal accumulations of different proteins in the brain. In Parkinson’s disease this is mainly the protein alpha synuclein. There also may be small soluble aggregates of these proteins that result in a distinct protein variant biomarker profile.

Michael Sierks, Ph.D.

The Mayo-ASU team plans to analyze blood samples from early and advanced Parkinson’s patients to see if the protein patterns change as the disease progresses. There also are plans to study individuals who may be at risk for developing Parkinson’s disease to determine if the protein patterns could predict who will develop the disease. The team hopes to obtain biological samples from individuals who have donated their bodies to science and were found upon autopsy to have indicators that they may have developed Parkinson’s if they had lived longer.

These samples will help researchers identify the precise abnormal form of synuclein that indicates early-stage Parkinson’s disease so physicians potentially can begin testing for it.

Dr. Sierks has had success identifying biomarkers that have been used to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease as early as five to 10 years before an initial diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment. He believes the same is possible for Parkinson’s.

Fighting disease-causing bacteria in wounds

Robin Patel, M.D.

Researchers have identified that a type of clay can kill bacteria, including many drug-resistant pathogens, and diminish populations of bacterial biofilms that make the bacteria relatively resistant to antibiotics. These biofilms appear in two-thirds of infections seen by health care providers.

Lynda Williams, Ph.D.

Under laboratory conditions, one concentration of Oregon blue clay suspension killed bacteria including Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus and strains such as carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

These results support efforts to design new antibacterial drugs using natural clays.

This article was originally published in Mayo Clinic's Alumni Magazine, Issue 3, 2019.

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Tags: About, Alzheimer's disease, Arizona State University, basic science, biomarkers, Charles Adler, infectious disease, Michael Sierks, Parkinson's disease, People, Robin Patel

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