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.

August 14, 2020

Mayo Clinic Research in the news 8/14/2020

By Elizabeth Zimmermann

While much of the news around health care research is COVID-19 related, Mayo Clinic researchers are hard at work across the entire spectrum of health and health care delivery. Our multidisciplinary research teams are seeking ways to improve outcomes, lower costs and enhance the experience of patients, providers and caregivers. Read on for snippets of recent coverage by news media.

COVID-19 (a selection):

STAT: Large study suggests convalescent plasma can help treat Covid-19, but experts have doubts


Infusing hospitalized Covid-19 patients with blood plasma from people who recovered from the disease appeared to show a benefit in a nationwide study, but the study’s lack of a placebo group left several experts struggling to interpret the data.

The study, which enrolled more than 35,000 patients, found that quickly administering so-called convalescent plasma had a marked effect on mortality for patients with severe cases of Covid-19. Those who received transfusions within three days of diagnosis had a seven-day death rate of 8.7%, while patients who got plasma after four or more days had a mortality rate of 11.9%. The difference met the standard for statistical significance.

But without a placebo group for comparison, it’s unclear just how valuable the treatment might be. The study, run by the Mayo Clinic and sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, was meant to broaden access to convalescent plasma. It was part of what is known as an “expanded access program,” not designed to definitively test how well the treatment works but to get it to patients while collecting data.

Read more.

KTTC TV: Being up-to-date on immunizations may reduce risk of getting COVID-19, Mayo doctor says


Immune training is not a new concept. For example, the BCG vaccine is used to prevent tuberculosis.

"It is known to prevent a variety of other diseases other than tuberculosis," said Dr. Andrew Badley, Mayo Clinic COVID Research Taskforce Chair. "So it prevents you from acquiring malaria, possibly yellow fever, and other diseases."

Even the influenza vaccine has been known to be beneficial beyond avoiding the seasonal bug.

"And so when we came into the COVID era, we asked the question 'what is the effect of regularly scheduled vaccines on your chance of developing COVID disease?'" Badley said. "And what we discovered is there's a large number of vaccines, measles vaccine, flu vaccine, pneumococcal vaccine and a few others that if you take those vaccines, your risk of acquiring COVID is less than if you don't take those vaccines."

Badley said there are no clinical trials proving this yet, but there are studies being done.

Read more.

Biospace: Large Study Suggests Convalescent Antibodies May Help Treat COVID-19


There two different types of antibodies being studied in COVID-19. … The other type is called convalescent antibodies, which are found in the blood plasma from people who recovered from COVID-19. The results from a three-month study in more than 35,000 patients were published yesterday on a preprint server, which means they have not yet been peer-reviewed. The study was conducted by the Mayo Clinic, Cooper University Health Care, Michigan State University and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health at sites across the country.

Read more.

AP: America’s obesity epidemic threatens effectiveness of any COVID-19 vaccine


… "Obesity is a serious global problem, and the suboptimal vaccine-induced immune responses observed in the obese population cannot be ignored," pleaded researchers from the Mayo Clinic's Vaccine Research Group in a 2015 study published in the journal Vaccine.

Read article.

Gallup: How One Infectious Disease Expert Leads During the Pandemic


Mayo Clinic's mission is to "inspire hope and contribute to health and wellbeing by providing the best care to every patient through integrated clinical practice, education and research."

James Lowenstein is the Division Director of Gastrointestinology and Infectious Disease at Mayo Clinic Laboratories -- a commercial entity of Mayo Clinic.

Since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, Lowenstein and his team of 26 Clinical Specialty Representatives and three Regional Directors of Sales have been focused on providing Mayo's COVID-19 testing resources and "contributing to health and wellbeing by providing the best care to every patient." Over 20 million people worldwide have now been diagnosed with COVID-19. Mayo Clinic Lab Vice President of Sales John Heywood shares with Gallup, "The mission of Mayo has never been more critical; our leadership team was poised and ready to meet this challenge." As part of Heywood's direct leadership team, Lowenstein discusses their reaction to that challenge, his own leadership approach and how his values have guided his decisions.

Lowenstein is interviewed by Gallup's Jillian Anderson, who has partnered with Heywood and his team for several years on the design and delivery of their leadership development journey, focusing on building strengths-based, engagement-oriented and mission-centric leadership. Neither of them expected a devastating pandemic, but the work they did prepared Lowenstein's team to move forward together, with speed and courage -- and the indomitable mission of Mayo Clinic guiding the way.

Read interview.

Other health concerns:

Patient Engagement HIT: Medical Education About Health Disparities Needs Improvement


Curricula reviewing health disparities and how to address them may leave much to be desired, with new data showing coursework about health disparities having little impact on medical students, according to a new report.

The study, published by the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, the University of Alabama School of Medicine, and the American College of Physicians, specifically found that the presence of health disparities curricula does not affect student perceptions about the overall quality of their medical education.

Read more.

The Herald-Zeitung: New Braunfels Fire Department marks life-saving milestone

The department began carrying O-positive blood to assist patients this month last year


… Most of the research and experience regarding transfusing whole blood into a trauma victim came from the military. 

During the Vietnam War era, service members had blood transfusion utilizing whole blood. However, in the past couple of decades, various blood components were attempted, such as separating some of the red blood cells.

When service members began deploying for the U.S. led war campaigns Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, whole blood was shipped to them from the U.S. 

Additionally, service members get screened and checked for their blood type and tested for communal diseases ahead of time. Between OIF and OEF, more than 10,000 units of blood were transfused.

For those wanting to donate, South Texas Blood and Tissue Center has a program that helps replenish blood used in emergencies called Brothers in Arms.

The program is based on research done by the U.S. Army and the Mayo Clinic. The studies found that type O donations from men with lower levels of certain types of antibodies can be used for whole blood transfusions in patients of any blood type. (related study)

Blood from men in the Brothers in Arms initiative can be received by almost any patient, critical in emergencies when there is no time to test a patient’s blood type.

Read more.

General Surgery News: Three Nomograms Reviewed in Study (breast cancer)


Several published nomograms can help predict which patients with clinically node-positive breast cancer will convert to pathologically node-negative disease after neoadjuvant chemotherapy. New research shows that three models perform well and could be used in surgical decision making regarding staging the axilla.

“When patients who undergo NAC [neoadjuvant chemotherapy] are node-negative, they undergo sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB), and when they are clinically node-positive, they undergo axillary dissection. But if these clinically node-positive patients convert to node-negative, SLNB is acceptable,” said John Davis Jr., MD, a breast surgical oncology fellow at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

Read more.

AANEM: Dr. Rubin Receives Jun Kimura Outstanding Educator Award


The American Association of Neuromuscular & Electrodiagnostic Medicine (AANEM) is honoring Devon I. Rubin, MD, with the Jun Kimura Outstanding Educator Award. This award honors AANEM members for their significant contributions related to NM and EDX education.

Read more about Dr. Rubin and the award.

Targeted Oncology: Enzastaurin and a Novel Biomarker Spark Optimism for All Risk Levels of DLBCL


In an interview with Targeted Oncology, Grzegorz S. Nowakowski, MD, associate professor of Medicine and associate professor of Oncology at the Mayo Clinic, discussed the promise of the enzastaurin in the diffuse large B-cell lymphoma treatment landscape and the ongoing phase 3 ENGINE study (NCT03263026).

Read the interview.

Huron Daily Tribune: Black people get fewer heart valve replacements, but inequity gap is narrowing


Dr. Mohamad Adnan Alkhouli, who was not involved in the research, said past studies had found racial differences in aortic valve replacement rates but didn't look specifically at people with confirmed cases of severe stenosis.

"This study is very important because for the first time it documents a clear racial disparity among those who are already diagnosed. It gets to the bottom of the disparity so we can start to fix it," said Alkhouli, a cardiologist and professor at Mayo Clinic School of Medicine in Rochester, Minnesota.

He called for heart and medical organizations "to get together and come up with a final plan for action," and for future studies to address why the disparities exist.

Read story.

Knowable Magazine: Seeking a better test for Alzheimer’s

New blood assays and brain scans are among the biomarkers revolutionizing clinical trials and changing the way researchers think of the disease. They may soon change the way patients are treated as well.


“About a third of the people who were enrolled in these clinical trials for ‘Alzheimer’s disease’ actually turned out not to have Alzheimer’s disease,” says Clifford Jack, a brain imaging researcher at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. “That’s a really huge problem.”

Read article.

Live Trading News: Finding Happiness in Hard Times


The American Psychiatric Association says that more than 33% of Americans admit the coronavirus chaos is having an effect on their mental health. While this may not seem like the time for fun and laughter, experts say that putting a little Joy in your life can help matters during dark times. …

Find your funny bone. The Mayo Clinic reports that laughter activates and relieves your stress response, stimulates your heart, lungs, and muscles, and soothes tension. In the long term, laughter may also stimulate your immune system by quelling the negative thoughts that impair it. Identify a few things each day that warrant a giggle or even a full-throated laugh. Watch funny videos or TV shows, instead of the news. …

Read the article.

Nature Reviews Drug Discovery: Brain energy rescue: an emerging therapeutic concept for neurodegenerative disorders of ageing

July 2020

This Review discusses the status and prospects of therapeutic strategies for countering neurodegenerative disorders of ageing by improving, preserving or rescuing brain energetics. The approaches described include restoring oxidative phosphorylation and glycolysis, increasing insulin sensitivity, correcting mitochondrial dysfunction, ketone-based interventions, acting via hormones that modulate cerebral energetics, RNA therapeutics and complementary multimodal lifestyle changes.

Submitted by Eugenia Trushina, Ph.D., a neurology researcher at Mayo Clinic, and study co-author.


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Tags: About, aging, Andrew Badley, antibodies, breast cancer, chemotherapy, Clifford Jack Jr., clinical research, clinical trials, COVID-19, Devon Rubin, Eugenia Trushina, Grzegorz Nowakowski, health disparities, immunization, infectious disease, James Lowenstein, John Davis Jr., Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science, Mayo Clinic Laboratories, Mohamad Alkhouli, National Institutes of Health, News, News of the Week, obesity, People, plasma, research education, transfusion, vaccines

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