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.

October 2, 2020

Mayo Clinic Research in the news — 10/2/2020

By Elizabeth Zimmermann
graphic art newspaper laptop

This week Mayo Clinic Research and researchers have been noted in stories on older women's sexuality, the opioid crisis, some health benefits of coffee, using Alexa for COVID-19, and a range of other topics. Read on for links and brief excerpts from news outlets around the country.

Laughter May Be Effective Medicine for These Trying Times (New York Times, 10/1/2020)

Doctors, nurses and therapists have a prescription for helping all of us to get through these difficult times: Try a little laughter.

… Increasingly humor is being integrated into mainstream medical practice with a similar goal, said Dr. Kari Phillips, a resident physician at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

Dr. Phillips observed over a hundred clinical encounters and discovered that humor typically surfaces about twice during a half-hour doctor visit. It is initiated in equal measure by doctors and patients, often to break the ice between them or to help to soften the impact of a difficult medical conversation.

“We found that introducing humor results in better patient satisfaction and empowerment, and it helps people feel more warmth in their connection with the doctor,” she said. …

The Apple Watch heart monitor sends too many people to the doctor (The Verge, 10/1/2020)

Only a handful of people the watch flagged actually had a heart problem

The heart monitoring feature on the Apple Watch may lead to unnecessary health care visits, according to a new study published this week. Only around 10 percent of people who saw a doctor at the Mayo Clinic after noticing an abnormal pulse reading on their watch were eventually diagnosed with a cardiac condition.

The finding shows that at-home health monitoring devices can lead to over-utilization of the health care system, said study author Heather Heaton, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, in an email to The Verge. That may be expensive for patients and for the system as a whole, and it may take up doctor and patient time unnecessarily.

A nose for COVID-19: USF researchers develop rapid test technology with virus-sniffing biosensor (83 degrees, 10/1/2020)

Researchers worldwide have kept their eyes peeled and ears to the ground in the search for science-based solutions to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus -- but few have considered the question: What does the nose know?

… The Bull Nose team includes USF Engineering Professor Stephen Saddow, Associate Professor Arash Takshi, and Ph.D. student Tiffany Miller, USF Muma College of Business Professor Matthew Mullarkey, breath specialists based in Germany and the Netherlands, Mayo Clinic researchers in Jacksonville, Florida, and detection dog trainers from Valhall K-9 International.

Gastroenterologists Hope to Change the Course of Disease in the Future (HCP Live, 10/1/2020)

If gastroenterologists are able to predict at diagnosis the course of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) it could drive better treatment decisions. …

In an interview with HCPLive, Mark Topazian, MD, of the Mayo Clinic and the World Gastroenterology Organization (WGO), said he sees signs that treatments and screening methods can improve in the next 10 years.

“Traditionally in low income places, either screening hasn't been feasible or available or we just don't know how to screen for some of these cancers no matter what the resource level is,” Topazian said. “And that’s all changing very rapidly.”…

Opioid crisis continues during the pandemic (KIMT TV, 9/29/2020)

The opioid crisis has not subsided during the pandemic. Actually, the COVID-19 pandemic is creating new challenges for people suffering from addiction.

KIMT News 3 spoke to Dr. Halena Gazelka, Mayo Clinic anesthesiologist specializing in pain management and chair of the Mayo Clinic Opioid Stewardship Program, regarding the current challenges of fighting the opioid crisis.

Drinking up to 4 cups of coffee a day may improve outcomes for colon cancer patients, even if it's decaf (Insider, 9/28/2020)

… Drinking more coffee, up to four cups a day, was linked to better outcomes in colon cancer patients, according to a study published September 17 in JAMA Oncology

Researchers from multiple medical institutions, including the Mayo Clinic and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, looked at 1,171 colon cancer patients in an observational study as part of a clinical trial.

Mayo's Convalescent Plasma Study Sparks Debate (MedPage Today, 9/29/2020)

The largest study to date on convalescent plasma provides robust evidence that transfusion is safe in hospitalized patients with COVID-19 -- except it still hasn't been published in a peer-reviewed journal. Michael Joyner, MD, principal investigator for the Expanded Access Program at Mayo Clinic and lead author on the manuscript, speaks with MedPage Today's Editor-in-Chief Marty Makary, MD, MPH, of Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, about the findings and the surrounding context.

New Analysis of the Tumor Microenvironment Reveals 3 Subtypes in Large B-Cell Lymphoma of the Brain (Cancer Therapy Advisor, 9/28/2020)

In August 2020, scientists at the Cancer Research Institute of the University of Montpelier in France published a comprehensive study of the tumor microenvironment of primary central nervous system diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (PCNSL) on the preprint server bioRxiv. The study, which has not yet undergone peer review, shows that the microenvironment — or benign immune cells in the tumor — of PCNSL can be split into 3 subgroups: immune rich, immune poor, and immune intermediate. The findings may open the door to new options for treatment.

“What’s interesting about this study is that it focuses on the immune environment and shows that you have these immune rich vs immune poor and then something in between as 3 kind of types of primary CNS lymphomas,” said Stephen Ansell, MD, PhD, hematology researcher who specializes in B-cell malignancies at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

FAQ: What you need to know about masks and covid-19 (Washington Post, 9/30/2020)

At this stage in the novel coronavirus pandemic, masks are a fact of life. A majority of states and businesses have mask mandates, and mounting scientific evidence supports wearing them. …

“If the mask is not fitted well and there are large gaps around your nose or to the side of your cheeks or under your chin, then you’ve defeated the purpose,” says Gregory Poland, director of the Mayo Clinic’s Vaccine Research Group. …

Experts Raise Questions Over ‘Scary’ Covid Heart Studies (UNDARK, 9/28/2020)

Some scientists say recent research on heart inflammation, even in asymptomatic Covid-19 patients, is being overblown.

… Michael Ackerman, a genetic cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic who has no professional ties to any of the college sports conferences, took issue with the “spookiness” that was being assigned to myocarditis. “If this is the reason why a conference is shutting down a sport,” he said, “I call nonsense on that.” …

Several other studies that haven’t received the same amount of attention provide another reason for restraint, said Joseph Maleszewski, a cardiac pathologist at the Mayo Clinic. The studies look at autopsies of people who died from Covid-19. And while autopsy research is still in its infancy, so far, the rate of myocarditis in the autopsies is lower than in the cardiac MRIs. Maleszewski said he worries about hasty conclusions on Covid’s effects on the heart: …

Alexa, do I have COVID-19? (Nature, 9/30/2020)

Researchers are exploring ways to use people’s voices to diagnose coronavirus infections, dementia, depression and much more.

… There might even be vocal biomarkers for conditions that seem to have nothing to do with speech. In one study from 2018, scientists analysing speech samples from 101 people who were scheduled to undergo coronary angiograms discovered that certain vocal frequency patterns were associated with more severe coronary artery disease5.

It’s not clear what explains these differences. “We struggle with the mechanism because it’s not obvious,” says Amir Lerman, a cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, who led the research. Coronary artery disease could theoretically change the voice by reducing blood flow, he says. But it’s also possible that it’s not the disease itself that causes the vocal changes, but other associated risk factors, such as stress or depression.

It's a myth that women don't want sex as they age, study finds (KITV, 9/28/2020)

It's a myth that women lose interest in sex as they enter midlife and beyond, according to new research that followed over 3,200 women for approximately 15 years.

…"That's actually quite refreshing, that there were a quarter of women for whom sex remains not just on the radar but highly important," said Dr. Stephanie Faubion, medical director for NAMS, who was not involved in the study. …

"Sex is going to look different," said Faubion, who is the director of the Mayo Clinic Center for Women's Health.

"It's not going to look the same at 40 as it does at 20; it's not going to look the same at 60 as it does at 40 and it's not going to look the same as at 80, as it did at 60," she said. "There may be some modifications that we have to do, but people in general who are healthy and in good relationships remain sexual." …

Experts: Do Not Misuse Alcohol During Pandemic (VOA Learning English, 9/28/2020)

… Victor Karpyak is a doctor and expert on drug addiction at the Mayo Clinic in the U.S. state of Minnesota. He says people have long turned to alcohol to reduce stress and forget about their problems. But he warns about overusing alcohol in difficult times. This, he says, can lead to bad results.

His comments appear on the Mayo Clinic’s website.

Doctor Karpyak noted that during the pandemic, light alcohol use can easily become problematic. He said that if you have three or four drinks today and then three or four more tomorrow, you can quickly hit the limit of what is considered moderate. …

Hot Flash Treatment News: Four Takeaways From NAMS 2020 (Everyday Health, 9/28/2020)

The North American Menopause Society (NAMS) 2020 Conference starts September 30, and four different panels will emphasize the latest research on therapy for hot flashes and night sweats. …

“It is important to develop new therapies for hot flashes, because we know that one size does not fit all for any type of therapy. We have used the same hormonal therapies for the last several decades and are developing an understanding that not all estrogens are alike, and different formulations and routes of administration are associated with different risk/benefit profiles. Developing new treatments will expand the choices available to women for management of what can be long-lasting and very bothersome symptoms for some women,” says Stephanie S. Faubion, MD, MBA, the medical director of NAMS and the Penny and Bill George director at the Center for Women's Health at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and Jacksonville, Florida. …

Wearing a mask but not covering your nose? You’re doing it all wrong (Toronto Star, 9/26/2020)

Dr. Richard B. Kennedy can’t help but shake his head when he sees people wearing masks with their noses uncovered.

Not only does it fly in the face of common sense, but it’s even more concerning in light of recent research showing COVID-19 has an easier time infecting people through the nasal passage than the mouth.

“My first thought is, ‘Oh come on, be smarter than that,’” said Kennedy, a Minnesota-based professor of medicine at Mayo Clinic. …

AI tool to predict and diagnose heart failure (Mirage, 9/29/2020)

… A research programme to use AI and machine learning to predict and detect heart failure, which can be difficult to diagnose and is often unrecognized, is being launched by a joint UK-US scientific team.

The programme, a collaboration between pioneering UK health-tech company Ultromics and Mayo Clinic in the US, will apply AI to forecasting heart failure. …

Young people are at risk of severe Covid-19 illness (NBC News, 9/28/2020)

The CDC finds that coronavirus infections are now highest among young adults ages 20 to 29, who accounted for more than 20 percent of all confirmed cases from June to August.

… Dr. Gregory Poland, an infectious diseases expert at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, recommended that people of all ages with uncontrolled diseases like hypertension and diabetes work with their physicians to make sure the conditions are properly treated and that those who are obese should strive for healthier weights.

"If you have these risk factors, it's really important that you get them under control," Poland said. "The better controlled they are, the lower your susceptibility and risk." …

News Scan for Sep 28, 2020 (CIDRAP, 9/28/2020)

Southern Hemisphere flu vaccine strains; New antibiotic for hospital pneumonia; Durable fecal transplant effectiveness; CDC ends Cyclospora probe

… Fecal transplant provides long-term C diff protection despite exposures

Mayo Clinic researchers report that a fecal microbiota transplant (FMT) was 78% effective at preventing Clostridioides difficile infection (CDI) recurrence at 1 year despite subsequent exposure to the toxoid in 460 FMT patients. …


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Tags: About, Amir Lerman, artificial intelligence, B-cell disorders, biomarkers, C. diff, cancer, cardiology, colon cancer, COVID-19, diabetes, dogs, emergency medicine, fecal transplant, Findings, Gregory Poland, Halena Gazelka, heart failure, Heather Heaton, hematology, hypertension, immune system, inflammatory bowel disease, influenza, integrative medicine, Joseph Maleszewski, Kari Phillips, lymphoma, Mark Topazian, menopause, Michael Ackerman, Michael Joyner, microbiome, MRI, News, News of the Week, oncology, opioids, pain management, pathology, patient experience, patient reported outcomes, People, plasma, Richard Kennedy, Stephanie Faubion, Stephen Ansell, substance abuse disorder, Tanios Bekaii-Saab, vaccines, Victor Karpyak, women's health

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