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January 4, 2021

Research News Roundup – Q4 2020

By Elizabeth Zimmermann
graphic art of a person whispering to someone else, 'pssst...!'

The year 2020 was a time during which medical and many other researchers around the world focused much of their attention and effort on a single topic – the SARS-CoV-2 virus and related COVID-19 viral infection. However, other research continued, findings were published, and evidence built for improvements in health outcomes and delivery of health care. This post recaps Mayo Clinic news releases from the last three months of 2020 that highlighted some of these findings. And we snuck in one COVID-19 news release because it was just too good to pass up!


Mayo Clinic Model of Care and Research leads to favorable outcomes for patients with COVID-19

Mayo Clinic in Florida’s Division of Nuclear Medicine evolving to meet growing needs

(Dec. 2) Since 2018, the Division of Nuclear Medicine at Mayo Clinic in Florida has undergone a dramatic evolution, adding to its footprint, equipment and staff. …

Research in the Division of Nuclear Medicine is focused on patient outcomes, conducted with the hope that new therapies and capabilities can move to the clinical practice quickly. Research endeavors involve PET/MRI, dynamic imaging, multiple time point imaging, Oncology, Neurology, novel radiotracer development for oncologic, neurosciences and cardiologic research, and small-animal imaging with the goal of translating these new protocols to humans. For instance, two new PET radiopharmaceuticals for investigational clinical research use at Mayo Clinic in Florida have been approved by the FDA in the past year, allowing a first-in-human trial Mayo Clinic, as well as nationwide multisite clinical trial studies for innovative molecular imaging and precision therapy research.


Statins can save lives, are they being used?

(Dec. 1) People who have coronary artery disease, stroke or peripheral artery disease often are prescribed a statin, a cholesterol-lowering drug that reduces the risk of heart attack or stroke.

In a recent publication in JAMA Network Open, Mayo Clinic researchers identify trends in statin use across the U.S. among people with these diseases, as well as among those who already had a stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA). Their data indicate that only about 60% of patients are getting the recommended therapy.


Study finds antibiotics before age 2 associated with childhood health issues

(Nov. 16) n a retrospective case study, Mayo Clinic researchers have found that antibiotics administered to children younger than 2 are associated with several ongoing illnesses or conditions, ranging from allergies to obesity. The findings appear in Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

Using health record data from the Rochester Epidemiology Project, a population-based research collaboration in Minnesota and Wisconsin, researchers analyzed data from over 14,500 children. About 70% of the children had received at least one treatment with antibiotics for illness before age 2. Children receiving multiple antibiotic treatments were more likely to have multiple illnesses or conditions later in childhood.


Cellular pathway of genetic heart disease similar to neurodegenerative disease

(Nov. 13) Research on a genetic heart disease has uncovered a new and unexpected mechanism for heart failure. This landmark discovery found a correlation between the clumping of RNA-binding proteins ― long linked to neurodegenerative disease ― and the aggregates of protein found in the heart tissue of patients with RBM20 dilated cardiomyopathy.

Dilated cardiomyopathy is a disease of the heart muscle that makes it harder for the heart to pump blood to the rest of the body. A decade ago, Timothy Olson, M.D., a pediatric cardiologist at Mayo Clinic, traced the disease to a genetic mutation in a gene called RBM20. Unlike most heart disease, this form of cardiomyopathy can affect patients as early as young adulthood, and they are at particularly high risk for sudden cardiac death.

For the past decade, heart failure in RBM20 cardiomyopathy was attributed to abnormalities in the splicing of genes for proteins that help the heart contract. However, the new discovery finds another way that mutant RBM20 damages heart muscle cells: through accumulation of pathological ribonucleoprotein granules, affecting everything in the cells and leading to a new form of disease.


Protein in blood may predict prognosis, recovery from stroke

(Nov. 11) Researchers at Mayo Clinic in Florida and collaborators have found that a biomarker in the blood may determine the extent of brain injury from different types of strokes and predict prognosis in these patients. Their findings are reported in Science Translational Medicine.


Mayo Clinic study finds 1 in 8 patients with cancer harbor inherited genetic mutations

(Nov. 2) Genetic testing can uncover inherited genetic mutations, and could individualize cancer therapies, improve survival, manage cancer in loved ones and push the boundaries of precision medicine.

In a new study published in JAMA Oncology, scientists with Mayo Clinic's Center for Individualized Medicine conducted genetic testing in more than 3,000 patients who were diagnosed with cancer at Mayo Clinic Cancer Center locations in Arizona, Florida and Minnesota. In all, the scientists found that 1 in 8 patients with cancer had an inherited cancer-related gene mutation. This mutation would not have been detected in half of these patients using a standard guideline-based approach.


Mayo Clinic, University of Minnesota Rochester announce Mayo Clinic Invest In Success Scholars program

(Oct. 29) Mayo Clinic and the University of Minnesota Rochester announce the launch of the Mayo Clinic Invest In Success Scholars program. This program aims to increase learning opportunities for students seeking a career in health care.  …

The Mayo Clinic Invest In Success Scholars program provides annual four-year scholarships to a recruited cohort of students who demonstrate financial need. These scholarships support these students' journeys toward health science degrees and senior capstone experiences that equip them to address the rapidly evolving world of health care.


Opioid epidemic leads to more, younger people having heart valve operations

(Oct. 28)  The opioid epidemic in the U.S. is becoming a bigger problem medically, socially and financially, and the COVID-19 pandemic has made it worse, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

Heart surgeons have seen a disturbing trend over the past decade: more and younger patients with infective endocarditis requiring heart surgery. Infective endocarditis is an infection caused by bacteria that get into the bloodstream and settle in the heart lining or a heart valve.  IV drug use can introduce aggressive bacteria that can quickly and severely injure heart valves.

Juan Crestanello, M.D., a Mayo Clinic cardiovascular surgeon, has insights into this trend. Dr. Crestanello is senior author on a multicenter study that looked at nearly 35,000 valve operations for infective endocarditis from 2011 to 2018.


Mayo Clinic, Google launch AI initiative for radiation therapy

(Oct. 28) Mayo Clinic and Google Health announce a joint initiative focusing on research into applying artificial intelligence (AI) to radiation therapy planning, a critical component of cancer care. Radiation therapy experts from Mayo Clinic, including radiation oncologists, medical physicists, dosimetrists and service design, will collaborate with Google Health’s experts in applying AI to medical imaging.

In this first stage of the initiative, Mayo Clinic and Google Health teams will use de-identified data to develop and validate an algorithm to automate contouring of healthy tissue and organs from tumors, and develop adaptive dosage and treatment plans for patients undergoing radiation therapy for cancers in the head and neck area. The goal of the IRB-approved project is to develop an algorithm that will improve quality of radiation plans and patient outcomes while reducing treatment planning times and improving the efficiency of radiotherapy practice.


Mayo Clinic contributes to diagnostic, therapeutic advance for rare neurodegenerative disorder

(Oct. 21) Mayo Clinic researchers, along with national and global collaborators, have developed a potential test for Machado-Joseph disease, or spinocerebellar ataxia type 3 (SCA3) ― a disease that has no cure. They also have clarified the role of a gene target associated with the disease.

The inherited disease is linked to a mutation in the ATXN3 gene. This mutation, which affects the central nervous system, appears between the ages of 40 and 70, and is characterized by an unsteady gait, loss of muscle control, and decline of motor and sensory nerves. Symptoms may resemble those of Parkinson's disease or multiple sclerosis. The researchers present their findings in Science Translational Medicine.


Mayo Clinic receives $22.1 million gift from The Centene Charitable Foundation for pancreatic cancer research

(Oct. 16) A generous $22.1 million gift from The Centene Charitable Foundation will support Mayo Clinic's research into pancreatic cancer. This research will focus on patient-centered solutions using artificial intelligence and advanced diagnostics for early detection. …

A research team led by Shounak Majumder, M.D., a Mayo Clinic gastroenterologist and pancreatologist, and Gloria Petersen, Ph.D., a Mayo Clinic scientist, will develop an early detection strategy for pancreatic cancer through several new approaches. They seek to bring the strategy to the clinic in five years. Dr. Petersen is the Purvis and Roberta Tabor Professor.


Mayo Clinic and Safe Health Systems launch new health and connected diagnostics platform

(Oct. 12) Mayo Clinic and Safe Health Group, Inc. announced the formation of Safe Health Systems, Inc., a venture focused on reducing the cost of low-complexity care and commodity diagnostics at a mass scale. Through a proprietary technology platform, SAFE, Safe Health Systems intends to improve access to efficient, affordable treatment for common medical conditions.

This venture is part of the Mayo Clinic Platform, a strategic initiative to improve health care through insights and knowledge derived from data and delivered through platform business models.

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Tags: antibiotic, artificial intelligence, brain, cancer research, cardiology, cardiovascular medicine, Center for Individualized Medicine, Center for the Science of Health Care Delivery, clinical research, clinical trials, collaboration, coronary artery disease, gene mutation, genetic testing, genetics, Gloria Petersen, heart attack, heart failure, hereditary diseases, Juan Crestanello, Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, Mayo Clinic Model of Research, Mayo Clinic Proceedings, medical research education, molecular imaging, News, nuclear medicine, opioids, pancreatic cancer, pediatric cardiology, pediatric research, precision medicine, radiation therapy, rare disease, Research News Roundup, Rochester Epidemiology Project, Shounak Majumder, stroke, Timothy M. Olson

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