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 23, 2021

Top 5 scientific conversation starters for the holidays

By Caitlin Doran

It never fails. At some point during every family holiday party someone says something awkward and then … there's an uncomfortable silence.

Change the subject with scientific style and panache with the help of this top 5 list of 2021 medical research stories from Advancing the Science. Trust us, everyone loves talking about their health — or that of their mother, cousin, neighbor — you get the drift. 

#1 Rare esophageal cancer hits younger patients especially hard

Esophageal cancer is relatively rare, making up only about 1% of cancer cases diagnosed each year in the U.S. However, Mayo researchers have found that esophageal adenocarcinoma has been getting more common in recent years among people under age 50.

"Esophageal adenocarcinoma is so rare in younger people that they may not get screened appropriately," says Prasad Iyer, M.D., a Mayo Clinic gastroenterologist.  "In addition, younger people may be less likely to visit their doctor if they are experiencing difficulty swallowing, chest pain or other symptoms, compared to older people."

Read more.

#2 Mitochondria vs. Alzheimer's

Mitochondria are the powerhouses of our cells. Could they also offer an answer to prevent or reverse the death of brain cells in patients with Alzheimer's disease?

In a recent study, researchers led by Mayo neurologist Eugenia Trushina, Ph.D., demonstrated that a mitochondria complex could be targeted with a potential drug molecule to treat Alzheimer's disease.

Read more.

#3  Body fat investigation provides insights for 'obesity paradox'

artistic rendering of male torso with measuring tape, and side view cut away of abdomen showing visceral and subcutaneous fat

The researchers believe that what is referred to as the obesity paradox, or a perceived higher body mass index (BMI) threshold for severe acute pancreatitis in some patients, may be explained by composition of a person's visceral fat accumulated before the disease.

"It appears that the food we eat may modulate the severity of inflammation, organ failure and even death," says Vijay Singh, M.B.B.S., M.D., a gastroenterologist and molecular biology researcher at Mayo Clinic.

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#4 The importance of individualized regenerative medicine

Dr. Yamada poses in front of a computer screen

Individualized screening, guided by artificial intelligence and biomarkers, could optimize the transformative potential of regenerative medicine, according to a Mayo Clinic study. The authors assert that using new scientific tools to match the right biotherapeutics to the right patient could advance a new era of targeted, restorative health care.

"Evolving biomarker-guided individualized diagnosis, targeted repair and artificial intelligence-empowered decision-making have the potential to transform clinical practice and optimize outcomes," says Satsuki Yamada, M.D., Ph.D., first author on the study.

Read more.

#5 Experts propose share decision making to decrease COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy

How do health care providers address vaccine hesitancy most effectively? To Gregory Poland, M.D., an infectious diseases expert and head of Mayo's Vaccine Research Group, the answer comes down to one word: Listening.

“In the spirit of seeking the root-cause issue, we need to stop asking why people don’t understand what we are telling them and consider asking why we don’t understand them,” Dr. Poland and colleagues wrote in an editorial in the scientific journal Vaccine. “For many patients, health care providers are no longer considered to be the exclusive expert in health decisions.”

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Tags: Alzheimer's disease, artificial intelligence, esophageal cancer, Eugenia Trushina, gastroenterology, Gregory Poland, individualized medicine, Innovations, medical research, News, obesity, People, Prasad Iyer, regenerative medicine, republished, Satsuki Yamada, shared decision making, vaccine hesitancy, vaccines, Vijay Singh, visceral fat

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