Bob Nellis (@bobnellis)
Activity by Bob Nellis
ROCHESTER, Minn. — Android users no longer have to miss out on all the research discoveries coming from Mayo Clinic. The newest issue of Discovery’s Edge, Mayo Clinic’s research magazine, is now available on all Android devices, as well as the iPad, online and in print. Research news from Mayo Clinic — however, whenever and wherever you want to read it.
Highlights in this issue explore the past, present and future of Mayo Clinic research, including:
Read about a 12-month snapshot of how four researchers combined their talents to discover biomarkers that could help specific patients with difficult medical issues. In that time span, the Biomarker Discovery Program — part of Mayo Clinic’s Center for Individualized Medicine — found 32 biomarkers using custom algorithms and other innovative approaches that physicians can use to aid patients.
Collaboration is also the story of Mayo Clinic’s latest partnership — with Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute. Two organizations looking for just the right counterpart to meet a strategic need found each other at just the right time to fast-track drug discovery for Mayo patients.
The path to becoming a biomedical researcher is not for the faint of heart. This issue’s cover story takes a glimpse at three scientists-in-training at Mayo Graduate School and the obstacles they are facing, both personal and professional, as they strive toward careers in research. [...]
ROCHESTER, Minn. — One of the family of drugs prescribed for rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory conditions is called TNF inhibitors. They act by dampening part of the immune system called tumor necrosis factor (TNF). In one of the balancing acts of medicine, the anti-inflammatory action of the drug also increases the risk for other conditions, in this case, a rare form of eye cancer, uveal melanoma. Mayo Clinic researchers make the case and alert physicians in an article in Mayo Clinic Proceedings.
Mayo researchers studied three patients — two women and a man — who were treated for inflammatory disease and developed melanoma tumors in one eye within a year to two of taking TNF inhibitors. While this type of condition is probably rare, according to the researchers, there might be an increased risk if the patient has a pre-existing nevus (freckle of the eye). The women had inflammatory bowel disease; the man had rheumatoid arthritis. The studies occurred between 2009 and 2013.
Researchers say that patients considered for treatment with TNF inhibitors should first be given an eye exam to determine eye health, and any with existing conditions, such as choroidal nevus (lesions on the eye), should be monitored regularly to determine if any issues are developing.
ROCHESTER and MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — The Minnesota Partnership for Biotechnology and Medical Genomics has awarded $2.5 million to four teams of researchers to support scientific infrastructure used in collaborations between existing researchers at the University of Minnesota and Mayo Clinic. The funding must be used for equipment, software or other technology essential to specific research projects and must be mutually available to the project participants at both institutions. This year’s awards will help investigators target topics ranging from heart disease and cancer to drug development and the microbiome, all key focus areas of research in Minnesota. [...]
ROCHESTER, Minn. — In an international study, Mayo Clinic researchers and collaborators have identified genetic markers that may help in identifying individuals who could benefit from the alcoholism treatment drug acamprosate. The findings, published in the journal Translational Psychiatry, show that patients carrying these genetic variants have longer periods of abstinence during the first three months of acamprosate treatment.
Acamprosate is a commonly prescribed drug used to aid patients in recovery from alcoholism. Mayo researchers studied the association between variation in candidate genes and the length of sobriety in alcohol-dependent patients treated with acamprosate in community-based programs. They found that, when other environmental and physiological factors were considered, patients with the common allele of the genetic variant rs2058878 located in the GRIN2B gene, stayed sober more days than those with a variant allele of the same polymorphism. This finding was replicated in a sample of alcohol-dependent patients treated with acamprosate in a study conducted by collaborators from Germany.
Journalists: Sound bites with Dr. Rocca are in the downloads.
ROCHESTER, Minn. — A collaborative study by researchers from Mayo Clinic, Olmsted Medical Center and Johns Hopkins University has measured multimorbidity — multiple diseases or medical conditions co-occurring in a single patient — and has determined which combinations of medical conditions are more prevalent by age, sex, and race/ethnicity in a geographically-defined Midwestern population. Investigators say that their findings, published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, are valuable in light of the aging population, the need to plan and prioritize health care interventions, and have broad implications for clinical research.
Using a list of 20 medical conditions developed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the research team accessed records for over 138,000 persons who lived in Olmsted County, Minnesota, during 2010 via the Rochester
Epidemiology Project. They concluded that multimorbidity is fairly common in the general population; it increases steeply with older age; has different combinations in men and women; and varies by race/ethnicity.
MEDIA CONTACT: Robert Nellis, Mayo Clinic Public Affairs, 507-284-5005, email@example.com
ROCHESTER, Minn. — Mayo Clinic and IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced plans to pilot Watson, the IBM cognitive computer, to match patients more quickly with appropriate clinical trials, beginning with research studies in cancer. A proof-of-concept phase is currently underway.
“In an area like cancer —where time is of the essence — the speed and accuracy that Watson offers will allow us to develop an individualized treatment plan more efficiently so we can deliver exactly the care that the patient needs,” says Steven Alberts, M.D., chair of medical oncology at Mayo Clinic.
Researchers hope the increased speed also will speed new discoveries.
Clinical trials provide patients with access to new and emerging treatments, yet enrolling participants in trials is one of the more difficult parts of clinical research. Currently it is done manually, with clinical coordinators sorting through patient records and conditions, trying to match them with the requirements of a given study protocol. At any given time, Mayo Clinic is conducting over 8,000 human studies in addition to the 170,000 that are ongoing worldwide. Watson’s cognitive computing ability will help sift through available Mayo clinical trials and ensure that more patients are accurately and consistently matched with promising clinical trial options. [...]
ROCHESTER, Minn. — A Mayo Clinic researcher and his collaborators have developed an online analytic tool that will speed up and enhance the process of re-engineering cells for biomedical investigation. CellNet is a free-use Internet platform that uses network biology methods to aid stem cell engineering. Details of CellNet and its application to stem cell engineering are described in two back-to-back papers in the journal Cell.
“This free platform has a broad range of uses for all types of cell-based investigations and can potentially offer help to people working on all types of cancer,” says Hu Li, Ph.D., investigator in the Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine and Department of Molecular Pharmacology & Experimental Therapeutics, and co-lead investigator in the two works. “CellNet will indicate how closely an engineered cell resembles the real counterpart and even suggests ways to adjust the engineering.”
The network biology platform contains data on a wide range of cells and details on what is known about those cell types. Researchers say the platform can be applied to almost any study and allows users to refine the engineering process. In the long term, it should provide a reliable short cut to the early phases of drug development, individualized cancer therapies, and pharmacogenomics. [...]
ROCHESTER, Minn. — Mayo Clinic has named a veteran cell biology researcher to head its new Center for Biomedical Discovery. Mark McNiven, Ph.D., brings over 30 years of scientific experience to the position and a decade as leader of Mayo’s Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. The appointment was announced this week by Gregory Gores, M.D., executive dean for Research.
“We’re very glad to have someone of Dr. McNiven’s leadership and experience as the director launching this important new center,” says Dr. Gores. “Discovery science is a significant part of our research effort at Mayo Clinic, as it is the starting point in seeking help for our patients when current knowledge isn’t enough.”
The Center for Biomedical Discovery was established to grow Mayo’s expertise and build on its foundation of basic research discoveries, which extends back over 100 years. Discoveries in the laboratory form the basis for tomorrow’s clinical care, and Mayo’s scientists have long been teaming with physicians to explore the needs of patients. This Mayo-wide strategic research center will help advance and coordinate those efforts, prioritizing and seeking support to grow the science. The new director will: