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Research at Mass General
Highlights Jan-April 2016
Highlights May-July 2016
Recent news about scientific and medical research from the Massachusetts General Hospital Research Institute.
In surprising findings, researchers from MassGeneral Hospital for Children (MGHfC) and Boston Children’s Hospital (BCH) have discovered that nearly one in five children with celiac disease sustained persistent intestinal damage, despite strict adherence to a gluten-free diet.
A team of Massachusetts General Hospital investigators has found a possible mechanism explaining why use of the sugar substitute aspartame might not promote weight loss.
Massachusetts General Hospital investigators have developed new methods for mapping and measuring solid stress – the force exerted by solid and elastic components – within tumors, an accomplishment that may lead to improved understanding of those forces and their consequences and to novel treatment strategies.
An international research team led by a Massachusetts General Hospital investigator has developed the largest database of protein-to-protein interaction networks, a resource that can illuminate how numerous disease-associated genes contribute to disease development and progression.
Massachusetts General Hospital investigators have shown that integrating palliative care into the treatment of patients undergoing bone marrow transplantation for cancers like leukemia and lymphoma can improve their quality of life, relieve symptoms associated with the procedure, and reduce depression and anxiety in patients while also benefiting their caregivers.
A study by a Massachusetts General Hospital-led research team finds that, at current prices, adoption of novel oral targeted therapies for treatment of chronic lymphocytic leukemia could raise the treatment costs for the blood-system cancer in the U.S. by almost 600 percent.
A non-invasive protocol testing the ability to recognize, remember and distinguish between odors was able to identify older individuals who – according to genetic, imaging and more detailed memory tests – were at increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
A study led by Massachusetts General Hospital investigators has found that, even among those at high genetic risk, following a healthy lifestyle can cut in half the probability of a heart attack or similar event.
Neoadjuvant endocrine therapy—designed to reduce the size of breast tumors before surgical removal — appears to be as effective as neoadjuvant chemotherapy for patients with localized, estrogen-receptor (ER)-positive breast cancer with considerably fewer side effects.
A study in the journal Science Translational Medicine is the first to show that mutations in certain cancer and cardiovascular genes put individuals at an increased risk for dominantly inherited, actionable conditions, regardless of family medical history.
A new study led by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital finds that cigarette smoking substantially reduces the lifespan of people living with HIV in the U.S., potentially even more than HIV itself.
A study led by investigators at Massachusetts General Hospital and other institutions has begun to elucidate how differences in the gut microbiome – the microbial population of the gastrointestinal tract – affect the immune response in healthy individuals.
A study analyzing brain tumor genomics on a single-cell level has found evidence that cancer stem cells fuel the growth of oligodendrogliomas, a slow-growing but incurable form of brain cancer.
The latest study from a Massachusetts General Hospital/Massachusetts Institute of Technology team investigating the mechanisms underlying general anesthesia finds that stimulating a specific group of neurons in mice produces signs of arousal even as the animals continue to receive the anesthetic drug isoflurane.
MRI data reveals structural asymmetries that vary among individuals, are greater among those who develop dementia
A molecular signaling pathway identified by an international research team could be the basis of improved treatment for osteoporosis. In their report published in the online journal Nature Communications, the investigators describe how suppressing the activity of a specific enzyme not only increased bone formation in mice but also reduced levels of the cells responsible for bone breakdown.
Mass General investigators have identified a potential mechanism behind the resistance that inevitably develops to cancer treatment with a combination of chemotherapy and antiangiogenic drugs.
Mathematical modeling of the brain scans of patients with Alzheimer’s disease and others at risk for the devastating neurodegenerative disorder has identified specific patterns of brain atrophy that appear to be related to the loss of particular cognitive abilities.
Two research teams from Massachusetts General Hospital have used innovative imaging technology and other novel approaches to identify some key differences in both the immune response and the sensitivity of airway cells to inflammation between allergic individuals with and without asthma.
Combining the power of advanced math with tests commonly used to measure blood sugar, scientists from Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital have created a new model that more accurately accounts for long-term blood sugar fluctuations in people with diabetes.
A study from Massachusetts General Hospital investigators has identified a mechanism leading to tolerance of a common, difficult-to-treat bacteria by means of small molecule usually used by the pathogen to monitor its presence in the environment.
A comprehensive review of studies evaluating strategies for treating certain acute medical conditions without hospital admission finds that all four evaluated strategies appear to be safe, often improve patient and caregiver satisfaction, and reduce health care costs.
A program encouraging early mobilization of patients in surgical intensive care units was able to reduce the time patients spent in the ICU and their overall time in the hospital and also increased patients’ functional independence upon hospital discharge, allowing more of them to be discharged home.
Two recent studies led by Massachusetts General Hospital psychiatrists have investigated ways of improving the treatment of depression in Chinese American immigrants, a group that tends to avoid mental health treatment because of traditional cultural beliefs.
A multi-institutional research team led by a Massachusetts General Hospital investigator is among the recipients of new National Institutes of Health grants through an initiative investigating how exposure to a range of environmental factors in early development influences the health of children and adolescents.
A study led by investigators from the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard finds evidence that antibody protection may help control infection with the bacteria that causes tuberculosis. The findings may lead to better ways of distinguishing between active and latent disease and to a more effective vaccine against a disease that kills more than 1.5 million people each year.
A research team led by investigators from Massachusetts General Hospital and the Harvard Stem Cell Institute have identified a promising new approach to the treatment of acute myeloid leukemia.
A study by Massachusetts General Hospital investigators examines a group of older adults whose memory performance is equivalent to that of younger individuals and finds that key areas of their brains resemble those of young people.
In papers receiving advance online publication in Nature Genetics, two international multi-institutional research teams, co-led by investigators at Massachusetts General Hospital, describe identifying a total of 44 novel gene sites associated with hypertension or high blood pressure.
A new study has estimated, for the first time, the numbers of people with Down syndrome in the U.S., from 1950 until 2010.
Neural stem cells in the brain structure called the hippocampus continue to generate new neurons, which need to compete with existing neurons for a foothold in the memory-forming center of the brain. Harvard Stem Cell Institute researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital and the Broad Institute have found a way to favor newly generated neurons.
A follow up to a previous study finding an association between adolescent bipolar disorder and the incidence of cigarette smoking and substance use disorder finds that risk was even greater five years later, particularly among those with persistent bipolar symptoms.
A study led by Massachusetts General Hospital investigators reveals how spontaneous changes in the molecular characteristics of tumors can lead to tumors with a mixed population of cells requiring treatment with several types of therapeutic drugs.
A formal bias analysis of previous studies finding that cognitive activities can reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease and other dementias concluded that any confounding factors in the earlier studies probably do not totally account for any associations between cognitive activity and dementia risk.
A phase 2 clinical trial of a drug that may alleviate brain swelling--a dangerous stroke complication--suggests the treatment may help reduce brain injury and death, and information from the study will help design the phase 3 trial.
Maintaining appropriate levels of proteins within cells largely relies on a cellular component called the proteasome, which degrades unneeded or defective proteins to recycle the components for the eventual assembly of new proteins. Deficient proteasome function can lead to a buildup of unneeded and potentially toxic proteins, so cells usually respond to proteasome dysfunction by increasing production of its component parts. Now two Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) investigators have identified key molecules in the pathway by which cells in the C. elegans roundworm sense proteasome dysfunction, findings that may have application to treatment of several human diseases.
A novel PET radiotracer developed at the Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) is able for the first time to reveal epigenetic activity—the process that determines whether or not genes are expressed—within the human brain. In their report published in Science Translational Medicine, a team of MGH/Martinos Center investigators reports how their radiochemical—called Martinostat—shows the expression levels of important epigenetics-regulating enzymes in the brains of healthy volunteers.
A Massachusetts General Hospital research team has reported that repeated treatment with pulsed electric fields—a noninvasive procedure that does not generate heat—may help reduce the development of scarring.
A new study by Massachusetts General Hospital investigators finds that college students who misuse stimulant drugs are more likely to have attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, conduct disorder or substance-use disorder than are students not misusing stimulants.
A Massachusetts General Hospital research team has identified an additional mechanism for resistance to targeted treatment for BRAF-mutant melanoma.
The results of two phase 3 clinical trials that led to FDA approval of adalimumab for treatment of the chronic inflammatory skin disease hidradenitis suppurativa are being published in the August 4 New England Journal of Medicine.
Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) have found an association between lower weight and more extensive deposits of the Alzheimer’s-associated protein beta-amyloid in the brains of cognitively normal older individuals.The association—reported in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease – was seen in particular among individuals carrying the APOE4 gene variant, which is known to increase the risk of Alzheimer’s.
A genomic study using a novel method of enrolling participants has identified for the first time 15 regions of the genome that appear to be associated with depression in individuals of European ancestry. Results of the Mass General-based study, which utilized data gathered by the consumer genomics company 23andMe, are receiving advance online publication in Nature Genetics.
A Mass General research team recently conducted largest study ever to examine the effects of different sources of dietary protein found that a high intake of proteins from animal sources—particularly processed and unprocessed red meats—was associated with a higher mortality rate, while a high intake of protein from plant sources was associated with a lower risk of death. Results from the study—which analyzed data from two long-term epidemiologic studies—appears in the August 1 issue of JAMA Internal Medicine.
A low-intensity type of laser treatment may offer a non-invasive, drug-free treatment for thrombocytopenia – a potentially life-threatening shortage of platelets, which are essential to blood clotting.
In a recent article two Massachusetts General Hospital physicians describe the best ways to prevent mosquito bites and the illnesses—including Zika virus— that might be contracted from them.
What happens when red blood cells become damaged or reach the end of their normal life span, and how is the iron required for carrying oxygen recycled? A new study led by Massachusetts General Hospital investigators contradicts previous thinking about where and how worn-out red blood cells are disposed of and their iron retained for use in new cells.
A team of researchers from the Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Engineering in Medicine have created a "liver on a chip," a model of liver tissue that replicates the metabolic variations found throughout the organ and more accurately reflects the distinctive patterns of liver damage caused by exposure to toxins.
A major, multi-institutional study based at Massachusetts General Hospital has identified a promising treatment strategy for Huntington’s disease (HD). The novel compound identified by the research team appears to protect against neurodegeneration in cellular and animal models of HD by two separate mechanisms.
A Massachusetts General Hospital research team reports finding that a previously unknown interaction between metabolic pathways in two different tissues within the C.elegans roundworm triggers a key step in maturation.
A new study by a Massachusetts General Hospital-led research team finds an association between the lack of paternal information on infants’ birth certificates and increases in several risk factors for childhood obesity.
In what may be the largest study of salary differences between male and female medical school faculty members, researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School find that – even after adjusting for factors likely to influence income – women physicians earn an average of $20,000 per year less than men.
The largest study of its kind into type 2 diabetes has produced the most detailed picture to date of the genetics underlying the condition.
Investigators have discovered the mechanism by which obesity increases inflammation and desmoplasia—an accumulation of connective tissue—in the most common form of pancreatic cancer. They have also identified a treatment strategy that may inhibit the process.
Patients with advanced heart failure who watched a short video depicting different levels of end-of-life care were more likely to choose comfort care over invasive care that could prolong their life, according to new research in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation.
A clinical trial conducted by Massachusetts General Hospital investigators has found that the use of patient navigators may improve comprehensive cancer screening rates among patient populations not likely to receive recommended screenings.
A new procedure developed at Massachusetts General Hospital may revolutionize the culturing of adult stem cells and allow their generation from cells collected in some routine clinical procedures.
A new study led by Massachusetts General Hospital investigators has identified a mechanism behind the surge in cardiovascular inflammation that takes place after a heart attack and describes a potential strategy for suppressing inflammation within atherosclerotic plaques.
Racial and ethnic disparities in the treatment of mental health and substance use disorders may result from key faulty assumptions about the best ways of addressing the needs of minority patients. Those assumptions are detailed, along with recommendations for potential improvement strategies, in an article in the June issue of Health Affairs.
In a paper entitled “Of Penguins, Pinnipeds, and Poisons,” published online in the journal Anesthesiology, Paul Firth, MBChB, of the Massachusetts General Hospital Department of Anesthesia, Critical Care and Pain Medicine, describes how surgeons Alexander Macklin and James McIlroy treated crew members for the problems and injuries inflicted by the extreme environment, including a June 15, 1916, surgical operation that posed hazards—some that were then unknown—to both the patient and the surgical team.
A team of researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and the Rowland Institute at Harvard University have used a specialized nanoprobe developed by the Harvard/Rowland investigators to directly measure levels of key proteins within living, cultured cells.
A comprehensive analysis of changes in the intestinal microbial population during the first three years of life has revealed some of the impacts of factors such as mode of birth – vaginal versus cesarean section – and antibiotic exposure, including the effects of multiple antibiotic treatments.
How does the cross-talk between brain networks change when working memory—the mental assembly of information needed to carry out a particular task—is engaged? Investigators at Massachusetts General Hospital have found that dopamine signaling within the cerebral cortex can predict changes in the extent of communication between key brain networks during working memory.
A program encouraging overweight or obese adolescents to increase their physical activity through use of their everyday environment, rather than organized classes or sports programs, produced significant increases in participants’ daily physical activity that were sustained for at least three to four months. A report on a pilot study conducted at the Mass General Health Center in Revere is being published online in the Journal of Adolescent Health.
A new study finds that implementing the United Nations targets for HIV testing and treatment would be an expensive but ultimately very cost-effective way to increase survival, reduce the number of children orphaned by HIV, and contain the global AIDS epidemic. That is the conclusion of researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), the University of Cape Town and the Yale School of Public Health, who estimated the likely impact of the so-called “90-90-90” program.
A Massachusetts General Hospital-based study finds that initiating antiretroviral therapy soon after diagnosis of an HIV infection did not prevent the progression of significant arterial inflammation in a small group of previously untreated patients.
A new study from Massachusetts General Hospital investigators provides additional evidence that amyloid-beta protein – which is deposited in the form of beta-amyloid plaques in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s disease – is a normal part of the innate immune system, the body’s first-line defense against infection.
A program encouraging physicians and other providers to discuss with patients their preferences regarding end-of-life care significantly increased the documented incidence of such conversations and the number of patients with late-stage disease who were discharged to hospice.
A strain of inbred mice commonly used for the creation of so-called knockout animals has been found to carry a previously undetected mutation that could affect the results of immune system research studies.
A team of surgeons at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), led by Curtis L. Cetrulo, Jr., MD, and Dicken S.C. Ko, MD, announced today that they have performed the nation’s first genitourinary reconstructive (penile) transplant. The 15-hour operation, which took place earlier this month, involved surgically grafting the complex microscopic vascular and neural structures of a donor organ onto the comparable structures of the recipient.
Called a genitourinary vascularized composite allograft (GUVCA) transplant, this month’s landmark procedure represents the culmination of more than 3½ years of research and collaboration across multiple departments and divisions within the MGH – including Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Urology, Psychiatry, Infectious Disease, Nursing, and Social Work – all of which are part of the MGH Transplant Center.
In a major push by President Obama’s administration to advance the understanding of the microbiome – the population of microorganisms that lives within and around the human body – and enable the protection and restoration of healthy microbiome function, MassGeneral Hospital for Children (MGHfC) is being recognized as a collaborative partner with Mead Johnson Nutrition (MJN) in the National Microbiome Initiative.
Investigators have identified the first potential molecular treatment target for the most common form of pancreatic cancer, which kills more than 90 percent of patients.
Repeat intravenous treatment with low doses of the anesthetic drug ketamine quickly reduced suicidal thoughts in a small group of patients with treatment-resistant depression.
Scientists at MIT, Massachusetts General Hospital, Living Proof, and Olivo Labs have developed a new material that can temporarily protect and tighten skin, and smooth wrinkles.
A new high-resolution technique for reading combinations of chemical flags in the epigenome could help uncover new rules underlying cell fate and provide important clues for understanding diseases like cancer. The technique was developed by the Bernstein Lab of the Broad Institute and Massachusetts General Hospital. Brad, Bernstein, MD, PhD, is the inaugural Bernard and Mildred Kayden Endowed MGH Research Institute Chair.
A team of investigators has developed a device with the potential of shortening the time required to rapidly diagnose pathogens responsible for health-care-associated infections from a couple of days to a matter of hours.
Massachusetts General Hospital researchers have developed a new light-based technique that selectively stiffens tissue in the cornea and might one day offer improved treatment for eye problems caused by weakened corneal tissue.
Recently developed treatments that cure hepatitis C virus will create new opportunities for people with other liver diseases to receive transplanted livers.
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