JULY 2017

New study demonstrates the benefits of Tai Chi in Chinese Americans suffering from depression

New research from Mass General has found that practicing the Chinese martial art tai chi significantly reduced symptoms of mild to moderate depression in Chinese Americans.


Sense of smell deficits are common, linked to malnutrition in patients with kidney disease

A Massachusetts General Hospital study has found that deficits in the sense of smell are important contributors to the frequently observed lack of appetite in patients with serious kidney disease. A proof-of-concept trial of a potential treatment for these olfactory deficits had promising results.


Predicting the behavior of tuberculosis

Novel molecular tests as good in predicting response to treatment, risk of dying as old-fashioned drug-sensitivity tests.


Incorporating 12-step program elements improves substance use disorder treatment in adolescents

A treatment program for adolescents with substance-use disorder that incorporates the practices and philosophy of 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous produced even better results than the current state-of-the art treatment approach in a nine-month, randomized trial.


"Safe Genes" award to Mass General team aims to improve precision, safety of gene-editing technologies

A Massachusetts General Hospital-based research team is one of seven nationwide receiving contracts under the DARPA Safe Genes program, which is designed to improve the safety of gene drives.


Phase 3 trial confirms superiority of tocilizumab to steroid treatment for giant cell arteritis

A phase 3 clinical trial has confirmed that regular treatment with tocilizumab, an inhibitor of interleukin-6, successfully reduced both symptoms of and the need for high-dose steroid treatment for giant cell arteritis, the most common form of blood-vessel inflammation. Results of the trial are being published in the New England Journal of Medicine and were the basis for the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of tocilizumab to treat giant cell arteritis in May.


Researchers develop new methods to generate human antibodies

An international team of scientists has developed a method to rapidly produce specific human antibodies in the laboratory.


fMRI, EEG may provide early detection of consciousness in patients with severe brain injury

The use of functional magnetic resonance imaging and electroencephalography may be able to identify ICU patients with severe traumatic brain injuries who have a level of consciousness not revealed by the standard bedside neurological examination.


Setting the record straight: PPIs do not cause dementia

Several studies have reported associations between proton-pump inhibitor use and dementia. New research published in Gastroenterology, the official journal of the American Gastroenterological Association, puts these claims to rest.


Antibiotic-releasing polymer may help eradicate joint implant infection

A team of Massachusetts General Hospital investigators has developed an antibiotic-releasing polymer that may greatly simplify the treatment of prosthetic joint infection.


Nipple-sparing mastectomy has low rate of breast cancer recurrence

Women with breast cancer who undergo nipple-sparing mastectomy have a low rate of the cancer returning within the first five years, when most recurrences in the breast are diagnosed, findings of a single-center study show.


Immunosuppression underlies resistance to anti-angiogenic therapy

A Massachusetts General Hospital research team has identified a novel mechanism behind resistance to angiogenesis inhibitors – drugs that fight cancer by suppressing the formation of new blood vessels.


Lymph node metastases may not always be the source of cancer's spread to other organs

A study led by Massachusetts General Hospital investigators has found that the traditional model for the spread of carcinoma, the deadliest form of cancer—from the primary tumor, to nearby lymph nodes, to other organs—may not apply in all cases.


Liquid biopsies offer a non-invasive look at treatment response

A new study shows that so-called "liquid biopsies," blood tests that detect circulating tumor DNA, may not only sound an early alarm that a treatment's effect is diminishing, but may also help to explain why—sometimes offering clues about what to do next.


The breast cancer genome's "dark matter" starts to give up some secrets

While mutations in protein-coding genes have held the limelight in cancer genomics, those in noncoding genome (home to the regulatory elements that control gene activity) may also have powerful roles in driving tumor growth. A new study reveals recurrent mutations in nine such noncoding elements in breast cancer.


JUNE 2017

Comprehensive program improves measures of childhood obesity at community health center

A comprehensive program to reduce or prevent childhood obesity in low-income communities led to significant improvements in obesity-related measures among children cared for at a Massachusetts community health center.


Rare genetic variants found to increase risk for Tourette syndrome

An international research team led by investigators at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) – along with their facilitating partner the Tourette Association of America – has identified rare mutations in two genes that markedly increase the risk for Tourette syndrome (TS), a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by chronic involuntary motor and vocal tics.


Mass General researchers explore why those with autism avoid eye contact

Individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often find it difficult to look others in the eyes, as they find eye contact uncomfortable or stressful. Now investigators at the Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging at Massachusetts General Hospital shed light on the brain mechanisms involved in this behavior.


Mass General-led study replicated tanning response in cultured human skin

Investigators at Massachusetts General Hospital and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute have developed a way of increasing pigmentation in human skin without the damaging effects of ultraviolet radiation.


Mass General report outlines strategies to address racial and ethnic disparities in health care

An analysis of survey data from participants in the Massachusetts General Hospital-based Disparities Leadership Program – a yearlong executive education initiative designed to help health care leaders address racial and ethnic disparities in health care services – has identified five important strategies that helped participants implement successful projects for their institutions.


Cardiac CT angiography appears better at predicting future risk for patients with chest pain

An analysis of diagnostic test results from a trial comparing anatomic with functional testing as an initial diagnostic strategy for patients with chest pain found that CT angiography better predicted the risk for future cardiac events than did measures of exercise tolerance or restricted blood flow to the heart muscle.


Mass General study finds potential mechanism for BCG vaccine reversal of type 1 diabetes

New data from an FDA-approved clinical trial testing the generic BCG vaccine to reverse advanced type 1 diabetes demonstrate a potential new mechanism by which the vaccine may restore the proper immune response to the insulin-secreting islet cells of the pancreas.


Two tested interventions help improve weight management in children who are overweight or obese

Two interventions that link clinical care with community resources helped improve key health measures in children that were overweight or obese at the outset of the study.


MAY 2017

Radiation therapy, macrophages improve efficacy of nanoparticle-delivered cancer therapy

A Massachusetts General Hospital research team has identified a surprising new role for the immune cells called macrophages – improving the effectiveness of nanoparticle-delivered cancer therapies.


Mass General researchers show how Shigella survives passage through the gastrointestinal tract

Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital have discovered how the bacteria Shigella survives its journey from the mouth to the colon, taking advantage of substances that would kill many less persistent organisms.


Clinical trial investigates potential Alzheimer's disease in people with Down syndrome

A phase 2 clinical trial in young adults with Down syndrome has demonstrated that the study participants were able to follow the study protocol and the drug was "safe and tolerable," according to the research team.


Study finds tai chi significantly reduces depression symptoms in Chinese Americans

A 12-week program of instruction and practice of the Chinese martial art tai chi led to significantly reduced symptoms of depression in Chinese Americans not receiving any other treatments. The pilot study conducted by investigators at Massachusetts General Hospital and published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry enrolled members of Boston’s Chinese community who had mild to moderate depression.


Brain microenvironment makes HER2-positive breast cancer metastases resistant to treatment

In the case of breast cancer driven by overexpression of the HER2 gene, up to 50 percent of patients treated with targeted therapies eventually develop brain metastases, which are inevitably fatal. Now a Massachusetts General Hospital-based research team has identified a novel mechanism behind the resistance to HER2- or PI3K-targeted therapies and a treatment strategy that may overcome this resistance. 


Protective, antioxidant responses appear weaker in neural stem cells from patients with Huntington disease

A multi-institutional team based at Massachusetts General Hospital has discovered how a potential treatment strategy for Huntington disease (HD) produces its effects, verified its action in human cells and identified a previously unknown deficit in neural stem cells from patients with HD.


Chronic anabolic steroid use may damage heart

Long-term anabolic steroid use may reduce the heart’s ability to pump blood and relax between beats and cause coronary artery disease, according to new research. Anabolic-androgenic steroids mimic naturally occurring testosterone, a muscle-building hormone that promotes male sexual characteristics. Since illicit use of these steroids became widespread in the American general population in the 1980s, adverse long-term effects are becoming evident.


Costs for generic hepatitis C drugs available in India would be paid back in 5 to 10 years

A research team led by a Massachusetts General Hospital investigator has found that use of the generic versions of directly-acting antiviral drugs that are available in India to treat hepatitis C virus infection is not only cost effective but actually saves lifetime treatment costs for patients in that country.


Intestinal microbial population may predict response to biologic therapy for inflammatory bowel disease

Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard have found that analysis of a patient's gut microbiome—the microbial population of the gastrointestinal tract—may predict the likelihood of successful treatment for inflammatory bowel disease with biologic drugs that target immune system activity.


Study shows that more than half of eligible U.S. travelers are not receiving measles immunization

A study led by Massachusetts General Hospital investigators found that 53 percent of individuals seeking pre-travel consultations at clinics across the country who were eligible to receive the measles, mumps, rubella vaccine were not vaccinated during the clinic visit.


Research staff appreciation day

Despite dreary weather, hundreds of Massachusetts General Hospital's research staff members enjoyed the annual Research Staff Appreciation Day lunch and ice cream celebration.


Study helps smokers quit and never look back

Like so many previous monumental moments in her life, Ellen Czahar, assistant and surgical coordinator in the MGH Orthopædics Department, wanted to document it with a snapshot. The empty pack of cigarettes marked the last pack she would smoke as she embarked on a happier, healthier way of life.


Molecular imaging reveals mechanism for resistance to immune checkpoint blockade

Massachusetts General Hospital investigators have identified a surprising mechanism for resistance to immune checkpoint blockade, finding in mouse models of cancer that an antibody-based drug designed to block the immunosuppressive molecule PD-1 is removed from its target T cells by macrophages within minutes of administration.


Anti-hypertension DASH diet may reduce the risk of gout

A study led by Massachusetts General Hospital investigators suggests that following a diet known to reduce the risk of hypertension and cardiovascular disease may also reduce the risk of gout.


Hypoxia reverses mitochondrial disease in mouse model

The next stage of a Massachusetts General Hospital team's investigation into the therapeutic potential of the hypoxia response—the body's reaction to reduced levels of oxygen in the blood—to treat mitochondrial disease has produced findings that are promising but also reveal some limitations.


Dietary gluten is not linked to heart risk in non-celiacs

A study led by researchers at Columbia University Medical Center and Massachusetts General Hospital revealed that dietary gluten is not associated with heart disease risk in people without celiac disease.


Silent seizures recorded in the hippocampus of two patients with Alzheimer's disease

Massachusetts General Hospital investigators have identified silent, seizure-like activity in the hippocampus—a brain structure significantly affected in Alzheimer's disease—in two patients with Alzheimer's disease and no known history of seizures.


New study shows care management program reduced health care costs in Partners Accountable Care Organization

Researchers at Partners HealthCare published a study showing that Partners Pioneer ACO not only reduces spending growth, but does this by reducing avoidable hospitalizations for patients with elevated but modifiable risks.


New imaging method may predict immunotherapy response early

A noninvasive PET imaging method that measures granzyme B, a protein released by immune cells to kill cancer cells, was able to distinguish mouse and human tumors that responded to immune checkpoint inhibitors from those that did not respond early in the course of treatment.


APRIL 2017

Standing up for science

"Science is the scaffolding, the power, the engine that drives society forward. It represents progress and knowledge and answers," said Peter L. Slavin, MD, Massachusetts General Hospital president, at an April 22 rally.


Warren Triennial honors pioneer in cancer immunology

The 2017 Warren Triennial Prize—the most prestigious research prize awarded by Massachusetts General Hospital—was presented on April 5 to James P. Allison, PhD, professor and chairman of Immunology at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.


Nanodiamond-enhanced MRI: a new platform for a range of diagnostic and therapeutic applications

A team of investigators based at the Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging at Massachusetts General Hospital has devised a means of tracking nanodiamonds noninvasively with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), opening up a host of new applications.


Enzyme treatment reduces alcohol-induced liver damage in mouse models

Massachusetts General Hospital investigators report that an intestinal enzyme previously shown to keep bacterial toxins from passing from the gastrointestinal system into the bloodstream may be able to reduce or prevent the liver damage caused by excess alcohol consumption.


Effects of alcoholism on the brain's reward system appear to be different in women than in men

A collaborative study between researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital and Boston University School of Medicine has found evidence implying that alcoholism may have different effects on the reward system in the brains of women than it does in men.


Pretreatment HIV, immune activation levels determine their persistence during treatment

A study led by a Massachusetts General Hospital investigator finds that pretreatment viral levels and immune activation appear to determine the extent of HIV persistence and inflammation during antiretroviral treatment.


Macrophages shown to be essential to a healthy heart rhythm

A Massachusetts General Hospital-led research team has discovered that the immune cells called macrophages are also essential to the healthy functioning of the heart, helping conduct the electric signals that coordinate the heartbeat.


Mass General researchers provide evidence linking "leaky gut" to chronic inflammation

With the help of genetically engineered mice, scientists at the Massachusetts General Hospital are moving closer to establishing the role that increased intestinal permeability, sometimes called a "leaky gut," plays in chronic inflammatory conditions.


RNA sequencing applied as a tool to solve patients' diagnostic mysteries

In a new study, a team led by researchers from the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Massachusetts General Hospital and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke adds RNA sequencing to the diagnostic toolkit to identify disease-causing mutations buried inside the genome.


Marathon risk for non-runners

People who suffer heart attacks or cardiac arrests in the vicinity of an ongoing major marathon are more likely to die within a month due to delays in transportation to nearby hospitals, according to newly published research from Harvard Medical School.


Urine test may be able to diagnose obstructive sleep apnea in children with Down Syndrome

A study from Massachusetts General Hospital investigators raises the possibility of identifying children with Down syndrome who may also have obstructive sleep apnea without the need for expensive and inconvenient sleep studies.


Collagen-targeting PET probe may improve diagnosis and treatment of pulmonary fibrosis

A PET imaging probe developed by Massachusetts General Hospital investigators appears able to diagnose and stage pulmonary fibrosis—an often life-shortening lung disease—as well as monitor the response to treatment.


Regular aspirin use is associated with lower cancer mortality

Long-term, regular aspirin use was associated with reduced risk of death from several different kinds of cancers, according to data presented at the AACR Annual Meeting 2017.

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