Friday, September 6, 2019

Research Roundup September 2019

Research at the MGH is interwoven throughout more than 30 departments, centers and units, and is conducted with the support and guidance of the MGH Research Institute. The Research Roundup is a monthly series highlighting studies, news and events.

Lab on a chip could solve the mysteries of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) – the accumulation of liver fat in people who drink little or no alcohol – affects 30-40 percent of adults in the United States, and there are no known treatments. Over time, the accumulation of fat can cause chronic liver problems such as cirrhosis and liver cancer.

MGH researchers have developed a “lab on a chip” that can model different severity levels of NAFLD using one sample of tissue. The chip will help researchers learn more about the causes of the disease and test new treatments.

The study was led by Beyza Butoglu, PhD, and O. Berk Usta, PhD, from the Center for Engineering in Medicine.

Diabetes treatment goals flatline despite new drugs and efforts to extend care

Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States, but the rate of individuals achieving treatment targets for the disease has not improved since 2005.

An MGH research team used data from Centers for Disease Control to analyze diabetes care from diagnosis and prevention to achievement of treatment targets. They found less than 25 percent of Americans achieved their treatment targets by controlling their blood sugar, blood pressure and not smoking tobacco.

The results demonstrate the need to develop new strategies for improving care and reducing barriers to treatment such as a lack of health insurance and the high cost of drugs, the researchers say.

The study was led by Pooyan Kazemian, PhD, of the Medical Practice Evaluation Center, and Deborah Wexler, MD, MSc, of the Diabetes Unit.

Imaging tool provides a look at cell functioning in cystic fibrosis patients

A groundbreaking new imaging tool developed by MGH researchers has made it possible – for the first time – to observe differences in the nasal passages of patients with cystic fibrosis (CF) at a cellular level. The imaging tool, a catheter 2mm in size, uses a technology called optical coherence tomography to show images at a resolution of 1 micrometer – a 50th the size of a single human hair – and can be administered to patients without sedation.

A hallmark symptom of CF is the inability to effectively process mucus through the body. Using this tool, researchers found that the mucus of CF patients was dehydrated, causing it to move more slowly and impacting the speed of the cilia – the brushlike structures on airway cells that transport mucus.

The team also found that the mucus of CF patients contained more inflammatory cells and discovered patches of airway that had been completely eroded. The tool can be used to learn more about how CF affects the airway cells and to gauge the effectiveness of new treatments.

Guillermo Tearney, MD, PhD, investigator in the Wellman Center for Photomedicine, co-led the study.

Read more articles from the 09/06/19 Hotline issue.

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