MARCH 2017

Mass General/Broad Institute study charts single-cell composition of two major types of brain tumor

Detailed analysis of two brain tumor subtypes has revealed that they may originate from the same type of neural progenitor cells and be distinguished by gene mutation patterns and by the composition of their microenvironments.

Massachusetts General Hospital upgrades "FindERnow" smartphone app that allows users to find the closest hospital emergency room

The Emergency Medicine Network (EMNet) at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) today announced the re-release of EMNet findERnow, a mobile application which allows users to locate the nearest emergency rooms in the event of a health emergency. The enhanced pediatric version of findERnow, available with a $0.99 subscription, helps users easily distinguish which ERs are more likely to be prepared to provide emergency care for children.

Software-based system improves the ability to determine the cause of ischemic stroke

Massachusetts General Hospital investigators have developed a software package that provides evidence-based, automated support for diagnosing the cause of stroke.

Health problems may increase as adolescents, young adults infected with HIV at birth get older

A new study has found that U.S. youth infected with HIV around the time of their birth are at higher risk throughout their adolescence and young adulthood for experiencing serious health problems, poor control of the HIV virus or death. The report, led by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), has been published online in JAMA Pediatrics.

Mass General team identifies mechanisms behind resistance to FGFR inhibitor drug

Investigators at the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center have identified the first genetic mechanisms conferring acquired resistance to a promising group of targeted cancer drugs.

Using a smartphone to screen for male infertility

Investigators at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital have develop a smartphone-based semen analyzer that can identify abnormal semen samples with approximately 98 percent accuracy.

Study details risks of death following ischemic or bleeding events more than one year after coronary stenting

A study by a multi-institutional research team has tracked the long-term incidence of death following ischemic and bleeding events occurring in patients more than one year after placement of a coronary stent. Their study appearing in the current issue of JAMA Cardiology found that ischemic events—those caused by a blockage in blood flow to the heart or brain—occurred more frequently than bleeding events in the 12 to 33 months after stenting and that both types of events incurred a serious mortality risk.

"Dreamers" policy may have reduced depression in eligible individuals

A team of researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health reported that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program appears to have reduced depression among eligible undocumented immigrants, often referred to as the “Dreamers.”

Insufficient sleep in early childhood may lead to cognitive, behavioral problems in later years

A study led by a Massachusetts General Hospital pediatrician finds that children ages 3 to 7 who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to have problems with attention, emotional control and peer relationships in mid-childhood.

Broadly adopted blood transfusion practice may not benefit patients without traumatic injury

A study from investigators at Massachusetts General Hospital finds that a blood transfusion practice previously studied only in patients with severe traumatic injuries has been widely adopted within the hospital for patients without traumatic injuries. Not only has this practice not been shown to benefit non-trauma patients, the study suggests that it may be harmful to some, an observation that indicates the need for more research.

Skin testing, computerized support tool can improve antibiotic use in hospital inpatients

Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) investigators have developed two approaches to increasing the use of penicillins and cephalosporins – highly effective antibiotics that are not as problematic as many alternatives – in hospitalized patients previously believed to be allergic to penicillin.

Parkinson's researchers use smartphones to measure disease progression, treatment effects in clinical substudy

Parkinson’s disease researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital have launched an observational substudy designed to test the feasibility and accuracy of using patient-owned smartphones to measure symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

"Red hair" gene variant may underlie association between melanoma and Parkinson's disease

A gene variant that produces red hair and fair skin in humans and in mice, which increases the risk of the dangerous skin cancer melanoma, may also contribute to the known association between melanoma and Parkinson’s disease. 

Acupuncture improves outcomes in carpal tunnel syndrome in part by remapping the brain

Though the practice of acupuncture predates current understanding of physiology by several millennia, it often provides measureable improvements in health outcomes, particularly in the area of chronic pain. Now, in a study reported in the journal Brain, a team of investigators based at the Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) sheds new light on the question of how.

Epigenetic enzyme found to be lacking in some patients with Crohn's disease

Massachusetts General Hospital researchers have found how a variant in an important epigenetic enzyme – previously associated with Crohn’s disease and other immune disorders – interferes with the action of the innate immune system, potentially upsetting the balance between the microbial population of the gastrointestinal tract and the immune response.


Clinical trial supports use of novel preventative therapy for dangerous swelling disorder

A clinical trial for a new drug to prevent attacks of hereditary angiodema—a rare disorder characterized by recurrent swelling in the tissues in the face, hands, gastrointestinal tract and airway—has had promising results.

Screening with frequent personalized CA125 testing may improve detection of ovarian cancer in high-risk woman

The combined results of two ovarian cancer screening trials suggest that a personalized strategy involving frequent screening of high-risk women could improve the chance that tumors are detected at early stages when they are easier to treat.

Molecular "on switch" could point to treatments for pediatric brain tumor

Massachusetts General Hospital researchers have identified a mechanism that controls the expression of genes regulating the growth of the most aggressive form of medulloblastoma, the most common pediatric brain tumor.

BrainGate collaboration makes advances in speed, accuracy of interface

Three people with paralysis used the BrainGate brain-computer interface to type on a screen with unprecedented speed and accuracy, according to a new study published in eLife.

E-cigarettes popular among smokers with existing illnesses

Current and former smokers suffering from illnesses like chronic lung or cardiovascular disease are more likely than healthy smokers to use e-cigarettes.

Study confirms vitamin D protection against cold and flu

A new global collaborative study has confirmed that vitamin D supplementation can help protect against acute respiratory infections.

Gene variants associated with body shape increase risk of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes

A study from Massachusetts General Hospital researchers has found that a pattern of gene variants associated with a body type in which weight is deposited around the abdomen increases the risk for Type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease, as well as the incidence of several cardiovascular risk factors.

Women in academic cardiology are significantly less likely to be full professors

The first study to evaluate sex differences in academic ranking among academic cardiologists has found that women were significantly less likely than men to be full professors, even when adjusting for factors such as age, years of experience and research productivity that are traditionally associated with academic rank.

How humans bond: the brain chemistry revealed

Northeastern psychology professor Lisa Feldman Barrett and her colleagues at Massachusetts General Hospital have found that the neurotransmitter dopamine is involved in human bonding, bringing the brain’s reward system into our understanding of how we form human attachments.

Daylight savings time impacts miscarriage rates among select IVF patients, study finds

Daylight savings time contributes to higher miscarriage rates among women undergoing in vitro fertilization who had had a prior pregnancy loss, according to a new study.

Advanced EEG analysis reveals the complex beauty of the sleeping brain

Massachusetts General Hospital investigators have developed a novel approach to analyze brainwaves during sleep, which promises to give a more detailed and accurate depiction of neurophysiological changes than provided by a traditional sleep study.

Low-dose chemotherapy protocol relies on normalization of tumor blood supply

The effects of a promising new approach to chemotherapy that involves frequent administration of dosage levels much lower than traditionally used appears to rely on the “normalization” of blood vessels within and around a tumor.

Old drug may provide new hope to melanoma patients

Researchers from Weill Cornell Medicine and Massachusetts General Hospital will be conducting a clinical trial to investigate the ability of phenformin – a drug once used to treat diabetes – to improve the results of melanoma treatment.

Academic medical leaders call travel restrictions "a step backward" for U.S. medical education, research and healthcare

The executive order restricting individuals from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. is “a step backward” for medical education, patient care and biomedical research in this country, write medical department leaders from Massachusetts General Hospital and six other major academic medical centers.

Adding antiandrogen therapy to radiation therapy improves survival in recurrent prostate cancer

A nearly two-decades-long clinical trial has demonstrated that adding antiandrogen therapy to radiation therapy can improve the survival of prostate cancer patients who have evidence of disease recurrence after radical prostatectomy.


Hormone may offer new contraceptive that protects ovaries from chemotherapy

Massachusetts General Hospital investigators report a naturally occurring hormone that plays an important role in fetal development may be the basis for a new type of reversible contraceptive that can protect ovaries from the damage caused by chemotherapy drugs.

Model assessment may predict obstructive sleep apnea in children with Down syndrome

A team led by a MassGeneral Hospital for Children physician has developed an assessment that may reduce the need for sleep studies in ruling out the presence of obstructive sleep apnea in people with Down syndrome.

A better carrier for gene therapy in hearing loss?

Using a better form of gene therapy, scientists from Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital have managed to restore partial hearing and balance in mice born with a genetic condition that affects both.

Novel radiotracer measures olfactory neurons in animal models

Using a novel PET radiotracer, a team of Massachusetts General Hospital researchers has found a way to quantify olfactory sensory neurons and thus improve measurements of olfactory health, a reliable marker of the health of the brain.

Tracking movements of immune cells identifies key first steps in inflammatory arthritis

Using a novel approach for imaging the movement of immune cells in living animals, researchers from the Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Immunology and Inflammatory Diseases have identified what appear to be the initial steps leading to joint inflammation in a model of inflammatory arthritis.

RNA-based digital assay of circulating tumor cells may improve diagnosis, monitoring of liver cancer

Massachusetts General Hospital investigators describe how use of an advanced form of the commonly used polymerase chain reaction method to analyze circulating tumor cells may greatly increase the ability to diagnose early-stage cancer, increasing the likelihood of successful treatment.

Public health experts support federally mandated smoke-free public housing

Public health experts from Massachusetts General Hospital and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health applaud the efforts of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to protect public housing residents from the harmful effects of tobacco exposure and discuss both implementation challenges and possible solutions to ease the burden of transition.

Study finds alterations in both blood-brain barrier and intestinal permeability in individuals with autism

A Massachusetts General Hospital study finds reduced expression of genes involved in the integrity of the blood-brain barrier and the intestinal barrier in those with autism spectrum disorder.

Mass General researchers identify a new target for cancer immunotherapy

Investigators at Massachusetts General Hospital have found new evidence that the tumor necrosis factor receptor type II may be a major target for immuno-oncology treatments, which induce a patient's immune system to fight cancer.

Protein identified by Mass General team may protect tumor-initiating cells in breast cancer

Massachusetts General Hospital investigators have identified a protein that may play an essential role in maintaining a population of tumor-initiating cells (TICs)—treatment-resistant cells responsible for cancer recurrence and metastasis—in breast cancer, as well as a compound that appears to reduce the molecule’s ability to protect TICs from the effects of chemotherapy. Results of the team’s study are being published online in PNAS.

Many of those insured under the Affordable Care Act miss opportunities for financial assistance

A survey conducted by investigators at the Mongan Institute Health Policy Center at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) found that almost one-third of Californians enrolling in individual insurance plans offered under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2014 potentially missed opportunities to receive financial assistance with either premium payments, out-of-pocket costs or both. In their report published in the journal Health Affairs, the researchers note that enrollees who received assistance from certified enrollment counselors were less likely to choose plans that made them ineligible for assistance.

Mass General/Mount Sinai-led study connects stress-associated brain activity with cardiovascular risk

A study led by Massachusetts General Hospital and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai investigators has linked, for the first time in humans, activity in a stress-sensitive structure within the brain to risk of subsequent cardiovascular disease.

Goldilocks drug prevents chronic kidney disease in primates

A Massachusetts General Hospital research team, using the kidney as an example, has developed a way to avoid ischemia/reperfusion injury with a new monoclonal antibody that binds its target in a way that is "just right."

Bacterial communities of the female genital tract impact HIV infection risk

A team of researchers from the Massachusetts General Hospital and the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard has found that the most common bacterial community in the genital tract of healthy South African women is associated with a more than four-fold increase in the risk of acquiring HIV.

Mass General led team identifies gene mutations behind lack of a nose

Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital led a team that has identified gene mutations associated with a rare congenital condition involving the absence of a nose. Mutations in the same gene have previously been associated with a form of muscular dystrophy.

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