Welcome to our Snapshot of Science for December 2020

Here's a quick look at some recent publications, press releases and stories about the Mass General Research Institute community.

In this issue we highlight:

  • 22 new studies published in high impact journals, along with 15 summaries submitted by the research teams
  • 15 new research-related press releases from the Mass General Public Affairs office
  • 11 posts from the Mass General Research Institute blog
Publications

NOVEL BLOOD TEST MAY PREDICT MEMORY LOSS
Plasma N-terminal Tau Fragment Levels Predict Future Cognitive Decline and Neurodegeneration in Healthy Elderly Individuals
Chhatwal JP, Schultz AP, Dang Y, Ostaszewski B, Liu L [et al.], Selkoe DJ.
Published in Nature Communications on November 27, 2020 | *Summary available


LOW SELF-AWARENESS OF MEMORY LOSS IN YOUNG CARRIERS OF FAMILIAL ALZHEIMER'S DISEASE
Trajectory of Unawareness of Memory Decline in Individuals with Autosomal Dominant Alzheimer Disease
Vannini P, Hanseeuw BJ, Gatchel JR, Sikkes SAM, Alzate D [et al], Quiroz YT
Published in JAMA Network Open on December 01, 2020 | *Summary available


PRETREATMENT DRUG RESISTANCE AFFECTS EFFICACY OF HIV TREATMENTS
Reduced Efficacy of Hiv-1 Integrase Inhibitors in Patients with Drug Resistance Mutations in Reverse Transcriptase
Siedner MJ, Moorhouse MA, Simmons B, de Oliveira T, Lessells R [et al.], Gupta RK.
Published in Nature Communications on December 01, 2020 | *Summary available


CT SCANS ARE A COST EFFECTIVE WAY TO ASSESS CAD
Cost-effectiveness Analysis of Anatomic vs Functional Index Testing in Patients With Low-Risk Stable Chest Pain
Karády J, Mayrhofer T, Ivanov A, Foldyna B, Lu MT [et al.], Hoffmann U
Published in JAMA Network Open on December 01, 2020 | *Summary available


MUTATIONS IN MITOCHONDRIAL GENES ENHANCE RNA INTERFERENCE
Mitochondrial Dysfunction Induces RNA Interference in C. Elegans Through a Pathway Homologous to the Mammalian RIG-I Antiviral Response
Mao K, Breen P, Ruvkun G
Published in PLoS Biology on December 02, 2020


HEART STRUCTURE AND FUNCTION IN ELITE SOCCER PLAYERS
Cardiac Structure and Function in Elite Female and Male Soccer Players
Churchill TW, Petek BJ, Wasfy MM, Guseh JS, Weiner RB [et al.], Baggish AL
Published in JAMA Cardiology on December 02, 2020 | *Summary available | Press Release


BLOOD TEST IDENTIFIES PANCREATIC TUMORS
Extracellular Vesicle Analysis Allows for Identification of Invasive IPMN
Yang KS, Ciprani D, O'Shea A, Liss A, Yang R [et al.], Weissleder R
Published in Gastroenterology on December 07, 2020 | *Summary available


BRAIN METASTASES OF BREAST CANCER
HIF1A Signaling Selectively Supports Proliferation of Breast Cancer in the Brain
Ebright RY, Zachariah MA, Micalizzi DS, Wittner BS, Niederhoffer KL [et al.], Maheswaran S
Published in Nature Communications on December 09, 2020 | *Summary available


UNIVERSAL THERAPY A CHALLENGE FOR COVID-19 LUNG INFECTIONS
Temporal and Spatial Heterogeneity of Host Response To SARS-CoV-2 Pulmonary Infection
Desai N, Neyaz A, Szabolcs A, Shih AR, Chen JH [et al.], Deshpande V
Published in Nature Communications on December 09, 2020 | *Summary available


IMPACT OF COVID-19 SUPERSPREADER EVENTS
Phylogenetic Analysis of SARS-CoV-2 in Boston Highlights the Impact of Superspreading Events
Lemieux JE, Siddle KJ, Shaw BM, Loreth C, Schaffner SF [et al.], MacInnis BL
Published in Science on December 10, 2020


GENETIC RISK FOR ALCOHOL OR OBESITY-INDUCED CIRRHOSIS
Association of Genetic Variation with Cirrhosis: A Multi-trait Genome-wide Association and Gene-environment Interaction Study
Emdin CA, Haas M, Ajmera V, Simon TG, Homburger J [et al.], Khera AV
Published in Gastroenterology on December 10, 2020 | *Summary available


ROLE OF INFLAMMATION IN AGE-RELATED MACULAR DEGENERATION
Distinct Effects of Complement and of NLRP3- and Non-NLRP3 Inflammasomes for Choroidal Neovascularization
Malsy J, Alvarado AC, Lamontagne JO, Strittmatter K, Marneros AG
Published in eLife on December 11, 2020 | *Summary available | Press Release


MEDITATION VS EDUCATION IN MIGRAINE TREATMENT
Effectiveness of Mindfulness Meditation vs Headache Education for Adults with Migraine: A Randomized Clinical Trial
Wells RE, O'Connell N, Pierce CR, Estave P, Penzien DB [et al], Houle TT.
Published in JAMA Internal Medicine on December 14, 2020


HIV ANTIBODY CHANGES ASSOCIATED WITH RETURN OF VIRUS
HIV Antibody Fc N-Linked Glycosylation Is Associated with Viral Rebound
Offersen R, Yu WH, Scully EP, Julg B, Euler Z [et al.], Alter G
Published in Cell Reports on December 15, 2020


DOES THE MEDICAL PROFESSION RUN IN FAMILIES?
Does Medicine Run in the FamilyEvidence from Three Generations of Physicians in Sweden: Retrospective Observational Study
Polyakova M, Persson P, Hofmann K, Jena AB
Published in The BMJ on December 16, 2020


COVID-19 MORTALITY AMONG ADULTS AGES 25-44
All-Cause Excess Mortality and COVID-19-Related Mortality Among US Adults Aged 25-44 Years, March-July 2020
Faust JS, Krumholz HM, Du C, Mayes KD, Lin Z [et al.], Walensky RP
Published in JAMA on December 16, 2020


NOVEL LIQUID BANDAGE FOR MONITORING TISSUE OXYGENATION
A Paintable Phosphorescent Bandage for Postoperative Tissue Oxygen Assessment in DIEP Flap Reconstruction
Marks H, Bucknor A, Roussakis E, Nowell N, Kamali P [et al.], Evans CL
Published in Science Advances on December 18, 2020 | *Summary available | Press Release


BURN SIZE IMPACT ON PATIENT QUALITY OF LIFE
The Impact of Burn Size on Community Participation: A Life Impact Burn Recovery Evaluation (LIBRE) Study
Ryan CM, Shapiro GD, Rencken CA, Griggs C, Jeng JC [et al.], Schneider JC
Published in Annals of Surgery on December 18, 2020 | *Summary available


COVID-19 MITIGATION ON COLLEGE CAMPUSES
College Campuses and COVID-19 Mitigation: Clinical and Economic Value
Losina E, Leifer V, Millham L, Panella C, Hyle EP [et al.], Freedberg KA
Published in Annals of Internal Medicine on December 21, 2020


MATERNAL AND NEONATAL PASSAGE OF SARS-COV-2 VIRUS AND ANTIBODIES
Assessment of Maternal and Neonatal SARS-CoV-2 Viral Load, Transplacental Antibody Transfer, and Placental Pathology in Pregnancies During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Edlow AG, Li JZ, Collier AY, Atyeo C, James KE [et al.], Alter G
Published in JAMA Network Open on December 22, 2020 | *Summary available | Press Release


DAILY SCREENING AND TESTING DECREASES COVID CASES IN HOMELESS SHELTERS
Clinical Outcomes, Costs, and Cost-effectiveness of Strategies for Adults Experiencing Sheltered Homelessness During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Baggett TP, Scott JA, Le MH, Shebl FM, Panella C [et al.], Freedberg KA
Published in JAMA Network Open on December 22, 2020 | *Summary available


CLEFT LIP AND PALATE LINKED TO SPECIFIC GENES
An Irf6-Esrp1/2 Regulatory Axis Controls Midface Morphogenesis in Vertebrates
Carroll SH, Macias Trevino C, Li EB, Kawasaki K, Myers N [et al.], Liao EC
Published in Development on December 23, 2020 | *Summary available


Publication Summaries

NOVEL BLOOD TEST MAY PREDICT MEMORY LOSS
Plasma N-terminal Tau Fragment Levels Predict Future Cognitive Decline and Neurodegeneration in Healthy Elderly Individuals
Chhatwal JP, Schultz AP, Dang Y, Ostaszewski B, Liu L [et al.], Selkoe DJ.
Published in Nature Communications on November 27, 2020

Broad testing for Alzheimer's disease protein build-up has proved difficult, as identifying Alzheimer's proteins necessitates invasive lumbar punctures or expensive, specialized imaging that is rarely available. Though difficult to develop, blood tests for Alzheimer's proteins have great potential to improve clinical care and accelerate drug discovery. Here we observe that having higher blood levels of a newly developed measure of the tau protein predicted Alzheimer's specific memory and brain tissue loss years later. The results suggest this blood test can identify people at risk of decline even prior to symptom onset, a potential advance that could prove highly valuable in Alzheimer's research and clinical care.

(Summary submitted by Jasmeer Chhatwal, MD, PhD, Mass General Memory Disorders Clinic, Department of Neurology)


LOW SELF-AWARENESS OF MEMORY LOSS IN YOUNG CARRIERS OF FAMILIAL ALZHEIMER'S DISEASE
Trajectory of Unawareness of Memory Decline in Individuals with Autosomal Dominant Alzheimer Disease
Vannini P, Hanseeuw BJ, Gatchel JR, Sikkes SAM, Alzate D [et al], Quiroz YT
Published in JAMA Network Open on December 01, 2020

In this cross-sectional study, we aimed to characterize abnormalities in levels of self-awareness of memory impairment in members of the world's largest family destined to develop Alzheimer's dementia in mid-life. We found that heightened awareness was non-specific of autosomal dominant AD mutation carriers. However, people with the genetic variant became less aware of their own memory functioning several years before their clinical diagnosis. The findings suggest that low self-awareness of memory may be evident in individuals at increased risk for AD dementia, and that including informant-based measures may be important to complement self-report measures of memory function.

(Summary submitted by Yakeel T. Quiroz, PhD, Department of Psychiatry and Department of Neurology, Multicultural Alzheimer's Prevention Program)


PRETREATMENT DRUG RESISTANCE AFFECTS EFFICACY OF HIV TREATMENTS
Reduced Efficacy of Hiv-1 Integrase Inhibitors in Patients with Drug Resistance Mutations in Reverse Transcriptase
Siedner MJ, Moorhouse MA, Simmons B, de Oliveira T, Lessells R [et al.], Gupta RK.
Published in Nature Communications on December 01, 2020

Our team, along with colleagues in the United Kingdom and South Africa, examined whether drug resistance to older HIV drugs also affected treatment success for people taking dolutegravir, which has recently become the preferred treatment for HIV in sub-Saharan Africa. Our findings were soberingpeople taking dolutegravir with genetically-determined drug resistance to older drugs were over 15% less like to maintain disease control over two years of follow-up. These results highlight the threat that drug resistance poses to global control of HIV and they reinforce the need for novel therapies to facilitate lifelong disease control for those infected.

(Summary submitted by Mark J. Siedner, MD, MPH, Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Medicine)


CT SCANS ARE A COST EFFECTIVE WAY TO ASSESS CAD
Cost-effectiveness Analysis of Anatomic vs Functional Index Testing in Patients With Low-Risk Stable Chest Pain
Karády J, Mayrhofer T, Ivanov A, Foldyna B, Lu MT [et al.], Hoffmann U
Published in JAMA Network Open on December 01, 2020

The primary choice for initial testing during evaluation of low-risk stable chest pain is controversial. In a cost-effectiveness analysis we modeled the consequences of starting the evaluation with anatomic assessment of coronary artery disease (CAD) by coronary CT angiography versus assessment of myocardial ischemia with stress testing. Over a lifetime, coronary CT angiography-based approaches resulted in improved preventive statin treatment tailored to presence and extent of CAD, fewer invasive testing and revascularization procedures, and lower costs as compared to stress testing over a wide range of clinical scenarios. Thus, anatomic strategies are cost-effective and may be favored as the initial test in the assessment of low-risk stable chest pain.

(Summary submitted by Júlia Karády, PhD, Cardiovascular Imaging Research Center, Department of Radiology)


HEART STRUCTURE AND FUNCTION IN ELITE SOCCER PLAYERS
Cardiac Structure and Function in Elite Female and Male Soccer Players
Churchill TW, Petek BJ, Wasfy MM, Guseh JS, Weiner RB [et al.], Baggish AL
Published in JAMA Cardiology on December 02, 2020 | Press Release

In our work as sports cardiologists, we believe it is essential to understand the range of normal for cardiac data in any given population, and our goal here was to provide this information for a group of elite female and male U.S. soccer players. We evaluated both electrocardiograms (EKG) (assessment of the heart's electrical activity), and echocardiograms (heart ultrasound, measuring the heart's structure and function). EKGs meeting international criteria for being 'abnormal' were more common in female athletes, but none of these individuals had evidence of underlying abnormalities. Athletes of both sexes also frequently exceeded the general population-defined 'normal values' for heart size, likely reflective of cardiac adaption to exercise training. We did not identify any athletes with signs of heart muscle disease that would require restriction from competition.

(Summary submitted by Timothy W. Churchill, MD, Cardiovascular Performance Program, Division of Cardiology, Department of Medicine)


BLOOD TEST IDENTIFIES PANCREATIC TUMORS
Extracellular Vesicle Analysis Allows for Identification of Invasive IPMN
Yang KS, Ciprani D, O'Shea A, Liss A, Yang R [et al.], Weissleder R
Published in Gastroenterology on December 07, 2020

Increasing detection of intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasms (IPMNs), cystic tumors of the pancreas, from cross-sectional imaging is a problem for clinicians since these patients require prolonged surveillance. A non-invasive method for the distinction of benign from invasive IPMNs is an unmet clinical need. We, in collaboration with colleagues from Surgery, Radiology and Pathology, developed a blood based digital extracellular vesicle (EV) screening technology (DEST) that permits the distinction of invasive IPMNs from low grade and non-invasive subtypes. In a study of 133 patients, MUC5AC EV profiling reliably identifies patients with invasive IPMN. When combined with imaging and clinical findings, the DEST method has the potential to transform IPMN/early pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma detection and surgical evaluation, including avoiding unnecessary surgeries.

(Summary submitted by Katherine S. Yang, PhD, Center for Systems Biology, Department of Radiology)


BRAIN METASTASES OF BREAST CANCER
HIF1A Signaling Selectively Supports Proliferation of Breast Cancer in the Brain
Ebright RY, Zachariah MA, Micalizzi DS, Wittner BS, Niederhoffer KL [et al.], Maheswaran S
Published in Nature Communications on December 09, 2020

Brain metastasis, caused by the spread of cancer cells to the brain, is a serious complication of advanced breast cancer and is difficult to treat. Our study used a breast cancer circulating tumor cell (CTC) mouse model to demonstrate that the signaling pathway activated by low oxygen concentration/hypoxia enhances brain tumor growth, while minimally affecting growth in the breast. High levels of hypoxia signaling in CTCs from patients with brain metastases predict worse clinical outcome suggesting that blocking hypoxia signaling provides a therapeutic opportunity in the treatment of brain metastases of breast cancer.

(Summary submitted by Shyamala Maheswaran, PhD, Department of Surgery, Center for Cancer Research, Mass General Cancer Center)


UNIVERSAL THERAPY A CHALLENGE FOR COVID-19 LUNG INFECTIONS
Temporal and Spatial Heterogeneity of Host Response To SARS-CoV-2 Pulmonary Infection
Desai N, Neyaz A, Szabolcs A, Shih AR, Chen JH [et al.], Deshpande V
Published in Nature Communications on December 09, 2020

Examination of lung specimens from 24 patients with SARS-CoV-2 infection has identified two phases of infection: an early phase of high viral load and a later phase in which the virus is no longer present but there remains severe lung damage. Surprisingly, there is little viral replication in the lungs, which suggests that viral replication is primarily occurring in the upper airways. The immune response is variable between patients and even in different parts of the lung of the same patient. This makes a "one drug fits all" therapy approach difficult, and studies to monitor patients for these temporal and spatial differences will be needed.

(Summary submitted by Niyati Desai MBBS, MD, Center for Cancer Research, Mass General Cancer Center)


GENETIC RISK FOR ALCOHOL OR OBESITY-INDUCED CIRRHOSIS
Association of Genetic Variation with Cirrhosis: A Multi-trait Genome-wide Association and Gene-environment Interaction Study
Emdin CA, Haas M, Ajmera V, Simon TG, Homburger J [et al.], Khera AV
Published in Gastroenterology on December 10, 2020

Cirrhosis is a leading cause of global mortality. We aggregated clinical and genetic information from 424914 individuals, of whom 8383 (2%) were affected with cirrhosis. Using new statistical approaches, we identified 12 variants that impact risk, including 7 that had not been previously reported. We hypothesized that those who inherited more of the risk variants would have a significantly increased risk by assembling the variants into a polygenic score. For the 1% of the population with the highest score, they had more than triple the normal risk based on genetic variation alone. Beyond cirrhosis, individuals with high polygenic score had much higher risk of important complications including liver cancer. Using our polygenic score as a tool, we determined that individual with high genetic risk are substantially more prone to cirrhosis induced by alcohol or obesity.

(Summary submitted by Amit V. Khera, MD, MSc, Center for Genomic Medicine, Division of Cardiology, Department of Medicine)


ROLE OF INFLAMMATION IN AGE-RELATED MACULAR DEGENERATION
Distinct Effects of Complement and of NLRP3- and Non-NLRP3 Inflammasomes for Choroidal Neovascularization
Malsy J, Alvarado AC, Lamontagne JO, Strittmatter K, Marneros AG
Published in eLife on December 11, 2020 | Press Release

The "wet" form of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), one of the most common causes of irreversible vision loss, is promoted by inflammation in the eye. Two distinct inflammatory pathways, complement-mediated and inflammasome-mediated inflammation, have been hypothesized to drive AMD progression. However, what cells contribute to the activation of these inflammatory pathways in AMD and through which molecular mechanisms is unclear. This study answers key open questions on the role of complement and inflammasomes for wet AMD pathogenesis in a mouse model of this disease and suggests that targeting inflammasomes and complement may offer synergistic benefits to inhibit wet AMD.

(Summary submitted by Alexander G. Marneros, MD, PhD, Cutaneous Biology Research Center, Department of Dermatology)


NOVEL LIQUID BANDAGE FOR MONITORING TISSUE OXYGENATION
A Paintable Phosphorescent Bandage for Postoperative Tissue Oxygen Assessment in DIEP Flap Reconstruction
Marks H, Bucknor A, Roussakis E, Nowell N, Kamali P [et al.], Evans CL
Published in Science Advances on December 18, 2020 | Press Release

Oxygen is critical for successful surgical recovery, but it is challenging to measure within tissue. Our multidisciplinary partnership between researchers at Mass General and clinicians at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center developed and validated a new paintable oxygen sensing dressing for postsurgical recovery. We tested the oxygen sensing bandage against the current standard-of-care oximeter in patients undergoing breast reconstruction surgeries. The stand-alone, simple-to-use oxygen sensing dressing was found comparable with the oximeter, while not requiring wires or leads. Future applications include trauma, skin grafts, and chronic ischemia.

(Summary submitted by Conor L. Evans, PhD, Wellman Center for Photomedicine, Department of Dermatology)


BURN SIZE IMPACT ON PATIENT QUALITY OF LIFE
The Impact of Burn Size on Community Participation: A Life Impact Burn Recovery Evaluation (LIBRE) Study
Ryan CM, Shapiro GD, Rencken CA, Griggs C, Jeng JC [et al.], Schneider JC
Published in Annals of Surgery on December 18, 2020

People with larger burn size are at higher risk for death. This information guides medical decisions during acute care. This study presents one of the first attempts to measure whether the effects of larger burn size extend past the initial hospitalization and impact on long-term quality of life. Using the LIBRE-Profile, a tool developed by Mass General researchers, in collaboration with colleagues from Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, Boston University School of Public Health, and Shriners Hospitals for Children, we identified complex changes related to burn size in work and social spheres. This information may help guide treatments to improve burn recovery.

(Summary submitted by Colleen M. Ryan, MD, Sumner Redstone Burn Center, Department of Surgery)


MATERNAL AND NEONATAL PASSAGE OF SARS-COV-2 VIRUS AND ANTIBODIES
Assessment of Maternal and Neonatal SARS-CoV-2 Viral Load, Transplacental Antibody Transfer, and Placental Pathology in Pregnancies During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Edlow AG, Li JZ, Collier AY, Atyeo C, James KE [et al.], Alter G
Published in JAMA Network Open on December 22, 2020 | Press Release

Pregnant women and neonates represent two of the most vulnerable populations in the face of SARS-CoV-2 infection, and knowledge of the biology of SARS-CoV-2 in these groups is lacking. Among the 64 pregnant women who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 in our study, we detected no virus in maternal or cord blood (despite detection in the women's respiratory system), no signs of the virus in placentas and no evidence of viral transmission to newborns. Most of the women who tested positive developed antibody responses against SARS-CoV-2 proteins, but mother-to-newborn transfer of anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies through the placenta was significantly lower than transfer of anti-influenza antibodies. These new insights could help improve care for these women and their newborns and emphasizes the need for pregnant women to be considered in vaccine rollout plans.

(Summary submitted by Andrea Edlow, MD, MSc, Vincent Center for Reproductive Biology, Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology)


DAILY SCREENING AND TESTING DECREASES COVID CASES IN HOMELESS SHELTERS
Clinical Outcomes, Costs, and Cost-effectiveness of Strategies for Adults Experiencing Sheltered Homelessness During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Baggett TP, Scott JA, Le MH, Shebl FM, Panella C [et al.], Freedberg KA
Published in JAMA Network Open on December 22, 2020

Over 1.4 million people experience sheltered homelessness annually in the U.S., including ~356,000 each night. In this computer simulation model of COVID-19 in sheltered homeless adults in Boston, we found that a strategy of daily symptom screening with PCR testing of people with symptoms, and care in alternate care sites (such as hotels or motels) for mild or moderate disease, compared to in hospitals, decreased infections by 37%-75% and costs by 46%-72%. During a COVID-19 surge, adding universal PCR testing regardless of symptoms would further decrease infections at slightly higher cost, but would still be less costly than current care.

(Summary submitted by Kenneth A. Freedberg, MD, MSc, Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Medicine, Medical Practice Evaluation Center)


CLEFT LIP AND PALATE LINKED TO SPECIFIC GENES
An Irf6-Esrp1/2 Regulatory Axis Controls Midface Morphogenesis in Vertebrates
Carroll SH, Macias Trevino C, Li EB, Kawasaki K, Myers N [et al.], Liao EC
Published in Development on December 23, 2020

Cleft lip and palate are two of the most common birth defects. We recently identified a new link between key genes Irf6 and Esrp1/2 that regulate facial formation. We found that disruption of these key genes leads to a cleft lip and palate in mouse and zebrafish. Remarkably, we discovered a unique abnormal cell population in the cleft that has properties of both embryonic skin cells and cartilage. This work elucidates how human facial clefts form and will inform better prenatal diagnosis and treatment strategies in the future.

(Summary submitted by Eric C. Liao, MD, PhD, Department of Surgery, Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery, MassGeneral Hospital for Children)


Press Releases

Antiepileptic Drug Reduces Motor Neuron Excitability in ALS
Featuring Merit Cudkowicz, MD, MSc and Brian Wainger, MD, PhD

The antiepileptic drug ezogabine reduced pathologic excitability of cortical and spinal motor neuron cells that are early signs of clinical dysfunction in people with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), according to a study conducted by the Neurological Clinical Research Institute of Mass General.


New Insights About Age-related Macular Degeneration Could Spur Better Treatments
Featuring Alexander Marneros, MD, PhD

New research by investigators at Mass General reveals insights into potential drivers of the age-related macular degeneration, which currently has no cure, that could be targeted through prevention or treatment strategies.


One-step Method to Generate Mice for Vaccine Research
Featuring Facundo Batista, PhD

Researchers developed a new method for quickly generating mouse lines for pre-clinical vaccine evaluation. This one-step method, which uses CRISPR/Cas9 technology, can produce mice with genetically engineered human B cell receptors in just a few weeks.


Investigational Drug SLS-005 (Trehalose) Enters HEALEY ALS Platform Trial
Featuring Merit Cudkowicz, MD, MSc, and Sabrina Paganoni, MD, PhD

Investigators are now working with Seelos to include SLS-005 (Trehalose) to the platform trial for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).


Novel MRI Contrast Agent Sidesteps Toxic Effects of Current Products
Featuring Eric M. Gale, PhD

Researchers at Mass General and Harvard Medical School are developing an alternative MRI contrast agent based on manganese that is easily processed and eliminated by the body. Manganese has magnetic properties similar to those of gadolinium, but without gadolinium's toxicity.


Study Uncovers Two Phases of Infection in Patients with Severe COVID-19 Pneumonia
Featuring David T. Ting, MD

New research led by investigators at Mass General and published in Nature Communications provides insights that could help improve treatment strategies for infected patients.


Elite Soccer Players Help Define Normal Heart Measures in Competitive Athletes
Featuring Aaron Baggish, MD, and Timothy W. Churchill, MD

To provide guidance for clinicians to assess competitive athletes with cardiovascular symptoms and to screen asymptomatic athletes for hidden heart problems, a team led by Mass General investigators conducted a study to determine what should be considered normal heart scan results in elite female and male soccer players.


Neutralizing Antibodies Protect Against Severe Covid-19
Featuring Alejandro Balazs, PhD

Scientists at the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard, publishing in the journal Cell, show that the potency of neutralizing antibodies which developed in COVID-19 patients was significantly reduced in those with severe or fatal disease compared to patients with milder infections.


Palliative Care Improves Quality of Life for Patients with Advanced Blood Cancer
Featuring Areej El-Jawahri, MD

A first-of-its-kind intervention integrating palliative care early in the course of cancer therapy for patients with advanced acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a highly aggressive cancer of the blood and bone marrow, resulted in substantial improvements in patients' quality of life, mood and end-of-life care.


Prenatal Testing Has Reduced the Number of Babies Born with Down Syndrome in Europe by Half
Featuring Brian Skotko, MD, MPP

The growth of prenatal screening in Europe has reduced the number of babies being born per year with Down syndrome (DS) by an average of 54%, according to a new study published in the European Journal of Human Genetics by researchers from Mass General and international Down syndrome organizations.


Liquid Bandage Detects Tissue Oxygenation Without the Drawbacks of Wired Oximeters
Featuring Conor L. Evans, PhD

In the first human clinical trial, researchers at Mass General and surgeons at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center have validated the practicality and accuracy of an oxygen-sensing liquid bandage that measures the concentration of oxygen in transplanted tissue.


Pregnant Women with Covid-19 Don't Pass Virus to Newborns, but Also May Pass Fewer-than-expected Antibodies to Newborns
Featuring Andrea Edlow, MD, MSc

In a study published in JAMA Network Open, Mass General investigators provide new insights that could help improve care for these pregnant women who develop COVID-19 and their newborns. The study also emphasizes the need for pregnant women to be considered in vaccine rollout plans.


Inclusive, Culturally Competent Care Crucial to Caring for Non-English Speakers During COVID-19 Pandemic, Experts Say
Featuring Joseph Betancourt, MD, MPH, Warren Chuang, MD, and Steven Knuesel, MD

In a perspective published in the Journal of Hospital Medicine, experts from the Department of Medicine, Office of Equity and Inclusion and Center for Diversity and Inclusion, call for a more inclusive and culturally competent approach to clinical care based on best practices developed during the COVID-19 surge in Massachusetts.


Neurologists Say There Is No Medical Justification for Police Use of Neck Restraints
Featuring Altaf Saadi, MD, MSc, Jillian M. Berkman, MD and Joseph A. Rosenthal, MD, PhD

Some police departments in the United States continue to teach officers that neck restraints are a safe method for controlling agitated or aggressive people, but that's a dangerous myth, according to a Viewpoint written by three neurologists at Mass General in JAMA Neurology.


Allergists Offer Reassurance Regarding Potential Allergic Reactions to Covid-19 Vaccines
Featuring Aleena Banerji, MD, Kimberly Blumenthal, MD, MSc, Aidan Long, MD, Lacey Robinson, MD, Rebecca Saff, MD, PhD and Anna Wolfson, MD

A team of experts led by allergists at Mass General has now examined all relevant information to offer reassurance that the vaccines can be administered safely even to people with food or medication allergies.


Blog Posts

The Connection Between Migraines and Stroke and Improving Health Outcomes in Black Women
Featuring Andrea Harriott, MD, PhD

Andrea Harriott, MD, PhD, is a neurology researcher studying the connection between migraine and stroke and the impact these conditions have on Black women.


Humans of MGRI: Alexandra Selberg

Humans of MGRI is a new initiative with the goal of getting to know members of the Mass General Research Institute. Our first guest is Alexandra Selberg, MA, a clinical research coordinator in the Division of Cardiology.


What Do We Know About SARS-CoV-2 Reinfection So Far?
Featuring Arthur Y. Kim, MD, and Rajesh T. Gandhi, MD

Confirmed cases of SARS-CoV-2 reinfection have been very rare, and fortunately most have been mild. But how and why reinfection occursand what these cases mean for ending the global COVID-19 pandemicremain a mystery.


Colleagues Across the Nation Show Their Support for Dr. Rochelle Walensky

Friends and colleagues across the nation have been voicing their support for Dr. Walensky on Twitter for being named Director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


President-elect Joe Biden Appoints Mass General's Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH, as New CDC Director

Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH, Chief of Infectious Diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital, Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Steve and Deborah Gorlin MGH Research Scholar, has been appointed as the new Director of the CDC.


Rare Light Sensitivity Disorder Could Affect More People than Previously Thought
Featuring Amy Dickey, MD, MSc

In a study of genetic data from 50K participants in the UK Biobank, Mass General researchers found that the number of individuals with the genetic pairing that causes Erythropoietic protoporphyria (EPP) was seven times higher than the number of individuals who had been diagnosed.


Humans of MGRI: Michelle Garlin Politis, MD

Michelle Garlin Politis, MD, is a research fellow in the Center for Systems Biology, talented painter and proud cat owner.


Newly Elected ECOR Reps Will Work to Increase Support for Young Researchers
Featuring Madhusmita Misra, MD, MPH and Alice Ho, MD, MBA.

The election for faculty positions on the Executive Committee on Research were held earlier this fall. Please join us in welcoming the two newest faculty representatives: Madhusmita Misra, MD, MPH and Alice Ho, MD, MBA.


Congratulations to the Physician-Scientist Development Award Recipients

Every year, Mass General awards the Physician-Scientist Development award for MD and/or PhD investigators who belong to racial ethnic groups that are considered underrepresented in academic medicine. This year, four investigators received Physician-Scientist Development Awards, please join us in congratulating them!


Celiac Disease Researchers Link Early-Life Environmental Triggers with Changes in the Developing Gut Microbiome
Featuring Maureen Leonard, MD, MMSc

Mass General researchers have generated extensive data through the Celiac Disease Genomic, Environmental, Microbiome and Metabolomic Study (CDGEMM), a longitudinal, prospective study with nearly 500 infants and children currently enrolled in Italy, Spain and the United States and published their first results.


Top Ten Best Bench Press Stories of 2020

Summaries and links to the 10 most popular posts from the MGRI blog in 2020.