Research Study Seeks to Extend the Time Window for Stroke Intervention

According to Dr. R. Gilberto Gonzalez, MD, PhD, Director of the Neuroradiology division at Massachusetts General Hospital, it’s shaping up to be a big year for research on stroke treatment.

Our researchers are currently working on a
study to identify patients that will benefit from an interventional procedure to remove the clot that causes the patient’s stroke, even after the traditional time window for intervention.

They are focusing on a new type of device called stentrievers that is better at opening arteries for patients with an acute ischemic stroke. They are also using advanced CT and MRI modalities to identify patients who might benefit from specific approaches to

“Given the research at our institution and others, I’m very optimistic about a larger
time frame for treating stroke, which will have a big impact on care,” he said.
“Nevertheless,” he added, “If someone is having a stroke, they should call
9-1-1 and get to the hospital immediately.”

Bacterial Communities of the Female Genital Tract May Have an Impact on Inflammation, HIV Risk

A team of researchers from Mass General and the Ragon Institute of Mass General, MIT and Harvard has found that certain bacteria populations found in healthy South Africa women are significantly different from those of healthy women in more developed countries.

Moreover, they found that these bacteria are associated with increased inflammation in the genital tract, which in turn could be causing a higher risk of ‪#‎HIV‬infection. More research is needed to see if treatments targeting this bacteria can reduce the risk of HIV transmission. Dr. Douglas Kwon of the Ragon Institute and the Mass General Division of Infectious Disease is senior author of the report.


Study Suggests that Meditation and Yoga May Help Symptoms of IBS and IBD

A new pilot study that includes researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital, suggests that teaching relaxation techniques to patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) may help to alleviate their symptoms and better equip them to deal with the discomfort that results from both disorders.

In a study of 48 individuals with IBS or IBD, entering a state of deep rest induced by
meditation or yoga appears to have improved disease-related symptoms, anxiety
and overall quality of life.

Dr. Braden Kuo of the Mass General Department of Medicine is co-lead author of report, which featured collaborators from the
Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Mass General and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. A larger clinical study is now needed to see if the same results can be confirmed more broadly.

Researchers find possible link between microbiome population changes and onset of Type 1 diabetes

A coalition of researchers led by Dr. Ramnik Xavier of Mass General has identified a connection between changes in gut microbiota (the microbes living in our intestines) and the onset of Type 1 diabetes (T1D). The study, which
followed infants who were genetically predisposed to develop T1D, found that the onset of diabetes was preceded by a drop in microbial
biodiversity—including a disproportional decrease in a number of microbiotic species known to promote health in the gut.

The findings could help pave the way for microbial-based diagnostic tests and therapeutic options for those with T1D. Researchers from
the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, and the DIABIMMUNE Study Group were also part of the study team.

Learn more about the study

Mass General Study Shows How Meditating Changes Brain Structure

Could meditating for 30 minutes a day actually change your brain structure? Sara Lazar, PhD, a neuroscientist at Mass General, has compiled brain imaging data suggesting that it can. In a controlled study of two groups of people who had never meditated before, Dr. Lazar found significant growth in brain volume in the group that participated in an eight-week ‪#‎meditation‬ program relative to the control group. The main areas of growth included regions having to do with learning, cognition, empathy and compassion. The amygdala, the part of the brain related to anxiety, fear and stress, also got smaller in the group that meditated.


Does Gout Play a Role in Preventing Alzheimer’s Disease?


Could gout—a painful form of inflammatory arthritis—play a role in preventing Alzheimer’s disease? In a large study in the United Kingdom, Mass General researchers found that patients who previously had gout had a 24% lower risk of ‪#‎Alzheimers‬ disease.

Gout is caused by high levels of uric acid in the blood, which can cause complications such as kidney stones and heart problems, but uric acid also has strong anti-oxidative properties, which can help to repair cell damage. More research is now needed to confirm that uric acid plays a role in preventing Alzheimer’s disease, and if so, to test its efficacy as a possible treatment. Dr. Hyon Choi, director of Clinical Epidemiology at Mass General, is lead author of the study.


Looking for Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease Before it Strikes

By working with a genetically linked group of 5,000 individuals in Colombia who have a significantly higher predisposition to early-onset ‪#‎Alzheimer‬’s disease than any other population in the world, Mass General researcher Yakeel T. Quiroz, PhD (pictured here), is hoping to better understand the subtle changes in the brain that take place prior to an individual developing noticeable signs of the disease. By identifying these changes, it may one day be possible to start preventive measures before the disease takes hold.

Dr. Quiroz, a Colombian native, recently received an National Institutes of Health (NIH) Early Investigators Award to continue her research.


This is What Tasting Looks Like

Dr. Seok-Hyun (Andy) Yun from the Wellman Center of Photomedicine at Massachusetts General Hospital was part of a global team of researchers that was able to observe live taste buds in action for the first time using a specially designed microscope system operated by Dr. Yun and his laboratory team. The study revealed that rather than different tastes being assigned to distinct regions of the tongue, each taste bud has cells for all tastes. The study also suggests the taste process is not limited to the taste buds, but involves a complex interaction between food and an individual’s blood composition.

Learn more