3 UVA Health School of Medicine Discoveries Nominated for 2022’s Biggest Biomedical Advance

March 1, 2023 by

Stat Madness Not one but three UVA Health School of Medicine discoveries have been selected to compete for the title of 2022’s biggest biomedical advance in the STAT health news site’s annual “STAT Madness” bracket tournament. It’s the fifth year in a row that a UVA Health discovery has been recognized as one of the year’s most significant.

STAT Madness is like the scientific version of the NCAA basketball tournament. Voting is open to the public and begins March 1 – you can do so here: New rounds will open weekly, with winners advancing until a final victor is determined. You may vote once per day.

UVA occupies three of the 64 slots in this year’s tournament. Here are the three contenders, all of which come from UVA’s School of Medicine:

FIGHTING ALZHEIMER’S: UVA neuroscience researchers led by John Lukens, PhD, discovered a molecule in the brain responsible for orchestrating the immune system’s responses to Alzheimer’s disease and multiple sclerosis, potentially allowing doctors to supercharge the body’s ability to fight those and other devasting neurological diseases. The molecule directs immune cells called microglia to remove plaque buildup associated with Alzheimer’s and prevent the debris buildup that causes MS. The findings could let doctors augment the activity of microglia to treat or protect patients from the toxic buildup thought responsible for memory loss and impaired motor control in neurodegenerative diseases.

HALTING BREAST CANCER’S SPREAD: An unhealthy gut triggers changes in normal breast tissue that helps breast cancer spread to other parts of the body, research from UVA Cancer Center revealed. The gut microbiome – the microbes that naturally live inside us – can be disrupted by poor diet, long-term antibiotic use, obesity or other factors. When this happens, the ailing microbiome reprograms important immune cells in healthy breast tissue, called mast cells, to facilitate cancer’s spread, found researchers led by UVA’s Melanie R. Rutkowski, PhD. The finding could help scientists develop ways to keep breast cancer from spreading to other parts of the body.

PREVENTING HEART FAILURE: The loss of the male sex chromosome as many men age causes the heart muscle to scar and can lead to deadly heart failure, new research from UVA’s Kenneth Walsh, PhD, and collaborators revealed. The finding may help explain why men die, on average, several years younger than women. The new discovery suggests that men who suffer Y chromosome loss – estimated to include 40% of 70-year-olds – may particularly benefit from an existing drug that targets dangerous tissue scarring.

As the STAT Madness tournament progresses, Hoo faithful should remember to return each day to cast their vote. Bookmark that bracket at! And to keep up with the latest medical research news from UVA, subscribe to the Making of Medicine blog.

Article written by Josh Barney, Deputy Public Information Officer, UVA Health. Contact Josh about this story or to share your own research.

Filed Under: Faculty, Research