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2004 Highlights

Mayo Clinic's patient care activities in Jacksonville, Rochester and Arizona are strengthened by advanced programs in medical education and research. This interaction promotes higher standards of medical care, learning and discovery within the institution. Following are some of the highlights that occurred throughout Mayo in 2004.

Patient care

  • The world's first high-field, open magnetic resonance imaging system was installed at Mayo Clinic's Jacksonville campus. The 1.5 Tesla MRI boasts an opening larger than other MRI systems and has the ability to capture high-field quality diagnostic images. The design is more patient-friendly and can reduce the need to repeat and interrupt exams.

  • Using a routine ophthalmologic procedure -- a single, tiny injection through the surface of the eye -- Mayo Clinic researchers demonstrated they can permanently transfer a functioning gene to targeted tissues within the eye using a new gene therapy delivery system. The Mayo finding is a first step in using gene therapy to treat glaucoma, a major cause of blindness worldwide.

  • A clinical study at Mayo Clinic researchers in Rochester showed that cardiac rehabilitation improves survival after a heart attack by more than 50 percent, but only about half of the eligible patients participate. The study findings suggest that increased participation in cardiac rehabilitation could lead to improved survival among a large number of heart attack patients.

  • Mayo Clinic announced that its cardiovascular and transplantation programs in Arizona soon will include heart transplantation and other advanced technologies for heart failure and heart disease. The Mayo Clinic Heart Transplant Program will be based at Mayo Clinic Hospital in Phoenix and will meet a growing need for this service in Arizona. Also in 2004, Mayo celebrated completion of its 500th transplant at Mayo Clinic Hospital.

  • Mayo Clinic became the first medical institution in the United States to use a new computed tomography system that produces images with greater speed and anatomic detail than current scanners. The new CT scanner, located in Mayo Clinic's new CT Clinical Innovation Center in Rochester, allows physicians to image incredibly small details in a matter of seconds. It also increases the amount of information that can be acquired from a single scan.

  • An international study led by Mayo Clinic found that minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery is a safe and effective alternative to standard surgery for most patients with colon cancer, when performed by surgeons experienced in laparoscopic colon surgery. The study addressed previous concerns there might be higher rates of colon cancer recurrence after laparoscopic surgery. Researchers found equal rates of recurrence in patients who had undergone laparoscopic surgery and those who have the standard operation.

  • The SPARC Innovation Unit opened in the Mayo Building in Rochester. The space is designed as a laboratory for clinical innovation -- a place to develop and test new ideas in patient care, where staff will try to anticipate and shape the optimal outpatient experience of the future.

  • Mayo Clinic surgeons in Jacksonville performed the 1,000th liver transplant since the program began in 1998. Only 16 out of 122 active liver programs have reached the 1,000th transplant milestone, and Mayo Clinic Jacksonville's program is among the top five in the country. Its median waiting time to transplantation is the shortest in the nation at 1.7 months.

  • A Mayo Clinic-led study found that, in those with a genetic risk for Alzheimer's disease, an early decline in memory may be detected years before symptoms of the disease begin to appear. The link was strongest in those with a known genetic marker of predisposition to Alzheimer's. Memory loss was seen more than 10 years before to the average age of symptomatic diagnosis of the disease. The findings will be used to design prevention and therapeutic trials for those with greatest risk for developing the disease.

  • Mayo Clinic was awarded a five-year, $13 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to educate future leaders of clinical research and speed the translation of research discoveries into improved patient care. Mayo will use the grant to create a new Clinical Research Scholars Program and recruit postdoctoral research trainees who will receive in-depth clinical research training and have extensive time dedicated to conducting patient-oriented research.


  • A Mayo Clinic researcher developed a series of three-dimensional models of an enzyme responsible for the replication of the deadly SARS virus. These "structures-in-time" are central to designing an anti-SARS drug. The researcher analyzed the SARS viral genome and built, atom by atom, the 3D structures of the viral enzyme. This ability is crucial in understanding the information available from the emerging fields of genomics and proteomics and in combating emerging infectious diseases.

  • Researchers at Mayo Clinic manipulated a human antibody to induce an antitumor response in living mice that consistently curbs, and often cures, malignant melanoma. These findings show that when administered intravenously, the human antibody can induce immune response, which suits it for potential therapeutic use as a drug for humans. The findings could lead to a new way to fight cancer with the immune system.

  • Mayo Clinic researchers and British colleagues developed a new approach to cancer vaccines that kills healthy skin cells to activate the immune system against tumors. The method turns the death of healthy cells into a therapeutic advantage by inflicting stress on skin cells through heat shock. Researchers were able to trigger a healing immune response aimed at the skin cancer tumors, which eradicated the tumors.

  • Mayo Clinic researchers identified a way to manipulate the body's own natural killer cells to destroy cells containing HIV. Current treatments for HIV block the virus from replicating, but don't kill the cells that contain HIV. The existence of these HIV-harboring cells -- often called the "latent" or "resting reservoir" -- is regarded by many to be the main obstacle to finding a cure for HIV.

  • Cancer researchers at Mayo Clinic discovered a key partnership between two genes in mice that prevents the development of cancer of the lymph nodes, known as T-cell leukemia or lymphoma. This first-time finding provides researchers with a promising target for designing new anticancer drugs that fight lymphomas as well as other cancers in which this partnership exists, including breast and colon cancers.

  • Mayo genomics researchers became the first to demonstrate that mixing of genetic material can occur naturally, in a living body. The study provides scientists with a new way to understand how viral infections can pass from animals to humans. The researchers discovered conditions in which pig cells and human ells can fuse together to yield hybrid cells that contain genetic material from both species and carry a swine virus similar to HIV that can infect normal human cells.

  • Researchers at Mayo Clinic Rochester demonstrated that stem-cell therapy repairs damaged heart tissue and aids recovery after heart attack. By regenerating diseased myocardium and promoting cardiac repair, embryonic stem cells provide a unique therapeutic opportunity to reduce disability or death from heart attacks.

  • Mayo Clinic researchers and their Japanese collaborators developed a blood test that will prevent the misdiagnosis of a severely paralyzing disease. Neuromyelitis optica (NMO) -- often misdiagnosed as multiple sclerosis -- is a debilitating inflammatory disease that also causes blindness in many sufferers. The finding will help doctors correctly treat NMO, also known as Devic's syndrome, sooner and more effectively.

  • Vaccine researchers at Mayo Clinic were awarded a $10 million federal contract to study genetic susceptibility to smallpox and genomic-based risks to the smallpox vaccine. The contract supports the establishment and operation of a Population Genetics Analysis Program, which will investigate immune-response gene polymorphisms that affect an individual's susceptibility to infection, as well as their response to vaccination. Researchers also will study potential cellular and hormonal responses to smallpox vaccination.

  • Researchers at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville were part of an international team that discovered a gene and gene mutations that cause symptoms associated with Parkinson's disease and other neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease and Lou Gehrig's disease. Researchers believe that the discovery of the gene will have major implications for the understanding of the development and perhaps treatment of neurodegenerative diseases.


  • Mayo School of Health Sciences and the University of Minnesota combined their clinical and academic resources to begin a program for radiation therapy education and training in Rochester. Students who finish the program receive a bachelor of applied science degree in radiation therapy from the University of Minnesota, and a certification of completion from Mayo School of Health Sciences, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine.

  • The Education Technology Center selected and secured software to begin designing online instructional tools. The technology will allow physicians and students access to the most comprehensive and up-to-date medical information at the "point of need." The new learning technology also is being designed to measure how people learn in the electronic environment, to continuously improve medical education, practitioners excellence and patient care.

  • In Arizona, Mayo Clinic announced plans for a new national fellowship program for otorhinolaryngology (ear, nose and throat) physician assistants. This is the first civilian fellowship of its kind; the only other program is offered through the military. All of the program's faculty members are graduates of the military's ENT physician assistant program.

  • Mayo Clinic and Arizona State University (ASU) announced a new joint nursing program that will be based at Mayo Clinic Hospital in Phoenix. Nursing students will receive their didactic and clinical training using the ASU College of Nursing curriculum taught by master's level registered nurses from Mayo Clinic. The ASU College of Nursing -- Mayo Clinic Campus will begin classes in August 2005.

  • Mayo School of Health Sciences, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, began offering a doctoral degree in physical therapy. The revised and expanded course of study, which originally awarded graduates a master's degree, reflects the higher level of academic preparation necessary for physical therapists to provide patient care today and into the future.

  • Construction began on a clinical simulation center to support Mayo's educational programs. The Mayo Multidisciplinary Simulation Center will allow students, residents, allied health trainees, and physician staff to practice clinical diagnosis, examinations and procedures with computer and robotic technologies. This simulation-based education is designed to enhance patient safety. The center will be completed and will formally open in 2005.

  • Mayo School of Graduate Medical Education, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, trained nearly 1,300 residents in its programs in 191 specialties in Rochester, Jacksonville and Arizona. Eighty-five percent of the school's accredited programs were above national pass rates for their specialty.

Honors and achievements

  • Mayo Clinic is collaborating with IBM to accelerate advances in patient care and research with an aggressive set of technology initiatives. As a first step, IBM and Mayo Clinic integrated 4.4 million patient records into a unified system based on a technology that incorporates robust security and privacy features. This system will allow physicians and researchers access to a comprehensive set of records that can be analyzed with the security and privacy needed to protect patient confidentiality.

  • Mayo Clinic was awarded $9.3 million as one of six cancer research centers in the United States chosen by the National Cancer Institute to participate in a new initiative to test the effectiveness of experimental medications and nutritional compounds for prevention of cancer. Each of the chosen cancer centers will design and lead clinical trials, coordinating its own network of health care institutions to conduct the trials.

  • Mayo Clinic was again named one of the "100 Best Companies to Work For" by Fortune magazine in its annual compilation of companies that "rate high with employees." The ranking was based in part on a survey of employees at all Mayo Clinic sites.

  • The first grants from the Minnesota Partnership for Biotechnology and Medical Genomics were awarded to four collaborative research projects that will share $3 million. The research will focus on cardiovascular disease, prostate cancer, Alzheimer's disease and obesity. The Minnesota Partnership for Biotechnology and Medical Genomics is a unique collaborative venture among Mayo Clinic, the University of Minnesota and the state of Minnesota.

  • "Medical Edge Radio from Mayo Clinic," a daily 60-second health segment, began airing on radio stations throughout the United States. The new program features general health topics and people-focused stories covering new medical research as well as compelling health information.

  • Mayo Clinic was chosen as a Collaborative MS Research Center by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society because of its creative approach to nerve tissue repair, coupled with an unusual combination of expertise. Mayo Clinic was one of only four such centers to earn the distinction in 2004.
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