early evidence of alzheimer’s | MRI brain scans can reveal signs of brain shrinkage due to Alzheimer’s disease, but the signs only become diagnosable late in the course of the disease. New research from Washington University School of Medicine has found that data obtained from a novel MRI approach may be able to identify brain cell damage at early stages before tissue shrinkage is visible.  Quantitative Gradient Echo (qGRE) MRI is a new technique that shows areas in the brain that are no longer functioning due to a loss of healthy neurons. The study looked at scans from 70 people who exhibited signs of no, very mild, mild and moderate cognitive impairment. Dark zones devoid of healthy neurons correlated with individual cognitive scores for very mild to moderate dementia. The study is published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

play ball
The St. Louis Cardinals and Mercy have extended their partnership. The health care system will continue to serve as the team’s official medical provider through 2032. Since 2013, Mercy has provided general health care as well as subspecialty orthopedic care and mental health services to the Redbirds. During spring training in Jupiter, Florida, and all St. Louis home games, Mercy has a primary care physician and orthopedic specialist on deck. For postseason play, doctors travel with the team as well. “Mercy’s medical oversight and high-quality care over the last decade has changed the way we treat our players,” says John Mozeliak, Cardinals president of baseball operations. “Mercy provides a seamless, holistic approach that keeps our players ready to compete at the highest level physically and mentally.”

covid-19 & neuropathy
Researchers at Washington University have discovered a link between COVID-19 infection and higher risk of neuropathy. The research team surveyed 1,556 patients who were tested for COVID-19 on the Washington University Medical Campus from March 16, 2020, through Jan. 12, 2021. It was found that people who tested positive for the virus were about three times more likely to report pain, numbness or tingling in their hands and feet than those with negative tests. “We found that nearly 30% of patients who tested positive for COVID-19 also reported neuropathy problems at the time of their diagnosis, and that for 6% to 7% of them, the symptoms persisted for at least two weeks, and up to three months, suggesting this virus may have lingering effects on peripheral nerves,” says senior investigator Simon Haroutounian, chief of clinical research at the
Washington University Pain Center.

a gut feeling
Dr. Ajay Jain, a professor of pediatrics, pharmacology and physiology at Saint Louis University, has received funding from the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Jain received a NIH R21 grant for $428,020, as well as a recent NIH R01 grant for $1,893,750. The funds will be used to research the role of gut microbiota in preventing injury in Short Bowel Syndrome (SBS), a condition where bowel resection leads to insufficient intestines to sustain a person’s nutrition needs through regular feeding. “We believe that we are on the verge of creating sustainable options for our sickest patients with SBS,” Jain says. “Our cutting-edge translational research could prove transformative not only as a treatment but advance science in unlocking the mysteries of gut microbes and gut to systemic signaling.”