On to Round 2 in STAT Science Madness

David Olson, assistant professor of chemistry, in his lab, speaking with Alaysia Madison, a chemistry student visiting from Xavier University.
David Olson, assistant professor of chemistry, in his lab, speaking with Alaysia Madison, a chemistry student visiting from Xavier University, in August 2018.

Work from David Olson’s laboratory in the Department of Chemistry has made it to the second round of STAT Madness, a bracket-style competition to find the most innovative biomedical research of 2018.

Round 2 voting runs until Thursday (March 14), via the STAT Madness webpage. The competition is organized by the news site statnews.com.

Olson, an assistant professor, studies how psychedelic drugs affect nerve cells and might be used to treat depression, anxiety and other mental disorders. (The FDA this week approved esketamine, the first new treatment for depression in two decades, related to the drug ketamine, a hallucinogenic.)

In Round 1, among 64 schools and other institutions, Olson’s work defeated alcoholism research out of Texas A&M University.

Now, in Round 2, Olson’s work goes up against research from the University of Texas MD Cancer Center. STAT Madness summarizes the match as follows:

UC Davis

LSD for depression? — Several psychedelic drugs appear to have rapid antidepressant and anti-anxiety effects, and UC Davis research may explain why. In a study of rats, LSD and other drugs spurred rapid remodeling of neuronal connections in the prefrontal cortex, an area involved in depression and other disorders. These changes mirror known cellular effects of the anesthetic ketamine, which has shown recent promise as a fast-acting antidepressant. The findings could lead to a new class of psychiatric drugs.

MD Anderson Cancer Center

Small incisions not always better — Minimally invasive techniques to remove the uterus and nearby tissues have gained acceptance in treating early-stage cervical cancer. Recovery times are shorter than for traditional surgeries. But in a randomized trial of cervical cancer patients, an MD Anderson team found that minimally invasive operations, including robot-assisted ones, were linked to higher cancer recurrence and lower overall survival. The results could spur changes in national treatment guidelines.


The winner will advance to the round of 16, to face the winner of MIT Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research (research into small-batch medicines) vs. Weill Cornell Medicine (research into a potential new target for treating tuberculosis).

— Andy Fell, UC Davis News and Media Relations

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