March 01, 2021 9:00 AM

Help U-M Biomedical Research Teams Compete in the Annual STAT Madness Tournament

University of Michigan research into COVID-19 complications, cancer and surprise medical bills competes among the nation’s top discoveries of the past year.

teal background saying Stat madness 65 institutions compete for the best innovative research of the year
Credit: Stat Madness

It’s like college basketball’s March Madness — only for biomedical research. Throughout the month of March, 64 discoveries from schools and colleges across the country will compete in the annual STAT Madness tournament.

This year, the University of Michigan is fielding five research teams whose members hail from Michigan Medicine, the U-M College of Engineering and the School of Public Health.

Not only are bragging rights on the line, but the tournament is a chance to help the public learn about exciting, important scientific advances — many of them funded with federal tax dollars. The event is run by STAT, a health news organization and part of Boston Globe Media.

Michigan fans can cheer U-M teams to victory by casting votes daily on the tournament website. And also by encouraging others to do so on social media.

This year’s U-M entries include:

1. New cause of COVID-19 blood clots identified

Blood clots continue to wreak havoc for patients with severe COVID-19 infection. A Michigan Medicine study explains what may spark them in up to half of patients: an autoimmune antibody that’s circulating in the blood, attacking the cells and triggering clots in arteries, veins and microscopic vessels.

2. Mapping the immune landscape of pancreatic cancer

A U-M Rogel Cancer Center study used multiple cutting-edge techniques to create what is believed to be the most robust and detailed portrait to date of the network of interactions that suppress the body’s immune response in and around pancreatic tumors. The finding could help guide personalized immunotherapy treatment.

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3. Nanomedicine targets recurring brain cancer

A new synthetic protein nanoparticle capable of slipping past the nearly impermeable blood-brain barrier could deliver cancer-killing drugs directly to malignant brain tumors, research from Michigan Medicine and the U-M College of Engineering scientists showed.

4. COVID-19’s long-term effects

For many survivors of severe cases of COVID-19, getting out of the hospital is just the beginning of a long journey to recovery. A team from the U-M Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation published some of the first hard data showing this “long COVID” phenomenon, based on patients treated at 28 Michigan hospitals during the first months of the pandemic.

5. Surprise surgery bills

When a patient gets scheduled for an operation, many might know it’s important to make sure their surgeon accepts their insurance so they don’t end up with a “surprise” bill. But a study from an IHPI team shows that many patients may get stuck with such bills anyway — and the findings may have helped inform federal and state policy changes.

The university is hoping to bring the STAT Madness title back to Michigan this year. A Michigan Medicine research team was crowned the tournament victors in 2019 for a potential tinnitus treatment. A cross-campus team made the finals in the 2017 tournament, and a Michigan Medicine team made the semifinals in 2018.


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