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Mehner-Turnbull team wins Microgravity Pitch Competition at Mayo Clinic Florida

Mayo Clinic in Florida held its first Microgravity Pitch Competition in September, with the goal of making research ideas for space travel become a reality in the future. The Shark Tank-like event highlighted the preliminary space research projects of three teams vying to eventually test their projects in microgravity.

Research staff pitched to a panel of judges. The teams and their projects were:

Christine Mehner, M.D. (CBS ’15), Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Science; and Marion (Toni) Turnbull, Ph.D. (NSCI ’17, research fellow) (pictured), “Identification of Organ-Specific Homing Factors Responsible for Recruitment of Tumor Cell Metastases” (research to study the migration of cancer cells while in zero gravity)

Kevin Riutort, M.D. (TY ’06, ANES ’09) (pictured), Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine; and Roy Greengrass, M.D. (ANES ’01), Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine, “Parabolic Flight Model to Determine Spread of Epidural Injectate in Microgravity” (research to study the mechanics of spinal anesthesia in space using animal models)

Cesar Garcia and several researchers from the lab of Alfredo Quinones-Hinojosa, M.D., “Studying the Effect of Space Microgravity on BTIC Tumorigenesis” (research to study multiple pathways in epigenetics and tumor growth, with the goal of finding new targets for treatment of glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer)

The winning team was Drs. Mehner and Turnbull. Next steps for Team Mehner and Turnbull are to develop a prototype of hardware needed to conduct their experiment in the absence of gravity.

The trek into the space arena is an exciting one for research — and Mayo’s Florida campus is an ideal location for space-related activities, with its close proximity to four of the 10 commercial spaceports in the U.S. “Florida has a tradition of innovation in space travel, with an abundance of technical expertise and superb launch facilities,” says Tushar Patel, M.B., Ch.B. (I ’93, GI ’96), dean for research on Mayo Clinic’s Florida campus. “We hope to combine Mayo’s clinical and biomedical expertise with these regional opportunities in order to bridge health and medicine between earth and space. Addressing this need is essential for future space travel, while at the same time, offering the potential for improving medical care on earth.”


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