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January 3, 2018

Resiliency and Determination Propel a Researcher’s Discoveries

By SharingMayoClinic

Mayo Clinic researcher John Fryer, Ph.D., is hopeful the work in his laboratory will yield insights into Alzheimer's disease, as well as sepsis — an often-deadly condition which claimed his father's life in 2016.

Mayo Clinic researcher John Fryer, Ph.D., is hopeful the work in his laboratory will yield insights into Alzheimer's disease, as well as sepsis — an often-deadly condition which claimed his father's life in 2016.


When he received a text message from his mother in Arizona telling him that his father had been diagnosed with sepsis, John Fryer, Ph.D., knew he had to move quickly.

Sepsis, a runaway inflammation response to infection, can be deadly. It strikes more than 1 million Americans every year, killing between 28 and 50 percent of those affected, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Dr. Fryer received the message about his father in October 2016. It came less than 48 hours after Dr. Fryer's laboratory at Mayo Clinic learned that its greatest discovery — about sepsis, no less — would be published in Molecular Psychiatry, one of the world's leading research journals. The afterglow from that achievement would disappear quickly.

"As soon as I saw the message, I called my wife, and within two hours, I was on a flight to Arizona," Dr. Fryer says.

By the time Dr. Fryer arrived in Arizona, the inflammatory response was unstoppable. His father, Ron Fryer, who was also battling end-stage renal disease, was receiving palliative care to make him as comfortable as possible. Over the next few hours, with Dr. Fryer in the hospital room, Ron Fryer slipped into unconsciousness. He died less than 48 hours later.

"I couldn't stop being a scientist and wishing I had been further along in my research because, maybe, it could have helped my father," Dr. Fryer says. "At the same time, I was glad I knew about sepsis and recognized that I had to leave immediately when I received my mother's message. That was very fortunate, because I got to see my dad and have a conversation with him before he lost consciousness."

An intriguing link

Dr. Fryer's ability to focus on the positive within the whirlwind of events that surrounded his father's death reflects a resiliency that has served him well.

"You have to be malleable — willing to adjust — if you want to have a successful research career," he says.

Dr. Fryer is a neuroscientist at Mayo Clinic's Florida campus whose primary focus is Alzheimer's disease. He began studying sepsis because people who survive sepsis often have a period of delirium, and they have significantly greater risk of cognitive impairment and dementia.

Dr. Fryer and his team had their resolve tested before their sepsis discovery. At an early point in the research, they reluctantly decided to put the project on hold due to lack of funding.


"It's the most important discovery I've made since I started my lab in 2011, and it wouldn't have happened without the Gilmers." — John Fryer, Ph.D.


"I told the team we had to put the project on pause. I didn't want to say 'stop,' so I just said 'pause,'" says Dr. Fryer, who is also assistant dean of Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. "Everyone was surprised, and their shoulders just slumped. It was still bothering me when I got home."

A few days later, everything changed when Dr. Fryer's lab received a gift from Gary and Marilyn Gilmer, who are members of Mayo Clinic's Florida Leadership Council and recognized as major benefactors.

A crucial discovery

With the Gilmers' funding, Dr. Fryer's team renewed its efforts and discovered that a protein called lipocalin-2, or LCN2, may serve as a doorway for creating the first strategies to protect people from the cognitive effects of sepsis. The protein also may be useful for diagnosing sepsis earlier, which is essential to reduce the number of lives it claims.

"It's the most important discovery I've made since I started my lab in 2011, and it wouldn't have happened without the Gilmers," Dr. Fryer says. "We think we may be able to target LCN2, either directly or indirectly, to reduce inflammation during sepsis and protect the brain. We also think measuring LCN2 levels may be helpful for determining if a patient is developing sepsis."

For the Gilmers, the discovery had a double impact.

"We seized the opportunity to support Dr. Fryer's research because our family has firsthand experience with the devastating effects of dementia," Gary Gilmer says. "Little did we realize that he and his team would so quickly make a discovery that has potential for improving the treatment of two terrible conditions."

A connection to patient care

The next steps for Dr. Fryer and his team are to screen drugs that may work with LCN2 to protect the brain from sepsis and similar syndromes. They are already screening thousands of drugs that have approval from the Food and Drug Administration and are part of the National Institutes of Health's Clinical Collection. The team is also focused on better understanding the mechanisms that may connect sepsis with cognitive impairment and dementia.

At the same time, Dr. Fryer's team is working with clinical colleagues to develop other strategies to improve sepsis care. Mayo Clinic has a sepsis response team that defines best practices for preventing and treating sepsis in hospitalized patients. Dr. Fryer's laboratory is working with them to create new ways to identify sepsis earlier.


"The good news is that Mayo Clinic is the best place to take all of these next steps." — John Fryer, Ph.D.


For example, he thinks it may be possible to use genomic technologies to identify pathogens earlier and start a patient on antibiotics sooner. Dr. Fryer developed additional expertise in genomics through a Gerstner Family Career Development Award. This grant, created through philanthropy from the Gerstner Family Foundation, is awarded through the Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine. It gives seed funding to young investigators who are pursuing genomic approaches to improve prediction, prevention and treatment of diseases.

"The good news is that Mayo Clinic is the best place to take all of these next steps," Dr. Fryer says. "Collaborating with physicians and pushing the boundaries of translational science is our greatest strength, and that's where this research is headed. In fact, we've already started."


HELPFUL LINKS

 

Tags: Center for Individualized Medicine, Dr. John Fryer, Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Neurology & Neurosurgery, Research

So thankful for the work that you, Dr. Fryer, and Mayo are doing on sepsis, as well as Alzheimer's. I lost my oldest sister to Alzheimer's in 2016 and pray every day that a cure will prevent another life lost, a family in terrible grief. My story for you is with sepsis. Feb. 24th this year, my sister, my daughters and I, spent the day at Atlanta Motor Speedway (race tract), having a ton of fun! I had had an on again, off again bladder infection but other than that, I was feeling fine, no health problem at all. Next morning at around 5 a.m., got up with a 'cold thirsty' need instead of hot coffee. The last thing I remember was pour a cup of cold soda, until about 5 p.m.! With no memory of returning to my bedroom, I was found unresponsive, unconscious, near death, rushed to ER, almost on life support. Temp 106, with all the other complications. I had both kidneys blocked with stones, one completely, severe infection throughout my body, main culprit E-coli. That ER team was over the top and on the money with diagnosing septic shock upon arrival and by 5 they had me stable enough to move to ICU. I am still dealing with a 'swiss cheese' brain, difficulty in remembering words while speaking, etc. and heavy, heavy fatigue! Stones were removed and kidney function normal in left but no so normal in the right. I am experiencing severe joint as well as all over body pain. There is no infectious MD close to me, so I rely totally on surfing the web, and found this site on your work! I am truly sorry for your loss! It is the irony or ironies, isn't it? My family (daughters) were told that day, that I could go at any moment. Until I was home, I started getting them to fill in the holes (memory loss) I had from that day forward, and learned that nearly 50% with septic shock as bad as mine, actually do not live!
Sorry for this being a book report but I needed to let you know that the work you do/did quite possibly saved my life and others I am certain. Through my searches of sepsis, septic shock, I know that a new set of protocols are in place for ERs and ICUs to detect sepsis/septic shock, faster, saving lives! Adding insult to injury, I developed a blood/urinary yeast infection while both kidney stents were still in! I'm told I have at least of year to fully recover, or near fully.
Thanks to you, Dr. Fryer, and Mayo for the work that you do!

COMMENT

I have chronic UTIs and recently tried to use home remedies as treatment as I have had a number of life threatening or other serious reactions to antibiotics. Home remedies helped considerably, but it kept coming back. I'm now starting on Macrobid, an antibiotic prescribed after cutlure results at a clinic, but am concerned as I have read that it can cause lung disease. What antibiotic were you treated with for sepsis? I have woken in the night twice now with the feeling that my blood was "boiling" a strange sensation I haven't had before, and which gave me a fight or flight reaction. I probably had a fever, but need to get a thermometer to have on hand. My concern, is that it will turn into sepsis.

COMMENT

Thank you for your question. Unfortunately, we cannot diagnose conditions, provide second opinions or make specific treatment recommendations through this website. If you would like to seek help from Mayo Clinic, please call one of our appointment offices (Arizona: 480-301-1735 Florida: 904-953-0853 Minnesota: 507-284-2511) or visit https://www.mayoclinic.org/appointments.

You might also consider looking into our Mayo Clinic Connect website (http://connect.mayoclinic.org), where you can communicate with others who may have had similar experiences. You can also read Mayo Clinic expert blogs and take part in educational events.

COMMENT

Hi, my father died of septic shock in September… i wanted to know exactly how much time do we have for a person to reach the septic shock stage from sepsis? He was 60 years old.

COMMENT

Thank you for your question. Unfortunately, we cannot answer specific questions through this website.
You might consider looking into our Mayo Clinic Connect website (http://connect.mayoclinic.org), where you can communicate with others who may have had similar experiences. You can also read Mayo Clinic expert blogs and take part in educational events.

COMMENT

I've had Mitrial valve surgery @Cedars about 24 days ago. My visiting nurse thinks I should be on antibiotics because of leg incision has a hole with white something coming out n clear sticky fluid. I have numerous Drs who can see if it's a infection. My guess it's where they put a clot filters. Cedars wants me to go back there but last time I went I didn't see my surgeon but a assistant who left 2incisions sutures in I had to take them out myself. She was more interested in going out to talk to her girlfriend so she missed those. I don't live in Beverly Hills. I live over 2hrs away in good traffic. I went there for a x-ray. Why couldn't I have these done here where we have 3 hospitals. It's not easy. I'm not allowed to drive for 6weeks n my son has to take off to take me. His job isn't easy. He is responsible for others. Now my question to u? Can't a one of my Drs. see if it's infected or not? Seems like they have me running around unnecessarily. Visiting nurse called Surgeons office at heart institute n asked them to write a script for antibiotic. This has been going on for days. I refuse to go back to cedars as I don't get my surgeon. I even asked her if this was ok on my leg n she kept putting saline n wetting it to point of wet underwear. Then told me to keep it dry. I do keep it dry. Now my leg hurts n white something is coming out. Why don't medical people listen to the patient? Even I'm ICU I told them for days to give me the 50mg of Atenolol. It's the only thing that gets my heart to slowdown. No one listened to me for days. While my heart rate was going 180s n down to 134. Patients should be heard. I still don't know what the white thing coming out of hole on leg? Went to cardiologist office today n my cardiologist wasn't there I had to get a EKG n a Echo. The PA refused to even look at the incision. I given up. No one listens to me

COMMENT

Thanks for your note. Unfortunately, we cannot diagnose conditions, provide second opinions or make specific treatment recommendations through this website. If you would like to seek help from Mayo Clinic, please call one of our appointment offices (Arizona: 480-301-1735 Florida: 904-953-0853 Minnesota: 507-284-2511) or visit https://www.mayoclinic.org/appointments.

You might also consider looking into our Mayo Clinic Connect website (http://connect.mayoclinic.org), where you can communicate with others who may have had similar experiences. You can also read Mayo Clinic expert blogs and take part in educational events.

COMMENT
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