Studies of cancer-fighting T cells and a new gel to treat gum disease were selected for the bracket-style competition of the year’s most innovative science and medicine research

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Two NYU research teams have been chosen to compete in STAT Madness 2023, a virtual tournament celebrating recent breakthroughs in science and medicine.

Cast your vote for your favorite research beginning on Wednesday, March 1.

The NYU studies—two of the 64 selected by STAT News for the March Madness-inspired, bracket-style competition—focus on biomedical innovations in cancer and gum disease.

A team of researchers from NYU’s Department of Biology and Grossman School of Medicine and the New York Genome Center, led by Neville Sanjana, developed a genetic screening platform to identify genes that transform immune cells into more aggressive cancer fighters. In their study published in Nature, the researchers screened nearly 12,000 genes to identify those that enable a type of immune cells called T cells to proliferate. They then combined the top genes identified in the screen with existing cancer treatments called CAR-T cell therapies, ultimately engineering T cells that were more effective at finding and fighting cancer cells. The research holds promise for a new generation of CAR-T cell therapies to treat a range of cancers.

The second innovation is a topical gel to treat gum disease developed by NYU College of Dentistry researchers Xin Li and Deepak Saxena. Two hallmarks of gum disease are inflammation and an imbalance of unhealthy and healthy bacteria in the mouth. The new gel works by blocking a receptor for a metabolic byproduct called succinate, which then suppresses inflammation and changes the makeup of bacteria in the mouth. Their research, published in Cell Reports, lays the groundwork for a convenient, targeted treatment that could be applied to the gums at home or by a dentist to ward off gum disease.

The first round of voting runs from March 1 through March 7, after which winners will advance to the next round; a champion will be crowned on April 4. Details and dates are available on the STAT Madness site.

STAT Madness was created by the health media company STAT News, which is produced by Boston Globe Media.

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