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UMCCTS Newsletter, June 2016

Fri, 09/30/2016 - 8:24am

This is the June 2016 issue of the UMass Center for Clinical and Translational Science Newsletter containing news and events of interest.

UMCCTS Newsletter, May 2016

Fri, 09/30/2016 - 8:24am

This is the May 2016 issue of the UMass Center for Clinical and Translational Science Newsletter containing news and events of interest.

Treatment of Cancer Pain

Fri, 09/30/2016 - 7:20am

Pain is one of the first concerns most cancer patients express when newly diagnosed or meeting a new physician. They are concerned about how much pain they presently have, how much pain they are likely to experience, and their physicians’ commitment to treating cancer pain. The reality is that many cancer patients will never experience pain during their course and for those that do, the great majority can be well-managed with the tools described in this chapter in Cancer Concepts: A Guidebook for the Non-Oncologist. It is incumbent on every physician to understand the mechanisms of cancer pain and the fundamentals of treating it.

Data Citation in Neuroimaging: Proposed Best Practices for Data Identification and Attribution

Thu, 09/29/2016 - 10:28am

Data sharing and reuse, while widely accepted as good ideas, have been slow to catch on in any concrete and consistent way. One major hurdle within the scientific community has been the lack of widely accepted standards for citing that data, making it difficult to track usage and measure impact. Within the neuroimaging community, there is a need for a way to not only clearly identify and cite datasets, but also to derive new aggregate sets from multiple sources while clearly maintaining lines of attribution. This work presents a functional prototype of a system to integrate Digital Object Identifiers (DOI) and a standardized metadata schema into a XNAT-based repository workflow, allowing for identification of data at both the project and image level. These item and source level identifiers allow any newly defined combination of images, from any number of projects, to be tagged with a new group-level DOI that automatically inherits the individual attributes and provenance information of its constituent parts. This system enables the tracking of data reuse down to the level of individual images. The implementation of this type of data identification system would impact researchers and data creators, data hosting facilities, and data publishers, but the benefit of having widely accepted standards for data identification and attribution would go far toward making data citation practical and advantageous.

Long-term activation of the innate immune system in atherosclerosis

Wed, 09/28/2016 - 11:28am

Efforts to reverse the pathologic consequences of vulnerable plaques are often stymied by the complex treatment resistant pro-inflammatory environment within the plaque. This suggests that pro-atherogenic stimuli, such as LDL cholesterol and high fat diets may impart longer lived signals on (innate) immune cells that persist even after reversing the pro-atherogenic stimuli. Recently, a series of studies challenged the traditional immunological paradigm that innate immune cells cannot display memory characteristics. Epigenetic reprogramming in these myeloid cell subsets, after exposure to certain stimuli, has been shown to alter the expression of genes upon re-exposure. This phenomenon has been termed trained innate immunity or innate immune memory. The changed responses of 'trained' innate immune cells can confer nonspecific protection against secondary infections, suggesting that innate immune memory has likely evolved as an ancient mechanism to protect against pathogens. However, dysregulated processes of immunological imprinting mediated by trained innate immunity may also be detrimental under certain conditions as the resulting exaggerated immune responses could contribute to autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, such as atherosclerosis. Pro-atherogenic stimuli most likely cause epigenetic modifications that persist for prolonged time periods even after the initial stimulus has been removed. In this review we discuss the concept of trained innate immunity in the context of a hyperlipidemic environment and atherosclerosis. According to this idea the epigenome of myeloid (progenitor) cells is presumably modified for prolonged periods of time, which, in turn, could evoke a condition of continuous immune cell over-activation. reserved.

Adipose tissue mTORC2 regulates ChREBP-driven de novo lipogenesis and hepatic glucose metabolism

Wed, 09/28/2016 - 11:28am

Adipose tissue de novo lipogenesis (DNL) positively influences insulin sensitivity, is reduced in obesity, and predicts insulin resistance. Therefore, elucidating mechanisms controlling adipose tissue DNL could lead to therapies for type 2 diabetes. Here, we report that mechanistic target of rapamycin complex 2 (mTORC2) functions in white adipose tissue (WAT) to control expression of the lipogenic transcription factor ChREBPbeta. Conditionally deleting the essential mTORC2 subunit Rictor in mature adipocytes decreases ChREBPbeta expression, which reduces DNL in WAT, and impairs hepatic insulin sensitivity. Mechanistically, Rictor/mTORC2 promotes ChREBPbeta expression in part by controlling glucose uptake, but without impairing pan-AKT signalling. High-fat diet also rapidly decreases adipose tissue ChREBPbeta expression and insulin sensitivity in wild-type mice, and does not further exacerbate insulin resistance in adipose tissue Rictor knockout mice, implicating adipose tissue DNL as an early target in diet-induced insulin resistance. These data suggest mTORC2 functions in WAT as part of an extra-hepatic nutrient-sensing mechanism to control glucose homeostasis.

Decade Long Trends (2001-2011) in Duration of Pre-Hospital Delay Among Elderly Patients Hospitalized for an Acute Myocardial Infarction

Wed, 09/28/2016 - 11:28am

BACKGROUND: Early intervention with medical and/or coronary revascularization treatment approaches remains the cornerstone of the management of patients hospitalized with acute myocardial infarction (AMI). However, several patient groups, especially the elderly, are known to delay seeking prompt medical care after onset of AMI-associated symptoms. Current trends, and factors associated with prolonged prehospital delay among elderly patients hospitalized with AMI, are incompletely understood.

METHODS AND RESULTS: Data from a population-based study of patients hospitalized at all 11 medical centers in central Massachusetts with a confirmed AMI on a biennial basis between 2001 and 2011 were analyzed. Information about duration of prehospital delay after onset of acute coronary symptoms was abstracted from hospital medical records. In patients 65 years and older, the overall median duration of prehospital delay was 2.0 hours, with corresponding median delays of 2.0, 2.1, and 2.0 hours in those aged 65 to 74 years, 75 to 84 years, and in patients 85 years and older, respectively. There were no significant changes over time in median delay times in each of the age strata examined in both crude and multivariable adjusted analyses. A limited number of patient characteristics were associated with prolonged delay in this patient population.

CONCLUSIONS: The results of this community-wide study demonstrate that delay in seeking prompt medical care continues to be a significant problem among elderly patients hospitalized with AMI. The lack of improvement in the timeliness of patients' care-seeking behavior during the years under study remains of considerable clinical and public health concern.

The molecular basis of the genesis of basal tone in internal anal sphincter

Wed, 09/28/2016 - 11:28am

Smooth muscle sphincters exhibit basal tone and control passage of contents through organs such as the gastrointestinal tract; loss of this tone leads to disorders such as faecal incontinence. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying this tone remain unknown. Here, we show that deletion of myosin light-chain kinases (MLCK) in the smooth muscle cells from internal anal sphincter (IAS-SMCs) abolishes basal tone, impairing defecation. Pharmacological regulation of ryanodine receptors (RyRs), L-type voltage-dependent Ca(2+) channels (VDCCs) or TMEM16A Ca(2+)-activated Cl(-) channels significantly changes global cytosolic Ca(2+) concentration ([Ca(2+)]i) and the tone. TMEM16A deletion in IAS-SMCs abolishes the effects of modulators for TMEM16A or VDCCs on a RyR-mediated rise in global [Ca(2+)]i and impairs the tone and defecation. Hence, MLCK activation in IAS-SMCs caused by a global rise in [Ca(2+)]i via a RyR-TMEM16A-VDCC signalling module sets the basal tone. Targeting this module may lead to new treatments for diseases like faecal incontinence.

HIV-1 capsid is involved in post-nuclear entry steps

Wed, 09/28/2016 - 11:28am

BACKGROUND: HIV-1 capsid influences viral uncoating and nuclear import. Some capsid is detected in the nucleus but it is unclear if it has any function. We reported that the antibiotic Coumermycin-A1 (C-A1) inhibits HIV-1 integration and that a capsid mutation confers resistance to C-A1, suggesting that capsid might affect post-nuclear entry steps.

RESULTS: Here we report that C-A1 inhibits HIV-1 integration in a capsid-dependent way. Using molecular docking, we identify an extended binding pocket delimited by two adjacent capsid monomers where C-A1 is predicted to bind. Isothermal titration calorimetry confirmed that C-A1 binds to hexameric capsid. Cyclosporine washout assays in Jurkat CD4+ T cells expressing engineered human TRIMCyp showed that C-A1 causes faster and greater escape from TRIMCyp restriction. Sub-cellular fractionation showed that small amounts of capsid accumulated in the nuclei of infected cells and C-A1 reduced the nuclear capsid. A105S and N74D capsid mutant viruses did not accumulate capsid in the nucleus, irrespective of C-A1 treatment. Depletion of Nup153, a nucleoporin located at the nuclear side of the nuclear pore that binds to HIV-1 capsid, made the virus less susceptible to TRIMCyp restriction, suggesting that Nup153 may help maintain some integrity of the viral core in the nucleus. Furthermore C-A1 increased binding of CPSF6, a nuclear protein, to capsid.

CONCLUSIONS: Our results indicate that capsid is involved in post-nuclear entry steps preceding integration.

Determination of ubiquitin fitness landscapes under different chemical stresses in a classroom setting

Wed, 09/28/2016 - 11:28am

Ubiquitin is essential for eukaryotic life and varies in only 3 amino acid positions between yeast and humans. However, recent deep sequencing studies indicate that ubiquitin is highly tolerant to single mutations. We hypothesized that this tolerance would be reduced by chemically induced physiologic perturbations. To test this hypothesis, a class of first year UCSF graduate students employed deep mutational scanning to determine the fitness landscape of all possible single residue mutations in the presence of five different small molecule perturbations. These perturbations uncover 'shared sensitized positions' localized to areas around the hydrophobic patch and the C-terminus. In addition, we identified perturbation specific effects such as a sensitization of His68 in HU and a tolerance to mutation at Lys63 in DTT. Our data show how chemical stresses can reduce buffering effects in the ubiquitin proteasome system. Finally, this study demonstrates the potential of lab-based interdisciplinary graduate curriculum.

Diverse human extracellular RNAs are widely detected in human plasma

Wed, 09/28/2016 - 11:28am

There is growing appreciation for the importance of non-protein-coding genes in development and disease. Although much is known about microRNAs, limitations in bioinformatic analyses of RNA sequencing have precluded broad assessment of other forms of small-RNAs in humans. By analysing sequencing data from plasma-derived RNA from 40 individuals, here we identified over a thousand human extracellular RNAs including microRNAs, piwi-interacting RNA (piRNA), and small nucleolar RNAs. Using a targeted quantitative PCR with reverse transcription approach in an additional 2,763 individuals, we characterized almost 500 of the most abundant extracellular transcripts including microRNAs, piRNAs and small nucleolar RNAs. The presence in plasma of many non-microRNA small-RNAs was confirmed in an independent cohort. We present comprehensive data to demonstrate the broad and consistent detection of diverse classes of circulating non-cellular small-RNAs from a large population.

Identifying factors associated with concordance with the American College of Rheumatology rheumatoid arthritis treatment recommendations

Wed, 09/28/2016 - 11:27am

BACKGROUND: Factors associated with care concordant with the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) recommendations for the use of disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are unknown.

METHODS: We identified a national cohort of biologic-naive patients with RA with visits between December 2008 and February 2013. Treatment acceleration (initiation or dose escalation of biologic and nonbiologic DMARDs) in response to moderate to high disease activity (using the Clinical Disease Activity Index) was assessed. The population was divided into two subcohorts: (1) methotrexate (MTX)-only users and (2) multiple nonbiologic DMARD users. In both subcohorts, we compared the characteristics of patients who received care consistent with the ACR recommendations (e.g., prescriptions for treatment acceleration) and their providers with the characteristics of those who did not at the conclusion of one visit and over two visits, using logistic regression and adjusting for clustering of patients by rheumatologist.

RESULTS: Our study included 741 MTX monotherapy and 995 multiple nonbiologic DMARD users cared for by 139 providers. Only 36.2 % of MTX monotherapy users and 39.6 % of multiple nonbiologic DMARD users received care consistent with the recommendations after one visit, which increased over two visits to 78.3 % and 76.2 %, respectively (25-30 % achieved low disease activity by the second visit without DMARD acceleration). Increasing time since the ACR publication on RA treatment recommendations was not associated with improved adherence.

CONCLUSIONS: Allowing two encounters for treatment acceleration was associated with an increase in care concordant with the recommendations; however, time since publication was not.

Illuminating Cell Signaling with Near-Infrared Light-Responsive Nanomaterials

Wed, 09/28/2016 - 11:27am

The regulation of cellular signaling in vivo has been a challenging task owing to the lack of effective methods for tunable control of the amplitude, location, and duration of cell-signaling events at a deep-tissue level. In this issue of ACS Nano, an intriguing paper by Ambrosone et al. demonstrates that deep-tissue-penetrating near-infrared (NIR) light can be used to control the Wnt/beta-catenin-signaling pathway in a single-cell organism (Hydra) by utilizing microcapsules that contain plasmonic gold nanoparticles. In parallel, in recent work, we proposed upconversion nanoparticles (UCNPs) as NIR-light-activatable "wireless" optogenetic tools, and we showed their ability to modulate cell signaling pathways in both mammalian cells and mice. We believe that these interesting NIR-light-responsive nanotechnologies will open new avenues for both basic research and clinical applications.

xCT increases tuberculosis susceptibility by regulating antimicrobial function and inflammation

Wed, 09/28/2016 - 11:27am

The physiological functions of macrophage, which plays a central role in the pathogenesis of tuberculosis, depend on its redox state. System xc-, a cystine-glutamate transporter, which consists of xCT and CD98, influences many ROS-dependent pathways by regulating the production of the antioxidant glutathione. xCT's ability to alter this critical host redox balance by increasing the glutathione synthesis aspect of phagocyte physiology suggested that it might influence tuberculosis pathogenesis. In this study, we found that the xCT expression was increased in peripheral blood monocyte of active tuberculosis. xCT expression in macrophage was induced by Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) through TLR2/Akt- and p38-dependent signaling pathway. Importantly, xCT deficiency conferred protection against tuberculosis, as xCT knock out mice displayed increased Mtb load and reduced pulmonary pathology in lung compared to wild type mice. xCT disruption enhanced the mycobateriacidal activity of macrophage through increasing the mycothiol oxidation. Importantly, chemical inhibition of xCT with sulfasalazine, a specific xCT inhibitor that is already approved by the FDA for treatment of inflammatory bowel disease, produces similar protective effects in vivo and in vitro, indicating xCT might be a novel and useful target for host-directed TB treatment strategy.

Adult mouse model of early hepatocellular carcinoma promoted by alcoholic liver disease

Wed, 09/28/2016 - 11:27am

AIM: To establish a mouse model of alcohol-driven hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) that develops in livers with alcoholic liver disease (ALD).

METHODS: Adult C57BL/6 male mice received multiple doses of chemical carcinogen diethyl nitrosamine (DEN) followed by 7 wk of 4% Lieber-DeCarli diet. Serum alanine aminotransferase (ALT), alpha fetoprotein (AFP) and liver Cyp2e1 were assessed. Expression of F4/80, CD68 for macrophages and Ly6G, MPO, E-selectin for neutrophils was measured. Macrophage polarization was determined by IL-1beta/iNOS (M1) and Arg-1/IL-10/CD163/CD206 (M2) expression. Liver steatosis and fibrosis were measured by oil-red-O and Sirius red staining respectively. HCC development was monitored by magnetic resonance imaging, confirmed by histology. Cellular proliferation was assessed by proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA).

RESULTS: Alcohol-DEN mice showed higher ALTs than pair fed-DEN mice throughout the alcohol feeding without weight gain. Alcohol feeding resulted in increased ALT, liver steatosis and inflammation compared to pair-fed controls. Alcohol-DEN mice had reduced steatosis and increased fibrosis indicating advanced liver disease. Molecular characterization showed highest levels of both neutrophil and macrophage markers in alcohol-DEN livers. Importantly, M2 macrophages were predominantly higher in alcohol-DEN livers. Magnetic resonance imaging revealed increased numbers of intrahepatic cysts and liver histology confirmed the presence of early HCC in alcohol-DEN mice compared to all other groups. This correlated with increased serum alpha-fetoprotein, a marker of HCC, in alcohol-DEN mice. PCNA immunostaining revealed significantly increased hepatocyte proliferation in livers from alcohol-DEN compared to pair fed-DEN or alcohol-fed mice.

CONCLUSION: We describe a new 12-wk HCC model in adult mice that develops in livers with alcoholic hepatitis and defines ALD as co-factor in HCC.

Short-Term Exposure to Air Pollution and Biomarkers of Oxidative Stress: The Framingham Heart Study

Wed, 09/28/2016 - 11:27am

BACKGROUND: Short-term exposure to elevated air pollution has been associated with higher risk of acute cardiovascular diseases, with systemic oxidative stress induced by air pollution hypothesized as an important underlying mechanism. However, few community-based studies have assessed this association.

METHODS AND RESULTS: Two thousand thirty-five Framingham Offspring Cohort participants living within 50 km of the Harvard Boston Supersite who were not current smokers were included. We assessed circulating biomarkers of oxidative stress including blood myeloperoxidase at the seventh examination (1998-2001) and urinary creatinine-indexed 8-epi-prostaglandin F2alpha (8-epi-PGF2alpha) at the seventh and eighth (2005-2008) examinations. We measured fine particulate matter (PM2.5), black carbon, sulfate, nitrogen oxides, and ozone at the Supersite and calculated 1-, 2-, 3-, 5-, and 7-day moving averages of each pollutant. Measured myeloperoxidase and 8-epi-PGF2alpha were loge transformed. We used linear regression models and linear mixed-effects models with random intercepts for myeloperoxidase and indexed 8-epi-PGF2alpha, respectively. Models were adjusted for demographic variables, individual- and area-level measures of socioeconomic position, clinical and lifestyle factors, weather, and temporal trend. We found positive associations of PM2.5 and black carbon with myeloperoxidase across multiple moving averages. Additionally, 2- to 7-day moving averages of PM2.5 and sulfate were consistently positively associated with 8-epi-PGF2alpha. Stronger positive associations of black carbon and sulfate with myeloperoxidase were observed among participants with diabetes than in those without.

CONCLUSIONS: Our community-based investigation supports an association of select markers of ambient air pollution with circulating biomarkers of oxidative stress.

Trajectories of functional decline in knee osteoarthritis: the Osteoarthritis Initiative

Wed, 09/28/2016 - 11:27am

OBJECTIVE: To describe trajectories of functional decline over 84 months and study associated risk factors among adults initially without limitation who had or were at risk of knee OA.

METHODS: We used annual measures of WOMAC physical function over 84 months from the OA Initiative. We included knees with no functional limitation (i.e. WOMAC = 0) at baseline. Knee-based trajectories of functional decline from WOMAC were identified from a group-based trajectory model (PROC TRAJ).

RESULTS: We identified five trajectories from 2110 knees (1055 participants, age 61.0 +/- 9.3, BMI 27.1 +/- 4.4, 52% women). Half of the knees (54%) remained free of limitation over 84 months, 26% slowly declined to a WOMAC of 1.5, 9% were limitation free for the first 36 months and declined to a WOMAC of 11.3, 6% rapidly declined over the first 12 months and gradually recovered to a WOMAC of 3.3 and 5% steadily declined to a WOMAC of 13.2. Baseline radiographic disease, knee pain, obesity and depressive symptoms at baseline were associated with trajectories of worse functional decline.

CONCLUSION: Five per cent of our sample initially without limitation was on a trajectory of progressive functional decline over 84 months later. We found worse disease and health status at baseline to be associated with faster decline over time.

Reciprocal autoregulation by NFI occupancy and ETV1 promotes the developmental expression of dendrite-synapse genes in cerebellar granule neurons

Wed, 09/28/2016 - 11:27am

Nuclear Factor One (NFI) transcription factors regulate temporal gene expression required for dendritogenesis and synaptogenesis via delayed occupancy of target promoters in developing cerebellar granule neurons (CGNs). Mechanisms that promote NFI temporal occupancy have not been previously defined. We show here that the transcription factor ETV1 directly binds to and is required for expression and NFI occupancy of a cohort of NFI-dependent genes in CGNs maturing in vivo. Expression of ETV1 is low in early postnatal cerebellum and increases with maturation, mirroring NFI temporal occupancy of coregulated target genes. Precocious expression of ETV1 in mouse CGNs accelerated onset of expression and NFI temporal occupancy of late target genes and enhanced Map2(+) neurite outgrowth. ETV1 also activated expression and NFI occupancy of the Etv1 gene itself, and this autoregulatory loop preceded ETV1 binding and activation of other coregulated target genes in vivo. These findings suggest a potential model in which ETV1 activates NFI temporal binding to a subset of late-expressed genes in a stepwise manner by initial positive feedback regulation of the Etv1 gene itself followed by activation of downstream coregulated targets as ETV1 expression increases. Sequential transcription factor autoregulation and subsequent binding to downstream promoters may provide an intrinsic developmental timer for dendrite/synapse gene expression.

Massachusetts Health Reform Cost Less and Was More Effective for Uninsured Individuals With Venous Thromboembolism: A Cost-Effectiveness Analysis

Wed, 09/28/2016 - 11:27am

BACKGROUND: Patients with venous thromboembolism (VTE) require access to comprehensive physician and pharmacy benefits to prevent recurrence and hemorrhage. Before 2006, Massachusetts provided these benefits through a program restricted to safety net hospitals called Free Care. Providing portable health insurance through Massachusetts health reform could improve outcomes for uninsured with VTE but its cost-effectiveness is unknown.

METHODS AND RESULTS: We constructed a Markov decision analysis model comparing our conceptualization of the Massachusetts health reform (health reform strategy) to no health reform strategy for a patient beginning warfarin for new episode of VTE. In the model, a patient may develop recurrent VTE or develop hemorrhage or stop warfarin after 6 months if no event occurs. To measure effectiveness, we analyzed laboratory data from Boston Medical Center, the largest safety net hospital in Massachusetts. Specifically, we measured the probability of having a subtherapeutic warfarin level for patients newly insured compared with those on Free Care prereform adjusting for secular trends. To calculate inpatient costs, we used the Health Care Utilization Project. We then calculated the incremental cost-effectiveness ratio for the health reform strategy adjusted to 2014 USD per quality-adjusted life-year (QALY) and performed sensitivity analyses. The health reform strategy cost less and gained more QALYs than the no health reform strategy. Our result was most sensitive to the odds that Health Reform protected against a subtherapeutic warfarin level, the cost of Health Reform, and the percentage of total health care costs attributable to VTE in Massachusetts.

CONCLUSION: The health reform strategy cost less and was more effective than the no health reform strategy for patients with VTE.

Hepatocyte growth factor, hepatocyte growth factor activator and arginine in a rat fulminant colitis model

Wed, 09/28/2016 - 11:27am

INTRODUCTION: Dextran sodium sulfate (DSS) is commonly used to induce a murine fulminant colitis model. Hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) has been shown to decrease the symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) but the effect of its activator, HGFA, is not well characterized. Arginine reduces effects of oxidative stress but its effect on IBD is not well known. The primary aim is to determine whether HGF and HGFA, or arginine will decrease IBD symptoms such as pain and diarrhea in a DSS-induced fulminant colitis murine model.

METHODS: A severe colitis was induced in young, male Fischer 344 rats with 4% (w/v) DSS oral solution for seven days; rats were sacrificed on day 10. Rats were divided into five groups of 8 animals: control, HGF (700 mcg/kg/dose), HGF and HGFA (10 mcg/dose), HGF and arginine, and high dose HGF (2800 mcg/kg/dose). Main clinical outcomes were pain, diarrhea and weight loss. Blinded pathologists scored the terminal ileum and distal colon.

RESULTS: DSS reliably induced severe active colitis in 90% of animals (n = 36/40). There were no differences in injury scores between control and treatment animals. HGF led to 1.38 fewer days in pain (p = 0.036), while arginine led to 1.88 fewer days of diarrhea (P = 0.017) compared to controls. 88% of HGFA-treated rats started regaining weight (P < 0.001).

DISCUSSION/CONCLUSION: Although treatment was unable to reverse fulminant disease, HGF and arginine were associated with decreased days of pain and diarrhea. These clinical interventions may reduce associated symptoms for severe IBD patients, even when urgent surgical intervention remains the only viable option.