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Endometriosis and ovarian cancer: links, risks, and challenges faced

Tue, 05/17/2016 - 12:37pm

Endometriosis is a benign gynecological condition characterized by specific histological, molecular, and clinical findings. It affects 5%-10% of premenopausal women, is a cause of infertility, and has been implicated as a precursor for certain types of ovarian cancer. Advances in technology, primarily the ability for whole genome sequencing, have led to the discovery of new mutations and a better understanding of the function of previously identified genes and pathways associated with endometriosis associated ovarian cancers (EAOCs) that include PTEN, CTNNB1 (beta-catenin), KRAS, microsatellite instability, ARID1A, and the unique role of inflammation in the development of EAOC. Clinically, EAOCs are associated with a younger age at diagnosis, lower stage and grade of tumor, and are more likely to occur in premenopausal women when compared with other ovarian cancers. A shift from screening strategies adopted to prevent EAOCs has resulted in new recommendations for clinical practice by national and international governing bodies. In this paper, we review the common histologic and molecular characteristics of endometriosis and ovarian cancer, risks associated with EAOCs, clinical challenges and give recommendations for providers.

Decade-long trends (1999-2009) in the characteristics, management, and hospital outcomes of patients hospitalized with acute myocardial infarction with prior diabetes and chronic kidney disease

Tue, 05/17/2016 - 12:37pm

BACKGROUND: Despite the increasing magnitude and impact, there are limited data available on the clinical management and in-hospital outcomes of patients who have diabetes mellitus (DM) and chronic kidney disease (CKD) at the time of hospitalization for acute myocardial infarction (AMI). The objectives of our population-based observational study in residents of central Massachusetts were to describe decade-long trends (1999-2009) in the characteristics, in-hospital management, and hospital outcomes of AMI patients with and without these comorbidities.

METHODS: We reviewed the medical records of 6,018 persons who were hospitalized for AMI on a biennial basis between 1999 and 2009 at all eleven medical centers in central Massachusetts. Our sample consisted of the following four groups: DM with CKD (n=587), CKD without DM (n=524), DM without CKD (n=1,442), and non-DM/non-CKD (n=3,465).

RESULTS: Diabetic patients with CKD were more likely to have a higher prevalence of previously diagnosed comorbidities, to have developed heart failure acutely, and to have a longer hospital stay compared with non-DM/non-CKD patients. Between 1999 and 2009, there were marked increases in the prescribing of beta-blockers, statins, and aspirin for patients with CKD and DM as compared to those without these comorbidities. In-hospital death rates remained unchanged in patients with DM and CKD, while they declined markedly in patients with CKD without DM (20.2% dying in 1999; 11.3% dying in 2009).

CONCLUSION: Despite increases in the prescribing of effective cardiac medications, AMI patients with DM and CKD continue to experience high in-hospital death rates.

The origin of glutamatergic synaptic inputs controls synaptic plasticity and its modulation by alcohol in mice nucleus accumbens

Tue, 05/17/2016 - 12:37pm

It is widely accepted that long-lasting changes of synaptic strength in the nucleus accumbens (NAc), a brain region involved in drug reward, mediate acute and chronic effects of alcohol. However, our understanding of the mechanisms underlying the effects of alcohol on synaptic plasticity is limited by the fact that the NAc receives glutamatergic inputs from distinct brain regions (e.g., the prefrontal cortex (PFCx), the amygdala and the hippocampus), each region providing different information (e.g., spatial, emotional and cognitive). Combining whole-cell patch-clamp recordings and the optogenetic technique, we examined synaptic plasticity, and its regulation by alcohol, at cortical, hippocampal and amygdala inputs in fresh slices of mouse tissue. We showed that the origin of synaptic inputs determines the basic properties of glutamatergic synaptic transmission, the expression of spike-timing dependent long-term depression (tLTD) and long-term potentiation (LTP) and long-term potentiation (tLTP) and their regulation by alcohol. While we observed both tLTP and tLTD at amygadala and hippocampal synapses, we showed that cortical inputs only undergo tLTD. Functionally, we provide evidence that acute Ethyl Alcohol (EtOH) has little effects on higher order information coming from the PFCx, while severely impacting the ability of emotional and contextual information to induce long-lasting changes of synaptic strength.

FIB/SEM technology and high-throughput 3D reconstruction of dendritic spines and synapses in GFP-labeled adult-generated neurons

Tue, 05/17/2016 - 12:36pm

The fine analysis of synaptic contacts is usually performed using transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and its combination with neuronal labeling techniques. However, the complex 3D architecture of neuronal samples calls for their reconstruction from serial sections. Here we show that focused ion beam/scanning electron microscopy (FIB/SEM) allows efficient, complete, and automatic 3D reconstruction of identified dendrites, including their spines and synapses, from GFP/DAB-labeled neurons, with a resolution comparable to that of TEM. We applied this technology to analyze the synaptogenesis of labeled adult-generated granule cells (GCs) in mice. 3D reconstruction of dendritic spines in GCs aged 3-4 and 8-9 weeks revealed two different stages of dendritic spine development and unexpected features of synapse formation, including vacant and branched dendritic spines and presynaptic terminals establishing synapses with up to 10 dendritic spines. Given the reliability, efficiency, and high resolution of FIB/SEM technology and the wide use of DAB in conventional EM, we consider FIB/SEM fundamental for the detailed characterization of identified synaptic contacts in neurons in a high-throughput manner.

eIF2alpha Confers Cellular Tolerance to S. aureus alpha-Toxin

Tue, 05/17/2016 - 12:36pm

We report on the role of conserved stress-response pathways for cellular tolerance to a pore forming toxin. First, we observed that small molecular weight inhibitors including of eIF2alpha-phosphatase, jun-N-terminal kinase (JNK), and PI3-kinase sensitized normal mouse embryonal fibroblasts (MEFs) to the small pore forming S. aureus alpha-toxin. Sensitization depended on expression of mADAM10, the murine ortholog of a proposed high-affinity receptor for alpha-toxin in human cells. Similarly, eIF2alpha (S51A/S51A) MEFs, which harbor an Ala knock-in mutation at the regulated Ser51 phosphorylation site of eukaryotic translation initiation factor 2alpha, were hyper-sensitive to alpha-toxin. Inhibition of translation with cycloheximide did not mimic the tolerogenic effect of eIF2alpha-phosphorylation. Notably, eIF2alpha-dependent tolerance of MEFs was toxin-selective, as wild-type MEFs and eIF2alpha (S51A/S51A) MEFs exhibited virtually equal sensitivity to Vibrio cholerae cytolysin. Binding of S. aureus alpha-toxin to eIF2alpha (S51A/S51A) MEFs and toxicity in these cells were enhanced as compared to wild-type cells. This led to the unexpected finding that the mutant cells carried more ADAM10. Because basal phosphorylation of eIF2alpha in MEFs required amino acid deprivation-activated eIF2alpha-kinase 4/GCN2, the data reveal that basal activity of this kinase mediates tolerance of MEFs to alpha-toxin. Further, they suggest that modulation of ADAM10 is involved. During infection, bacterial growth may cause nutrient shortage in tissues, which might activate this response. Tolerance to alpha-toxin was robust in macrophages and did not depend on GCN2. However, JNKs appeared to play a role, suggesting differential cell type and toxin selectivity of tolerogenic stress responses. Understanding their function or failure will be important to comprehend anti-bacterial immune responses.

Quantifying polymorphism and divergence from epigenetic data: a framework for inferring the action of selection

Tue, 05/17/2016 - 12:36pm

Epigenetic modifications are alterations that regulate gene expression without modifying the underlying DNA sequence. DNA methylation and histone modifications, for example, are capable of spatial and temporal regulation of expression-with several studies demonstrating that these epigenetic marks are heritable. Thus, like DNA sequence, epigenetic marks are capable of storing information and passing it from one generation to the next. Because the epigenome is dynamic and epigenetic modifications can respond to external environmental stimuli, such changes may play an important role in adaptive evolution. While recent studies provide strong evidence for species-specific signatures of epigenetic marks, little is known about the mechanisms by which such modifications evolve. In order to address this question, we analyze the genome wide distribution of an epigenetic histone mark (H3K4me3) in prefrontal cortex neurons of humans, chimps and rhesus macaques. We develop a novel statistical framework to quantify within- and between-species variation in histone methylation patterns, using an ANOVA-based method and defining an FST -like measure for epigenetics (termed epi- FST), in order to develop a deeper understanding of the evolutionary pressures acting on epigenetic variation. Results demonstrate that genes with high epigenetic FST values are indeed significantly overrepresented among genes that are differentially expressed between species, and we observe only a weak correlation with SNP density.

Role of Energy Metabolism in the Brown Fat Gene Program

Tue, 05/17/2016 - 12:36pm

In murine and human brown adipose tissue (BAT), mitochondria are powerful generators of heat that safely metabolize fat, a feature that has great promise in the fight against obesity and diabetes. Recent studies suggest that the actions of mitochondria extend beyond their conventional role as generators of heat. There is mounting evidence that impaired mitochondrial respiratory capacity is accompanied by attenuated expression of Ucp1 and other BAT-selective genes, implying that mitochondria exert transcriptional control over the brown fat gene program. In this review, we discuss the current understanding of brown fat mitochondria, their potential role in transcriptional control of the brown fat gene program, and potential strategies to treat obesity in humans by leveraging thermogenesis in brown adipocytes.

The Resource Identification Initiative: A cultural shift in publishing

Tue, 05/17/2016 - 12:35pm

A central tenet in support of research reproducibility is the ability to uniquely identify research resources, i.e., reagents, tools, and materials that are used to perform experiments. However, current reporting practices for research resources are insufficient to allow humans and algorithms to identify the exact resources that are reported or answer basic questions such as "What other studies used resource X?" To address this issue, the Resource Identification Initiative was launched as a pilot project to improve the reporting standards for research resources in the methods sections of papers and thereby improve identifiability and reproducibility. The pilot engaged over 25 biomedical journal editors from most major publishers, as well as scientists and funding officials. Authors were asked to include Research Resource Identifiers (RRIDs) in their manuscripts prior to publication for three resource types: antibodies, model organisms, and tools (including software and databases). RRIDs represent accession numbers assigned by an authoritative database, e.g., the model organism databases, for each type of resource. To make it easier for authors to obtain RRIDs, resources were aggregated from the appropriate databases and their RRIDs made available in a central web portal ( RRIDs meet three key criteria: they are machine readable, free to generate and access, and are consistent across publishers and journals. The pilot was launched in February of 2014 and over 300 papers have appeared that report RRIDs. The number of journals participating has expanded from the original 25 to more than 40. Here, we present an overview of the pilot project and its outcomes to date. We show that authors are generally accurate in performing the task of identifying resources and supportive of the goals of the project. We also show that identifiability of the resources pre- and post-pilot showed a dramatic improvement for all three resource types, suggesting that the project has had a significant impact on reproducibility relating to research resources.

Reactive oxygen species in endothelial function - from disease to adaptation -

Tue, 05/17/2016 - 12:35pm

Endothelial function is largely dictated by its ability to rapidly sense environmental cues and adapt to these stimuli through changes in vascular tone, inflammation/immune recruitment, and angiogenesis. When any one of these abilities is compromised, the endothelium becomes dysfunctional, which ultimately leads to disease. Reactive oxygen species (ROS) have been established at the forefront of endothelial dysfunction; however, more careful examination has demonstrated that ROS are fundamental to each of the sensing/signaling roles of the endothelium. The purpose of this review is to document endothelial ROS production in both disease and physiological adaptation. Through understanding new endothelial signaling paradigms, we will gain insight into more targeted therapeutic strategies for vascular diseases.

Knowledge and Beliefs of EMS Providers toward Lights and Siren Transportation

Tue, 05/17/2016 - 12:35pm

INTRODUCTION: The use of warning lights and siren (WLS) increases the risk of ambulance collisions. Multiple studies have failed to demonstrate a clinical benefit to the patients. We sought to investigate the degree to which providers understand the data and incorporate it into their practice.

METHODS: The authors distributed an anonymous survey to prehospital providers under their medical direction at staff and quality assurance meetings. The surveys asked the providers' degree of agreement with four statements: transport with lights and siren shortens transport times; transport with lights and siren improves patient outcome; transport with lights and siren increases the risk of collision during transport; and transport with lights and siren reduces the utilization of "mutual aid" service. We compared responses between providers who had been in prior ambulance collisions and those who had not.

RESULTS: Few responses reached statistical significance, but respondents tended towards agreement that WLS use shortens transport times, that it does not improve outcomes, and that it increases the risk of collision. Despite the overall agreement with the published literature, respondents report > 80% of transports are conducted using WLS.

CONCLUSION: The data demonstrate the surveyed providers are aware of the risk posed by WLS to themselves, their patients, and the public. Nevertheless, their practice in the absence of rigid protocols suggests they disregard this knowledge. Despite a large number of prior ambulance collisions among the surveyed group, a high number of transports are conducted using WLS.

Introduction: Advances and trends in image formation in X-ray computed tomography

Tue, 05/17/2016 - 12:35pm

Introduction to articles in a special focus series on CT imaging.

Learning curves in emergency ultrasound education

Tue, 05/17/2016 - 12:35pm

OBJECTIVES: Proficiency in the use of bedside ultrasound (US) has become standard in emergency medicine residency training. While milestones have been established for this training, supporting data for minimum standard experience are lacking. The objective of this study was to characterize US learning curves to identify performance plateaus for both image acquisition and interpretation, as well as compare performance characteristics of learners to those of expert sonographers.

METHODS: A retrospective review of an US database was conducted at a single academic institution. Each examination was scored for agreement between the learner and expert reviewer interpretation and given a score for image quality. A locally weighted scatterplot smoothing method was used to generate a model of predicted performance for each individual examination type. Performance characteristics for expert sonographers at the site were also tracked and used in addition to performance plateaus as benchmarks for learning curve analysis.

RESULTS: There were 52,408 US examinations performed between May 2007 and January 2013 and included for analysis. Performance plateaus occurred at different points for different US protocols, from 18 examinations for soft tissue image quality to 90 examinations for right upper quadrant image interpretation. For the majority of examination types, a range of 50 to 75 examinations resulted in both excellent interpretation (sensitivity > 84% and specificity > 90%) and good image quality (90% the image quality benchmark of expert sonographers).

CONCLUSIONS: Educational performance benchmarks occur at variable points for image interpretation and image quality for different examination types. These data should be considered when developing training standards for US education as well as experience requirements for US credentialing.

Exosomes derived from alcohol-treated hepatocytes horizontally transfer liver specific miRNA-122 and sensitize monocytes to LPS

Tue, 05/17/2016 - 12:34pm

Hepatocyte damage and inflammation in monocytes/macrophages are central to the pathogenesis of alcoholic hepatitis (AH). MicroRNAs (miRNAs) regulate all of these processes. MiRNA-122 is abundantly expressed in hepatocytes while monocytes/macrophages have low levels. The role of exosomes in AH and possible cross talk between hepatocyte-derived exosomes and immune cells is not explored yet. Here, we show that the number of exosomes significantly increases in the sera of healthy individuals after alcohol binge drinking and in mice after binge or chronic alcohol consumption. Exosomes isolated from sera after alcohol consumption or from in vitro ethanol-treated hepatocytes contained miRNA-122. Exosomes derived from ethanol-treated Huh7.5 cells were taken up by the recipients THP1 monocytes and horizontally transferred a mature form of liver-specific miRNA-122. In vivo, liver mononuclear cells and Kupffer cells from alcohol-fed mice had increased miRNA-122 levels. In monocytes, miRNA-122 transferred via exosomes inhibited the HO-1 pathway and sensitized to LPS stimulation and increased levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Finally, inflammatory effects of exosomes from ethanol-treated hepatocytes were prevented by using RNA interference via exosome-mediated delivery of a miRNA-122 inhibitor. These results demonstrate that first, exosomes mediate communication between hepatocytes and monocytes/macrophages and second, hepatocyte-derived miRNA-122 can reprogram monocytes inducing sensitization to LPS.

SMAD3 deficiency promotes vessel wall remodeling, collagen fiber reorganization and leukocyte infiltration in an inflammatory abdominal aortic aneurysm mouse model

Tue, 05/17/2016 - 12:34pm

TGF-beta signaling plays critical roles in the pathogenesis of aneurysms; however, it is still unclear whether its role is protective or destructive. In this study, we investigate the role of SMAD3 in the pathogenesis of calcium chloride (CaCl2)-induced abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAA) in Smad3(-/-), Smad3(+/-) and Smad3(+/+) mice. We find that loss of SMAD3 drastically increases wall thickening of the abdominal aorta. Histological analyses show significant vessel wall remodeling with elastic fiber fragmentation. Remarkably, under polarized light, collagen fibers in the hyperplastic adventitia of Smad3(-/-) mice show extensive reorganization accompanied by loosely packed thin and radial collagen fibers. The expressions of matrix metalloproteinases including MMP2, MMP9, and MMP12 and infiltration of macrophage/T cells are drastically enhanced in the vascular wall of Smad3(-/-) mice. We also observe marked increase of NF-kappaB and ERK1/2 signaling as well as the expression of nuclear Smad2, Smad4 and TGF-beta1 in the vessel wall of Smad3(-/-) mice. In addition, we find that SMAD3 expression is reduced in the dedifferentiated medial smooth muscle-like cells of human AAA patients. These findings provide direct in vivo evidence to support the essential roles of SMAD3 in protecting vessel wall integrity and suppressing inflammation in the pathogenesis of AAAs.

Nuclear accessibility of beta-actin mRNA is measured by 3D single-molecule real-time tracking

Tue, 05/17/2016 - 12:34pm

Imaging single proteins or RNAs allows direct visualization of the inner workings of the cell. Typically, three-dimensional (3D) images are acquired by sequentially capturing a series of 2D sections. The time required to step through the sample often impedes imaging of large numbers of rapidly moving molecules. Here we applied multifocus microscopy (MFM) to instantaneously capture 3D single-molecule real-time images in live cells, visualizing cell nuclei at 10 volumes per second. We developed image analysis techniques to analyze messenger RNA (mRNA) diffusion in the entire volume of the nucleus. Combining MFM with precise registration between fluorescently labeled mRNA, nuclear pore complexes, and chromatin, we obtained globally optimal image alignment within 80-nm precision using transformation models. We show that beta-actin mRNAs freely access the entire nucleus and fewer than 60% of mRNAs are more than 0.5 microm away from a nuclear pore, and we do so for the first time accounting for spatial inhomogeneity of nuclear organization.

Autophagy regulates tissue overgrowth in a context-dependent manner

Tue, 05/17/2016 - 12:34pm

Autophagy is a catabolic process that has been implicated both as a tumor suppressor and in tumor progression. Here, we investigate this dichotomy in cancer biology by studying the influence of altered autophagy in Drosophila models of tissue overgrowth. We find that the impact of altered autophagy depends on both genotype and cell type. As previously observed in mammals, decreased autophagy suppresses Ras-induced eye epithelial overgrowth. In contrast, autophagy restricts epithelial overgrowth in a Notch-dependent eye model. Even though decreased autophagy did not influence Hippo pathway-triggered overgrowth, activation of autophagy strongly suppresses this eye epithelial overgrowth. Surprisingly, activation of autophagy enhanced Hippo pathway-driven overgrowth in glia cells. These results indicate that autophagy has different influences on tissue growth in distinct contexts, and highlight the importance of understanding the influence of autophagy on growth to augment a rationale therapeutic strategy.

Parents Caring for Adult Children With Serious Mental Illness: A Qualitative Descriptive Study: A Dissertation

Thu, 05/12/2016 - 3:45pm

The purpose of this study was to examine parents’ management styles when caring for adult children with serious mental illness (SMI), as well as parents’ perspectives on what type of community-based mental health interventions would support and/or enhance overall family functioning. This qualitative descriptive study was undergirded by Knafl and Deatrick’s Family Management Style Framework. Thirty parents (N = 30) caring for adult children with SMI over age 18 were recruited as participants. Demographic data included age, gender, ethnicity, educational level, annual income, and National Alliance on Mental Illness membership. Parents were interviewed in their homes or other private setting. Verbal informed consent was obtained. Audio-recorded, individual, semistructured interviews were conducted until redundancy was achieved. Data were analyzed using qualitative content analysis. Four major themes emerged from the data. These themes described prolonged, difficult, and confusing phases that parents and the family undergo in caring for an adult child with SMI. These phases have a progressive nature, moving from parents recognizing that their child has a SMI to redefining family life as a result of caring for an adult child with SMI. Successful management of these phases must include increasing access to mental health information, mental health screening, early interventions, violence prevention, and various treatment options for adult children and their families.

Pilot Study of a Resource-Appropriate Strategy for Downstaging Breast Cancer in Rural Uganda

Thu, 05/12/2016 - 12:04pm

Breast cancer incidence and mortality are rapidly increasing in low- and middle-income countries like Uganda. Shifting the proportion of women presenting with late-stage breast cancer to early-stage breast cancer (downstaging) at the time of diagnosis would substantially improve survival and efficient use of available resources. Imaging The World (ITW) conducted a pilot study in Uganda where trained village health teams (VHTs) promoted breast cancer awareness in the Kamuli District (Uganda). As a result, 212 women with self-detected lumps presented to the community health center level III (Nawanyago HCIII) for a clinical breast examination (CBE). Patients with masses on CBE were examined with breast ultrasound by a certified sonographer trained in breast imaging. Women with ultrasound-detected masses were referred to a regional health center for further evaluation. Of the 212 women, 44 (21%) had a palpable mass by CBE, 11 (28%) examined by ultrasound were recommended for biopsy, and four breast cancers were diagnosed. Providing ultrasound scanning at Nawanyago HCIII reduced the number of women travelling to the referral hospital by 75%. As a result of breast cancer awareness and ultrasound studies, we were able to diagnose breast cancer at an earlier stage than would be otherwise possible. This pilot project supports locally available breast ultrasound as a resource-appropriate strategy to downstage breast cancer in a low-income country.

UMCCTS Newsletter, April 2016

Thu, 05/12/2016 - 11:49am

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

UMCCTS Newsletter, March 2016

Thu, 05/12/2016 - 11:49am

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