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Nicoletta Surdo, Postdoctoral Research Scientist in the Department, has been announced as the judges’ runner-up in the British Heart Foundation (BHF) national ‘Reflections of Research’ image competition.
Cardiosphere-derived cells (CDCs) can be expanded in vitro and induced to differentiate along the cardiac lineage. To recapitulate the phenotype of an adult cardiomyocyte, differentiating progenitors need to upregulate mitochondrial glucose and fatty acid oxidation. Here we cultured and differentiated CDCs using protocols aimed to maintain stemness or to promote differentiation, including triggering fatty acid oxidation using an agonist of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor alpha (PPARα). Metabolic changes were characterised in undifferentiated CDCs and during differentiation towards a cardiac phenotype. CDCs from rat atria were expanded on fibronectin or collagen IV via cardiosphere formation. Differentiation was assessed using flow cytometry and qPCR and substrate metabolism was quantified using radiolabelled substrates. Collagen IV promoted proliferation of CDCs whereas fibronectin primed cells for differentiation towards a cardiac phenotype. In both populations, treatment with 5-Azacytidine induced a switch towards oxidative metabolism, as shown by changes in gene expression, decreased glycolytic flux and increased oxidation of glucose and palmitate. Addition of a PPARα agonist during differentiation increased both glucose and fatty acid oxidation and expression of cardiac genes. We conclude that oxidative metabolism and cell differentiation act in partnership with increases in one driving an increase in the other.
To understand the function of cortical circuits, it is necessary to catalog their cellular diversity. Past attempts to do so using anatomical, physiological or molecular features of cortical cells have not resulted in a unified taxonomy of neuronal or glial cell types, partly due to limited data. Single-cell transcriptomics is enabling, for the first time, systematic high-throughput measurements of cortical cells and generation of datasets that hold the promise of being complete, accurate and permanent. Statistical analyses of these data reveal clusters that often correspond to cell types previously defined by morphological or physiological criteria and that appear conserved across cortical areas and species. To capitalize on these new methods, we propose the adoption of a transcriptome-based taxonomy of cell types for mammalian neocortex. This classification should be hierarchical and use a standardized nomenclature. It should be based on a probabilistic definition of a cell type and incorporate data from different approaches, developmental stages and species. A community-based classification and data aggregation model, such as a knowledge graph, could provide a common foundation for the study of cortical circuits. This community-based classification, nomenclature and data aggregation could serve as an example for cell type atlases in other parts of the body.
In 1970 the Boulder Committee described the basic principles of the development of the CNS, derived from observations on the human embryonic cerebrum. Since then, numerous studies have significantly advanced our knowledge of the timing, sequence and complexity of developmental events, and revealed important inter-species differences. We review current data on the development of the human cerebral cortex and update the classical model of how the structure that makes us human is formed.
Exenatide once weekly over 2 years as a potential disease-modifying treatment for Parkinson's disease: protocol for a multicentre, randomised, double blind, parallel group, placebo controlled, phase 3 trial: The 'Exenatide-PD3' study.
INTRODUCTION: Parkinson's disease (PD) is a common neurodegenerative disorder with substantial morbidity. No disease-modifying treatments currently exist. The glucagon like peptide-1 receptor agonist exenatide has been associated in single-centre studies with reduced motor deterioration over 1 year. The aim of this multicentre UK trial is to confirm whether these previous positive results are maintained in a larger number of participants over 2 years and if effects accumulate with prolonged drug exposure. METHODS AND ANALYSIS: This is a phase 3, multicentre, double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled trial of exenatide at a dose of 2 mg weekly in 200 participants with mild to moderate PD. Treatment duration is 96 weeks. Randomisation is 1:1, drug to placebo. Assessments are performed at baseline, week 12, 24, 36, 48, 60, 72, 84 and 96 weeks.The primary outcome is the comparison of Movement Disorders Society Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale part 3 motor subscore in the practically defined OFF medication state at 96 weeks between participants according to treatment allocation. Secondary outcomes will compare the change between groups among other motor, non-motor and cognitive scores. The primary outcome will be reported using descriptive statistics and comparisons between treatment groups using a mixed model, adjusting for baseline scores. Secondary outcomes will be summarised between treatment groups using summary statistics and appropriate statistical tests to assess for significant differences. ETHICS AND DISSEMINATION: This trial has been approved by the South Central-Berkshire Research Ethics Committee and the Health Research Authority. Results will be disseminated in peer-reviewed journals, presented at scientific meetings and to patients in lay-summary format. TRIAL REGISTRATION NUMBERS: NCT04232969, ISRCTN14552789.
Quantifying activities of daily living impairment in Parkinson's disease using the Functional Activities Questionnaire.
OBJECTIVE: Cognitive-driven activity of daily living (ADL) impairment in Parkinson's disease (PD) is increasingly discussed as prodromal marker for dementia. Diagnostic properties of assessments for this specific ADL impairment are sparsely investigated in PD. The ability of the Functional Activities Questionnaire (FAQ) for differentiating between PD patients with normal cognition and with mild cognitive impairment (PD-MCI), according to informant and self-reports, was examined. Global cognitive function in groups with and without mild ADL impairment was compared according to different cut-offs. METHODS: Multicenter data of 589 patients of an international cohort (CENTRE-PD) were analyzed. Analyses were run separately for informant-rated and self-rated FAQ. Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) analysis was conducted to define the optimal FAQ cut-off for PD-MCI (≥ 1), and groups were additionally split according to reported FAQ cut-offs for PD-MCI in the literature (≥ 3, ≥ 5). Binary logistic regressions examined the effect of the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) score in PD patients with and without mild ADL impairment. RESULTS: Two hundred and twenty-five (38.2%) patients were classified as PD-MCI. For all three cut-off values, sensitivity was moderate to low ( 0.54) with a tendency of higher values for self-reported deficits. For the self-report, the cut-off ≥ 3 showed a significant effect of the MoCA (B = - 0.31, p = 0.003), where FAQ ≥ 3 patients had worse cognition. No effect for group differences based on informant ratings was detected. CONCLUSION: Our data argue that self-reported ADL impairments assessed by the FAQ show a relation to the severity of cognitive impairment in PD.
RATIONALE: Iron deficiency, in the absence of anaemia, is common in patients with idiopathic and heritable pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) and is associated with a worse clinical outcome. Oral iron absorption may be impeded by elevated circulating hepcidin levels. The safety and benefit of parenteral iron replacement in this patient population is unclear. OBJECTIVES: To evaluate the safety and efficacy of parenteral iron replacement in pulmonary arterial hypertension. METHODS: In two randomised, double blind, placebo-controlled 12 week crossover studies, 39 patients in Europe received a single infusion of ferric carboxymaltose (Ferinject®) 1000 mg (or 15 mg/kg if weight < 66.7Kg) or saline as placebo and 17 patients in China received iron dextran (Cosmofer®) 20 mg iron/kg body weight or saline placebo. All patients had idiopathic or heritable PAH and iron deficiency at entry as defined by: a serum ferritin < 37 µg/l or iron < 10.3 µmol/l or transferrin saturations < 16.4%. RESULTS: Both iron treatments were well tolerated and improved iron status. Analysed separately and combined, there was no effect on any measure of exercise capacity (using cardiopulmonary exercise testing or 6 minute walk test) or cardio-pulmonary haemodynamics, as assessed by right heart catheterisation, cardiac magnetic resonance or plasma NT-proBNP, at 12 weeks. CONCLUSION: Iron repletion by administration of a slow release iron preparation as a single infusion to PAH patients with iron deficiency without overt anaemia was well tolerated but provided no significant clinical benefit at 12 weeks. Clinical trial registered with ClinicalTrials.gov (NCT01447628).
Identification of bioactive metabolites in human iPSC-derived dopaminergic neurons with PARK2 mutation: Altered mitochondrial and energy metabolism.
PARK2 (parkin) mutations cause early-onset Parkinson's disease (PD). Parkin is an ubiquitin E3 ligase that participates in several cellular functions, including mitochondrial homeostasis. However, the specific metabolomic changes caused by parkin depletion remain unknown. Here, we used isogenic human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) with and without PARK2 knockout (KO) to investigate the effect of parkin loss of function by comparative metabolomics supplemented with ultrastructural and functional analyses. PARK2 KO neurons displayed increased tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle activity, perturbed mitochondrial ultrastructure, ATP depletion, and dysregulation of glycolysis and carnitine metabolism. These perturbations were combined with increased oxidative stress and a decreased anti-oxidative response. Key findings for PARK2 KO cells were confirmed using patient-specific iPSC-derived neurons. Overall, our data describe a unique metabolomic profile associated with parkin dysfunction and show that combining metabolomics with an iPSC-derived dopaminergic neuronal model of PD is a valuable approach to obtain novel insight into the disease pathogenesis.
The KCNJ11-E23K Gene Variant Hastens Diabetes Progression by Impairing Glucose-Induced Insulin Secretion.
The ATP-sensitive potassium (KATP) channel controls blood glucose levels by coupling glucose metabolism to insulin secretion in pancreatic beta cells. E23K, a common polymorphism in the pore-forming KATP channel subunit (KCNJ11) gene, has been linked to increased risk of type 2 diabetes. Understanding the risk-allele-specific pathogenesis has the potential to improve personalized diabetes treatment, but the underlying mechanism has remained elusive. Using a genetically engineered mouse model, we now show that the K23 variant impairs glucose-induced insulin secretion and increases diabetes risk when combined with a high fat diet (HFD) and obesity. KATP-channels in beta cells with two K23 risk alleles (KK) showed decreased ATP inhibition and the threshold for glucose-stimulated insulin secretion from KK islets was increased. Consequently, the insulin response to glucose and glycaemic control were impaired in KK mice on a standard diet. On a HFD, the effects of the KK genotype were exacerbated, accelerating diet-induced diabetes progression and causing beta cell failure. We conclude that the K23 variant increases diabetes risk by impairing insulin secretion at threshold glucose levels, thus accelerating loss of beta cell function in the early stages of diabetes progression.
The kidney hepcidin/ferroportin axis controls iron reabsorption and determines the magnitude of kidney and systemic iron overload.
The hepcidin/ferroportin axis controls systemic iron homeostasis by regulating iron acquisition from the duodenum and reticuloendothelial system, respective sites of iron absorption and recycling. Ferroportin is also abundant in the kidney, where it has been implicated in tubular iron reabsorption. However, it remains unknown whether endogenous hepcidin regulates ferroportin-mediated iron reabsorption under physiological conditions, and whether such regulation is important for kidney and/or systemic iron homeostasis. To address these questions, we generated a novel mouse model with an inducible kidney-tubule specific knock-in of fpnC326Y, which encodes a hepcidin-resistant ferroportin termed FPNC326Y. Under conditions of normal iron availability, female mice harboring this allele had consistently decreased kidney iron but only transiently increased systemic iron indices. Under conditions of excess iron availability, male and female mice harboring this allele had milder kidney iron overload, but greater systemic iron overload relative to controls. Additionally, despite comparable systemic iron overload, kidney iron overload occurred in wild type mice fed an iron-loaded diet but not in hemochromatosis mice harboring a ubiquitous knock-in of fpnC326Y. Thus, our study demonstrates that endogenous hepcidin controls ferroportin-mediated tubular iron reabsorption under physiological conditions. It also shows that such control is important for both kidney and systemic iron homeostasis in the context of iron overload.
Germline and somatic genetic variants in the p53 pathway interact to affect cancer risk, progression, and drug response.
Insights into oncogenesis derived from cancer susceptibility loci (single nucleotide polymorphisms, SNP) hold the potential to facilitate better cancer management and treatment through precision oncology. However, therapeutic insights have thus far been limited by our current lack of understanding regarding both interactions of these loci with somatic cancer driver mutations and their influence on tumorigenesis. For example, while both germline and somatic genetic variation to the p53 tumor suppressor pathway are known to promote tumorigenesis, little is known about the extent to which such variants cooperate to alter pathway activity. Here we hypothesize that cancer risk-associated germline variants interact with somatic TP53 mutational status to modify cancer risk, progression, and response to therapy. Focusing on a cancer risk SNP (rs78378222) with a well-documented ability to directly influence p53 activity as well as integration of germline datasets relating to cancer susceptibility with tumor data capturing somatically-acquired genetic variation provided supportive evidence for this hypothesis. Integration of germline and somatic genetic data enabled identification of a novel entry point for therapeutic manipulation of p53 activities. A cluster of cancer risk SNPs resulted in increased expression of pro-survival p53 target gene KITLG and attenuation of p53-mediated responses to genotoxic therapies, which were reversed by pharmacological inhibition of the pro-survival c-KIT signal. Together, our results offer evidence of how cancer susceptibility SNPs can interact with cancer driver genes to affect cancer progression and identify novel combinatorial therapies.
When and how does the auditory cortex influence subcortical auditory structures? 7 New insights about the roles of descending cortical projections.
For decades, the corticofugal descending projections have been anatomically well described but their functional role remains a puzzling question. In this review, we will first describe the contributions of neuronal networks in representing communication sounds in various types of 49 degraded acoustic conditions from the cochlear nucleus to the primary and secondary auditory cortex. In such situations, the discrimination abilities of collicular and thalamic neurons are clearly better than those of cortical neurons although the latter remain very little affected by degraded acoustic conditions. Second, we will report the functional effects resulting from activating or inactivating corticofugal projections on functional properties of subcortical neurons. In general, modest effects have been observed in anesthetized and in awake, passively listening, animals. In contrast, in behavioral tasks including challenging conditions, behavior56 al performance was severely reduced by removing or transiently silencing the corticofugal descending projections. This suggests that the discriminative abilities of subcortical neurons may be sufficient in many acoustic situations. It is only in particularly challenging situations, 59 either due to the task difficulties and/or to the degraded acoustic conditions that the corticofu60 gal descending connections bring additional abilities. Here, we propose that it is both the top down influences from the prefrontal cortex, and those from the neuromodulatory systems, which allow the cortical descending projections to impact behavioral performance in reshap63 ing the functional circuitry of subcortical structures. We aim at proposing potential scenarios to explain how, and under which circumstances, these projections impact on subcortical processing and on behavioral responses.
Congenital heart disease (CHD) is the most common class of human birth defects, with a prevalence of 0.9% of births. However, two-thirds of cases have an unknown cause, and many of these are thought to be caused by in utero exposure to environmental teratogens. Here we identify a potential teratogen causing CHD in mice: maternal iron deficiency (ID). We show that maternal ID in mice causes severe cardiovascular defects in the offspring. These defects likely arise from increased retinoic acid signalling in ID embryos. The defects can be prevented by iron administration in early pregnancy. It has also been proposed that teratogen exposure may potentiate the effects of genetic predisposition to CHD through gene-environment interaction. Here we show that maternal ID increases the severity of heart and craniofacial defects in a mouse model of Down syndrome. It will be important to understand if the effects of maternal ID seen here in mice may have clinical implications for women.
ETS factors are required but not sufficient for specific patterns of enhancer activity in different endothelial subtypes.
Correct vascular differentiation requires distinct patterns of gene expression in different subtypes of endothelial cells. Members of the ETS transcription factor family are essential for the transcriptional activation of arterial and angiogenesis-specific gene regulatory elements, leading to the hypothesis that they play lineage-defining roles in arterial and angiogenic differentiation directly downstream of VEGFA signalling. However, an alternative explanation is that ETS binding at enhancers and promoters is a general requirement for activation of many endothelial genes regardless of expression pattern, with subtype-specificity provided by additional factors. Here we use analysis of Ephb4 and Coup-TFII (Nr2f2) vein-specific enhancers to demonstrate that ETS factors are equally essential for vein, arterial and angiogenic-specific enhancer activity patterns. Further, we show that ETS factor binding at these vein-specific enhancers is enriched by VEGFA signalling, similar to that seen at arterial and angiogenic enhancers. However, while arterial and angiogenic enhancers can be activated by VEGFA in vivo, the Ephb4 and Coup-TFII venous enhancers are not, suggesting that the specificity of VEGFA-induced arterial and angiogenic enhancer activity occurs via non-ETS transcription factors. These results support a model in which ETS factors are not the primary regulators of specific patterns of gene expression in different endothelial subtypes.
Cardiac TdP risk stratification modelling of anti-infective compounds including chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine.
Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), the hydroxyl derivative of chloroquine (CQ), is widely used in the treatment of rheumatological conditions (systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis) and is being studied for the treatment and prevention of COVID-19. Here, we investigate through mathematical modelling the safety profile of HCQ, CQ and other QT-prolonging anti-infective agents to determine their risk categories for Torsade de Pointes (TdP) arrhythmia. We performed safety modelling with uncertainty quantification using a risk classifier based on the qNet torsade metric score, a measure of the net charge carried by major currents during the action potential under inhibition of multiple ion channels by a compound. Modelling results for HCQ at a maximum free therapeutic plasma concentration (free Cmax) of approximately 1.2 µM (malaria dosing) indicated it is most likely to be in the high-intermediate-risk category for TdP, whereas CQ at a free Cmax of approximately 0.7 µM was predicted to most likely lie in the intermediate-risk category. Combining HCQ with the antibacterial moxifloxacin or the anti-malarial halofantrine (HAL) increased the degree of human ventricular action potential duration prolongation at some or all concentrations investigated, and was predicted to increase risk compared to HCQ alone. The combination of HCQ/HAL was predicted to be the riskiest for the free Cmax values investigated, whereas azithromycin administered individually was predicted to pose the lowest risk. Our simulation approach highlights that the torsadogenic potentials of HCQ, CQ and other QT-prolonging anti-infectives used in COVID-19 prevention and treatment increase with concentration and in combination with other QT-prolonging drugs.
A simple, open and extensible gating control unit for cardiac and respiratory synchronisation control in small animal MRI and demonstration of its robust performance in steady-state maintained CINE-MRI.
Prospective cardiac gating during MRI is hampered by electromagnetic induction from the rapidly switched imaging gradients into the ECG detection circuit. This is particularly challenging in small animal MRI, as higher heart rates combined with a smaller myocardial mass render routine ECG detection challenging. We have developed an open-hardware system that enables continuously running MRI scans to be performed in conjunction with cardio-respiratory gating such that the relaxation-weighted steady state magnetisation is maintained throughout the scan. This requires that the R-wave must be detected reliably even in the presence of rapidly switching gradients, and that data previously acquired that were corrupted by respiratory motion re-acquired. The accurately maintained steady-state magnetisation leads to an improvement in image quality and removes alterations in intensity that may otherwise occur throughout the cardiac cycle and impact upon automated image analysis. We describe the hardware required to enable this and demonstrate its application and robust performance using prospectively cardio-respiratory gated CINE imaging that is operated at a single, constant TR. Schematics, technical drawings, component listing and assembly instructions are made publicly available.
AbstractCongenital heart disease (CHD) is the most common class of human birth defects, with a prevalence of 0.9% of births. However, two-thirds of cases have an unknown cause, and many of these are thought to be caused by in utero exposure to environmental teratogens. Here we identify a potential teratogen causing CHD in mice: maternal iron deficiency (ID). We show that maternal ID in mice causes severe cardiovascular defects in the offspring. These defects likely arise from increased retinoic acid signalling in ID embryos. The defects can be prevented by iron administration in early pregnancy. It has also been proposed that teratogen exposure may potentiate the effects of genetic predisposition to CHD through gene–environment interaction. Here we show that maternal ID increases the severity of heart and craniofacial defects in a mouse model of Down syndrome. It will be important to understand if the effects of maternal ID seen here in mice may have clinical implications for women.
The effects of trifluoperazine on brain edema, aquaporin-4 expression and metabolic markers during the acute phase of stroke using photothrombotic mouse model
© 2021 The Author(s) Stroke is the second leading cause of death and the third leading cause of disability globally. Edema is a hallmark of stroke resulting from dysregulation of water homeostasis in the central nervous system (CNS) and plays the major role in stroke-associated morbidity and mortality. The overlap between cellular and vasogenic edema makes treating this condition complicated, and to date, there is no pathogenically oriented drug treatment for edema. Water balance in the brain is tightly regulated, primarily by aquaporin 4 (AQP4) channels, which are mainly expressed in perivascular astrocytic end-feet. Targeting AQP4 could be a useful therapeutic approach for treating brain edema; however, there is no approved drug for stroke treatment that can directly block AQP4. In this study, we demonstrate that the FDA-approved drug trifluoperazine (TFP) effectively reduces cerebral edema during the early acute phase in post-stroke mice using a photothrombotic stroke model. This effect was combined with an inhibition of AQP4 expression at gene and protein levels. Importantly, TFP does not appear to induce any deleterious changes on brain electrolytes or metabolic markers, including total protein or lipid levels. Our results support a possible role for TFP in providing a beneficial extra-osmotic effect on brain energy metabolism, as indicated by the increase of glycogen levels. We propose that targeting AQP4-mediated brain edema using TFP is a viable therapeutic strategy during the early and acute phase of stroke that can be further investigated during later stages to help in developing novel CNS edema therapies.
In 2021 we celebrate the 400th anniversary of the birth of one of the greatest neuroanatomists, Thomas Willis, the founder of clinical neurology. Willis' name is usually associated with 'the circle' and the word 'neurologia', but his work which comprised insightful descriptions of clinical cases and clear, well-illustrated and articulated scientific publications and case histories also formed the foundation of modern translational research and clinical medicine. In the 16th and 17th centuries classical medical training was based on academic, scholastic tradition, not empirical observations. Willis' work highlights the importance of first-hand clinical observations, and the personalized care of patients and their families. It also emphasizes the importance of interdisciplinary working and the significance of different viewpoints.