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DPAG's Dr Jakub Tomek and Professor Blanca Rodriguez's Computational Cardiovascular Science Team have developed a new computer model that recreates the electrical activity of the ventricles in a human heart. In doing so, they have uncovered and resolved theoretical inconsistencies that have been present in almost all models of the heart from the last 25 years and created a new human heart model that could enable more basic, translational and clinical research into a range of heart diseases and potentially accelerate the development of new therapies.
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.
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.
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.
Exogenous ketosis in patients with type 2 diabetes: Safety, tolerability and effect on glycaemic control
Introduction: Ketogenic diets have shown to improve glycaemic control in patients with type 2 diabetes. This study investigated the safety, tolerability, and effects on glycaemic control in patients with type 2 diabetes of an exogenous ketone monoester (KE) capable of inducing fasting-like elevations in serum β-hydroxybutyrate (βHB) without the need for caloric or carbohydrate restriction. Methods: Twenty one participants (14 men and 7 women, aged 45 ± 11 years) with insulin-independent type 2 diabetes, and unchanged hypoglycaemic medication for the previous 6 months, were recruited for this non-randomised interventional study. Participants wore intermittent scanning glucose monitors (IS-GM) for a total of 6 weeks and were given 25 ml of KE 3 times daily for 4 weeks. Serum electrolytes, acid-base status, and βHB concentrations were measured weekly and cardiovascular risk markers were measured before and after the intervention. The primary endpoints were safety and tolerability, with the secondary endpoint being glycaemic control. Results: The 21 participants consumed a total of 1,588 drinks (39.7 litres) of KE over the course of the intervention. Adverse reactions were mild and infrequent, including mild nausea, headache, and gastric discomfort following fewer than 0.5% of the drinks. Serum electrolyte concentrations, acid-base status, and renal function remained normal throughout the study. Compared to baseline, exogenous ketosis induced a significant decrease in all glycaemic control markers, including fructosamine (335 ± 60 μmol/L to 290 ± 49 μmol/L, p
Background: The KATP channel plays a key role in glucose homeostasis by coupling metabolically generated changes in ATP to insulin secretion from pancreatic beta-cells. Gain-of-function mutations in either the pore-forming (Kir6.2) or regulatory (SUR1) subunit of this channel are a common cause of transient neonatal diabetes mellitus (TNDM), in which diabetes presents shortly after birth but remits within the first few years of life, only to return in later life. The reasons behind this time dependence are unclear. Methods: In an attempt to understand the mechanism behind diabetes remission and relapse, we generated mice expressing the common TNDM mutation SUR1-R1183W. We employed Cre/LoxP technology for both inducible and constitutive expression of SUR1-R1183W specifically in mouse beta-cells, followed by investigation of their phenotype using glucose tolerance tests and insulin secretion from isolated islets. Results: We found that the R1183W mutation impaired inhibition of KATP channels by ATP when heterologously expressed in human embryonic kidney cells. However, neither induced nor constitutive expression of SUR1-R1183W in mice resulted in changes in blood glucose homeostasis, compared to littermate controls. When challenged with a high fat diet, female mice expressing SUR1-R1183W showed increased weight gain, elevated blood glucose and impaired glycaemic control, but glucose-stimulated insulin secretion from pancreatic islets appeared unchanged. Conclusions: The mouse model of TNDM did not recapitulate the human phenotype. We discuss multiple potential reasons why this might be the case. Based on our findings, we recommend future TNDM mouse models employing a gain-of-function SUR1 mutation should be created using the minimally invasive CRISPR/Cas technology, which avoids many potential pitfalls associated with the Cre/LoxP system.
Hypoglycaemia (low plasma glucose) is a serious and potentially fatal complication of insulin-treated diabetes. In healthy individuals, hypoglycaemia triggers glucagon secretion, which restores normal plasma glucose levels by stimulation of hepatic glucose production. This counterregulatory mechanism is impaired in diabetes. Here we show in mice that therapeutic concentrations of insulin inhibit glucagon secretion by an indirect (paracrine) mechanism mediated by stimulation of intra-islet somatostatin release. Insulin's capacity to inhibit glucagon secretion is lost following genetic ablation of insulin receptors in the somatostatin-secreting δ-cells, when insulin-induced somatostatin secretion is suppressed by dapagliflozin (an inhibitor of sodium-glucose co-tranporter-2; SGLT2) or when the action of secreted somatostatin is prevented by somatostatin receptor (SSTR) antagonists. Administration of these compounds in vivo antagonises insulin's hypoglycaemic effect. We extend these data to isolated human islets. We propose that SSTR or SGLT2 antagonists should be considered as adjuncts to insulin in diabetes therapy.
Despite the current media focus, Covid-19 is not the only current pandemic. There is also a global pandemic of diabetes. It is caused by an insufficiency of the hormone insulin, which lowers blood glucose levels. Here we highlight recent work that addresses the question of how insulin is normally secreted from the β-cells of the pancreas and what goes wrong with this process in diabetes. We focus on the metabolic regulation of the ATP-sensitive potassium channel, an ATP-gated membrane pore that regulates insulin secretion. We show that when this pore is shut, insulin is released, and when it is open, insulin release is prevented. As may be expected, genetic mutations that impair the ability of ATP to close the channel cause neonatal diabetes. We also consider if a failure of β-cell metabolism to generate enough ATP to close the channel may lead to the progressive decline in β-cell function in type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes is characterized by hyperglycaemia due to impaired insulin secretion and aberrant glucagon secretion resulting from changes in pancreatic islet cell function and/or mass. The extent to which hyperglycaemia per se underlies these alterations remains poorly understood. Here we show that β-cell-specific expression of a human activating KATP channel mutation in adult mice leads to rapid diabetes and marked alterations in islet morphology, ultrastructure and gene expression. Chronic hyperglycaemia is associated with a dramatic reduction in insulin-positive cells and an increase in glucagon-positive cells in islets, without alterations in cell turnover. Furthermore, some β-cells begin expressing glucagon, whilst retaining many β-cell characteristics. Hyperglycaemia, rather than KATP channel activation, underlies these changes, as they are prevented by insulin therapy and fully reversed by sulphonylureas. Our data suggest that many changes in islet structure and function associated with diabetes are attributable to hyperglycaemia alone and are reversed when blood glucose is normalized.