Archive for the ‘Systemic Inflammatory Response Related Disorders’ Category

H2S-mediated protein sulfhydration in stress reveals metabolic reprogramming

Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP, Curator




Quantitative H2S-mediated protein sulfhydration reveals metabolic reprogramming during the Integrated Stress Response

” data-author-inst=”CaseWesternReserveUniversityUnitedStates”>Bo-JhihGuan, 

Ilya Bederman
Department of Pediatrics, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, United States
No competing interests declared

” data-author-inst=”CaseWesternReserveUniversityUnitedStates”>IlyaBederman, 

Mithu Majumder
Department of Pharmacology, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, United States
No competing interests declared

” data-author-inst=”CaseWesternReserveUniversityUnitedStates”>MithuMajumder, et al.
eLife 2015;10.7554/eLife.10067

The sulfhydration of cysteine residues in proteins is an important mechanism involved in diverse biological processes. We have developed a proteomics approach to quantitatively profile the changes of sulfhydrated cysteines in biological systems. Bioinformatics analysis revealed that sulfhydrated cysteines are part of a wide range of biological functions. In pancreatic β cells exposed to endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress, elevated H2S promotes the sulfhydration of enzymes in energy metabolism and stimulates glycolytic flux. We propose that transcriptional and translational reprogramming by the Integrated Stress Response (ISR) in pancreatic β cells is coupled to metabolic alternations triggered by sulfhydration of key enzymes in intermediary metabolism.
Posttranslational modification is a fundamental mechanism in the regulation of structure and function of proteins. The covalent modification of specific amino acid residues influences diverse biological processes and cell physiology across species. Reactive cysteine residues in proteins have high nucleophilicity and low pKa values and serve as a major target for oxidative modifications, which can vary depending on the subcellular environment, including the type and intensity of intracellular or environmental cues. Oxidative environments cause different post-translational cysteine modifications, including disulfide bond formation (-S-S-), sulfenylation (-S-OH), nitrosylation (-S-NO), glutathionylation (-S-SG), and sulfhydration (-S-SH) (also called persulfidation) (Finkel, 2012; Mishanina et al., 2015). In the latter, an oxidized cysteine residue included glutathionylated, 60 sulfenylated and nitrosylated on a protein reacts with the sulfide anion to form a cysteine persulfide. The reversible nature of this modification provides a mechanism to fine tune biological processes in different cellular redox states. Sulfhydration coordinates with other post-translational protein modifications such as phosphorylation and nitrosylation to regulate cellular functions (Altaany et al., 2014; Sen et al., 2012). Despite great progress in bioinformatics and advanced mass spectroscopic techniques (MS), identification of different cysteine-based protein modifications has been slow compared to other post-translational modifications. In the case of sulfhydration, a small number of proteins have been identified, among them the glycolytic enzyme glyceraldehyde phosphate dehydrogenase, GAPDH (Mustafa et al., 2009). Sulfhydrated GAPDH at Cys150 exhibits an increase in its catalytic activity, in contrast to the inhibitory effects of nitrosylation or glutathionylation of the same cysteine residue (Mustafa et al., 2009; Paul and Snyder, 2012). The biological significance of the Cys150 modification by H2S is not well-studied, but H2S could serve as a biological switch for protein function acting via oxidative modification of specific cysteine residues in response to redox homeostasis (Paul and Snyder, 2012). Understanding the physiological significance of protein sulfhydration requires the development of genome-wide innovative experimental approaches. Current methodologies based on the modified biotin switch technique do not allow detection of a broad spectrum of sulfhydrated proteins (Finkel, 2012). Guided by a previously reported strategy (Sen et al., 2012), we developed an experimental approach that allowed us to quantitatively evaluate the sulfhydrated proteome and the physiological consequences of H2S synthesis during chronic ER stress. The new methodology allows a quantitative, close-up view of the integrated cellular response to environmental and intracellular cues, and is pertinent to our understanding of human disease development.
The ER is an organelle involved in synthesis of proteins followed by various modifications. Disruption of this process results in the accumulation of misfolded proteins, causing ER stress (Tabas and Ron, 2011; Walter and Ron, 2011), which is associated with development of many diseases ranging from metabolic dysfunction to neurodegeneration (Hetz, 2012). ER stress induces transcriptional, translational, and metabolic reprogramming, all of which are interconnected through the transcription factor Atf4. Atf4 increases expression of genes promoting adaptation to stress via their protein products. One such gene is the H2S-producing enzyme, γ-cystathionase (CTH), previously shown to be involved in the signaling pathway that negatively regulates the activity of the protein tyrosine phosphatase 1B (PTP1B) via sulfhydration (Krishnan et al., 2011). We therefore hypothesized that low or even modest levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS) during ER stress may reprogram cellular metabolism via H2S-mediated protein sulfhydration (Figure 1A).
In summary, sulfhydration of specific cysteines in proteins is a key function of H2S (Kabil and Banerjee, 2010; Paul and Snyder, 2012; Szabo et al., 2013). Thus, the development of tools that can quantitatively measure genome-wide protein sulfhydration in physiological or pathological conditions is of central importance. However, a significant challenge in studies of the biological significance of protein sulfhydration is the lack of an approach to selectively detect sulfhydrated cysteines from other modifications (disulfide bonds, glutathionylated thiols and sulfienic acids) in complex biological samples. In this study, we introduced the BTA approach that allowed the quantitative assessment of changes in the sulfhydration of specific cysteines in the proteome and in individual proteins. BTA is superior to other reported methodologies that aimed to profile cysteine modifications, such as the most commonly used, a modified biotin switch technique (BST). BST was originally designed to study protein nitrosylation and postulated to differentiate free thiols and persulfides (Mustafa et al., 2009). A key advantage of BTA over the existing methodologies, is that the experimental approach has steps to avoid false-positive and negative results, as target proteins for sulfhydration. BST is commonly generating such false targets for cysteine modifications (Forrester et al., 2009; Sen et al., 2012). Using mutiple validations, our data support the specificity and reliability of the BTA assay for analysis of protein sulfhydration both in vitro and in vivo. With this approach, we found that ATF4 is the master regulator of protein sulfhydration in pancreatic β cells during ER stress, by means of its function as a transcription factor. A large number of protein targets have been discovered to undergo sulfhydration in β cells by the BTA approach. Almost 1,000 sulfhydrated cysteine- containing peptides were present in the cells under the chronic ER stress condition of treatment with Tg for 18 h. Combined with the isotopic-labeling strategy, almost 820 peptides on more than 500 proteins were quantified in the 405 cells overexpressing ATF4. These data show the potential of the BTA method for further systematic studies of biological events. To our knowledge, the current dataset encompasses most known sulfhydrated cysteine residues in proteins in any organism. Our bioinformatics analyses revealed sulfhydrated cysteine residues located on a variety of structure-function domains, suggesting the possibility of regulatory mechanism(s) mediated by protein sulfhydration. Structure and sequence analysis revealed consensus motifs that favor sulfhydration; an arginine residue and alpha-helix dipoles are both contributing to stabilize sulfhydrated cysteine thiolates in the local environment.
Pathway analyses showed that H2S-mediated sulfhydration of cysteine residues is that part of the ISR with the highest enrichment in proteins involved in energy metabolism. The metabolic flux revealed that H2S promotes aerobic glycolysis associated with decreased oxidative phosphorylation in mitochondria during ER stress in β cells. The TCA cycle revolves by the action of the respiratory chain that requires oxygen to operate. In response to ER stress, mitochondrial function and cellular respiration are down-regulated to limit oxygen demand and to sustain mitochondria. When ATP production from the TCA cycle becomes limited and glycolytic flux increases, there is a risk of accumulation of lactate from pyruvate. One way to escape accumulation of lactate is the mitochondrial conversion of pyruvate to oxalacetic acid (OAA) by pyruvate carboxylase. This latter enzyme was found to be sulfhydrated, consistent with the notion that sulfhydration is linked to metabolic reprogramming towards glycolysis.
The switch of energy production from mitochondria to glycolysis is known as a signature of hypoxic conditions. This metabolic switch has also been observed in many cancer cells characterized as the Warburg effect, which contributes to tumor growth. The Warburg effect provides advantages to cancer cell survival via the rapid ATP production through glycolysis, as well as the increased conversion of glucose into anabolic biomolecules (amino acid, nucleic acid and lipid biosynthesis) and reducing power (NADPH) for regeneration of antioxidants. This metabolic response of tumor cells contributes to tumor growth and metastasis (Vander Heiden et al., 2009). By analogy, the aerobic glycolysis trigged by increased H2S production could give β cells the capability to acquire ATP and nutrients to adapt their cellular metabolism towards maintaining ATP levels in the ER (Vishnu et al., 2014), increasing synthesis of glycerolphospholipids, glycoproteins and protein (Krokowski et al., 2013b), all important components of the ISR. Similar to hypoxic conditions, a phenotype associated with most tumors, the decreased mitochondria function in β cells during ER stress, can also be viewed as an adaptive response by limiting mitochondria ROS and mitochondria-mediated apoptosis. We therefore view that the H2S-mediated increase in glycolysis is an adaptive mechanism for survival of β cells to chronic ER stress, along with the improved ER function and insulin production and folding, both critical factors controlling hyperglycemia in diabetes. Future work should determine which are the key proteins targeted by H2S and thus contributing to metabolic reprogramming of β cells, and if and how insulin synthesis and secretion is affected by sulfhydration of these proteins during ER stress.
Abnormal H2S metabolism has been reported to occur in various diseases, mostly through the deregulation of gene expression encoding for H2S-generating enzymes (Wallace and Wang, 2015). An increase of their levels by stimulants is expected to have similar effects on sulfhydration of proteins like the ATF4- induced CTH under conditions of ER stress. It is the levels of H2S under oxidative conditions that influence cellular functions. In the present study, ER stress in β cells induced elevated Cth levels, whereas CBS was unaffected. The deregulated oxidative modification at cysteine residues by H2S may be a major contributing factor to disease development. In this case, it would provide a rationale for the design of therapeutic agents that would modulate the activity of the involved enzymes.

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Rheumatoid arthritis update

Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP, Curator



Innovation update: Advancing the standard of care in rheumatoid arthritis 

Old innovation makes way for new innovation

Twenty years ago, the standard of care for RA was some combination of basic NSAIDS, along with methotrexate. Caregivers focused on symptom relief, and it was widely understood that many patients would fail to achieve remission. As the disease developed, patients would eventually develop severely life-limiting disabilities as their disease progressed.

During this period, researchers presenting at conferences grew excited about data on a new class of drugs known as anti-tumor necrosis factor (TNF) antibodies. In an article published in Acta Orthopaedica Scandinavica in 1995, two physician-researchers wrote the following:

“Primary results have recently been published on the use of anti-TNF monoclonal antibodies. In a controlled trial these antibodies were able to significantly influence a number of disease-activity variables in RA. An important observation was that the clinical effect lasted from weeks to, in some cases, months.  Although the potential of these agents for clinical use is still uncertain, these observations suggest that interfering with certain targets of the immune-inflammatory process is possible, effective and so far without side effects.”

About four years after Drs. Van de Putte and Van Riel extolled the virtues of disease-modifying biologics in clinical trials, the first anti-TNF antibody, Remicade (infliximab) was approved in 1999. At that point, the standard of care for RA improved significantly, forever changing the treatment paradigm for patients with RA.


The expanding class of JAK inhibitors

At this year’s ACR meeting, researchers  focused on  anti-inflammatory antibodies and a relatively new class of oral drugs known as janus kinase (JAK) inhibitors.  Interest in JAK inhibitors has spiked since the approval of Pfizer’s oral medication Xeljanz (tofacitinib) —the first, and currently the only, JAK inhibitor approved for the treatment of moderate-to-severe RA.JAK inhibitors have garnered interest because of the role they can play in expanding a treatment area dominated by synthetic and biologic disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs). Could JAK inhibitors provide the breakthrough in RA that the anti-TNF antibodies provided almost 20 years ago?

Currently, Eli Lilly and Incyte are in late-stage development of baricitinib, a JAK1/JAK2 inhibitor for treatment of RA. Until last December, Johnson & Johnson (J&J) and Astellas were working jointly on another JAK inhibitor, known as ASPO15K, but J&J exercised its opt-out option and left the partnership. Astellas vowed to go it alone or look for a new partner, but there have not been many updates on ASPO15K within the last year.


Innovation means understanding and responding to unmet needs

Like many other therapeutic areas, RA treatments are often used in combination. For some patients, the combination of methotrexate and a powerful biologic, such as Remicade (infliximab), will help a patient achieve remission Yet others will either not respond to methotrexate and Remicade, or will have a negative reaction. Understanding how to help nonresponders achieve relief has become a key area of research in RA.

According to Terence Rooney, MD, Medical Director at Lilly Bio-Medicines, “A substantial proportion of patients treated with methotrexate – commonly used across the disease continuum for 25 years – do not achieve satisfactory disease control, signaling a need for more effective RA treatment options. In addition, studies have shown that some patients who initially respond to biologics lose response over time, and approximately 40 percent of patients with high disease activity never respond adequately to TNF antagonist biologics.”


Innovative clinical trial design

As Lilly and Incyte approach the end of the development process for baricitinib, they have been collecting results from clinical trials designed to both establish basic efficacy and safety in placebo-controlled and comparator trials, and to obtain data on targeted patient populations.

According to Rooney, “The baricitinib phase three program investigated the benefit of baricitinib across the spectrum of patients with rheumatoid arthritis, including newly diagnosed patients, patients who had failed to respond to conventional DMARDs, and patients who had failed multiple injectable biologic DMARD therapies.”

“In addition, the phase 3 program included two 52-week studies that incorporated either methotrexate or adalimumab as active comparators to provide useful information for therapeutic positioning of baricitinib. In these studies, baricitinib was statistically superior to methotrexate and to adalimumab in improving signs and symptoms, physical function, and important patient-reported outcomes including pain, fatigue and stiffness.”

Rooney also pointed out that there is additional data establishing baricitinib as a DMARD that significantly inhibits progressive radiographic joint damage.


Experience plus evidence equals more innovation

As has become the norm, companies at ACR often highlight new data confirming the efficacy and safety of already approved drugs in larger patient populations and in real-world settings..

Lilly currently has data on more than 40,000 patients worldwide, reflecting its global ambitions. Assuming that baricitinib is approved next year (the goal is to file at the end of the year), Lilly will continue to present data at ACR in the coming years highlighting the results of its long-term extension study, RA-BEYOND.


Pfizer’s up-to-date Xeljanz data presentation at ACR

Although Xeljanz has been on the market for three years in more than 40 countries, Pfizer continues to focus on collecting new data and using it to expand use of Xeljanz. In fact, Pfizer had 20 abstracts focused solely on Xeljanz at ACR 2015.

According to Rory O’Connor, MD, Senior Vice President and Head of Global Medical Affairs, Global Innovative Pharmaceuticals Business, Pfizer, “Ongoing clinical trials and long-term extension studies provide important information about the safety and efficacy of Xeljanz in RA. We are focused on continuing to build on our knowledge of the clinical application of Xeljanz in real-world settings.”

Pfizer was also able to highlight new data that supports their recent NDA for Xeljanz XR, a once-daily formulation of Xeljanz, which is currently approved as a twice-daily dosing formulation.


JAK inhibition beyond RA

One of the most exciting things about the progress with JAK inhibitors is the possibility to innovate treatments beyond RA. Lilly has been exploring the role of JAK-dependent cytokines in the pathogenesis of numerous inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. The company also plans to meet with regulatory authorities to develop a pediatric program for juvenile RA and idiopathic arthritis.

Meanwhile, Pfizer has developed a broad portfolio of various JAK inhibitors and therapies with new modes of action. Already, Pfizer researchers have completed two phase three studies in ulcerative colitis and the top-line results have been positive.

Medical meetings are exciting, because they provide a forum for discussing breakthroughs and portending a future in which the standard of care improves. For companies like Lilly, Incyte, and Pfizer, continual development of more novel approaches to serious diseasesis like a call-response echo chamber in which innovation drives more innovation, resulting in better long-term outcomes for patients.



The JAK/STAT signaling pathway
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In addition to the principal components of the pathway, other effector proteins have been identified that contribute to at least a subset of JAK/STAT signaling events. STAMs (signal-transducing adapter molecules) are adapter molecules with conserved VHS and SH3 domains (Lohi and Lehto, 2001). STAM1 and STAM2A can be phosphorylated by JAK1-JAK3 in a manner that is dependent on a third domain present in some STAMs, the ITAM (inducible tyrosine-based activation motif). Through a poorly understood mechanism, the STAMs facilitate the transcriptional activation of specific target genes, including MYC. A second adapter that facilitates JAK/STAT pathway activation is StIP (stat-interacting protein), a WD40 protein. StIPs can associate with both JAKs and unphosphorylated STATs, perhaps serving as a scaffold to facilitate the phosphorylation of STATs by JAKs. A third class of adapter with function in JAK/STAT signaling is the SH2B/Lnk/APS family. These proteins contain both pleckstrin homology and SH2 domains and are also substrates for JAK phosphorylation. Both SH2-Bβ and APS associate with JAKs, but the former facilitates JAK/STAT signaling while the latter inhibits it. The degree to which each of these adapter families contributes to JAK/STAT signaling is not yet well understood, but it is clear that various proteins outside the basic pathway machinery influence JAK/STAT signaling.

In addition to JAK/STAT pathway effectors, there are three major classes of negative regulator: SOCS (suppressors of cytokine signaling), PIAS (protein inhibitors of activated stats) and PTPs (protein tyrosine phosphatases) (reviewed by Greenhalgh and Hilton, 2001). Perhaps the simplest are the tyrosine phosphatases, which reverse the activity of the JAKs. The best characterized of these is SHP-1, the product of the mouse motheaten gene. SHP-1 contains two SH2 domains and can bind to either phosphorylated JAKs or phosphorylated receptors to facilitate dephosphorylation of these activated signaling molecules. Other tyrosine phosphatases, such as CD45, appear to have a role in regulating JAK/STAT signaling through a subset of receptors.

SOCS proteins are a family of at least eight members containing an SH2 domain and a SOCS box at the C-terminus (reviewed by Alexander, 2002). In addition, a small kinase inhibitory region located N-terminal to the SH2 domain has been identified for SOCS1 and SOCS3. The SOCS complete a simple negative feedback loop in the JAK/STAT circuitry: activated STATs stimulate transcription of the SOCS genes and the resulting SOCS proteins bind phosphorylated JAKs and their receptors to turn off the pathway. The SOCS can affect their negative regulation by three means. First, by binding phosphotyrosines on the receptors, SOCS physically block the recruitment of signal transducers, such as STATs, to the receptor. Second, SOCS proteins can bind directly to JAKs or to the receptors to specifically inhibit JAK kinase activity. Third, SOCS interact with the elongin BC complex and cullin 2, facilitating the ubiquitination of JAKs and, presumably, the receptors. Ubiquitination of these targets decreases their stability by targeting them for proteasomal degradation.

The third class of negative regulator is the PIAS proteins: PIAS1, PIAS3, PIASx and PIASy. These proteins have a Zn-binding RING-finger domain in the central portion, a well-conserved SAP (SAF-A/Acinus/PIAS) domain at the N-terminus, and a less-well-conserved carboxyl domain. The latter domains are involved in target protein binding. The PIAS proteins bind to activated STAT dimers and prevent them from binding DNA. The mechanism by which PIAS proteins act remains unclear. However, PIAS proteins have recently been demonstrated to associate with the E2 conjugase Ubc9 and to have E3 conjugase activity for sumoylation that is mediated by the RING finger domain (reviewed by Jackson, 2001). Although there is evidence that STATs can be modified by sumoylation (Rogers et al., 2003), the function of that modification in negative regulation is not yet known.

Although the mechanism of JAK/STAT signaling is relatively simple in theory, the biological consequences of pathway activation are complicated by interactions with other signaling pathways (reviewed by Heinrich et al., 2003; Rane and Reddy, 2000; Shuai, 2000). An understanding of this cross-talk is only beginning to emerge, but the best characterized interactions of the JAK/STAT pathway are with the receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK)/Ras/MAPK (mitogen-activated protein kinase) pathway. The relationship between these cascades is complex and their paths cross at multiple levels, each enhancing activation of the other. First, activated JAKs can phosphorylate tyrosines on their associated receptors that can serve as docking sites for SH2-containing adapter proteins from other signaling pathways. These include SHP-2 and Shc, which recruit the GRB2 adapter and stimulate the Ras cascade. The same mechanism stimulates other cascades, such as the recruitment and JAK phosphorylation of insulin receptor substrate (IRS) and p85, which results in the activation of the phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) pathway [for more on PI3K signaling, see Foster et al. (Foster et al., 2003)]. JAK/STAT signaling also indirectly promotes Ras signaling through the transcriptional activation of SOCS3. SOCS3 binds RasGAP, a negative regulator of Ras signaling, and reduces its activity, thereby promoting activation of the Ras pathway. Reciprocally, RTK pathway activity promotes JAK/STAT signaling by at least two mechanisms. First, the activation of some RTKs, including EGFR and PDGFR, results in the JAK-independent tyrosine phosphorylation of STATs, probably by the Src kinase. Second, RTK/Ras pathway stimulation causes the downstream activation of MAPK. MAPK specifically phosphorylates a serine near the C-terminus of most STATs. While not absolutely necessary for STAT activity, this serine phosphorylation dramatically enhances transcriptional activation by STAT. In addition to RTK and PI3K interactions with JAK/STAT signaling, multiple levels of cross-talk with the TGF-β signaling pathway have been recently reported [for a review of TGF-β, see (Moustakas, 2002)]. Furthermore, the functions of activated STATs can be altered through association with other transcription factors and cofactors that are regulated by other signaling pathways. Thus the integration of input from many signaling pathways must be considered if we are to understand the biological consequences of cytokine stimulation.



Published on 27 Feb 2014

The JAK/STAT secondary messenger signaliing pathway..
Presented by: Joseph Farahany, M.D


Jak/Stat Signaling Pathway


Jaks and Stats are critical components of many cytokine receptor systems; regulating growth, survival, differentiation, and pathogen resistance. An example of these pathways is shown for the IL-6 (or gp130) family of receptors, which coregulate B cell differentiation, plasmacytogenesis, and the acute phase reaction. Cytokine binding induces receptor dimerization, activating the associated Jaks, which phosphorylate themselves and the receptor. The phosphorylated sites on the receptor and Jaks serve as docking sites for the SH2-containing Stats, such as Stat3, and for SH2-containing proteins and adaptors that link the receptor to MAP kinase, PI3K/Akt, and other cellular pathways.

Phosphorylated Stats dimerize and translocate into the nucleus to regulate target gene transcription. Members of the suppressor of cytokine signaling (SOCS) family dampen receptor signaling via homologous or heterologous feedback regulation. Jaks or Stats can also participate in signaling through other receptor classes, as outlined in the Jak/Stat Utilization Table. Researchers have found Stat3 and Stat5 to be constitutively activated by tyrosine kinases other than Jaks in several solid tumors

The Jak/Stat pathway mediates the effects of cytokines, like erythropoietin, thrombopoietin, and G-CSF, which are protein drugs for the treatment of anemia, thrombocytopenia, and neutropenia, respectively. The pathway also mediates signaling by interferons, which are used as antiviral and antiproliferative agents. Researchers have found that dysregulated cytokine signaling contributes to cancer. Aberrant IL-6 signaling contributes to the pathogenesis of autoimmune diseases, inflammation, and cancers such as prostate cancer and multiple myeloma. Jak inhibitors currently are being tested in models of multiple myeloma. Stat3 can act as an oncogene and is constitutively active in many tumors. Crosstalk between cytokine signaling and EGFR family members is seen in some cancer cells. Research has shown that in glioblastoma cells overexpressing EGFR, resistance to EGFR kinase inhibitors is induced by Jak2 binding to EGFR via the FERM domain of the former [Sci. Signal. (2013) 6, ra55].

Activating Jak mutations are major molecular events in human hematological malignancies. Researchers have found a unique somatic mutation in the Jak2 pseudokinase domain (V617F) that commonly occurs in polycythemia vera, essential thrombocythemia, and idiopathic myelofibrosis. This mutation results in the pathologic activation Jak2, associated with receptors for erythropoietin, thrombopoietin, and G-CSF, which control erythroid, megakaryocytic, and granulocytic proliferation and differentiation. Researchers have also shown that somatic acquired gain-of-function mutations of Jak1 are found in adult T cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Somatic activating mutations in Jak1, Jak2, and Jak3 have also been identified in pediatric acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Furthermore, Jak2 mutations have been detected around pseudokinase domain R683 (R683G or DIREED) in Down syndrome childhood B-ALL and pediatric B-ALL.

Selected Reviews:

– See more at:


The JAK-STAT Signaling Pathway: Input and Output Integration1

  1. Peter J. Murray

The Journal of Immunology Mar 1, 2007;  178(5): 2623-2629​jimmunol.178.5.2623

Universal and essential to cytokine receptor signaling, the JAK-STAT pathway is one of the best understood signal transduction cascades. Almost 40 cytokine receptors signal through combinations of four JAK and seven STAT family members, suggesting commonality across the JAK-STAT signaling system. Despite intense study, there remain substantial gaps in understanding how the cascades are activated and regulated. Using the examples of the IL-6 and IL-10 receptors, I will discuss how diverse outcomes in gene expression result from regulatory events that effect the JAK1-STAT3 pathway, common to both receptors. I also consider receptor preferences by different STATs and interpretive problems in the use of STAT-deficient cells and mice. Finally, I consider how the suppressor of cytokine signaling (SOCS) proteins regulate the quality and quantity of STAT signals from cytokine receptors. New data suggests that SOCS proteins introduce additional diversity into the JAK-STAT pathway by adjusting the output of activated STATs that alters downstream gene activation.



The mammalian JAK and STAT family members have been extensively, and seemingly exhaustively, analyzed in the mouse and human systems. All four JAK and seven STAT family members have been deleted in the mouse, in addition to the creation of conditional alleles for genes whose loss of function leads to embryonic or perinatal lethality (Stat3, combined deficiency of Stat5a and Stat5b, and Jak2). In humans, detailed genetic studies have been performed in people bearing mutant Jak or Stat genes. Specific Abs to phospho-forms of each protein are used to study how the JAK-STAT cascade is activated by cytokine receptors. Crystallographic studies have illuminated structural information for multiple STAT family members in different forms. Pharmacological inhibitors have been developed for clinical use where JAK-STAT signaling is implicated in disease pathology and progression. Finally, in most cases, a specific JAK-STAT combination has been paired with each cytokine receptor, and this information translated into cell-type specific patterns of cytokine responsiveness and gene expression.

Major questions remain concerning how the JAK-STAT cascade functions to control specific gene expression patterns, and how the cascades are regulated. I will describe three elements of JAK-STAT signaling that require experimental investigation. First, I will address an unexpected experimental complication that arises from the analysis of mice and cells that lack one or more STAT family member. Second, I will use JAK1-STAT3 signaling from the IL-10R and IL-6R systems to illustrate that we lack detailed understanding of how specificity in gene expression is generated by receptors that use identical JAK-STAT members. Third, we have yet to explain how STAT activation is negatively regulated. Although the suppressor of cytokine signaling (SOCS)3 proteins are the best understood negative regulators of the JAK-STAT pathway, the biochemical mechanism of SOCS-mediated inhibition is unexplained. Moreover, additional inhibitory pathways have also been proposed to block the production of activated STATs. Collectively, I will argue that our understanding of the pathway from cytokine receptor to gene expression profile is in its infancy, but remains one of the best opportunities to dissect signal transduction.

Overview of the proximal JAK-STAT activation mechanism

The current model of JAK-STAT signaling holds that cytokine receptor engagement activates the associated JAK combination, which in turn phosphorylates the receptor cytoplasmic domain to allow recruitment of a STAT, which in turn is phosphorylated, dimerizes and moves to the nucleus to bind specific sequences in the genome and activate gene expression. Cytoplasmic domains of cytokine receptors associate with JAKs via JAK binding sites located close to the membrane (1). The postulated role of JAKs in trafficking or chaperoning the receptors to the cell surface is debated (2, 3, 4, 5, 6). Regardless of the when and where cytokine receptors and JAKs associate, their close apposition at the membrane is required to stimulate the kinase activity of the JAK following cytokine binding. At this stage in the activation of the pathway, we understand next to nothing about the structural basis of the JAK-receptor interaction, how receptor intracellular domains reorient upon cytokine binding and physically contact the JAK to receive the phosphorylation modification.

JAK-mediated phosphorylation of the receptor creates binding sites for the Src homology 2 (SH2) domains of the STATs. STAT recruitment is followed by tyrosine, and in some cases, serine phosphorylation on key residues (by the JAKs and other closely associated kinases) that leads to transit into the nucleus. This brief summary of the activation of the JAK-STAT pathway omits numerous unresolved details: the STAT monomer to dimer transition has been questioned, as has the role of phosphorylation in dimerization and nuclear transit (7). Furthermore, it is unclear how many configurations of STAT homo- and heterocomplexes are present in cells before, during, and after cytokine stimulation (8, 9,10). We do not understand the detailed structural basis for the preference of one SH2 domain for a given receptor, and we have little knowledge of how other non-JAK kinases are recruited to the receptors and phosphorylate the STATs.

Many receptors signal through a small number of JAKs

Cytokine receptors signal through two types of pathways: the JAK-STAT pathway and other pathways that usually involve the activation of the MAP kinase cascade. Although the latter will not be discussed here, it is worth noting that elegant genetic studies have demonstrated the importance of these pathways in various pathological systems (11, 12,13, 14). There are now ∼36 cytokine receptor combinations that respond to ∼38 cytokines (counting the type I IFNs as one because they all signal through the IFN-αβR). Different cells and tissues express distinct receptor combinations that respond to cytokine combinations unique to the microenvironment or systemic response of the organism. Hence, at any given time, a single cell may integrate signals from multiple cytokine receptors. Genetic studies have established that the cytokine receptor system is restrictive in that different classes of receptors preferentially use one JAK or JAK combination (7): receptors required for hemopoietic cell development and proliferation use JAK2, common γ-chain receptors use JAK1 and JAK3 whereas other receptors use only JAK1 (Fig. 1). Unexplained is the selective use of these combinations: why the IFN-γR rigidly uses the JAK1, JAK2 combination is unknown as is the restricted use of TYK2. Compared with JAK1–3, TYK2 is unusual in that loss of function mutations in the mouse have shown obligate, but not absolute, requirements in IFN-αβR and IL-12R signaling (15, 16). In contrast, human TYK2 seems to be essential for signaling through a broader range of cytokine receptors (17).




The majority of cytokine receptors use three JAK combinations. Shown are well-studied cases where JAK usage by each cytokine receptor has been established by genetic and biochemical studies. Exceptions shown are the G-CSFR (∗) where it is currently unclear whether both JAK1 and JAK2 are required together. Additionally, the IL-12R (†) and IL-23R (†) require TYK2 but the requirement for JAK2 has not been definitively determined. Receptors that use JAK2 and JAK3, JAK3 alone, TYK2 alone, or JAK3 and TYK2 have not been described.

The preferential association of JAKs to certain receptor classes raises several issues. First, how did the JAK-receptor combinations evolve? Because the number of receptors is relatively large, why has the number of JAKs remained small? Why have the combinations of JAK pairs also remained small given that there are 10 possible combinations that can be used (Fig. 1)? Second, how flexible is the cytokine receptor-JAK pair? That is, can receptors be engineered for interchangeable JAK use, or is a given JAK combination fixed for a specific receptor class? For example, can JAK1, JAK3, or TYK2 activate erythropoietin receptor (EpoR) signaling (if so engineered) or is JAK2 obligatory for signaling? These questions allude to a fundamental issue that concerns the function of the JAK in cytokine receptor activation: if the only function of the JAKs is to phosphorylate tyrosine resides on the cytoplasmic domain of the receptors, then it should be possible to trade JAK-receptor pairs. If these receptors retain identical downstream gene expression profiles, then the signal generated by the JAK is generic and functions primarily to activate the receptor (6). Conversely, it is also possible that each receptor-JAK combination retains crucial specificity functions and swapping, for example, JAK1 for JAK2 on the EpoR will modify or destroy a specific function in erythrogenesis. These questions can be addressed experimentally by replacing one preferred JAK binding site for another in genes encoding different receptors. The EpoR is a good test example because the activity of the receptor and its signaling pathway is essential for life and erythropoiesis is readily assayed.

Core versus cell-type specific STAT signaling

Microarray experiments designed to monitor changes in gene expression induced by JAK-STAT signaling have revealed that both cell-type specific transcription and core, or stereotypic, mRNA profiles are induced by activated cytokine receptors in different cell types (Fig. 2). For example, IFN-γ, via STAT1, induces the expression of a similar cohort of genes regardless of the cell type tested (18). These genes are often termed the “IFN signature” and overlap with the gene expression pattern induced by IFN-αβ signaling that also involves STAT1, in cooperation with STAT2 and IRF9. The IFN signature is readily observed in microarray experiments and is indicative of STAT1 activity. The STAT6 pathway activated by IL-4 or IL-13 provides an example of a cell-type specific response. IL-4-regulated genes in T cells have a distinct signature compared with IL-4/IL-13 signaling in macrophages or other non-lymphocytes (19, 20, 21, 22). In the latter, genes such as Arg1(encoding arginase 1) are often induced >100-fold but are silent in T cells (23, 24, 25, 26,27). Collectively these data argue that STATs activate defined gene sets, depending on their genomic accessibility, and possibly on cofactors that further refine gene expression profiles. STAT3 signaling illustrates a more complex system and will be discussed below to illustrate the distinctions between IL-6 and IL-10 signaling.




Core signaling by STATs. Representative examples of gene expression induced by STAT signaling in different tissues. The examples were extracted and edited from numerous microarray and empirical studies.

Interpreting experiments using STAT loss-of-function systems

Experiments with the different STAT knockout mice, and cells derived from these animals, have been critical for understanding specific requirements of individual STATs in gene expression following cytokine receptor signaling. The interpretation of these experiments is generally straightforward. For example, STAT5a and STAT5b are essential for the expression of genes that promote hemopoietic survival (28, 29, 30) whereas STAT1 is required for the expression of IFN-regulated genes that are involved in the protection against pathogens (18). However, by EMSA and immunoblotting experiments, most cytokines have been shown to activate multiple STATs, prompting experiments to determine transcriptional responses that can be activated in the absence of a given STAT. An initial example of this type of approach was performed by Schreiber and colleagues who interrogated gene expression profiles induced by IFN-γ signaling in the absence of STAT1 (31, 32). In these experiments, IFN-γ was used to stimulate STAT1-deficient bone marrow-derived macrophages and fibroblasts. Numerous genes were induced by IFN-γ in the absence of STAT1, leading to the conclusion that the IFN-γR activates a STAT1-independent gene expression program. However, inspection of the genes induced by IFN-γ signaling in STAT1-deficient cells shows many to be STAT3-regulated genes such asSocs3, Gadd45, and Cebpb. STAT3 phosphorylation is normally induced by IFN-γ in wild-type cells but in the absence of STAT1, STAT3 signaling is dominant. What is the mechanism of this effect? We now know from experiments using STAT-deficient cells that receptor occupancy, or lack of occupancy by the dominant STAT that binds the receptor, causes a switch from one activated STAT to another (33). A converse example is the conversion of IL-6R signaling to a dominant STAT1 activation in STAT3-deficient cells (34). This switch causes the downstream induction of the IFN gene expression pathway just as IFN-γ would cause in wild-type cells.

A related example is observed when IL-6 signaling is tested in the absence of SOCS3. SOCS3 is induced by STAT signaling from different cytokine receptors and functions as a feedback inhibitor of the IL-6R (and the G-CSFR, LIFR, and leptinR) by binding to phosphorylated Y757 on the gp130 cytoplasmic domain (see below). However in the absence of SOCS3, STAT3 phosphorylation is greatly increased (35, 36, 37). At the same time however, STAT1 phosphorylation is also induced, leading to a dominant IFN-like gene expression signature (35, 36). Thus SOCS3 regulates both the quantity and type of STAT signal generated from the IL-6R. Although the mechanism of the SOCS3 effect is unclear, the promiscuity of different receptors for different STATs argues that loss-of-function experiments must be carefully examined for the activation of other STAT molecules that fill the “hole” created by the loss of one STAT. These data also suggest that different cytokine receptors have evolved selectivity for different classes of STATs. Although STAT1 and STAT3 can apparently interchangeably bind the IL-6R or IFN-γR when either molecule is missing, signaling in wild-type cells shows a strong preference for one STAT over the other. Likewise, other receptors may have evolved to bind only one STAT, and in the absence of the key STAT, the other STATs cannot bind and/or be activated by the receptor.

The above examples primarily describe experiments using STAT1–STAT3-activating receptors but these are not isolated cases. In T cells stimulated by IL-12, STAT4 is activated and drives IFN-γ production. This pathway is a central regulatory event in the development of the Th1 type T cell responses. IFN-αβ, via the IFN-αβR, also activates STAT4 (in addition to STAT1 and STAT2 that forms a complex with IRF-9 to mediate anti-viral gene expression) but cannot activate strong IFN-γ production and therefore cannot drive Th1 development (38). However, in the absence of STAT1, IFN-αβ causes a large increase in IFN-γ production, especially in vivo during viral infection (39, 40). These data were originally interpreted to mean that STAT1 normally suppressed IFN-γ production. However, the data can just as easily be resolved when we consider that STAT4 activation from the IFN-αβR is increased in the absence of STAT1. Recent data confirm this interpretation but also show that STAT4 activation by the IFN-αβR, although increased, cannot sustain IFN-γ production from T cells when compared with IL-12 (38). This is probably because of the stronger differential activity of SOCS1 on the IFN-αβR versus the IL-12R (discussed below). I would predict that an IFN-αβR that is refractory to SOCS1 (or active in a Socs1−/− background) would behave identically to the IL-12R in the absence of STAT1.

Although loss of gene expression may be observed in a given STAT knockout, a corresponding increase in the ectopic activation of another STAT pathway may confound the interpretation of results in both in vitro and in vivo systems. Because specific Abs are available for each tyrosine-phosphorylated STAT molecule, a simple solution is to first measure which other STATs are activated by a given receptor in the absence of the STAT of interest. Experiments using STAT knockout systems should also be supported by additional data that uses complimentary mutations in the receptor that ablate STAT recruitment, or complete loss of the receptor. Finally, it is worth noting that the loss of a STAT pathway from a receptor signaling system can cause additional loss of key negative regulatory systems including feedback loops such as SOCS induction as presently debated for G-CSFR signaling and receptor systems discussed below (41, 42, 43, 44, 45).

  1. Negative regulation of the JAK-STAT signal
  2. Is there functional equivalence in signaling from receptors using the same JAK-STAT combination in the same cell?
  3. Future directions




Proposed differential STAT activation by IL-10 or IL-6. Shown are three classes of genes activated by STAT3 where Socs3 is a representative “common” gene induced by both receptors. In the absence of SOCS3, the IL-6R can activate the anti-inflammatory genes in the same way as the IL-10R. The mechanism of this effect remains to be established.


JAK/STAT Activation Inhibitors

The JAK/STAT pathway plays an important role in cytokine receptor-mediated signal transduction via activation of downstream signal transducers and activators of transcription (STAT), phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K), and mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathways.
These inhibitors are useful tools for exploring the contribution of JAK/STAT-mediated signaling.

Pathways of inhibition of JAK/STAT activation

JAK/STAT Activation Inhibitors

AG490 JAK2 inhibitor 10 mg
AZD1480 NEW! JAK1 & JAK2 inhibitor 5 mg
CP-690550 JAK3 Inhibitor 5 mg
CYT387 NEW! JAK1/JAK2 & TBK1/IKK-ε inhibitor 10 mg
Ruxolitinib JAK1 & JAK2 Inhibitor 5 mg


Methotrexate Is a JAK/STAT Pathway Inhibitor

Sally Thomas, Katherine H. Fisher, John A. Snowden, Sarah J. Danson, Stephen Brown, Martin P. Zeidler

PLOS   Published: July 1, 2015

The JAK/STAT pathway transduces signals from multiple cytokines and controls haematopoiesis, immunity and inflammation. In addition, pathological activation is seen in multiple malignancies including the myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs). Given this, drug development efforts have targeted the pathway with JAK inhibitors such as ruxolitinib. Although effective, high costs and side effects have limited its adoption. Thus, a need for effective low cost treatments remains.

Methods & Findings        

We used the low-complexity Drosophila melanogaster pathway to screen for small molecules that modulate JAK/STAT signalling. This screen identified methotrexate and the closely related aminopterin as potent suppressors of STAT activation. We show that methotrexate suppresses human JAK/STAT signalling without affecting other phosphorylation-dependent pathways. Furthermore, methotrexate significantly reduces STAT5 phosphorylation in cells expressing JAK2 V617F, a mutation associated with most human MPNs. Methotrexate acts independently of dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR) and is comparable to the JAK1/2 inhibitor ruxolitinib. However, cells treated with methotrexate still retain their ability to respond to physiological levels of the ligand erythropoietin.


Aminopterin and methotrexate represent the first chemotherapy agents developed and act as competitive inhibitors of DHFR. Methotrexate is also widely used at low doses to treat inflammatory and immune-mediated conditions including rheumatoid arthritis. In this low-dose regime, folate supplements are given to mitigate side effects by bypassing the biochemical requirement for DHFR. Although independent of DHFR, the mechanism-of-action underlying the low-dose effects of methotrexate is unknown. Given that multiple pro-inflammatory cytokines signal through the pathway, we suggest that suppression of the JAK/STAT pathway is likely to be the principal anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive mechanism-of-action of low-dose methotrexate. In addition, we suggest that patients with JAK/STAT-associated haematological malignancies may benefit from low-dose methotrexate treatments. While the JAK1/2 inhibitor ruxolitinib is effective, a £43,200 annual cost precludes widespread adoption. With an annual methotrexate cost of around £32, our findings represent an important development with significant future potential.

Citation: Thomas S, Fisher KH, Snowden JA, Danson SJ, Brown S, Zeidler MP (2015) Methotrexate Is a JAK/STAT Pathway Inhibitor. PLoS ONE 10(7): e0130078.




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The relationship of stress hypermetabolism to essential protein needs

Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP



The relationship of stress hypermetabolism to essential protein needs

A Second Look at the Transthyretin Nutrition Inflammatory Conundrum

Subtitle: Transthyretin and the Systemic Inflammatory Response

Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FACP, Clinical Pathologist, Biochemist, and Transfusion Physician
President, Triplex, Trumbull, CT 06611, USA


Brief introduction

Transthyretin  (also known as prealbumin) has been widely used as a biomarker for identifying protein-energy malnutrition (PEM) and for monitoring the improvement of nutritional status after implementing a nutritional intervention by enteral feeding or by parenteral infusion. This has occurred because transthyretin (TTR) has a rapid removal from the circulation in 48 hours and it is readily measured by immunometric assay. Nevertheless, concerns have been raised about the use of TTR in the ICU setting, which prompted a review of the  benefit of using this test in acute and chronic care. TTR is easily followed in the underweight and the high risk populations in an ambulatory setting, which has a significant background risk of chronic diseases. It is sensitive to the systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS), and needs to be understood in the context of acute illness to be used effectively. There are a number of physiologic changes associated with SIRS and the injury/repair process that affect TTR. The most important point is that in the context of an ICU setting, the contribution of TTR is significant in a complex milieu.  A much better understanding of the significance of this program has emerged from studies of nitrogen and sulfur in health and disease.

Transthyretin protein structure

Transthyretin protein structure (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Age-standardised disability-adjusted life year...

Age-standardised disability-adjusted life year (DALY) rates from Protein-energy malnutrition by country (per 100,000 inhabitants). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


The systemic inflammatory response syndrome C-reactive protein and transthyretin conundrum.
Larry H Bernstein
Clin Chem Lab Med 2007; 45(11):0
ICID: 939932
Article type: Editorial

The Transthyretin Inflammatory State Conundrum
Larry H. Bernstein
Current Nutrition & Food Science, 2012, 8, 00-00

Keywords: Tranthyretin (TTR), systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS), protein-energy malnutrition (PEM), C- reactive protein, cytokines, hypermetabolism, catabolism, repair.

Transthyretin has been widely used as a biomarker for identifying protein-energy malnutrition (PEM) and for monitoring the improvement of nutritional status after implementing a nutritional intervention by enteral feeding or by parenteral infusion. This has occurred because transthyretin (TTR) has a rapid removal from the circulation in 48 hours and it is readily measured by immunometric assay. Nevertheless, concerns have been raised about the use of TTR in the ICU setting, which prompts a review of the actual benefit of using this test in a number of settings. TTR is easily followed in the underweight and the high risk populations in an ambulatory setting, which has a significant background risk of chronic diseases. It is sensitive to the systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS), and needs to be understood in the context of acute illness to be used effectively.

There are a number of physiologic changes associated with SIRS and the injury/repair process that affect TTR and  in the context of an ICU setting, the contribution of TTR is essential.  The only consideration is the timing of initiation since the metabolic burden is sufficiently high that a substantial elevation is expected in the first 3 days post admission, although the level of this biomarker is related to the severity of injury. Despite the complexity of the situation, TTR is not to be considered a test “for all seasons”. In the context of age, prolonged poor meal intake, chronic or acute illness, TTR needs to be viewed in a multivariable lens, along with estimated lean body mass, C-reactive protein, the absolute lymphocyte count, presence of neutrophilia, and perhaps procalcitonin if there is remaining uncertainty. Furthermore, the reduction of risk of associated complication requires a systematized approach to timely identification, communication, and implementation of a suitable treatment plan.

The most important point is that in the context of an ICU setting, the contribution of TTR is significant in a complex milieu.


Title: The Automated Malnutrition Assessment
Accepted 29 April 2012. Nutrition (2012), doi:10.1016/j.nut.2012.04.017.
Authors: Gil David, PhD; Larry Howard Bernstein, MD; Ronald R Coifman, PhD
Article Type: Original Article

Keywords: Network Algorithm; unsupervised classification; malnutrition screening; protein energy malnutrition (PEM); malnutrition risk; characteristic metric; characteristic profile; data characterization; non-linear differential diagnosis

We have proposed an automated nutritional assessment (ANA) algorithm that provides a method for malnutrition risk prediction with high accuracy and reliability.  The problem of rapidly identifying risk and severity of malnutrition is crucial for minimizing medical and surgical complications. These are not easily performed or adequately expedited. We characterized for each patient a unique profile and mapped similar patients into a classification. We also found that the laboratory parameters were sufficient for the automated risk prediction.


Title: The Increasing Role for the Laboratory in Nutritional Assessment
Article Type: Editorial
Section/Category: Clinical Investigation
Accepted 22 May 2012.
Clin Biochem (2012), doi:10.1016/j.clinbiochem.2012.05.024
Keywords: Protein Energy Malnutrition; Nutritional Screening; Laboratory Testing
Author: Dr. Larry Howard Bernstein, MD

The laboratory role in nutritional management of the patient has seen remarkable growth while there have been dramatic changes in technology over the last 25 years, and it is bound to be transformative in the near term. This editorial is an overview of the importance of the laboratory as an active participant in nutritional care.

The discipline emerged divergently along separate paths with unrelated knowledge domains in physiological chemistry, pathology, microbiology, immunology and blood cell recognition, and then cross-linked emerging into clinical biochemistry, hematology-oncology, infectious diseases, toxicology and therapeutics, genetics, pharmacogenomics, translational genomics and clinical diagnostics.

In reality, the more we learn about nutrition, the more we uncover of metabolic diversity of individuals, the family, and societies in adapting and living in many unique environments and the basic reactions, controls, and responses to illness. This course links metabolism to genomics and individual diversity through metabolomics, which will be enlightened by chemical and bioenergetic insights into biology and translated into laboratory profiling.

Vitamin deficiencies were discovered as clinical entities with observed features as a result of industrialization (rickets and vitamin D deficiency) and mercantile trade (scurvy and vitamin C)[2].  Advances in chemistry led to the isolation of each deficient “substance”.  In some cases, a deficiency of a vitamin and what is later known as an “endocrine hormone” later have confusing distinctions (vitamin D, and islet cell insulin).

The accurate measurement and roles of trace elements, enzymes, and pharmacologic agents was to follow within the next two decades with introduction of atomic absorption, kinetic spectrophotometers, column chromatography and gel electrophoresis.  We had fully automated laboratories by the late 1960s, and over the next ten years basic organ panels became routine.   This was a game changer.

Today child malnutrition prevalence is 7 percent of children under the age of 5 in China, 28 percent in sub-Saharan African, and 43 percent in India, while under-nutrition is found mostly in rural areas with 10 percent of villages and districts accounting for 27-28 percent of all Indian underweight children. This may not be surprising, but it is associated with stunting and wasting, and it has not receded with India’s economic growth. It might go unnoticed viewed alongside a growing concurrent problem of worldwide obesity.

The post WWII images of holocaust survivors awakened sensitivity to nutritional deprivation.

In the medical literature, Studley [HO Studley.  Percentage of weight loss. Basic Indicator of surgical risk in patients with chronic peptic ulcer.  JAMA 1936; 106(6):458-460.  doi:10.1001/jama.1936.02770060032009] reported the association between weight loss and poor surgical outcomes in 1936.  Ingenbleek et al [Y Ingenbleek, M De Vissher, PH De Nayer. Measurement of prealbumin as index of protein-calorie malnutrition. Lancet 1972; 300[7768]: 106-109] first reported that prealbumin (transthyretin, TTR) is a biomarker for malnutrition after finding very low TTR levels in African children with Kwashiorkor in 1972, which went unnoticed for years.  This coincided with the demonstration by Stanley Dudrick  [JA Sanchez, JM Daly. Stanley Dudrick, MD. A Paradigm ShiftArch Surg. 2010; 145(6):512-514] that beagle puppies fed totally through a catheter inserted into the superior vena cava grew, which method was then extended to feeding children with short gut.  Soon after Bistrian and Blackburn [BR Bistrian, GL Blackburn, E Hallowell, et al. Protein status of general surgical patients. JAMA 1974; 230:858; BR Bistrian, GL Blackburn, J Vitale, et al. Prevalence of malnutrition in general medicine patients, JAMA, 1976, 235:1567] showed that malnourished hospitalized medical and surgical patients have increased length of stay, increased morbidity, such as wound dehiscence and wound infection, and increased postoperative mortality, later supported by many studies.

Michael Meguid,MD, PhD, founding editor of Nutrition [Elsevier] held a nutrition conference “Skeleton in the Closet – 20 years later” in Los Angeles in 1995, at which a Beckman Prealbumin Roundtable was held, with Thomas Baumgartner and Michael M Meguid as key participants.  A key finding was that to realize the expected benefits of a nutritional screening and monitoring program requires laboratory support. A Ross Roundtable, chaired by Dr. Lawrence Kaplan, resulted in the first Standard of Laboratory Practice Document of the National Academy of Clinical Biochemists on the use of the clinical laboratory in nutritional support and monitoring. Mears then showed a real benefit to a laboratory interactive program in nutrition screening based on TTR [E Mears. Outcomes of continuous process improvement of a nutritional care program incorporating serum prealbumin measurements. Nutrition 1996; 12 (7/8): 479-484].

A later Ross Roundtable on Quality in Nutritional Care included a study of nutrition screening and time to dietitian intervention organized by Brugler and Di Prinzio that showed a decreased length of hospital stay with $1 million savings in the first year (which repeated), which included reduced cost for dietitian evaluations and lower complication rates.

Presentations were made at the 1st International Transthyretin Congress in Strasbourg, France by Mears [E Mears.  The role of visceral protein markers in protein calorie malnutrition. Clin Chem Lab Med 2002; 40:1360-1369] on the impact of TTR in screening for PEM in a public hospital in Louisiana, and by Potter [MA Potter, G Luxton. Prealbumin measurement as a screening tool for patients with protein calorie malnutrition in emergency hospital admissions: a pilot study.  Clin Invest Med. 1999; 22(2):44-52] that indicated a 17% in-hospital mortality rate in a Canadian hospital for patients with PCM compared with 4% without PCM (p < 0.02), while only 42% of patients with PCM received nutritional supplementation. Cost analysis of screening with prealbumin level projected a saving of $414 per patient screened.  Ingenbleek and Young [Y Ingenbleek, VR Young.  Significance of transthyretin in protein metabolism.  Clin Chem Lab Med. 2002; 40(12):1281–1291.  ISSN (Print) 1434-6621, DOI: 10.1515/ CCLM.2002.222, December 2002. published online: 01/06/2005] tied the TTR to basic effects reflected in protein metabolism.


Transthyretin as a marker to predict outcome in critically ill patients.
Arun Devakonda, Liziamma George, Suhail Raoof, Adebayo Esan, Anthony Saleh, Larry H Bernstein
Clin Biochem 2008; 41(14-15):1126-1130
ICID: 939927
Article type: Original article

TTR levels correlate with patient outcomes and are an accurate predictor of patient recovery in non-critically ill patients, but it is uncertain whether or not TTR level correlates with level of nutrition support and outcome in critically ill patients. This issue has been addressed only in critically ill patients on total parenteral nutrition and there was no association reported with standard outcome measures. We revisit this in all patients admitted to a medical intensive care unit.

Serum TTR was measured on the day of admission, day 3 and day 7 of their ICU stay. APACHE II and SOFA score was assessed on the day of admission. A registered dietician for their entire ICU stay assessed the nutritional status and nutritional requirement. Patients were divided into three groups based on initial TTR level and the outcome analysis was performed for APACHE II score, SOFA score, ICU length of stay, hospital length of stay, and mortality.

TTR showed excellent concordance with the univariate or multivariate classification of patients with PEM or at high malnutrition risk, and followed for seven days in the ICU, it is a measure of the metabolic burden.  TTR levels decline from day 1 to day 7 in spite of providing nutritional support. Twenty-five patients had an initial TTR serum concentration more than 17 mg/dL (group 1), forty-eight patients had mild malnutrition with a concentration between 10 and 17 mg/dL (group 2), Forty-five patients had severe malnutrition with a concentration less than 10 mg/dL (group 3).  Initial TTR level had inverse correlation with ICU length of stay, hospital length of stay, and APACHE II score, SOFA score; and predicted mortality, especially in group 3.


A simplified nutrition screen for hospitalized patients using readily available laboratory and patient
Linda Brugler, Ana K Stankovic, Madeleine Schlefer, Larry Bernstein
Nutrition 2005; 21(6):650-658
ICID: 825623
Article type: Review article
The role of visceral protein markers in protein calorie malnutrition.
Linda Brugler, Ana Stankovic, Larry Bernstein, Frederick Scott, Julie O’Sullivan-Maillet
Clin Chem Lab Med 2002; 40(12):1360-1369
ICID: 636207
Article type: Original article

The Automated Nutrition Score is a data-driven extension of continuous quality improvement.

Larry H Bernstein
Nutrition 2009; 25(3):316-317
ICID: 939934

Transthyretin: its response to malnutrition and stress injury. clinical usefulness and economic implications.
LH Bernstein, Y Ingenbleek
Clin Chem Lab Med 2002; 40(12):1344-1348
ICID: 636205
Article type: Original article


Yves Ingenbleek  MD  PhD  and  Larry Bernstein MD
J CLIN LIGAND ASSAY  (out of print)

The acute reaction to stress is characterized by major metabolic, endocrine and immune alterations. According to classical descriptions, these changes clinically present as a succession of 3 adaptive steps – ebb phase, catabolic flow phase, and anabolic flow phase. The ebb phase, shock and resuscitation, is immediate, lasts several hours, and is characterized by hypokinesis, hypothermia, hemodynamic instability and reduced basal metabolic rate. The catabolic flow phase, beginning within 24 hours and lasting several days, is characterized by catabolism with the flow of gluconeogenic substrates and ketone bodies in response to the acute injury. The magnitude of the response depends on the acuity and the severity of the stress. The last, a reparative anabolic flow phase, lasts weeks and is characterized by the accretion of amino acids (AAs) to rebuilding lean body mass.

The current opinion is that the body economy is reset during the course of stress at novel thresholds of metabolic priorities. This is exemplified mainly by proteolysis of muscle, by an effect on proliferating gut mucosa and lymphoid tissue as substrates are channeled to support wound healing, by altered syntheses of liver proteins with preferential production of acute phase proteins (APPs) and local repair in inflamed tissues (3). The first two stages demonstrate body protein breakdown exceeding the rate of protein synthesis, resulting in a negative nitrogen (N) balance, muscle wasting and weight loss. In contrast, the last stage displays reversed patterns, implying progressive recovery of endogenous N pools and body weight.

These adaptive alterations undergo continuing elucidation. The identification of cytokines, secreted by activated macrophages/monocytes or other reacting cells, has provided further insights into the molecular mechanisms controlling energy expenditure, redistribution of protein pools, reprioritization of syntheses and secretory processes.

The free fraction of hormones bound to specific binding-protein(s) [BP(s)] manifests biological activities, and any change in the BP blood level modifies the effect of the hormone on the end target organ.  The efficacy of these adaptive responses may be severely impaired in protein-energy malnourished (PEM) patients. This is especially critical with respect to changes of the circulating levels of transthyretin (TTR), retinol-binding protein (RBP) and corticosteroid-binding globulin (CBG) conveying thyroid hormones (TH), retinol and cortisol, respectively.  This reaction is characterized by cytokine mediated autocrine, paracrine and endocrine changes. Among the many inducing molecules identified, interleukins 1 and 6 (Il-1, Il-6) and tumor necrosis factor a (TNF) are associated with enhanced production of 3 counterregulatory hormonal families (cortisol, catecholamines and glucagon). Growth hormone (GH) and TH also have roles in these metabolic adjustments.

There is overproduction of cortisol mediated by several cytokines acting on both the adrenal cortex (10) and on the pituitary through hypothalamic CRH with loss of feedback regulation of ACTH production (11). Hypercortisolemia is a major finding observed after surgery (12), sepsis (13), and medical insults, usually correlated with severity of insult and of complications. Rising cortisol values parallel hyperglycemic trends, as an effect of both gluconeogenesis and insulin resistance. Working in concert with TNF, glucocorticoids govern the breakdown of muscle mass, which is regarded as the main factor responsible for the negative N balance.

Under normal conditions, GH exerts both lipolytic and anabolic influences in the whole body economy under the dual control of the hypothalamic hormones somatocrinin (GHRH) and somatostatin (SRIH). GH secretion is usually depressed by rising blood concentrations of glucose and free fatty acids (FFAs) but is paradoxicaly elevated despite hyperglycemia in stressed patients.

The oversecretion of counterregulatory hormones working in concert generates subtle equilibria between glycogenolytic/glycolytic/gluconeogenic adaptive processes. The net result is the neutralization of the main hypoglycemic and anabolic activities of insulin and the development of a persisting and controlled hyperglycemic tone in the stressed body. The molecular mechanisms whereby insulin resistance occurs in the course of stress refer to
cytokine-  and  hormone-induced  phosphorylation abnormalities affecting receptor signaling. The insulin-like anabolic processes of GH are mediated by IGF1 working as relay agent. The expected high IGF1 surge associated with GH oversecretion is not observed in severe stress as plasma values are usually found at the lower limit of normal or even in the subnormal range.  The end result of this dissociation between high GH and low IGF1 levels is to favor the proteolysis of muscle mass to release AAs for gluconeogenesis and the breakdown of adipose tissue to provide ketogenic substrates.

The acute stage of stress is associated with the onset of a low T3 syndrome typically delineated by the drop of both total (TT3) and free (FT3) triiodothyronine plasma levels in the subnormal range. In contrast, both total (TT4) and free (FT4) thyroxine values usually remain within normal ranges with declining trends observed for TT4 and rising tendencies for FT4 (44). This last free compound is regarded as the sensor reflecting the actual thyroid status and governing the release of TSH whereas FT3 works as the active hormonal mediator at nuclear receptor level. The maintenance of an euthyroid sick syndrome is compatible with the down-regulation of most metabolic and energetic processes in healthy tissues. These inhibitory effects , negatively affecting all functional steps of the hypothalamo-pituitary-thyroid axis concern TSH production, iodide uptake, transport and organification into iodotyrosyl residues, peroxidase coupling activity as well as thyroglobulin synthesis and TH leakage. Taken together, the above-mentioned data indicate that the development of hyperglycemia and of insulin-resistance in healthy tissues – mainly in the muscle mass – are hallmarks resulting from the coordinated activities of the counterregulatory hormones.

A growing body of recent data suggest that the stressed territory, whatever the causal agent – bacterial or viral sepsis, auto-immune disorder, traumatic or toxic shock, burns, cancer – manifest differentiated metabolic and immune reactions. The amplitude, duration and efficacy of these responses are reportedly impaired along several ways in PEM patients. These last detrimental effects are accompanied by a number of medical, social and economical consequences, such as extended length of hospital stay and increased complication / mortality rates. It is therefore mandatory to correctly identify and follow up the nutritional status of hospitalized patients. Such approaches are prerequisite to timely and scientifically grounded nutritional and pharmacological mediated interventions.

Contrary to the rest of the body, energy requirements of the inflamed territory are primarily fulfilled by anaerobic glycolysis, an effect triggered by the inhibition of key-enzymes of carbohydrate metabolism, notably pyruvate-dehydrogenase. This non-oxidative combustion of glucose reveals low conversion efficiency but offers the major advantage to maintain, in the context of hyperglycemia, fuel provision to poorly irrigated and/or edematous tissues. The depression of the 5’-monodeiodinating activity (5’-DA) plays a pivotal role in these adaptive changes, yielding inactive reverse T3 (rT3) as index of impaired T4 to T3 conversion rates, but at the same time there is an augmented supply of bioactive T3 molecules and local overstimulation of thyro-dependent processes characterized by thyroid down-regulation.  The same differentiated evolutionary pattern applies to IGF1. In spite of lowered plasma total concentrations, the proportion of IGF1 released in free form may be substantially increased owing to the proteolytic degradation of IGFBP-3 in the intravascular compartment. The digestion of  BP-3 results from the surge of several proteases occurring the course of stress, yielding biologically active IGF1 molecules available for the repair of damaged tissues. In contrast, healthy receptors oppose a strong resistance to IGF1 ligands freed in the general circulation, likely induced by an acquired phosphorylation defect very similar in nature to that for the insulin transduction pathway.

PEM is the generic denomination of a broad spectrum of nutritional disorders, commonly found in hospital settings, and whose extreme poles are identified as marasmus and kwashiorkor. The former condition is usually regarded as the result of long-lasting starvation leading to the loss of lean body mass and fat reserves but relatively well-preserved liver function and immune capacities. The latter condition is typically the consequence of (sub)acute deprivation predominantly affecting the protein content of staplefood, an imbalance causing hepatic steatosis, fall of visceral proteins, edema and increased vulnerability to most stressful factors. PEM may be hypometabolic or hypermetabolic, usually coexists with other diseased states and is frequently associated with complications. Identification of PEM calls upon a large set of clinical and analytical disciplines comprising anthropometry, immunology, hematology and biochemistry.

CBG, TTR and RBP share in common the transport of specific ligands exerting their metabolic effects at nuclear receptor level. Released from their specific BPs in free form, cortisol, FT4 and retinol immediately participe to the strenghtening of the positive and negative responses to stressful stimuli. CBG is a relatively weak responder to short-term nutritional influences (73)  although long-lasting PEM is reportedly capable of causing its significant diminution (74). The dramatic drop of CBG in the course of stress appears as the combined effect of Il-6-induced posttranscriptional blockade of its liver synthesis (75) and peripheral overconsumption by activated neutrophils (61). The divergent alterations outlined by CBG and total cortisolemia result in an increased disposal of free ligand reaching proportions considerably higher than the 4 % recorded under physiological conditions.

The appellation of negative APPs that was once given to the visceral group of carrier-proteins. The NDAD concept takes the opposite view, defending the opinion that their suppressed synthesis releases free ligands which positively contribute to strengthen all aspects of the stress reaction, justifying the ABR denomination. This implies that the role played by ABRs should no longer be interpreted in terms of concentrations but in terms of functionality.


Yves Ingenbleek. The Open Clinical Chemistry Journal, 2011, 4, 34-44.

Vegetarian subjects consuming subnormal amounts of methionine (Met) are characterized by subclinical protein malnutrition causing reduction in size of their lean body mass (LBM) best identified by the serial measurement of plasma transthyretin (TTR). As a result, the transsulfuration pathway is depressed at cystathionine-β-synthase (CβS) level triggering the upstream sequestration of homocysteine (Hcy) in biological fluids and promoting its conversion to Met. Maintenance of beneficial Met homeostasis is counterpoised by the drop of cysteine (Cys) and glutathione (GSH) values downstream to CβS causing in turn declining generation of hydrogen sulfide (H2S) from enzymatic sources. The biogenesis of H2S via non-enzymatic reduction is further inhibited in areas where earth’s crust is depleted in elemental sulfur (S8) and sulfate oxyanions. Combination of subclinical malnutrition and S8-deficiency thus maximizes the defective production of Cys, GSH and H2S reductants, explaining persistence of unabated oxidative burden. The clinical entity increases the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases (CVD) and stroke in underprivileged plant-eating populations regardless of Framingham criteria and vitamin-B status. Although unrecognized up to now, the nutritional disorder is one of the commonest worldwide, reaching top prevalence in populated regions of Southeastern Asia. Increased risk of hyperhomocysteinemia and oxidative stress may also affect individuals suffering from intestinal malabsorption or westernized communities having adopted vegan dietary lifestyles.

Metabolic pathways: Met molecules supplied by dietary proteins are submitted to TM processes allowing to release Hcy which may in turn either undergo Hcy – Met RM pathways or be irreversibly committed into TS decay. Impairment of CbS activity, as described in protein malnutrition, entails supranormal accumulation of Hcy in body fluids, stimulation of activity and maintenance of Met homeostasis. This last beneficial effect is counteracted by decreased concentration of most components generated downstream to CbS, explaining the depressed CbS- and CbL-mediated enzymatic production of H2S along the TS cascade. The restricted dietary intake of elemental S further operates as a limiting factor for its non-enzymatic reduction to H2S which contributes to downsizing a common body pool. Combined protein- and S-deficiencies work in concert to deplete Cys, GSH and H2S from their body reserves, hence impeding these reducing molecules to properly face the oxidative stress imposed by hyperhomocysteinemia.

see also …

McCully, K.S. Vascular pathology of homocysteinemia: implications for the pathogenesis of arteriosclerosis. Am. J. Pathol., 1996, 56, 111-128.

Cheng, Z.; Yang, X.; Wang, H. Hyperhomocysteinemia and endothelial dysfunction. Curr. Hypertens. Rev., 2009, 5,158-165.

Loscalzo, J. The oxidant stress of hyperhomocyst(e)inemia. J. Clin.Invest., 1996, 98, 5-7.

Ingenbleek, Y.; Hardillier, E.; Jung, L. Subclinical protein malnutrition is a determinant of hyperhomocysteinemia. Nutrition, 2002, 18, 40-46.

Ingenbleek, Y.; Young, V.R. The essentiality of sulfur is closely related to nitrogen metabolism: a clue to hyperhomocysteinemia. Nutr. Res. Rev., 2004, 17, 135-153.

Hosoki, R.; Matsuki, N.; Kimura, H. The possible role of hydrogen sulfide as an endogenous smooth muscle relaxant in synergy with nitric oxide. Biochem. Biophys. Res. Commun., 1997, 237, 527-531.

Tang, B.; Mustafa, A.; Gupta, S.; Melnyk, S.; James S.J.; Kruger, W.D. Methionine-deficient diet induces post-transcriptional downregulation of cystathionine-􀀁-synthase. Nutrition, 2010, 26, 1170-1175.

Yves Ingenbleek. Plasma Transthyretin Reflects the Fluctuations of Lean Body Mass in Health and Disease. Chapter 20. In S.J. Richardson and V. Cody (eds.), Recent Advances in Transthyretin Evolution, Structure and Biological Functions, DOI: 10.1007/978‐3‐642‐00646‐3_20, # Springer‐Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2009.

Transthyretin (TTR) is a 55-kDa protein secreted mainly by the choroid plexus and the liver. Whereas its intracerebral production appears as a stable secretory process allowing even distribution of intrathecal thyroid hormones, its hepatic synthesis is influenced by nutritional and inflammatory circumstances working concomitantly. Both morbid conditions are governed by distinct pathogenic mechanisms leading to the reduction in size of lean body mass (LBM). The liver production of TTR integrates the dietary and stressful components of any disease spectrum, explaining why it is the sole plasma protein whose evolutionary patterns closely follow the shape outlined by LBM fluctuations. Serial measurement of TTR therefore provides unequalled information on the alterations affecting overall protein nutritional status. Recent advances in TTR physiopathology emphasize the detecting power and preventive role played by the protein in hyperhomocysteinemic states, acquired metabolic disorders currently ascribed to dietary restriction in water-soluble vitamins. Sulfur (S)-deficiency is proposed as an additional causal factor in the sizeable proportion of hyperhomocysteinemic patients characterized by adequate vitamin intake but experiencing varying degrees of nitrogen (N)-depletion. Owing to the fact that N and S coexist in plant and animal tissues within tightly related concentrations, decreasing LBM as an effect of dietary shortage and/or excessive hypercatabolic losses induces proportionate S-losses. Regardless of water-soluble vitamin status, elevation of homocysteine plasma levels is negatively correlated with LBM reduction and declining TTR plasma levels. These findings occur as the result of impaired cystathionine-b-synthase activity, an enzyme initiating the transsulfuration pathway and whose suppression promotes the upstream accumulation and remethylation of homocysteine molecules. Under conditions of N- and S-deficiencies, the maintenance of methionine homeostasis indicates high metabolic priority.

Schematically, the human body may be divided into two major compartments, namely fat mass (FM) and FFM that is obtained by substracting
FM from body weight (BW). The fat cell mass sequesters about 80% of the total body lipids, is poorly hydrated and contains only small quantities of lean tissues and nonfat constituents. FFM comprises the sizeable part of lean tissues and minor mineral compounds among which are Ca, P, Na, and Cl pools totaling about 1.7 kg or 2.5% of BW in a healthy man weighing 70 kg. Subtraction of mineral mass from FFM provides LBM, a composite aggregation of organs and tissues with specific functional properties. LBM is thus nearly but not strictly equivalent to FFM. With extracellular mineral content subtracted, LBM accounts for most of total body proteins (TBP) and of TBN assuming a mean 6.25 ratio between protein and N content.

SM accounts for 45% of TBN whereas the remaining 55% is in nonmuscle lean tissues. The LBM of the reference man contains 98% of total
body potassium (TBK) and the bulk of total body sulfur (TBS). TBK and TBS reach equal intracellular amounts (140 g each) and share distribution patterns (half in SM and half in the rest of cell mass).  The body content of K and S largely exceeds that of magnesium (19 g), iron (4.2 g) and zinc (2.3 g). The average hydration level of LBM in healthy subjects of all age is 73% with the proportion of the intracellular/extracellular fluid spaces being 4:3. SM is of particular relevance in nutritional studies due to its capacity to serve as a major reservoir of amino acids (AAs) and as a dispenser of gluconeogenic substrates. An indirect estimate of SM size consists in the measurement of urinary creatinine, end-product of the nonenzymatic hydrolysis of phosphocreatine which is limited to muscle cells.

During ageing, all the protein components of the human body decrease regularly. This shrinking tendency is especially well documented for SM  whose absolute amount is preserved until the end of the fifth decade, consistent with studies showing unmodified muscle structure, intracellular K content and working capacit. TBN and TBK are highly correlated in healthy subjects and both parameters manifest an age-dependent curvilinear decline
with an accelerated decrease after 65 years.  The trend toward sarcopenia is more marked and rapid in elderly men than in elderly women decreasing strength and functional capacity. The downward SM slope may be somewhat prevented by physical training or accelerated by supranormal cytokine status as reported in apparently healthy aged persons suffering low-grade inflammation. 2002) or in critically ill patients whose muscle mass undergoes proteolysis and contractile dysfunction.

The serial measurement of plasma TTR in healthy children shows that BP values are low in the neonatal period and rise linearly with superimposable concentrations in both sexes during infant growth consistent with superimposable N accretion and protein synthesis rates. Starting from the sixties, TTR values progressively decline showing steeper slopes in elderly males. The lowering trend seems to be initiated by the attenuation of androgen influences and trophic stimuli with increasing age. The normal human TTR trajectory from birth to death has been well documented by scientists belonging to the Foundation for Blood Research. TTR is the first plasma protein to decline in response to marginal protein restricion, thus working as an early signal warning that adaptive mechanisms maintaining homeostasis are undergoing decompensation.

TTR was proposed as a marker of protein nutritional status following a clinical investigation undertaken in 1972 on protein-energy malnourished (PEM) Senegalese children (Ingenbleek et al. 1972). By comparison with ALB and transferrin (TF) plasma values, TTR revealed a much higher degree of sensitivity to changes in protein status that has been attributed to its shorter biological half-life (2 days) and to its unusual Trp richness (Ingenbleek et al. 1972, 1975a). Transcription of the TTR gene in the liver is directed by CCAAT/enhancer binding protein (C/EBP) bound to hepatocyte nuclear factor 1 (HNF1) under the control of several other HNFs. The mechanism responsible for the suppressed TTR synthesis in PEM-states is a restricted AA and energy supply working as limiting factors (Ingenbleek and Young 2002). The rapidly turning over TTR protein is highly responsive to any change in protein flux and energy supply, being clearly situated on the cutting edge of the equipoise.

LBM shrinking may be the consequence of either dietary restriction reducing protein syntheses to levels compatible with survival or that of cytokine-induced tissue proteolysis exceeding protein synthesis and resulting in a net body negative N balance. The size of LBM in turn determines plasma TTR concentrations whose liver production similarly depends on both dietary provision and inflammatory conditions. In animal cancer models, reduced TBN pools were correlated with decreasing plasma TTR values and provided the same predictive ability. In kidney patients, LBM is proposed as an excellent predictor of outcome working in the same direction as TTR plasma levels.  High N intake, supposed to preserve LBM reserves, reduces significantly the mortality rate of kidney patients and is positively correlated with the alterations of TTR plasma concentrations appearing as the sole predictor of final outcome. It is noteworthy that most SELDI or MALDI workers interested in defining protein nutritional status have chosen TTR as a biomarker, showing that there exists a large consensus considering the BP as the most reliable indicator of protein depletion in most morbid circumstances.

Total homocysteine (tHcy) is a S-containing AA not found in customary diets but endogenously produced in the body of mammals by the enzymatic transmethylation of methionine (Met), one of the eight IAAs supplied by staplefoods. tHcy may either serve as precursor substrate for the synthesis of new Met molecules along the remethylation (RM) pathway or undergo irreversible kidney leakage through a cascade of derivatives defining the transsulfuration (TS) pathway. Hcy is thus situated at the crossroad of RM and TS pathways that are regulated by three water-soluble vitamins (pyridoxine, B6; folates, B9; cobalamins, B12).

Significant positive correlations are found between tHcy and plasma urea and plasma creatinine, indicating that both visceral and muscular tissues undergo proteolytic degradation throughout the course of rampant inflammatory burden. In healthy individuals, tHcy plasma concentrations maintain positive correlations with LBM and TTR from birth until the end of adulthood. Starting from the onset of normal old age, tHcy values become disconnected from LBM control and reveal diverging trends with TTR values. Of utmost importance is the finding that, contrary to all protein
components which are downregulated in protein-depleted states, tHcy values are upregulated.  Hyperhomocysteinemia is an acquired clinical entity characterized by mild or moderate elevation in tHcy blood values found in apparently healthy individuals (McCully 1969). This distinct morbid condition appears as a public health problem of increasing importance in the general population, being regarded as an independent and graded risk factor for vascular pathogenesis unrelated to hypercholesterolemia, arterial hypertension, diabetes and smoking.

Studies grounded on stepwise multiple regression analysis have concluded that the two main watersoluble vitamins account for only 28% of tHcy variance whereas vitamins B6, B9, and B12, taken together, did not account for more than 30–40% of variance. Moreover, a number of hyperhomocysteinemic conditions are not responsive to folate and pyridoxine supplementation. This situation prompted us to search for other causal factors which might fill the gap between the public health data and the vitamin triad deficiencies currently incriminated. We suggest that S – the forgotten element – plays central roles in nutritional epidemiology (Ingenbleek and Young 2004).

Aminoacidemia studies performed in PEM children, adult patients and elderly subjects have reported that the concentrations of plasma IAAs invariably display lowering trends as the morbid condition worsens. The depressed tendency is especially pronounced in the case of tryptophan and for the so-called branched-chain AAs (BCAAs, isoleucine, leucine, valine) the decreases in which are regarded as a salient PEM feature following the direction outlined by TTR (Ingenbleek et al. 1986). Met constitutes a notable exception to the above described evolutionary profiles, showing unusual stability in chronically protein depleted states.

Maintenance of normal methioninemia is associated with supranormal tHcy blood values in PEMadults (Ingenbleek et al. 1986) and increased tHcy leakage in the urinary output of PEM children. In contrast, most plasma and urinary S-containing compounds produced along the TS pathway downstream to CbSconverting step (Fig. 20.1) display significantly diminished values. This is notably the case for cystathionine (Ingenbleek et al. 1986), glutathione, taurine, and sulfaturia. Such distorted patterns are reminiscent of abnormalities defining homocystinuria, an inborn disease of Met metabolism characterized by CbS refractoriness to pyridoxine stimuli, thereby promoting the upstream retention of tHcy in biological fluids. It
was hypothesized more than 20 years ago (Ingenbleek et al. 1986) that PEM is apparently able to similarly depress CbS activity, suggesting that the enzyme is a N-status sensitive step working as a bidirectional lockgate, overstimulated by high Met intake (Finkelstein and Martin 1986) and downregulated under N-deprivation conditions (Ingenbleek et al. 2002). Confirmation that N dietary deprivation may inhibit CbS activity has recently provided. The tHcy precursor pool is enlarged in biological fluids, boosting Met remethylation processes along the RM pathway, consistent with studies showing overstimulation of Met-synthase activity in conditions of protein restriction. In other words, high tHcy plasma concentrations observed in PEM states are the dark side of adaptive mechanisms for maintaining Met homeostasis. This is consistent with the unique role played by Met in the preservation of N body stores.

The classical interpretation that strict vegans, who consume plenty of folates in their diet and manifest nevertheless higher tHcy plasma concentrations than omnivorous counterparts, needs to be revisited. On the basis of hematological and biochemical criteria, cobalamin deficiency is one of the most prevalent vitamin-deficiencies wordwide, being often incriminated as deficient in vegan subjects. It seems, however, likely that its true causal impact on rising tHcy values is substantially overestimated in most studies owing to the modest contribution played by cobalamins on tHcy
variance analyses. In contrast, there exists a growing body of converging data indicating that the role played by the protein component is largely underscored in vegan studies. It is worth recalling that S is the main intracellular anion coexisting with N within a constant mean S:N ratio (1:14.5) in animal tissues and dietary products of animal origin (Ingenbleek 2006). The mean S:N ratio found in plant items ranges from 1:20 to 1:35, a proportion that does not optimally meet human tissue requirements (Ingenbleek 2006), paving the way for borderline S and N deficiencies.

A recent Taiwanese investigation on hyperhomocysteinemic nuns consuming traditional vegetarian regimens consisting of mainly rice, soy products,
vegetables and fruits with few or no dairy items illustrates such clinical misinterpretation (Hung et al. 2002). The authors reported that folates and cobalamins, taken together, accounted for only 28.6% of tHcy variance in the vegetarian cohort whereas pyridoxine was inoperative (Hung et al. 2002). The daily vegetable N and Met intakes were situated highly significantly (p < 0.001) below the recommended allowances for humans (FAO/WHO/United Nations University 1985), causing a stage of unrecognized PEM documented by significantly depressed BCAA plasma
concentrations. Met levels escaped the overall decline in IAAs levels, emphasizing that efficient homeostatic mechanisms operate at the expense of an acquired hyperhomocysteinemic state. The diagnosis of subclinical PEM was missed because the authors ignored the exquisitely sensitive TTR detecting power. A proper PEM identification would have allowed the authors to confirm the previously described TTR–tHcy relationship that was established in Western Africa from comparable field studies involving country dwellers living on plant products.

The concept that acute or chronic stressful conditions may exert similar inhibitory effects on CbS activity and thereby promote hyperhomocysteinemic states is founded on previous studies showing that hypercatabolic states are characterized by increased urinary N and S losses maintaining tightly correlated depletion rates (Cuthbertson 1931; Ingenbleek and Young 2004; Sherman and Hawk 1900) which reflect the S:N ratio found in tissues undergoing cytokine induced proteolysis. This has been documented in coronary infarction and in acute pancreatitis where tHcy elevation evolves too rapidly to allow for a nutritional vitamin B-deficit explanation.  tHcy is considered stable in plasma and the two investigations report unaltered folate and cobalamin plasma concentrations.

The clinical usefulness of TTR as a nutritional biomarker, described in the early seventies (Ingenbleek et al. 1972) has been substantially disregarded by the scientific community for nearly four decades. This long-lasting reluctance expressed by many investigators is largely due to the fact that protein malnutrition and stressful disorders of various causes have combined inhibitory effects on hepatic TTR synthesis. Declining TTR plasma concentrations may result from either dietary protein and energy restrictions or from cytokine-induced transcriptional blockade (Murakami et al. 1988) of its hepatic synthesis. The proposed marker was therefore seen as having high sensitivity but poor specificity. Recent advances in protein metabolism settle the controversy by throwing further light on the relationships between TTR and the N-components of body composition.

The developmental patterns of LBM and TTR exhibit striking similarities. Both parameters rise from birth to puberty, manifest gender dimorphism during full sexual maturity then decrease during ageing. Uncomplicated PEM primarily affects both visceral and structural pools of LBM with distinct kinetics, reducing protein synthesis to levels compatible with prolonged survival. In acute or chronic stressful disorders, LBM undergoes muscle proteolysis exceeding the upregulation of protein syntheses in liver and injured areas, yielding a net body negative N balance. These adaptive responses are well identified by the measurement of TTR plasma concentrations which therefore appear as a plasma marker for LBM fluctuations.
Attenuation of stress and/or introduction of nutritional rehabilitation restores both LBM and TTR to normal values following parallel slopes. TTR fulfills, therefore, a unique position in assessing actual protein nutritional status, monitoring the efficacy of dietetic support and predicting the patient’s outcome (Bernstein and Pleban 1996).

see also…

Acosta PB, Yannicelli S, Ryan AS, Arnold G, Marriage BJ, Plewinska M, Bernstein L, Fox J, Lewis V, Miller M, Velazquez A (2005) Nutritional therapy improves growth and protein status of children with a urea cycle enzyme defect. Mol Genet Metab 86:448–455.

Arroyave G, Wilson D, Be´har M, Scrimshaw NS (1961) Serum and urinary creatinine in children with severe protein malnutrition. Am J Clin Nutr 9:176–179.

Bates CJ, Mansoor MA, van der Pols J, Prentice A, Cole TJ, Finch S (1997) Plasma total homocysteine in a representative sample of 972 British men and women aged 65 and over. Eur J Clin Nutr 51:691–697.

Battezzatti A, Bertoli S, San Romerio A, Testolin G (2007) Body composition: An important determinant of homocysteine and methionine concentrations in healthy individuals. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis 17:525–534.

Bernstein LH, Bachman TE, Meguid M, Ament M, Baumgartner T, Kinosian B, Martindale R, Spiekerman M (1995) Prealbumin in nutritional care Consensus Group. Measurement of visceral protein status in assessing protein and energy malnutrition: Standard of care. Nutrition 11:169–171

Bernstein LH, Ingenbleek Y (2002) Transthyretin: Its response to malnutrition and stress injury. Clinical usefulness and economical implications. Clin Chem Lab Med 40:1344–1348.

Boorsook H, Dubnoff JW (1947) The hydrolysis of phosphocreatine and the origin of creatinine. J Biol Chem 168:493–510.

Briend A, Garenne M, Maire B, Fontaine O, Dieng F (1989) Nutritional status, age and survival: The muscle mass hypothesis. Eur J Clin Nutr 43:715–726

Gray GE, Landel AM, Meguid MM (1994) Taurine-supplemented total parenteral nutrition and taurine status of malnourished cancer patients. Nutrition 10:11–15

Heymsfield SB, McManus C, Stevens V, Smith J (1982) Muscle mass: Reliable indicator of protein-energy malnutrition and outcome. Am J Clin Nutr 35:1192–1199

Ingenbleek Y (2006) The nutritional relationship linking sulfur to nitrogen in living organisms. J Nutr 136:S1641–S1651
Ingenbleek Y (2008) Plasma transthyretin indicates the direction of both nitrogen balance and retinoid status in health and disease. Open Clin Chem J 1:1–12
Ingenbleek Y, Bernstein LH (1999a) The stressful condition as a nutritionally dependent adaptive dichotomy. Nutrition 15:305–320
Ingenbleek Y, Bernstein LH (1999b) The nutritionally dependent adaptive dichotomy (NDAD) and stress hypermetabolism. J Clin Ligand Assay 22:259–267
Ingenbleek Y, Carpentier YA (1985) A prognostic inflammatory and nutritional index scoring critically ill patients. Internat J Vitam Nutr Res 55:91–101

Ingenbleek Y, Young VR (1994) Transthyretin (prealbumin) in health and disease: Nutritional implications. Annu Rev Nutr 14:495–533
Ingenbleek Y, Young VR (2002) Significance of transthyretin in protein metabolism. Clin Chem Lab Med 40:1281–1291
Ingenbleek Y, Young VR (2004) The essentiality of sulfur is closely related to nitrogen metabolism. Nutr Res Rev 17:135–151

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Sepsis, Multi-organ Dysfunction Syndrome, and Septic Shock: A Conundrum of Signaling Pathways Cascading Out of Control

Curator and Author: Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP

What is Septic Shock?
Scripps Research Professor Wolfram Ruf and colleagues have identified a key connection between the signaling pathways and the immune system spiraling out of control involving the coagulation system and vascular endothelium that, if disrupted may be a target for sepsis. (Science Daily, Feb 29, 2008). It may be caused by a bacterial infection that enters the bloodstream, but we now recognize the same cascade not triggered by bacterial invasion. These invading bacteria produce endotoxins and other toxins that trigger a widespread inflammatory response of the innate immune system–a response that is necessary, as it turns out, because without the inflammation, the body cannot fight off the bacterial infection. During sepsis, the inflammation triggers widespread coagulation in the bloodstream. This coagulation can block blood vessels in vital organs, starving the organs of oxygen and damaging them. The organs can be further damaged when the blood starts to flow again because the lining of the blood vessels remain leaky due to inflammatory cytokines and damage by intravascular coagulation.
What is the Pathogenesis of Sepsis?
The acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) has been defined as a severe form of acute lung injury featuring pulmonary inflammation and increased capillary leak. ARDS is associated with a high mortality rate and accounts for 100,000 deaths annually in the United States. ARDS may arise in a number of clinical situations, especially in patients with sepsis. A well-described pathophysiological model of ARDS is one form of the acute lung inflammation mediated by neutrophils, cytokines, and oxidant stress. Neutrophils are major effect cells at the frontier of innate immune responses, and they play a critical role in host defense against invading microorganisms. The tissue injury appears to be related to proteases and toxic reactive oxygen radicals released from activated neutrophils. In addition, neutrophils can produce cytokines and chemokines that enhance the acute inflammatory response. Neutrophil accumulation in the lung plays a pivotal role in the pathogenesis of acute lung injury during sepsis. Directed movement of neutrophils is mediated by a group of chemoattractants, especially CXC chemokines. Local lung production of CXC chemokines is intensified during experimental sepsis induced by cecal ligation and puncture (CLP). Under these conditions of stimulation, activation of MAPKs (p38, p42/p44) occurs in sham neutrophils but not in CLP neutrophils, while under the same conditions phosphorylation of p38 and p42/p44 occurs in both sham and CLP alveolar macrophages. These data indicate that, under septic conditions, there is impaired signaling in neutrophils and enhanced signaling in alveolar macrophages, resulting in CXC chemokine production, and C5a appears to play a pivotal role in this process. As a result, CXC chemokines increase in lung, setting the stage for neutrophil accumulation in lung during sepsis.
Uncontrolled activation of the coagulation cascade following lung injury contributes to the development of lung inflammation and fibrosis in acute lung injury/acute respiratory distress syndrome (ALI/ARDS) and fibrotic lung disease. This article reviews our current understanding of the mechanisms leading to the activation of the coagulation cascade in response to lung injury and the evidence that excessive procoagulant activity is of pathophysiological significance in these disease settings. This is consistent with a pneumonia or lung injury preceding sepsis. On the other hand, it is not surprising that abdominal, cardiac bypass, and post cardiac revascularization may also lead to events resembling sepsis and/or cardiovascular collapse. The tissue factor-dependent extrinsic pathway is the predominant mechanism by which the coagulation cascade is locally activated in the lungs of patients with ALI/ARDS and pulmonary fibrosis. The cellular effects mediated via activation of proteinase-activated receptors (PARs) may be of particular importance in influencing inflammatory and fibroproliferative responses in experimental models involving direct injury to the lung. In this regard, studies in PAR1 knockout mice have shown that this receptor plays a major role in orchestrating the interplay between coagulation, inflammation and lung fibrosis.
The activation of the coagulation cascade is one of the earliest events initiated following tissue injury. The prime function of this complex and highly regulated proteolytic system is to generate insoluble, crosslinked fibrin strands, which bind and stabilize weak platelet hemostatic plugs, formed at sites of tissue injury. The formation of this provisional clot is critically dependent on the action of thrombin, and is generated following the stepwise activation of coagulation proteinases via the extrinsic and intrinsic systems. Under normal circumstances, blood is not exposed to tissue factor (TF). However, upon tissue injury, exposure of plasma to TF expressed on non-vascular cells or on activated endothelial cells results in the formation of the TF-activated factor VII (FVIIa) complex. The TF–FVIIa complex subsequently catalyses the initial activation of FX to activated factor X (FXa) and FIX to activated factor IX. FXa in association with activated factor V catalyses the conversion of prothrombin to thrombin. Sustained coagulation is achieved when thrombin synthesized through the initial TF–FVIIa–FXa complex catalyses the activation of FXI, FIX, FVIII and FX. In this manner, the intrinsic pathway is activated.
The systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS) is the massive inflammatory reaction resulting from systemic mediator release that may lead to multiple organ dysfunction. I introduce an analysis of the roles of cytokines, cytokine production, and the relationship of cytokine production to the development of SIRS. The article postulates a three-stage development of SIRS, in which stage 1 is a local production of cytokines in response to an injury or infection. Stage 2 is the protective release of a small amount of cytokines into the body’s circulation. Stage 3 is the massive systemic reaction where cytokines turn destructive by compromising the integrity of the capillary walls and flooding end organs. While cytokines are generally viewed as a destructive development in the patient that generally leads to multiple organ dysfunction, cytokines also protect the body when localized. It will be necessary to study the positive effects of cytokines while also studying their role in causing SIRS. It will also be important to investigate the relationship between cytokines and their blockers in SIRS.
Monocyte/macrophage- and neutrophil-mediated inflammatory responses can be stimulated through a variety of receptors, including G protein-linked 7-transmembrane receptors (e.g., FPR1; MIM 136537), Fc receptors (see MIM 146790), CD14 (MIM 158120) and Toll-like receptors (e.g., TLR4; MIM 603030), and cytokine receptors (e.g., IFNGR1; MIM 107470). Engagement of these receptors can also prime myeloid cells to respond to other stimuli. Myeloid cells express receptors belonging to the Ig superfamily, such as TREM1, or to the C-type lectin superfamily. Depending on their transmembrane and cytoplasmic sequence structure, these receptors have either activating (e.g., KIR2DS1; MIM 604952) or inhibitory functions (e.g., KIR2DL1; MIM 604936).[supplied by OMIM].
TREM-1 associates with and signals via the adapter protein 12DAP12/12TYROBP, which contains an ITAM. To mediate activation, TREM-1 associates with the transmembrane adapter molecule 12DAP12. In sharp contrast to the effect by Ad-FDAP12, transgene expression in the liver of soluble form of extracellular domain of TREM-1 as an antagonist of 12DAP12 signaling, remarkably inhibited zymosan A-induced granuloma formation at every time point examined.
For signal transduction, 01TREM-1 couples to the ITAM-containing adapter DNAX activation protein of 12 kDa (23DAP12 ). MARV and EBOV activate TREM-1 on human neutrophils, resulting in 12DAP12 phosphorylation, TREM-1 shedding, mobilization of intracellular calcium, secretion of proinflammatory cytokines, and phenotypic changes. TREM-1 is the best-characterized member of a growing family of 12DAP12-associated receptors that regulate the function of myeloid cells in innate and adaptive responses. TREM-1 (triggering receptor expressed on myeloid cells), a recently discovered receptor of the immunoglobulin superfamily, activates neutrophils and monocytes/macrophages by signaling through the adapter protein 12DAP12. 522Granulocyte TREM-1 expression was high at baseline and immediately down-regulated upon LPS exposure along with an increase in soluble TREM-1.
DIC is primarily a laboratory diagnosis, based on the combination of elevated fibrin-related markers (FRM), with decreased procoagulant factors and platelets. Non-overt DIC is observed in most patients with sepsis, whereas overt DIC is less frequent. Consumption coagulopathy is a bleeding disorder caused by low levels of platelets and procoagulant factors associated with massive coagulation activation. Treatment with drotrecogin alfa (activated) improves survival and other outcome parameters in severe sepsis, including a subgroup of patients fulfilling the laboratory criteria of overt DIC. No randomized trials demonstrating effective therapies in consumption coagulopathy have been published.
Sepsis is a complex syndrome characterized by simultaneous activation of inflammation and coagulation manifested as systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS)/sepsis symptoms through release of proinflammatory cytokines, procoagulants, and adhesion molecules from immune cells and/or damaged endothelium. Conventional treatments have focused on source control, antimicrobials, vasopressors, and fluid resuscitation; however, a new treatment paradigm exists: that of treating the host response to infection with adjunct therapies including early goal-directed therapy, drotrecogin alfa (activated), and immunonutrition. The drotrecogin alfa (activated) has been shown to reduce mortality in the severely septic patient when combined with traditional treatment. Therapies targeting improved oxygen and blood flow and reduction of apoptosis and free radicals are under investigation. Ultimately, intervention timing may be the most important factor in reducing severe sepsis mortality.

Cell Signaling in Sepsis
Recent data have shown stable patterns of activation among peripheral blood mononuclear cells and neutrophils in healthy human subjects. Although polymorphisms in Toll-like receptors play a contributory role in determining cellular activation, other factors are involved as well. In addition, circulating and locally released mediators of inflammation, including cytokines, complement fragments, and components of activated coagulation and fibrinolytic systems, that are generated in increased amounts during severe infection also interact with membrane-based receptors, leading to activation of intracellular path ways capable of further accelerating proinflammatory cascades. Circulating and organ-specific cell populations are activated to produce proinflammatory mediators during sepsis. Neutrophils and PBMCs bear TLR2 and TLR4, as well as other receptors, such as protein —coupled receptor, that induce increased generation of cytokines and other immunoregulatory proteins, as well as enhance release of proinflammatory mediators, including reactive oxygen species.
The expression of cytokines such as TNF-α and IL-1β is increased in sepsis, and engagement of TNF-α with type I(p55) and type II(p75) TNF receptors or IL-1β with IL-1 receptors belonging to the TLR/IL-1 receptor family produces activation of kinases (including Src, p38, extracellular signal—regulated kinase, and phosphoinositide 3–kinase) and transcriptional factors (such as nuclear factor [NF]–κB) important for further up-regulation of inflammatory proteins.
Genetic polymorphisms lead to alterations in TLR conformation (a small percentage of the variability in humans when their cells are exposed to bacterial products) that are accompanied by decreased cellular activation after exposure to bacterial products. The stable variability in cellular activation that is present among the genetically heterogeneous human population, only a limited number of studies have examined how such patterns may correlate with clinical outcome. A number of studies have examined the transcriptional factor NF-κB and kinases, including p38 and Akt, and provide insights into how heterogeneity in cell signaling may contribute to subsequent clinical course.
Increased activation of the mitogen-activated protein kinase protein 38, Akt, and nuclear factor (NF)–κB in neutrophils and other cell populations obtained at early time points in the clinical course of sepsis-induced acute lung injury or after accidental trauma is associated with a more-severe clinical course, suggesting that a proinflammatory cellular phenotype contributes to organ system dysfunction in such settings. Identification of patients with cellular phenotypes characterized by increased activation of NF-κB, Akt, and protein 38, as well as discrete patterns of gene activation, may permit identification of patients with sepsis who are likely to have a worse clinical outcome, thereby permitting early institution of therapies that modulate deleterious signaling pathways before organ system dysfunction develops, reducing morbidity and improving survival.


The transcriptional regulatory factor NF-κB is a central participant in modulating the expression of many immuno regulatory mediators involved in the acute inflammatory response [30–35]. NF-κB/rel transcription factors function as dimers held latently in the cytoplasm of cells by inhibitory IκB proteins. Signaling pathways initiated by engagement of TLRs, such as TLR 2 and TLR 4, by microbial products and other inflammatory mediators lead to nuclear accumulation of NF-κB and enhanced transcription of genes responsible for the expression of cytokines, chemokines, adhesion molecules, and other mediators of the inflammatory response associated with infection. Association of NF-κB with the inhibitory protein κB-α in the cytoplasm blocks the nuclear localization sequence of NF-κB, inhibiting its movement into the nucleus. Phosphorylation events, in addition to those involving IKKα/β and IκB-α, and involving NF-κB subunits (such as p 65) and nuclear coactivator proteins (such as TATA box binding protein or cAMP-responsive element—binding protein) are mediated by p 38, Akt, and other kinases and play an important role in regulating the transcriptional activity of NF-κB.

Studies have shown that greater nuclear accumulation of NF-κB is accompanied by higher mortality and worse clinical course in patients with sepsis. These clinical series demonstrated that persistent activation of NF-κB was found in nonsurvivors, with surviving patients having lower nuclear concentrations of NF-κB at early time points in their septic course than did nonsurvivors as well as more rapid return of nuclear accumulation of NF-κB.  Although studies of patients with sepsis have generally shown that nuclear concentrations of NF-κB are higher in non survivors than in survivors, an unresolved issue is whether such changes occur early and, therefore, define the subsequent course of sepsis or whether pathophysiological changes that result in poor clinical outcome also produce NF-κB activation as a secondary event, so that such changes in NF-κB are simply associated with more severe organ system dysfunction but do not contribute directly to outcome. A study of surgical patients without sepsis supports the hypothesis that neutrophil phenotypes defined by NF-κB activation patterns predict clinical outcome [54]. In that clinical series of patients undergoing repair of aortic aneurysms, higher preoperative levels of NF-κB in peripheral neutrophils were associated with death and with the development of postoperative organ dysfunction.


NF-κB (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Stable high and low responder phenotypes in the healthy population, implies that the presence of a preexistent high responder neutrophil phenotype, as characterized by increased nuclear translocation of NF-κB after stimulation with TLR 2 or TLR 4 ligands, would be associated with more severe pulmonary inflammatory response and clinical course in response to infection. Conversely, persons whose neutrophils have diminished activation of NF-κB after stimulation would be expected to have less-intense neutrophil-driven inflammation, as well as organ dysfunction. In addition, Nuclear levels of nuclear factor (NF)–κB are significantly increased in neutrophils obtained within 24h of initiation of mechanical ventilation in patients whose clinical course from sepsis-induced acute lung injury is more severe (as defined by death or ventilation for >14 days—that is, ⩽14 ventilator-free days [VFD]), compared with patients with a less-severe course (as defined by mechanical ventilation for <14 days, or >14 VFD).  Baseline nuclear concentrations of NF-κB were lower in healthy volunteers than in patients with sepsis-induced acute lung injury, regardless of subsequent clinical course, demonstrating baseline activation of NF-κB in association with sepsis. *P <.05, vs. volunteers. †P< .05, vs. >14VFD.

Modulation of intracellular signaling cascades involving kinases, such as p 38 or Akt, or transcriptional factors, such as NF-κB, through specific inhibitory approaches has shown their pathophysiological importance in experimental models. However, the role of specific intra cellular pathways in contributing to clinical outcomes in patients with sepsis remains incompletely determined, primarily because such alterations in cellular activation patterns have not been examined at early time points before the onset of multiple organ dysfunction. Recent information shows that alterations in p38, Akt, and NF-κB among neutrophils and other cell populations not only precedes the development of organ system dysfunction but also has predictive value in identifying patients with a more severe subsequent clinical course.

RC Chambers. Procoagulant signalling mechanisms in lung inflammation and fibrosis: novel opportunities for pharmacological intervention? British Journal of Pharmacology 2008; 153, S367–S378; doi:10.1038/sj.bjp.0707603.

RC Bone. Toward a theory regarding the pathogenesis of the systemic inflammatory response syndrome: What we do and do not know about cytokine regulation. Crit Care Med 1996; 24:163-172.

Bouchon A, Facchetti F, Weigand MA, Colonna M. TREM-1 amplifies inflammation and is a crucial mediator of septic shock. Nature 2001; 410 (6832): 1103-7. doi:/10.1038/35074114. PMID 11323674.

Bleharski JR, Kiessler V, Buonsanti C, et al. A role for triggering receptor expressed on myeloid cells-1 in host defense during the early-induced and adaptive phases of the immune response. J. Immunol. 2003; 170 (7): 3812-8. PMID 12646648.

Colonna M, Facchetti F. TREM-1 (triggering receptor expressed on myeloid cells): a new player in acute inflammatory responses. J. Infect. Dis 2003; 187 (Suppl 2): S397-401. PMID 12792857.

Dempfle CE. Coagulopathy of Sepsis. Thromb Hemost 2004; 91:213-224.

Cunneen J, Cartwright M. The Puzzle of Sepsis: Fitting the Pieces of the Inflammatory Response with Treatment. AACN Clin Issues 2004;15:18-44.

Ren-Feng Guo, NC Riedemann, Lei Sun, Hongwei Gao, KX Shi, et al. Divergent Signaling Pathways in Phagocytic Cells during Sepsis. The Journal of Immunology, 2006, 177: 1306–1313.

Abraham E.  Alterations in Cell Signaling in Sepsis. Clin Infect Dis 2005: 41 (Supplement 7): S459-S464. doi: 10.1086/431997

Yang KY, Arcaroli JJ, Abraham E. Early alterations in neutrophil activation are associated with outcome in acute lung injury. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 2003; 167:1567-74.

Abraham E. Neutrophils and Acute Lung Injury. Crit Care Med 2003; 31:195-9.

Abraham E, Carmody A, Shenkar R, Arcaroli J. Neutrophils as early immunologic effectors in hemorrhage- or endotoxemia-induced acute lung injury. Am J Physiol Lung Cell Mol Physiol 2000; 279:1137-45.

Sepsis Bundles

The Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) has highlighted sepsis as an area of focus and has identified several deficiencies that may cause suboptimal care of patients with severe sepsis.

These deficiencies include inconsistency in the early diagnosis of severe sepsis and septic shock, frequent inadequate volume resuscitation without defined endpoints, late or inadequate use of antibiotics, frequent failure to support the cardiac output when depressed, frequent failure to control hyperglycemia adequately, frequent failure to use low tidal volumes and pressures in acute lung injury, and frequent failure to treat adrenal inadequacy in refractory shock.

To address these deficiencies, the Surviving Sepsis Campaign and IHI have revised and added to the Surviving Sepsis Guidelines and created 2 sepsis treatment bundles (resuscitation and management) to guide therapy for patients with severe sepsis.

“Implicit in the use of the bundles is the need to adopt all the elements contained in the bundle,” the authors write. “One cannot choose to apply only selected items from the bundle and expect to achieve comparable benefit. The IHI sepsis website provides tools to screen patients for severe sepsis, as well as to measure success with adherence to implementing the bundles (” (The authors are employees of Eli Lilly and Co, the maker of drotrecogin alfa (activated). South Med J. 2007;100:594-600.

The sepsis resuscitation bundle, which should be accomplished as soon as possible and scored during the first 6 hours

Prealbumin (Transthyretin)

Discharge prealbumin and the change in prealbumin were positively correlated with protein and energy intake and inversely correlated with markers of inflammation, particularly CRP and IL-6. When all covariates were included in a multivariable regression analysis, the markers of inflammation predominantly accounted for the variance in prealbumin change (56%), whereas discharge protein intake accounted for 6%.

These authors propose an updated approach that incorporates current understanding of the systemic inflammatory response to help guide assessment, diagnosis, and treatment. An appreciation of a continuum of inflammatory response in relation to malnutrition syndromes is described. This discussion serves to highlight a research agenda to address deficiencies in diagnostics, biomarkers, and therapeutics of inflammation in relation to malnutrition.


The most frequent indication for antibiotic prescriptions in the northwestern hemisphere is lower respiratory tract infections (LRTIs),which range in severity from self-limited acute bronchitis to severe acute exacerbation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and to life-threatening bacterial community-acquired pneumonia (CAP).4 Clinical signs and symptoms, as well as commonly used laboratory markers, are unreliable in distinguishing viral from bacterial LRTI. As many as 75% of patients with LRTI are treated with antibiotics, despitethe predominantly viral origin of their infection. An approach to estimate the probability of bacterial origin in LRTI is the measurement of serum procalcitonin (PCT).

In patients with LRTIs, a strategy of PCT guidance compared with standard guidelines resulted in similar rates of adverse outcomes, as well as lower rates of antibiotic exposure and antibiotic-associated adverse effects. (Trial Registration Identifier: ISRCTN95122877)

Neutrophil CD64

Despite improvements in the treatment of sepsis in recent years, there have been few diagnostic innovations which improve the sensitivity and specificity of diagnosis or facilitate therapeutic monitoring. The clinical reliance on the CBC and leukocyte differential with associated band count to indicate myeloid left shift of immaturity is not accurate, and it is not comparable to the measurement of the metamyeloctes and myelocytes. Only the introduction of a test which measures procalcitonin (PCT), an acute phase marker which is claimed to be more specific for bacterial infections than for viral infections, can be cited as a new diagnostic for the evaluation of patients with suspected infection. A need still persists for improved diagnostic indictors of infection or sepsis, as well as better tests to facilitate monitoring of therapy in the treatment of infection, so that use of antibiotics might be less empirical.

Studies have indicated that quantitative neutrophil CD64 expression is a sensitive and specific laboratory indicator of sepsis or the presence of a systemic acute inflammatory response.  Neutrophil CD64 is a highly sensitive marker for neonatal sepsis. Prospective studies incorporating CD64 into a sepsis scoring system are warranted. Studies have indicated that quantitative neutrophil CD64 (high affinity Fc receptor) expression is a worth­while candidate for evaluation as a more sensitive and specific laboratory indi­cator of sepsis or the presence of a systemic acute inflammatory response than available diagnostics . Neutrophil (PMN) CD64 is one of many activa­tion-related antigenic changes manifested by neutrophils during the normal pathophysiological acute inflammatory or innate immune response. PMN expression of CD64 is up-regulated under the influence of inflammatory relat­ed cytokines such as interleukin 12 (IL-12), interferon gamma (IFN-y) and granulocyte colony stimulating factor (G-CSF).

The first commercially available assay for PMN CD64, developed by Trillium Diagnostics, LLC is a fluorescence based, no wash flow cytometric assay, namely the Leuko64. The assay kit contains a cocktail of monoclonal antibodies includ­ing two monoclonal antibodies to CD64 and a monoclonal antibody to CD163, red cell lysis buffer, fluorescence quantitation beads, and a software program for automated analysis of the flow cytometric data that reports PMN CD64 as a CD64 index. The PMN CD64 index is designed so that normal inactivated PMNs yield values of < 1.00 and blood samples from individuals with docu­mented infection or sepsis typically show values > 1.50. Using clinical flow cytometers, the assay can be completed within 30 minutes. While this initial assay format was developed for multiparameter flow cytometers, a new version of the assay has been developed to give nearly identical results on the CD4000 and Sapphire (manufactured by Abbott Diagnostics, Santa Clara, CA) blood cell counters, which are equipped with laser light sources and fluorescence detection capabilities. If these blood cell counters are available in diagnostic haematology laboratories, the Leuko64 assay can be utilised on a 24 hour basis, in contrast to the more typical daytime operation hours of flow cytometric diagnostic laboratories.

Leukocare and Trillium Diagnostics entered an agreement to develop and market Leukocare’s method for detecting inflammatory activity using circulating cell-free DNA. Trillium aims to create a cf-DNA test as a “simple and cost effective” tool that healthcare professionals can use to obtain clinically relevant data on patients who are suspected of having sepsis. The companies said that they expect to finish developing the assay and market it in two years.

B Casserly, R Read, MM Levy. Multimarker Panels  in Sepsis. Crit Care Clin 27 (2011) 391–405 doi:10.1016/j.ccc.2010.12.011

Dennis RA, Johnson LE, Roberson PK, Heif M, Bopp MM, et al.  Changes in prealbumin, nutrient intake, and systemic inflammation in elderly recuperative care patients.  J Am Geriatr Soc. 2008; 56(7):1270-5. Epub 2008 Jun 10. PMID: 18547360

Jensen GL, Bistrian B, Roubenoff R, Heimburger DC.  Malnutrition Syndromes: A Conundrum vs Continuum.

Bernstein LH. The systemic inflammatory response syndrome C-reactive protein and transthyretin conundrum. Clinical Chemistry Laboratory Medicine 2007; 45(11):1566–1567, ISSN (Online) 14374331, ISSN (Print) 14346621, DOI: 10.1515/CCLM.2007.334.

Schuetz P, Christ-Crain M, Thomann R, Falconnier C, Wolbers M, et al.  for the ProHOSP Study Group. Effect of Procalcitonin-Based Guidelines vs Standard Guidelines on Antibiotic Use in Lower Respiratory Tract Infections: The ProHOSP Randomized Controlled Trial.  JAMA  2009; 302(10): 1059

Bhandari V, Wang C, Rinder C, Rinder H. Hematologic Profile of Sepsis in Neonates: Neutrophil CD64 as a Diagnostic Marker. Pediatrics 2007; 31:4005.   (ISSN Numbers: Print, 0031-4005; Online, 1098-4275). doi:10.1542/peds.2007-1308

Davis BH.  Neutrophil CD64 expression in infection and sepsis. CLI Ocober 2006.

Chapter 1 Statement of Inferential    Second Opinion

Realtime Clinical Expert Support

Gil David and Larry Bernstein have developed, in consultation with Prof. Ronald Coifman, in the Yale University Applied Mathematics Program, a software system that is the equivalent of an intelligent Electronic Health Records Dashboard that provides empirical medical reference and suggests quantitative diagnostics options.

Keywords: Entropy, Maximum Likelihood Function, separatory clustering, peripheral smear, automated hemogram, Anomaly, classification by anomaly, multivariable and multisyndromic, automated second opinion

Abbreviations: Akaike Information Criterion, AIC;  Bayes Information Criterion, BIC, Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome, SIRS.

Background: The current design of the Electronic Medical Record (EMR) is a linear presentation of portions of the record by services, by diagnostic method, and by date, to cite examples.  This allows perusal through a graphical user interface (GUI) that partitions the information or necessary reports in a workstation entered by keying to icons.  This requires that the medical practitioner finds the history, medications, laboratory reports, cardiac imaging and EKGs, and radiology in different workspaces.  The introduction of a DASHBOARD has allowed a presentation of drug reactions, allergies, primary and secondary diagnoses, and critical information about any patient the care giver needing access to the record.  The advantage of this innovation is obvious.  The startup problem is what information is presented and how it is displayed, which is a source of variability and a key to its success.

Intent: We are proposing an innovation that supercedes the main design elements of a DASHBOARD and utilizes the conjoined syndromic features of the disparate data elements.  So the important determinant of the success of this endeavor is that it facilitates both the workflow and the decision-making process with a reduction of medical error. Continuing work is in progress in extending the capabilities with model datasets, and sufficient data because the extraction of data from disparate sources will, in the long run, further improve this process.  For instance, the finding of  both ST depression on EKG coincident with an elevated cardiac biomarker (troponin), particularly in the absence of substantially reduced renal function. The conversion of hematology based data into useful clinical information requires the establishment of problem-solving constructs based on the measured data.

The most commonly ordered test used for managing patients worldwide is the hemogram that often incorporates the review of a peripheral smear.  While the hemogram has undergone progressive modification of the measured features over time the subsequent expansion of the panel of tests has provided a window into the cellular changes in the production, release or suppression of the formed elements from the blood-forming organ to the circulation.  In the hemogram one can view data reflecting the characteristics of a broad spectrum of medical conditions.

Progressive modification of the measured features of the hemogram has delineated characteristics expressed as measurements of size, density, and concentration, resulting in many characteristic features of classification. In the diagnosis of hematological disorders proliferation of marrow precursors, the domination of a cell line, and features of suppression of hematopoiesis provide a two dimensional model.  Other dimensions are created by considering the maturity of the circulating cells.  The application of rules-based, automated problem solving should provide a valid approach to the classification and interpretation of the data used to determine a knowledge-based clinical opinion. The exponential growth of knowledge since the mapping of the human genome enabled by parallel advances in applied mathematics that have not been a part of traditional clinical problem solving.  As the complexity of statistical models has increased the dependencies have become less clear to the individual.  Contemporary statistical modeling has a primary goal of finding an underlying structure in studied data sets.  The development of an evidence-based inference engine that can substantially interpret the data at hand and convert it in real time to a “knowledge-based opinion” could improve clinical decision-making by incorporating multiple complex clinical features as well as duration of onset into the model.

An example of a difficult area for clinical problem solving is found in the diagnosis of SIRS and associated sepsis.  SIRS (and associated sepsis) is a costly diagnosis in hospitalized patients.   Failure to diagnose sepsis in a timely manner creates a potential financial and safety hazard.  The early diagnosis of SIRS/sepsis is made by the application of defined criteria (temperature, heart rate, respiratory rate and WBC count) by the clinician.   The application of those clinical criteria, however, defines the condition after it has developed and has not provided a reliable method for the early diagnosis of SIRS.  The early diagnosis of SIRS may possibly be enhanced by the measurement of proteomic biomarkers, including transthyretin, C-reactive protein and procalcitonin.  Immature granulocyte (IG) measurement has been proposed as a more readily available indicator of the presence of granulocyte precursors (left shift).  The use of such markers, obtained by automated systems in conjunction with innovative statistical modeling, provides a promising approach to enhance workflow and decision making.   Such a system utilizes the conjoined syndromic features of disparate data elements with an anticipated reduction of medical error.  This study is only an extension of our approach to repairing a longstanding problem in the construction of the many-sided electronic medical record (EMR).  In a classic study carried out at Bell Laboratories, Didner found that information technologies reflect the view of the creators, not the users, and Front-to-Back Design (R Didner) is needed.

Costs would be reduced, and accuracy improved, if the clinical data could be captured directly at the point it is generated, in a form suitable for transmission to insurers, or machine transformable into other formats.  Such data capture, could also be used to improve the form and structure of how this information is viewed by physicians, and form a basis of a more comprehensive database linking clinical protocols to outcomes, that could improve the knowledge of this relationship, hence clinical outcomes.

How we frame our expectations is so important that it determines the data we collect to examine the process.   In the absence of data to support an assumed benefit, there is no proof of validity at whatever cost.   This has meaning for hospital operations, for nonhospital laboratory operations, for companies in the diagnostic business, and for planning of health systems.

In 1983, a vision for creating the EMR was introduced by Lawrence Weed,  expressed by McGowan and Winstead-Fry (J J McGowan and P Winstead-Fry. Problem Knowledge Couplers: reengineering evidence-based medicine through interdisciplinary development, decision support, and research. Bull Med Libr Assoc. 1999 October; 87(4): 462–470.)   PMCID: PMC226622    Copyright notice

They introduce Problem Knowledge Couplers as a clinical decision support software tool that  recognizes that functionality must be predicated upon combining unique patient information, but obtained through relevant structured question sets, with the appropriate knowledge found in the world’s peer-reviewed medical literature.  The premise of this is stated by LL WEED in “Idols of the Mind” (Dec 13, 2006): “ a root cause of a major defect in the health care system is that, while we falsely admire and extol the intellectual powers of highly educated physicians, we do not search for the external aids their minds require”.  HIT use has been focused on information retrieval, leaving the unaided mind burdened with information processing.

The data presented has to be comprehended in context with vital signs, key symptoms, and an accurate medical history.  Consequently, the limits of memory and cognition are tested in medical practice on a daily basis.  We deal with problems in the interpretation of data presented to the physician, and how through better design of the software that presents this data the situation could be improved.  The computer architecture that the physician uses to view the results is more often than not presented as the designer would prefer, and not as the end-user would like.  In order to optimize the interface for physician, the system would have a “front-to-back” design, with the call up for any patient ideally consisting of a dashboard design that presents the crucial information that the physician would likely act on in an easily accessible manner.  The key point is that each item used has to be closely related to a corresponding criterion needed for a decision.  Currently, improved design is heading in that direction.  In removing this limitation the output requirements have to be defined before the database is designed to produce the required output.  The ability to see any other information, or to see a sequential visualization of the patient’s course would be steps to home in on other views.  In addition, the amount of relevant information, even when presented well, is a cognitive challenge unless it is presented in a disease- or organ-system structure.  So the interaction between the user and the electronic medical record has a significant effect on practitioner time, ability to minimize errors of interpretation, facilitate treatment, and manage costs.  The reality is that clinicians are challenged by the need to view a large amount of data, with only a few resources available to know which of these values are relevant, or the need for action on a result, or its urgency. The challenge then becomes how fundamental measurement theory can lead to the creation at the point of care of more meaningful actionable presentations of results.  WP Fisher refers to the creation of a context in which computational resources for meeting the challenges will be incorporated into the electronic medical record.  The one which he chooses is a probabilistic conjoint (Rasch) measurement model, which uses scale-free standard measures and meets data quality standards. He illustrates this by fitting a set of data provided by Bernstein (19)(27 items for the diagnosis of acute myocardial infarction (AMI) to a Rasch multiple rating scale model testing the hypothesis that items work together to delineate a unidimensional measurement continuum. The results indicated that highly improbable observations could be discarded, data volume could be reduced based on internal, and increased ability of the care provider to interpret the data.


Classified data a separate issue from automation

 Feature Extraction. This further breakdown in the modern era is determined by genetically characteristic gene sequences that are transcribed into what we measure.  Eugene Rypka contributed greatly to clarifying the extraction of features in a series of articles, which set the groundwork for the methods used today in clinical microbiology.  The method he describes is termed S-clustering, and will have a significant bearing on how we can view hematology data.  He describes S-clustering as extracting features from endogenous data that amplify or maximize structural information to create distinctive classes.  The method classifies by taking the number of features with sufficient variety to map into a theoretic standard. The mapping is done by a truth table, and each variable is scaled to assign values for each: message choice.  The number of messages and the number of choices forms an N-by N table.  He points out that the message choice in an antibody titer would be converted from 0 + ++ +++ to 0 1 2 3.

Even though there may be a large number of measured values, the variety is reduced by this compression, even though there is risk of loss of information.  Yet the real issue is how a combination of variables falls into a table with meaningful information.  We are concerned with accurate assignment into uniquely variable groups by information in test relationships. One determines the effectiveness of each variable by its contribution to information gain in the system.  The reference or null set is the class having no information.  Uncertainty in assigning to a classification is only relieved by providing sufficient information.  One determines the effectiveness of each variable by its contribution to information gain in the system.  The possibility for realizing a good model for approximating the effects of factors supported by data used for inference owes much to the discovery of Kullback-Liebler distance or “information”, and Akaike found a simple relationship between K-L information and Fisher’s maximized log-likelihood function. A solid foundation in this work was elaborated by Eugene Rypka.  Of course, this was made far less complicated by the genetic complement that defines its function, which made  more accessible the study of biochemical pathways.  In addition, the genetic relationships in plant genetics were accessible to Ronald Fisher for the application of the linear discriminant function.    In the last 60 years the application of entropy comparable to the entropy of physics, information, noise, and signal processing, has been fully developed by Shannon, Kullback, and others,  and has been integrated with modern statistics, as a result of the seminal work of Akaike, Leo Goodman, Magidson and Vermunt, and unrelated work by Coifman. Dr. Magidson writes about Latent Class Model evolution:

The recent increase in interest in latent class models is due to the development of extended algorithms which allow today’s computers to perform LC analyses on data containing more than just a few variables, and the recent realization that the use of such models can yield powerful improvements over traditional approaches to segmentation, as well as to cluster, factor, regression and other kinds of analysis.

Perhaps the application to medical diagnostics had been slowed by limitations of data capture and computer architecture as well as lack of clarity in definition of what are the most distinguishing features needed for diagnostic clarification.  Bernstein and colleagues had a series of studies using Kullback-Liebler Distance  (effective information) for clustering to examine the latent structure of the elements commonly used for diagnosis of myocardial infarction (CK-MB, LD and the isoenzyme-1 of LD),  protein-energy malnutrition (serum albumin, serum transthyretin, condition associated with protein malnutrition (see Jeejeebhoy and subjective global assessment), prolonged period with no oral intake), prediction of respiratory distress syndrome of the newborn (RDS), and prediction of lymph nodal involvement of prostate cancer, among other studies.   The exploration of syndromic classification has made a substantial contribution to the diagnostic literature, but has only been made useful through publication on the web of calculators and nomograms (such as Epocrates and Medcalc) accessible to physicians through an iPhone.  These are not an integral part of the EMR, and the applications require an anticipation of the need for such processing.

Gil David et al. introduced an AUTOMATED processing of the data available to the ordering physician and can anticipate an enormous impact in diagnosis and treatment of perhaps half of the top 20 most common causes of hospital admission that carry a high cost and morbidity.  For example: anemias (iron deficiency, vitamin B12 and folate deficiency, and hemolytic anemia or myelodysplastic syndrome); pneumonia; systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS) with or without bacteremia; multiple organ failure and hemodynamic shock; electrolyte/acid base balance disorders; acute and chronic liver disease; acute and chronic renal disease; diabetes mellitus; protein-energy malnutrition; acute respiratory distress of the newborn; acute coronary syndrome; congestive heart failure; disordered bone mineral metabolism; hemostatic disorders; leukemia and lymphoma; malabsorption syndromes; and cancer(s)[breast, prostate, colorectal, pancreas, stomach, liver, esophagus, thyroid, and parathyroid].

Extension of conditions and presentation to the electronic medical record (EMR)

We have published on the application of an automated inference engine to the Systemic Inflammatory Response (SIRS), a serious infection, or emerging sepsis.  We can report on this without going over previous ground.  Of considerable interest is the morbidity and mortality of sepsis, and the hospital costs from a late diagnosis.  If missed early, it could be problematic, and it could be seen as a hospital complication when it is not. Improving on previous work, we have the opportunity to look at the contribution of a fluorescence labeled flow cytometric measurement of the immature granulocytes (IG), which is now widely used, but has not been adequately evaluated from the perspective of diagnostic usage.  We have done considerable work on protein-energy malnutrition (PEM), to which the automated interpretation is currently in review.  Of course, the

cholesterol, lymphocyte count, serum albumin provide the weight of evidence with the primary diagnosis (emphysema, chronic renal disease, eating disorder), and serum transthyretin would be low and remain low for a week in critical care.  This could be a modifier with age in providing discriminatory power.

Chapter  3           References

The Cost Burden of Disease: U.S. and Michigan. CHRT Brief. January 2010.

The National Hospital Bill: The Most Expensive Conditions by Payer, 2006. HCUP Brief #59.

Rudolph RA, Bernstein LH, Babb J: Information-Induction for the diagnosis of

myocardial infarction. Clin Chem 1988;34:2031-2038.

Bernstein LH (Chairman). Prealbumin in Nutritional Care Consensus Group.

Measurement of visceral protein status in assessing protein and energy malnutrition: standard of care. Nutrition 1995; 11:169-171.

Bernstein LH, Qamar A, McPherson C, Zarich S, Rudolph R. Diagnosis of myocardial infarction: integration of serum markers and clinical descriptors using information theory. Yale J Biol Med 1999; 72: 5-13.

Kaplan L.A.; Chapman J.F.; Bock J.L.; Santa Maria E.; Clejan S.; Huddleston D.J.; Reed R.G.; Bernstein L.H.; Gillen-Goldstein J. Prediction of Respiratory Distress Syndrome using the Abbott FLM-II amniotic fluid assay. The National Academy of Clinical Biochemistry (NACB) Fetal Lung Maturity Assessment Project.  Clin Chim Acta 2002; 326(8): 61-68.

Bernstein LH, Qamar A, McPherson C, Zarich S. Evaluating a new graphical ordinal logit method (GOLDminer) in the diagnosis of myocardial infarction utilizing clinical features and laboratory data. Yale J Biol Med 1999; 72:259-268.

Bernstein L, Bradley K, Zarich SA. GOLDmineR: Improving models for classifying patients with chest pain. Yale J Biol Med 2002; 75, pp. 183-198.

Ronald Raphael Coifman and Mladen Victor Wickerhauser. Adapted Waveform Analysis as a Tool for Modeling, Feature Extraction, and Denoising. Optical Engineering, 33(7):2170–2174, July 1994.

R. Coifman and N. Saito. Constructions of local orthonormal bases for classification and regression. C. R. Acad. Sci. Paris, 319 Série I:191-196, 1994.

Chapter 4           Clinical Expert System

Realtime Clinical Expert Support and validation System

We have developed a software system that is the equivalent of an intelligent Electronic Health Records Dashboard that provides empirical medical reference and suggests quantitative diagnostics options. The primary purpose is to gather medical information, generate metrics, analyze them in realtime and provide a differential diagnosis, meeting the highest standard of accuracy. The system builds its unique characterization and provides a list of other patients that share this unique profile, therefore utilizing the vast aggregated knowledge (diagnosis, analysis, treatment, etc.) of the medical community. The main mathematical breakthroughs are provided by accurate patient profiling and inference methodologies in which anomalous subprofiles are extracted and compared to potentially relevant cases. As the model grows and its knowledge database is extended, the diagnostic and the prognostic become more accurate and precise. We anticipate that the effect of implementing this diagnostic amplifier would result in higher physician productivity at a time of great human resource limitations, safer prescribing practices, rapid identification of unusual patients, better assignment of patients to observation, inpatient beds, intensive care, or referral to clinic, shortened length of patients ICU and bed days.

The main benefit is a real time assessment as well as diagnostic options based on comparable cases, flags for risk and potential problems as illustrated in the following case acquired on 04/21/10. The patient was diagnosed by our system with severe SIRS at a grade of 0.61 .

The patient was treated for SIRS and the blood tests were repeated during the following week. The full combined record of our system’s assessment of the patient, were derived from the further Hematology tests.  Following treatment, the SIRS risk as a major concern was eliminated and the system provides a positive feedback for the treatment of the physician.


Method for data organization and classification via characterization metrics.

Our database organized to enable linking a given profile to known profiles. This is achieved by associating a patient to a peer group of patients having an overall similar profile, where the similar profile is obtained through a randomized search for an appropriate weighting of variables. Given the selection of a patients’ peer group, we build a metric that measures the dissimilarity of the patient from its group. This is achieved through a local iterated statistical analysis in the peer group.

We then use this characteristic metric to locate other patients with similar unique profiles, for each of whom we repeat the procedure described above. This leads to a network of patients with similar risk condition. Then, the classification of the patient is inferred from the medical known condition of some of the patients in the linked network. Given a set of points (the database) and a newly arrived sample (point), we characterize the behavior of the newly arrived sample, according to the database. Then, we detect other points in the database that match this unique characterization. This collection of detected points defines the characteristic neighborhood of the newly arrived sample. We use the characteristic neighbor hood in order to classify the newly arrived sample. This process of differential diagnosis is repeated for every newly arrived point.   The medical colossus we have today has become a system out of control and beset by the elephant in the room – an uncharted complexity. We offer a method that addresses the complexity and enables rather than disables the practitioner.  The method identifies outliers and combines data according to commonality of features.

Summary and Perspectives: Impairments in Pathological States: Endocrine Disorders, Stress Hypermetabolism and Cancer

Author and Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP

This summary is the last of a series on the impact of transcriptomics, proteomics, and metabolomics on disease investigation, and the sorting and integration of genomic signatures and metabolic signatures to explain phenotypic relationships in variability and individuality of response to disease expression and how this leads to  pharmaceutical discovery and personalized medicine.  We have unquestionably better tools at our disposal than has ever existed in the history of mankind, and an enormous knowledge-base that has to be accessed.  I shall conclude here these discussions with the powerful contribution to and current knowledge pertaining to biochemistry, metabolism, protein-interactions, signaling, and the application of the -OMICS to diseases and drug discovery at this time.

The Ever-Transcendent Cell

Deriving physiologic first principles By John S. Torday | The Scientist Nov 1, 2014

Both the developmental and phylogenetic histories of an organism describe the evolution of physiology—the complex of metabolic pathways that govern the function of an organism as a whole. The necessity of establishing and maintaining homeostatic mechanisms began at the cellular level, with the very first cells, and homeostasis provides the underlying selection pressure fueling evolution.

While the events leading to the formation of the first functioning cell are debatable, a critical one was certainly the formation of simple lipid-enclosed vesicles, which provided a protected space for the evolution of metabolic pathways. Protocells evolved from a common ancestor that experienced environmental stresses early in the history of cellular development, such as acidic ocean conditions and low atmospheric oxygen levels, which shaped the evolution of metabolism.

The reduction of evolution to cell biology may answer the perennially unresolved question of why organisms return to their unicellular origins during the life cycle.

As primitive protocells evolved to form prokaryotes and, much later, eukaryotes, changes to the cell membrane occurred that were critical to the maintenance of chemiosmosis, the generation of bioenergy through the partitioning of ions. The incorporation of cholesterol into the plasma membrane surrounding primitive eukaryotic cells marked the beginning of their differentiation from prokaryotes. Cholesterol imparted more fluidity to eukaryotic cell membranes, enhancing functionality by increasing motility and endocytosis. Membrane deformability also allowed for increased gas exchange.

Acidification of the oceans by atmospheric carbon dioxide generated high intracellular calcium ion concentrations in primitive aquatic eukaryotes, which had to be lowered to prevent toxic effects, namely the aggregation of nucleotides, proteins, and lipids. The early cells achieved this by the evolution of calcium channels composed of cholesterol embedded within the cell’s plasma membrane, and of internal membranes, such as that of the endoplasmic reticulum, peroxisomes, and other cytoplasmic organelles, which hosted intracellular chemiosmosis and helped regulate calcium.

As eukaryotes thrived, they experienced increasingly competitive pressure for metabolic efficiency. Engulfed bacteria, assimilated as mitochondria, provided more bioenergy. As the evolution of eukaryotic organisms progressed, metabolic cooperation evolved, perhaps to enable competition with biofilm-forming, quorum-sensing prokaryotes. The subsequent appearance of multicellular eukaryotes expressing cellular growth factors and their respective receptors facilitated cell-cell signaling, forming the basis for an explosion of multicellular eukaryote evolution, culminating in the metazoans.

Casting a cellular perspective on evolution highlights the integration of genotype and phenotype. Starting from the protocell membrane, the functional homolog for all complex metazoan organs, it offers a way of experimentally determining the role of genes that fostered evolution based on the ontogeny and phylogeny of cellular processes that can be traced back, in some cases, to our last universal common ancestor.  ….

As eukaryotes thrived, they experienced increasingly competitive pressure for metabolic efficiency. Engulfed bacteria, assimilated as mitochondria, provided more bioenergy. As the evolution of eukaryotic organisms progressed, metabolic cooperation evolved, perhaps to enable competition with biofilm-forming, quorum-sensing prokaryotes. The subsequent appearance of multicellular eukaryotes expressing cellular growth factors and their respective receptors facilitated cell-cell signaling, forming the basis for an explosion of multicellular eukaryote evolution, culminating in the metazoans.

Casting a cellular perspective on evolution highlights the integration of genotype and phenotype. Starting from the protocell membrane, the functional homolog for all complex metazoan organs, it offers a way of experimentally determining the role of genes that fostered evolution based on the ontogeny and phylogeny of cellular processes that can be traced back, in some cases, to our last universal common ancestor.

Given that the unicellular toolkit is complete with all the traits necessary for forming multicellular organisms (Science, 301:361-63, 2003), it is distinctly possible that metazoans are merely permutations of the unicellular body plan. That scenario would clarify a lot of puzzling biology: molecular commonalities between the skin, lung, gut, and brain that affect physiology and pathophysiology exist because the cell membranes of unicellular organisms perform the equivalents of these tissue functions, and the existence of pleiotropy—one gene affecting many phenotypes—may be a consequence of the common unicellular source for all complex biologic traits.  …

The cell-molecular homeostatic model for evolution and stability addresses how the external environment generates homeostasis developmentally at the cellular level. It also determines homeostatic set points in adaptation to the environment through specific effectors, such as growth factors and their receptors, second messengers, inflammatory mediators, crossover mutations, and gene duplications. This is a highly mechanistic, heritable, plastic process that lends itself to understanding evolution at the cellular, tissue, organ, system, and population levels, mediated by physiologically linked mechanisms throughout, without having to invoke random, chance mechanisms to bridge different scales of evolutionary change. In other words, it is an integrated mechanism that can often be traced all the way back to its unicellular origins.

The switch from swim bladder to lung as vertebrates moved from water to land is proof of principle that stress-induced evolution in metazoans can be understood from changes at the cellular level.


The switch from swim bladder to lung as vertebrates moved from water to land is proof of principle that stress-induced evolution in metazoans can be understood from changes at the cellular level.

A MECHANISTIC BASIS FOR LUNG DEVELOPMENT: Stress from periodic atmospheric hypoxia (1) during vertebrate adaptation to land enhances positive selection of the stretch-regulated parathyroid hormone-related protein (PTHrP) in the pituitary and adrenal glands. In the pituitary (2), PTHrP signaling upregulates the release of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) (3), which stimulates the release of glucocorticoids (GC) by the adrenal gland (4). In the adrenal gland, PTHrP signaling also stimulates glucocorticoid production of adrenaline (5), which in turn affects the secretion of lung surfactant, the distension of alveoli, and the perfusion of alveolar capillaries (6). PTHrP signaling integrates the inflation and deflation of the alveoli with surfactant production and capillary perfusion.  THE SCIENTIST STAFF

From a cell-cell signaling perspective, two critical duplications in genes coding for cell-surface receptors occurred during this period of water-to-land transition—in the stretch-regulated parathyroid hormone-related protein (PTHrP) receptor gene and the β adrenergic (βA) receptor gene. These gene duplications can be disassembled by following their effects on vertebrate physiology backwards over phylogeny. PTHrP signaling is necessary for traits specifically relevant to land adaptation: calcification of bone, skin barrier formation, and the inflation and distention of lung alveoli. Microvascular shear stress in PTHrP-expressing organs such as bone, skin, kidney, and lung would have favored duplication of the PTHrP receptor, since sheer stress generates radical oxygen species (ROS) known to have this effect and PTHrP is a potent vasodilator, acting as an epistatic balancing selection for this constraint.

Positive selection for PTHrP signaling also evolved in the pituitary and adrenal cortex (see figure on this page), stimulating the secretion of ACTH and corticoids, respectively, in response to the stress of land adaptation. This cascade amplified adrenaline production by the adrenal medulla, since corticoids passing through it enzymatically stimulate adrenaline synthesis. Positive selection for this functional trait may have resulted from hypoxic stress that arose during global episodes of atmospheric hypoxia over geologic time. Since hypoxia is the most potent physiologic stressor, such transient oxygen deficiencies would have been acutely alleviated by increasing adrenaline levels, which would have stimulated alveolar surfactant production, increasing gas exchange by facilitating the distension of the alveoli. Over time, increased alveolar distension would have generated more alveoli by stimulating PTHrP secretion, impelling evolution of the alveolar bed of the lung.

This scenario similarly explains βA receptor gene duplication, since increased density of the βA receptor within the alveolar walls was necessary for relieving another constraint during the evolution of the lung in adaptation to land: the bottleneck created by the existence of a common mechanism for blood pressure control in both the lung alveoli and the systemic blood pressure. The pulmonary vasculature was constrained by its ability to withstand the swings in pressure caused by the systemic perfusion necessary to sustain all the other vital organs. PTHrP is a potent vasodilator, subserving the blood pressure constraint, but eventually the βA receptors evolved to coordinate blood pressure in both the lung and the periphery.

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Voluntary and Involuntary S- Insufficiency

Writer and Curator: Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP 

Transthyretin and the Stressful Condition


This article is written among a series of articles concerned with stress, obesity, diet and exercise, as well as altitude and deep water diving for extended periods, and their effects.  There is a reason that I focus on transthyretin (TTR), although much can be said about micronutients and vitamins, and fat soluble vitamins in particular, and iron intake during pregnancy.    While the importance of vitamins and iron are well accepted, the metabolic basis for their activities is not fully understood.  In the case of a single amino acid, methionine, it is hugely important because of the role it plays in sulfur metabolism, the sulfhydryl group being essential for coenzyme A, cytochrome c, and for disulfide bonds.  The distribution of sulfur, like the distribution of iodine, is not uniform across geographic regions.  In addition, the content of sulfur found in plant sources is not comparable to that in animal protein.  There have been previous articles at this site on TTR, amyloid and sepsis.

Transthyretin and Lean Body Mass in Stable and Stressed State

A Second Look at the Transthyretin Nutrition Inflammatory Conundrum

Stabilizers that prevent transthyretin-mediated cardiomyocyte amyloidotic toxicity

Thyroid Function and Disorders

Proteomics, Metabolomics, Signaling Pathways, and Cell Regulation: a Compilation of Articles in the Journal

Malnutrition in India, high newborn death rate and stunting of children age under five years

Vegan Diet is Sulfur Deficient and Heart Unhealthy

How Methionine Imbalance with Sulfur-Insufficiency Leads to Hyperhomocysteinemia

Amyloidosis with Cardiomyopathy

Advances in Separations Technology for the “OMICs” and Clarification of Therapeutic Targets

Sepsis, Multi-organ Dysfunction Syndrome, and Septic Shock: A Conundrum of Signaling Pathways Cascading Out of Control

Automated Inferential Diagnosis of SIRS, sepsis, septic shock

Transthyretin and the Systemic Inflammatory Response 

Transthyretin has been widely used as a biomarker for identifying protein-energy malnutrition (PEM) and for monitoring the improvement of nutritional status after implementing a nutritional intervention by enteral feeding or by parenteral infusion. This has occurred because transthyretin (TTR) has a rapid removal from the circulation in 48 hours and it is readily measured by immunometric assay. Nevertheless, concerns have been raised about the use of TTR in the ICU setting, which prompts a review of the actual benefit of using this test in a number of settings. TTR is easily followed in the underweight and the high risk populations in an ambulatory setting, which has a significant background risk of chronic diseases.  It is sensitive to the systemic inflammatory response syndrom (SIRS), and needs to be understood in the context of acute illness to be used effectively. There are a number of physiologic changes associated with SIRS and the injury/repair process that will affect TTR and will be put in context in this review. The most important point is that in the context of an ICU setting, the contribution of TTR is significant in a complex milieu.  copyright @ Bentham Publishers Ltd. 2009.

Transthyretin as a marker to predict outcome in critically ill patients.
Arun Devakonda, Liziamma George, Suhail Raoof, Adebayo Esan, Anthony Saleh, Larry H. Bernstein.
Clin Biochem Oct 2008; 41(14-15): 1126-1130

A determination of TTR level is an objective method od measuring protein catabolic loss of severly ill patients and numerous studies show that TTR levels correlate with patient outcomes of non-critically ill patients. We evaluated whether TTR level correlates with the prevalence of PEM in the ICUand evaluated serum TTR level as an indicator of the effectiveness of nutrition support and the prognosis in critically ill patients.

TTR showed excellent concordance with patients classified with PEM or at high malnutrition risk, and followed for 7 days, it is a measure of the metabolic burden. TTR levels did not respond early to nutrition support because of the delayed return to anabolic status. It is particularly helpful in removing interpretation bias, and it is an excellent measure of the systemic inflammatory response concurrent with a preexisting state of chronic inanition.

 The Stressful Condition as a Nutritionally Dependent Adaptive Dichotomy

Yves Ingenbleek and Larry Bernstein
Nutrition 1999;15(4):305-320 PII S0899-9007(99)00009-X

The injured body manifests a cascade of cytokine-induced metabolic events aimed at developing defense mechanisms and tissue repair. Rising concentrations of counterregulatory hormones work in concert with cytokines to generate overall insulin and insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), postreceptor resistance and energy requirements grounded on lipid dependency. Dalient features are self-sustained hypercortisolemia persisting as long as cytokines are oversecreted and down-regulation of the hypothalamo-pituitary-thyroid axis stabilized at low basal levels. Inhibition of thyroxine 5’deiodinating activity (5’DA) accounts for the depressed T3 values associated with the sparing of both N and energy-consuming processes. Both the liver and damaged territories adapt to stressful signals along up-regulated pathways disconnected from the central and peripheral control systems. Cytokines stimulate 5’DA and suppress the synthesis of TTR, causing the drop of retinol-binding protein (RBP) and the leakage of increased amounts of T4 and retinol in free form. TTR and RBP thus work as prohormonal reservoirs of precursor molecules which need to be converted into bioactive derivatives (T3 and retinoic acids) to reach transcriptional efficiency. The converting steps (5’DA and cellular retinol-binding protein-1) are activated to T4 and retinol, themselves operating as limiting factors to positive feedback loops. …The suicidal behavior of TBG, CBG, and IGFBP-3 allows the occurrence of peak endocrine and mitogenic influences at the site of inflammation. The production rate of TTR by the liver is the main determinant of both the hepatic release and blood transport of holoRBP, which explains why poor nutritional status concomitantly impairs thyroid- and retinoid-dependent acute phase responses, hindering the stressed body to appropriately face the survival crisis.  …
abbreviations: TBG, thyroxine-binding globulain; CBG, cortisol-binding globulin; IGFBP-3, insulin growth factor binding protein-3; TTR, transthyretin; RBP, retionol-binding protein.

Why Should Plasma Transthyretin Become a Routine Screening Tool in Elderly Persons? 

Yves Ingenbleek.
J Nutrition, Health & Aging 2009.

The homotetrameric TTR molecule (55 kDa as MM) was first identified in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF).  The initial name of prealbumin (PA)  was assigned based on the electrophoretic migration anodal to albumin. PA was soon recognized as a specific binding protein for thyroid hormone. and also of plasma retinol through the mediation of the small retinol-binding protein (RBP, 21 kDa as MM), which has a circulating half-life half that of TTR (24 h vs 48 h).

There exist at least 3 goos reasons why TTR should become a routine medical screening test in elderly persons.  The first id grounded on the assessment of protein nutritional status that is frequently compromized and may become a life threatening condition.  TTR was proposed as a marker of protein-energy malnutrition (PEM) in 1972. As a result of protein and energy deprivation, TTR hepatic synthesis is suppressed whereas all plasma indispensable amino acids (IAAs) manifest declining trends with the sole exception of methionine (Met) whose concentration usually remains unmodified. By comparison with ALB and transferrin (TF) plasma values, TTR did reveal a much higher degree of reactivity to changes in protein status that has been attributed to its shorter biological half-life and to its unusual tryptophan richness. The predictive ability of outcome offered by TTR is independent of that provided by ALB and TF. Uncomplicated PEM primarily affects the size of body nitrogen (N) pools, allowing reduced protein syntheses to levels compatible with survival.  These adaptiver changes are faithfully identified by the serial measurement of TTR whose reliability has never been disputed in protein-depleted states. On the contrary, the nutritional relevance of TTR has been controverted in acute and chronic inflammatory conditions due to the cytokine-induced transcriptional blockade of liver synthesis which is an obligatory step occurring independently from the prevailing nutritional status. Although PEM and stress ful disorders refer to distinct pathogenic mechanisms, their combined inhibitory effects on TTR liber production fueled a long-lasting strife regarding a poor specificity.  Recent body compositional studies have contributed to disentagling these intermingled morbidities, showing that evolutionary patterns displayed by plasma TTR are closely correlated with the fluctuations of lean body mass (LBM).

The second reason follows from advances describing the unexpected relationship established between TTR and homocysteine (Hcy), a S-containing AA not found in customary diets but resulting from the endogenous transmethylation of dietary methionine.  Hcy may be recycled to Met along a remethylation pathway (RM) or irreversibly degraded throughout the transsulfuration (TS) cascade to relase sulfaturia as end-product. Hcy is thus situated at the crossrad of RM and TS pathways which are in equilibrium keeping plasma Met values unaltered.  Three dietary water soluble B viatamins are implicated in the regulation of the Hcy-Met cycle. Folates (vit B9) are the most powerful agent, working as a supplier of the methyl group required for the RM process whereas cobalamines (vit B12) and pyridoxine (vit B6) operate as cofactors of Met-synthase and cystathionine-β-synthase.  Met synthase promotes the RM pathway whereas the rate-limiting CβS governs the TS degradative cascade. Dietary deficiency in any of the 3 vitamins may upregulate Hcy plasma values, an acquied biochemiucal anomaly increasingly encountered in aged populations.

The third reason refers to recent and fascinating data recorded in neurobiology and emphasizing the specific properties of TTR in the prevention of brain deterioration. TTR participates directly in the maintenance of memory and normal cognitive processes during the aging process by acting on the retinoid signaling pathway.  Moreover, TTR may bind amyloid β peptide in vitro, preventing its transformation into toxic amyloid fibrils and amyloid plaques.  TTR works as a limiting factor for the plasma transport of retinoid, which in turn operates as a limiting determinant of both physiologically active retinoic acid (RA) derivatives, implying that any fluctuation in protein status might well entail corresponding  alterations in cellular bioavailability of retinoid compounds.  Under normal aging circumstances, the concentration of retinoid compounds declines in cerebral tissues together with the downregulation of RA receptor expression. In animal models, depletion of RAs causes the deposition of amyloid-β peptides, favoring the formation of amyloid plaques.

Prealbumin and Nutritional Evaluation

Larry Bernstein, Walter Pleban
Nutrition Apr 1996; 12(4):255-259.

We compressed 16-test-pattern classes of albumin (ALB), cholesterol (CHOL), and total protein (TPR) in 545 chemistry profiles to 4 classes by conveerting decision values to a number code to separate malnourished (1 or 2) from nonmalnourished (NM)(0) patients using as cutoff values for NM (0), mild (1), and moderate (2): ALB 35, 27 g/L; TPR 63, 53 g/L; CHOL 3.9, 2.8 mmol/L; and BUN 9.3, 3.6 mmol/L. The BUN was found to have  to have too low an S-value to make a contribution to the compressed classification. The cutoff values for classifying the data were assigned prior to statistical analysis, after examining information in the structured data. The data was obtained by a natural experiment in which the test profiles routinely done by the laboratory were randomly extracted. The analysis identifies the values used that best classify the data and are not dependent on distributional assumptions. The data were converted to 0, 1, or 2 as outcomes, to create a ternary truth table (eaxch row in nnn, the n value is 0 to 2). This allows for 3(81) possible patterns, without the inclusion of prealbumin (TTR). The emerging system has much fewer patterns in the information-rich truth table formed (a purposeful, far from random event). We added TTR, coded, and examined the data from 129 patients. The classes are a compressed truth table of n-coded patterns with outcomes of 0, 1, or 2 with protein-energy malnutrition (PEM) increasing from an all-0 to all-2 pattern.  Pattern class (F=154), PAB (F=35), ALB (F=56), and CHOL (F=18) were different across PEM class and predicted PEM class (R-sq. = 0.7864, F=119, p < E-5). Kruskall-Wallis analysis of class by ranks was significant for pattern class E-18), TTR (6.1E-15) ALB (E-16), CHOL (9E-10), and TPR (5E-13). The medians and standard error (SEM) for TTR, ALB, and CHOL of four TTR classes (NM, mild, mod, severe) are: TTR = 209, 8.7; 159, 9.3; 137, 10.4; 72, 11.1 mg/L. ALB – 36, 0.7; 30.5, 0.8; 25.0, 0.8; 24.5, 0.8 g/L. CHOL = 4.43, 0.17; 4.04, 0.20; 3.11, 0.21; 2.54, 0.22 mmol/L. TTR and CHOL values show the effect of nutrition support on TTR and CHOL in PEM. Moderately malnourished patients receiving nutrition support have TTR values in the normal range at 137 mg/L and at 159 mg/L when the ALB is at 25 g/L or at 30.5 g/L.

An Informational Approach to Likelihood of Malnutrition 

Larry Bernstein, Thomas Shaw-Stiffel, Lisa Zarney, Walter Pleban.
Nutrition Nov 1996;12(11):772-776.  PII: S0899-9007(96)00222-5.

Unidentified protein-energy malnutrition (PEM) is associated with comorbidities and increased hospital length of stay. We developed a model for identifying severe metabolic stress and likelihood of malnutrition using test patterns of albumin (ALB), cholesterol (CHOL), and total protein (TP) in 545 chemistry profiles…They were compressed to four pattern classes. ALB (F=170), CHOL (F = 21), and TP (F = 5.6) predicted PEM class (R-SQ = 0.806, F= 214; p < E^-6), but pattern class was the best predictor (R-SQ = 0.900, F= 1200, p< E^-10). Ktuskal-Wallis analysis of class by ranks was significant for pattern class (E^18), ALB (E^-18), CHOL (E^-14), TP (@E^-16). The means and SEM for tests in the three PEM classes (mild, mod, severe) were; ALB – 35.7, 0.8; 30.9, 0.5; 24.2, 0.5 g/L. CHOL – 3.93, 0.26; 3.98, 0.16; 3.03, 0.18 µmol/L, and TP – 68.8, 1.7; 60.0, 1.0; 50.6, 1.1 g/L. We classified patients at risk of malnutrition using truth table comprehension.

Downsizing of Lean Body Mass is a Key Determinant of Alzheimer’s Disease

Yves Ingenbleek, Larry Bernstein
J Alzheimer’s Dis 2015; 44: 745-754.

Lean body mass (LBM) encompasses all metabolically active organs distributed into visceral and structural tissue compartments and collecting the bulk of N and K stores of the human body. Transthyretin (TTR)  is a plasma protein mainly secreted by the liver within a trimolecular TTR-RBP-retinol complex revealing from birth to old age strikingly similar evolutionary patterns with LBM in health and disease. TTR is also synthesized by the choroid plexus along distinct regulatory pathways. Chronic dietary methionine (Met) deprivation or cytokine-induced inflammatory disorders generates LBM downsizing following differentiated physiopathological processes. Met-restricted regimens downregulate the transsulfuration cascade causing upstream elevation of homocysteine (Hcy) safeguarding Met homeostasis and downstream drop of hydrogen sulfide (H2S) impairing anti-oxidative capacities. Elderly persons constitute a vulnerable population group exposed to increasing Hcy burden and declining H2S protection, notably in plant-eating communities or in the course of inflammatory illnesses. Appropriate correction of defective protein status and eradication of inflammatory processes may restore an appropriate LBM size allowing the hepatic production of the retinol circulating complex to resume, in contrast with the refractory choroidal TTR secretory process. As a result of improved health status, augmented concentrations of plasma-derived TTR and retinol may reach the cerebrospinal fluid and dismantle senile amyloid plaques, contributing to the prevention or the delay of the onset of neurodegenerative events in elderly subjects at risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Amyloidogenic and non-amyloidogenic transthyretin variants interact differently with human cardiomyocytes: insights into early events of non-fibrillar tissue damage

Pallavi Manral and Natalia Reixach

TTR (transthyretin) amyloidosis are diseases characterized by the aggregation and extracellular deposition of the normally soluble plasma protein TTR. Ex vivo and tissue culture studies suggest that tissue damage precedes TTR fibril deposition, indicating that early events in the amyloidogenic cascade have an impact on disease development. We used a human cardiomyocyte tissue culture model system to define these events. We previously described that the amyloidogenic V122I TTR variant is cytotoxic to human cardiac cells, whereas the naturally occurring, stable and non-amyloidogenic T119M TTR variant is not. We show that most of the V122I TTR interacting with the cells is extracellular and this interaction is mediated by a membraneprotein(s). In contrast, most of the non-amyloidogenic T119M TTR associated with the cells is intracellular where it undergoes lysosomal degradation. The TTR internalization process is highly dependent on membrane cholesterol content. Using a fluorescent labelled V122I TTR variant that has the same aggregation and cytotoxic potential as the native V122I TTR, we determined that its association with human cardiomyocytes is saturable with a KD near 650nM. Only amyloidogenic V122I TTR compete with fluorescent V122I force ll-binding sites. Finally, incubation of the human cardiomyocytes with V122I TTR but not with T119M TTR, generates superoxide species and activates caspase3/7. In summary, our results show that the interaction of the amyloidogenic V122I TTR is distinct from that of a non-amyloidogenic TTR variant and is characterized by its retention at the cell membrane, where it initiates the cytotoxic cascade.

Emerging roles for retinoids in regeneration and differentiation in normal and disease states

Lorraine J. Gudas
Biochimica et Biophysica Acta 1821 (2012) 213–221

The vitamin (retinol) metabolite, all-transretinoic acid (RA), is a signaling molecule that plays key roles in the development of the body plan and induces the differentiation of many types of cells. In this review the physiological and pathophysiological roles of retinoids (retinol and related metabolites) in mature animals are discussed. Both in the developing embryo and in the adult, RA signaling via combinatorial Hoxgene expression is important for cell positional memory. The genes that require RA for the maturation/differentiation of T cells are only beginning to be cataloged, but it is clear that retinoids play a major role in expression of key genes in the immune system. An exciting, recent publication in regeneration research shows that ALDH1a2(RALDH2), which is the rate-limiting enzyme in the production of RA from retinaldehyde, is highly induced shortly after amputation in the regenerating heart, adult fin, and larval fin in zebrafish. Thus, local generation of RA presumably plays a key role in fin formation during both embryogenesis and in fin regeneration. HIV transgenic mice and human patients with HIV-associated kidney disease exhibit a profound reduction in the level of RARβ protein in the glomeruli, and HIV transgenic mice show reduced retinol dehydrogenase levels, concomitant with a greater than 3-fold reduction in endogenous RA levels in the glomeruli. Levels of endogenous retinoids (those synthesized from retinol within cells) are altered in many different diseases in the lung, kidney, and central nervous system, contributing to pathophysiology.

The Membrane Receptor for Plasma Retinol-Binding Protein, A New Type of Cell-Surface Receptor

Hui Sun and Riki Kawaguchi
Intl Review Cell and Molec Biol, 2011; 288:Chap 1. Pp 1:34

Vitamin A is essential for diverse aspects of life ranging from embryogenesis to the proper functioning of most adul torgans. Its derivatives (retinoids) have potent biological activities such as regulating cell growth and differentiation. Plasma retinol-binding protein (RBP) is the specific vitamin A carrier protein in the blood that binds to vitamin A with high affinity and delivers it to target organs. A large amount of evidence has accumulated over the past decades supporting the existence of a cell-surface receptor for RBP that mediates cellular vitamin A uptake. Using an unbiased strategy, this specific cell-surface RBP receptor has been identified as STRA6, a multi-transmembrane domain protein with previously unknown function. STRA6 is not homologous to any protein of known function and represents a new type of cell-surface receptor. Consistent with the diverse functions of vitamin A, STRA6 is widely expressed in embryonic development and in adult organ systems. Mutations in human STRA6 are associated with severe pathological phenotypes in many organs
such as the eye, brain, heart, and lung. STRA6 binds to RBP with high affinity and mediates vitamin A uptake into cells. This review summarizes the history of the RBP receptor research, its expression in the context of known functions of vitamin A in distinct human organs, structure/function analysis of this new type of membrane receptor, pertinent questions regarding its very existence, and its potential implication in treating human diseases.

Choroid plexus dysfunction impairs beta-amyloid clearance in a triple transgenic mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease

Ibrahim González-Marrero, Lydia Giménez-Llort, Conrad E. Johanson, et al.
Front Cell Neurosc  Feb2015; 9(17): 1-10

Compromised secretory function of choroid plexus (CP) and defective cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) production, along with accumulation of beta-amyloid (Aβ) peptides at the blood-CSF barrier (BCSFB), contribute to complications of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). The AD triple transgenic mouse model (3xTg-AD) at 16 month-old mimics critical hallmarks of the human disease: β-amyloid (Aβ) plaques and neurofibrillary tangles (NFT) with a temporal-and regional-specific profile. Currently, little is known about transport and metabolic responses by CP to the disrupted homeostasis of CNS Aβ in AD. This study analyzed the effects of highly-expressed AD-linked human transgenes (APP, PS1 and tau) on lateral ventricle CP function. Confocal imaging and immunohistochemistry revealed an increase only of Aβ42 isoform in epithelial cytosol and in stroma surrounding choroidal capillaries; this buildup may reflect insufficient clearance transport from CSF to blood. Still, there was increased expression, presumably compensatory, of the choroidal Aβ transporters: the low density lipoprotein receptor-related protein1 (LRP1) and the receptor for advanced glycation end product (RAGE). A thickening of the epithelial basal membrane and greater collagen-IV deposition occurred around capillaries in CP, probably curtailing solute exchanges. Moreover, there was attenuated expression of epithelial aquaporin-1 and transthyretin(TTR) protein compared to Non-Tg mice. Collectively these findings indicate CP dysfunction hypothetically linked to increasing Aβ burden resulting in less efficient ion transport, concurrently with reduced production of CSF (less sink action on brain Aβ) and diminished secretion of TTR (less neuroprotection against cortical Aβ toxicity). The putative effects of a disabled CP-CSF system on CNS functions are discussed in the context of AD.

Endoplasmic reticulum: The unfolded protein response is tangled In neurodegeneration

Jeroen J.M. Hoozemans, Wiep Scheper
Intl J Biochem & Cell Biology 44 (2012) 1295–1298

Organelle facts•The ER is involved in the folding and maturation ofmembrane-bound and secreted proteins.•The ER exerts protein quality control to ensure correct folding and to detect and remove misfolded proteins.•Disturbance of ER homeostasis leads to protein misfolding and induces the UPR.•Activation of the UPR is aimed to restore proteostasis via an intricate transcriptional and (post)translational signaling network.•In neurodegenerative diseases classified as tauopathies the activation of the UPR coincides with the pathogenic accumulation of the microtubule associated protein tau.•The involvement of the UPR in tauopathies makes it a potential therapeutic target.

The endoplasmic reticulum (ER) is involved in the folding and maturation of membrane-bound and secreted proteins. Disturbed homeostasis in the ER can lead to accumulation of misfolded proteins, which trigger a stress response called the unfolded protein response (UPR). In neurodegenerative diseases that are classified as tauopathies, activation of the UPR coincides with the pathogenic accumulation of the microtubule associated protein tau. Several lines of evidence indicate that UPR activation contributes to increased levels of phosphorylated tau, a prerequisite for the formation of tau aggregates. Increased understanding of the crosstalk between signaling pathways involved in protein quality control in the ERand tau phosphorylation will support the development of new therapeutic targets that promote neuronal survival.

Chemical and/or biological therapeutic strategies to ameliorate protein misfolding diseases

Derrick Sek Tong Ong and Jeffery W Kelly
Current Opin Cell Biol 2011; 23:231–238

Inheriting a mutant misfolding-prone protein that cannot be efficiently folded in a given cell type(s) results in a spectrum of human loss-of-function misfolding diseases. The inability of the biological protein maturation pathways to adapt to a specific misfolding-prone protein also contributes to pathology. Chemical and biological therapeutic strategies are presented that restore protein homeostasis, or proteostasis, either by enhancing the biological capacity of the proteostasis network or through small molecule stabilization of a specific misfolding-prone protein. Herein, we review the recent literature on therapeutic strategies to ameliorate protein misfolding diseases that function through either of these mechanisms, or a combination thereof, and provide our perspective on the promise of alleviating protein misfolding diseases by taking advantage of proteostasis adaptation.

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Diet and Exercise

Writer and Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP 



In the last several decades there has been a transformation in the diet of Americans, and much debate about obesity, type 2 diabetes mellitus, hyperlipidemia, and the transformation of medical practice to a greater emphasis on preventive medicine. This occurs at a time that the Western countries are experiencing a large portion of the obesity epidemic, which actually diverts attention from a larger share of malnutrition in parts of Africa, Asia, and to a greater extent in India. This does not mean that obesity or malnutrition is exclusively in any parts of the world. But there is a factor at play that involves social factors, poverty, education, cognition, anxiety, and eating behaviors, food preferences and food balance, and activities of daily living. The epidemic of obesity also involves the development of serious long term health problems, such as, type 2 diabetes mellitus, sarcopenia, fracture risk, pulmonary disease, sleep apnea in particular, and cardiovascular and stroke risk. Nevertheless, this generation of Western society is also experiencing a longer life span than its predecessors. In this article I shall explore the published work on diet and exercise.


‘‘Go4Life’’ exercise counseling, accelerometer feedback, and activity levels in older people

Warren G. Thompson, CL Kuhle, GA Koepp, SK McCrady-Spitzer, JA Levine
Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics 58 (2014) 314–319

Older people are more sedentary than other age groups. We sought to determine if providing an accelerometer with feedback about activity and counseling older subjects using Go4Life educational material would increase activity levels. Participants were recruited from independent living areas within assisted living facilities and the general public in the Rochester, MN area. 49 persons aged 65–95(79.5 + 7.0 years) who were ambulatory but sedentary and overweight participated in this randomized controlled crossover trial for one year. After a baseline period of 2 weeks, group 1 received an accelerometer and counseling using Go4Life educational material ( for 24 weeks and accelerometer alone for the next 24 weeks. Group 2 had no intervention for the first 24 weeks and then received an accelerometer and Go4Life based counseling for 24 weeks. There were no significant baseline differences between the two groups. The intervention was not associated with a significant change inactivity, body weight, % body fat, or blood parameters (p > 0.05). Older (80–93) subjects were less active than younger (65–79) subjects (p = 0.003). Over the course of the 48 week study, an increase in activity level was associated with a decline in % body fat (p = 0.008). Increasing activity levels benefits older patients. However, providing an accelerometer and a Go4Life based exercise counseling program did not result in a 15% improvement in activity levels in this elderly population. Alternate approaches to exercise counseling may be needed in elderly people of this age range.

It is generally recommended that older adults be moderately or vigorously active for 150 min each week. A systematic review demonstrated that only 20–60% of older people are achieving this goal. These studies determined adherence to physical activity recommendations by questionnaire. Using NHANES data, it has been demonstrated that older people meet activity recommendations 62% of the time using a self-report questionnaire compared to 9.6% of the time when measured by accelerometry. Thus, objective measures suggest that older people are falling even more short of the goal than previously thought. Most studies have measured moderate and vigorous activity. However, light activity or NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis) also has an important effect on health. For example, increased energy expenditure was associated with lower mortality in community-dwelling older adults. More than half of the extra energy expenditure in the high energy expenditure group came from non-exercise (light) activity. In addition to reduced total mortality, increased light and moderate activity has been associated with better cognitive function, reduced fracture rate (Gregg et al., 1998), less cardiovascular disease, and weight loss in older people. A meta-analysis of middle-aged and older adults has demonstrated greater all-cause mortality with increased sitting time. Thus, any strategy which can increase activity (whether light or more vigorous) has the potential to save lives and improve quality of life for older adults. A variety of devices have been used to measure physical activity.

A tri-axial accelerometer measures movement in three dimensions. Studies comparing tri-axial accelerometers with uniaxial accelerometers and pedometers demonstrate that only certain tri-axial accelerometers provide a reliable assessment of energy expenditure. This is usually due to failure to detect light activity. Since light activity accounts for a substantial portion of older people’s energy expenditure, measuring activity with a questionnaire or measuring steps with a pedometer do not provide an accurate reflection of activity in older people.

A recent review concluded that there is only weak evidence that physical activity can be improved. Since increasing both light and moderate activity benefit older people, studies demonstrating that physical activity can be improved are urgently needed. Since accelerometry is the best way to accurately assess light activity, we performed a study to determine if an activity counseling program and using an accelerometer which gives feedback on physical activity, can result in an increase in light and moderate activity in older people. We also sought to determine whether counseling and accelerometer feedback would result in weight loss, change in % body fat, glucose, hemoglobin A1c, insulin, and fasting lipid profile.

The main results of the study are both the experimental and control group lost weight (about 1 kg) at 6months (p = 0.04 and 0.02, respectively). The experimental group was less active at 6 months but not significantly while the control group was significantly less active at 6 months (p = 0.006) than at baseline. The experimental group had a modest decline in cholesterol (p = 0.03) and an improvement in Get Up & go time (p = 0.03) while the control group had a slight improvement in HgbA1c (p = 0.01). However, the main finding of the study was that there were no differences between the two groups on any of these variables. Thus, providing this group of older participants with an accelerometer and Go4Life based counseling resulted in no increase in physical activity, weight loss or change in glucose, lipids, blood pressure, or body fat. There were no differences within either group or between groups from 6 to 12 months on any of the variables (data not shown). While age was correlated with baseline activity, it did not affect activity change indicating that younger participants did not respond to the program better than older participants. Performance on the Get Up and Go test and season of the year did not influence the change in activity. There were no differences in physical activity levels at 3 or 9 months.

There was a significant correlation (r = -0.38, p = 0.006) between change in activity and change in body fat over the course of the study. Those subjects (whether in the experimental or control group) who increased their activity over the course of the year were likely to have a decline in % body fat over the year while those whose activity declined were likely to have increased %body fat. There was no correlation between change in activity and any of the other parameters including weight and waist circumference (data not shown).

Older adults are the fastest growing segment of the population in the US, but few meet the minimum recommended 30 min of moderate activity on 5 days or more per week (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2002). Our study found that within the geriatric population, activity declines as people age. We saw a 2.4% decline per year cross-sectionally. This finding agrees with a recent cohort study (Bachman et al., 2014). In that study, the annual decline accelerated with increasing age. Thus, there is a need to increase activity particularly in the oldest age groups. The United States Preventive Services Task Force concluded that the evidence that counseling improves physical activity is weak (Moyer and US Preventive Services Task Force, 2012). The American Heart Association reached similar conclusions (Artinian et al., 2010). Thus, new ways of counseling older patients to counter the natural decline in activity with age are urgently needed.

Applying health behavior theory to multiple behavior change: Considerations and approaches

Seth M. Noar, Melissa Chabot, Rick S. Zimmerman
Preventive Medicine 46 (2008) 275–280

Background.There has been a dearth of theorizing in the area of multiple behavior change. The purpose of the current article was to examine how health behavior theory might be applied to the growing research terrain of multiple behavior change. Methods. Three approaches to applying health behavior theory to multiple behavior change are advanced, including searching the literature for potential examples of such applications. Results. These three approaches to multiple behavior change include

(1) a behavior change principles approach;

(2) a global health/behavioral category approach, and

(3) a multiple behavioral approach.

Each approach is discussed and explicated and examples from this emerging literature are provided. Conclusions. Further study in this area has the potential to broaden our understanding of multiple behaviors and multiple behavior change. Implications for additional theory-testing and application of theory to interventions are discussed.

Many of the leading causes of death in the United States are behavior-related and thus preventable. While a number of health behaviors are a concern individually, increasingly the impact of multiple behavioral risks is being appreciated. As newer initiatives funded by the National Institutes of Health and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation begin to stimulate research in this important area, a critical question emerges: How can we understand multiple health behavior change from a theoretical standpoint? While multiple behavior change interventions are beginning to be developed and evaluated, to date there have been few efforts to garner a theory-based understanding of the process of multiple health behavior change. Given that so little theoretical work currently exists in this area, our main purpose is to advance the conversation on how health behavior theory can help us to achieve a greater understanding of multiple behavior change. The approaches discussed have implications for both theory-testing as well as intervention design.

A critical question that must be asked, is whether there is a common set of principles of health behavior change that transcend individual health behaviors. This is an area where much data already exists, as health behavior theories have been tested across numerous health behaviors.The integration of findings from studies across diverse behavioral areas, is not what it could be. Godin and Kok (1996) reviewed studies of the TPB applied to numerous health-related behaviors. Across seven categories of health behaviors, they found TPB components to offer similar prediction of intention but inconsistent prediction of behavior.They concluded that the nature of differing health behaviors may require additional constructs to be added to the TPB, such as actual (versus perceived) behavioral control. Prochaska et al. (1994) examined decisional balance across stages of change for 12 health-related behaviors. Similar patterns were found across nearly all of these health behaviors, with the “pros” of changing generally increasing across the stages, the “cons” decreasing, and a pro/con crossover occurring in the contemplation or preparation stages of change. Prochaska et al. (1994) concluded that clear commonalties exist across these differing health behaviors which were examined in differing samples. Finally, Rosen (2000) examined change processes from the TTM across six behavioral categories, examining whether the trajectory of change processes is similar or different across stages of change in those health areas. He found that for smoking cessation, cognitive change processes were used more in earlier stages of change than behavioral processes, while for physical activity and dietary change, both categories of change processes increased together.

A second approach is the following: Rather than applying theoretical concepts to specific behaviors, such concepts might be applied at the general or global level. A general orientation toward health may not lead directly to specific health behaviors, but it may increase the chances of particular health-related attitudes, which may in turn lead to specific health behaviors. In fact, although Ajzen and Timko (1986) found general health attitudes to be poor predictors of behavior, such attitudes were significantly related to specific health attitudes and perceived behavioral control over specific behaviors. It is likely that when we consider multiple behaviors that we may discover an entire network of health attitudes and beliefs that are interrelated. In fact, studies of single behaviors essentially take those behaviors out of the multi-attitude and multi-behavioral context in which they are embedded. For instance, although attitudes toward walking may be a better predictor of walking behavior than attitudes toward physical activity, walking behavior is part of a larger “physical activity” behavioral category. While predicting that particular behavior may be best served by the specific measure, the larger category is both relevant and of interest. Thus, it may be that there are higher order constructs to be understood here.

A third approach is a multiple behavioral approach, or one which focuses on the linkages among health behaviors. It shares some similarities to the approach just described. Here the focus is more strictly on how particular  interventions were superior to comparison groups for 21 of 41 (51%) studies (3 physical activity, 7 diet, 11 weight loss/physical activity and diet). Twenty-four studies had indeterminate results, and in four studies the comparison conditions outperformed eHealth interventions. Conclusions: Published studies of eHealth interventions for physical activity and dietary behavior change are in their infancy. Results indicated mixed findings related to the effectiveness of eHealth interventions. Interventions that feature interactive technologies need to be refined and more rigorously evaluated to fully determine their potential as tools to facilitate health behavior change.


A prospective evaluation of the Transtheoretical Model of Change applied to exercise in young people 

Patrick Callaghan, Elizabeth Khalil, Ioannis Morres
Intl J Nursing Studies 47 (2010) 3–12

Objectives:To investigate the utility of the Transtheoretical Model of Change in predicting exercise in young people. Design: A prospective study: assessments were done at baseline and follow-up 6 months later. Method: Using stratified random sampling 1055 Chinese high school pupils living in Hong Kong, 533 of who were followed up at 6 months, completed measures of stage of change (SCQ), self-efficacy (SEQ), perceptions of the pros and cons of exercising (DBQ) and processes of change (PCQ). Data were analyzed using one-way ANOVA, repeated measures ANOVA and independent sample t tests.
Results:The utility of the TTM to predict exercise in this population is not strong; increases in self-efficacy and decisional balance discriminated between those remaining active at baseline and follow-up, but not in changing from an inactive (e.g.,Precontemplation or Contemplation) to an active state (e.g.,Maintenance) as one would anticipate given the staging algorithm of the TTM.
Conclusion:The TTM is a modest predictor of future stage of change for exercise in young Chinese people. Where there is evidence that TTM variables may shape movement over time, self-efficacy, pros and behavioral processes of change appear to be the strongest predictors


A retrospective study on changes in residents’ physical activities, social interactions, and neighborhood cohesion after moving to a walkable community

Xuemei Zhu,Chia-Yuan Yu, Chanam Lee, Zhipeng Lu, George Mann
Preventive Medicine 69 (2014) S93–S97

Objective. This study is to examine changes in residents’ physical activities, social interactions, andneighbor-hood cohesion after they moved to a walkable community in Austin, Texas.
Methods. Retrospective surveys (N=449) were administered in 2013–2014 to collect pre-and post-move data about the outcome variables and relevant personal, social, and physical environmental factors. Walkability of each resident’s pre-move community was measured using the Walk Score. T tests were used to examine the pre–post move differences in the outcomes in the whole sample and across subgroups with different physical activity levels, neighborhood conditions, and neighborhood preferences before the move. Results. After the move, total physical activity increased significantly in the whole sample and all subgroups except those who were previously sufficiently active; lived in communities with high walkability, social interactions, or neighborhood cohesion; or had moderate preference for walkable neighborhoods. Walking in the community increased in the whole sample and all subgroups except those who were previously sufficiently active, moved from high-walkability communities, or had little to no preference for walkable neighborhoods. Social interactions and neighborhood cohesion increased significantly after the move in the whole sample and all subgroups.
Conclusion.This study explored potential health benefits of a walkable community in promoting physically and socially active lifestyles, especially for populations at higher risk of obesity. The initial result is promising, suggesting the need for more work to further examine the relationships between health and community design using pre–post assessments.


Application of the transtheoretical model to identify psychological constructs influencing exercise behavior: A questionnaire survey

Young-Ho Kim
Intl J Nursing Studies 44 (2007) 936–944

Background: Current research on exercise behavior has largely been attempted to identify the relationship between psychological attributes and the initiation or adherence of exercise behavior based on psychological theories. A limited data are available on the psychological predictors of exercise behavior in public health. Objectives: The present study examined the theorized association of TTM of behavior change constructs by stage of change for exercise behavior. Methods: A total of 228 college students selected from 2 universities in Seoul were surveyed. Four Korean-version questionnaires were used to identify the stage of exercise behavior and psychological attributes of adolescents. Data were analyzed by frequency analysis, MANOVA, correlation analysis, and discriminant function analysis.
Results: Multivariate F-test indicated that behavioral and cognitive processes of change, exercise efficacy, and pros differentiated participants across the stages of exercise behavior. Furthermore, exercise behavior was significantly correlated with the TTM constructs, and that overall classification accuracy across the stages of change was 61.0%. Conclusions:The present study supports the internal and external validity of the Transtheoretical Model for explaining exercise behavior. As this study highlights, dissemination must increase awareness but also influences perceptions regarding theoretically based and practically important exercise strategies for public health professionals.



Does more education lead to better health habits? Evidence from the school reforms in Australia?

Jinhu Li, Nattavudh Powdthavee
Social Science & Medicine 127 (2015) 83-91

The current study provides new empirical evidence on the causal effect of education on health-related behaviors by exploiting historical changes in the compulsory schooling laws in Australia. Since World War II, Australian states increased the minimum school leaving age from 14 to 15 in different years. Using differences in the laws regarding minimum school leaving age across different cohorts and across different states as a source of exogenous variation in education, we show that more education improves people’s diets and their tendency to engage in more regular exercise and drinking moderately, but not necessarily their tendency to avoid smoking and to engage in more preventive health checks. The improvements in health behaviors are also reflected in the estimated positive effect of education on some health outcomes. Our results are robust to alternative measures of education and different estimation methods.

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Neonatal Pathophysiology

Neonatal Pathophysiology

Writer and Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP 



This curation deals with a large and specialized branch of medicine that grew since the mid 20th century in concert with the developments in genetics and as a result of a growing population, with large urban populations, increasing problems of premature deliveries.  The problems of prematurity grew very preterm to very low birth weight babies with special problems.  While there were nurseries, the need for intensive care nurseries became evident in the 1960s, and the need for perinatal care of pregnant mothers also grew as a result of metabolic problems of the mother, intrauterine positioning of the fetus, and increasing numbers of teen age pregnancies as well as nutritional problems of the mother.  There was also a period when the manufacturers of nutritional products displaced the customary use of breast feeding, which was consequential.  This discussion is quite comprehensive, as it involves a consideration of the heart, the lungs, the brain, and the liver, to a large extent, and also the kidneys and skeletal development.

It is possible to outline, with a proportionate emphasis based on frequency and severity, this as follows:

  1. Genetic and metabolic diseases
  2. Nervous system
  3. Cardiovascular
  4. Pulmonary
  5. Skeletal – bone and muscle
  6. Hematological
  7. Liver
  8. Esophagus, stomach, and intestines
  9. Kidneys
  10. Immune system

Fetal Development

Gestation is the period of time between conception and birth when a baby grows and develops inside the mother’s womb. Because it’s impossible to know exactly when conception occurs, gestational age is measured from the first day of the mother’s last menstrual cycle to the current date. It is measured in weeks. A normal gestation lasts anywhere from 37 to 41 weeks.

Week 5 is the start of the “embryonic period.” This is when all the baby’s major systems and structures develop. The embryo’s cells multiply and start to take on specific functions. This is called differentiation. Blood cells, kidney cells, and nerve cells all develop. The embryo grows rapidly, and the baby’s external features begin to form.

Week 6-9:   Brain forms into five different areas. Some cranial nerves are visible. Eyes and ears begin to form. Tissue grows that will the baby’s spine and other bones. Baby’s heart continues to grow and now beats at a regular rhythm. Blood pumps through the main vessels. Your baby’s brain continues to grow. The lungs start to form. Limbs look like paddles. Essential organs begin to grow.

Weeks 11-18: Limbs extended. Baby makes sucking motion. Movement of limbs. Liver and pancreas produce secretions. Muscle and bones developing.

Week 19-21: Baby can hear. Mom feels baby – and quickening.



Inherited Metabolic Disorders

The original cause of most genetic metabolic disorders is a gene mutation that occurred many, many generations ago. The gene mutation is passed along through the generations, ensuring its preservation.

Each inherited metabolic disorder is quite rare in the general population. Considered all together, inherited metabolic disorders may affect about 1 in 1,000 to 2,500 newborns. In certain ethnic populations, such as Ashkenazi Jews (Jews of central and eastern European ancestry), the rate of inherited metabolic disorders is higher.

Hundreds of inherited metabolic disorders have been identified, and new ones continue to be discovered. Some of the more common and important genetic metabolic disorders include:

Lysosomal storage disorders : Lysosomes are spaces inside cells that break down waste products of metabolism. Various enzyme deficiencies inside lysosomes can result in buildup of toxic substances, causing metabolic disorders including:

  • Hurler syndrome (abnormal bone structure and developmental delay)
  • Niemann-Pick disease (babies develop liver enlargement, difficulty feeding, and nerve damage)
  • Tay-Sachs disease (progressive weakness in a months-old child, progressing to severe nerve damage; the child usually lives only until age 4 or 5)
  • Gauchers disease and others

Galactosemia: Impaired breakdown of the sugar galactose leads to jaundice, vomiting, and liver enlargement after breast or formula feeding by a newborn.

Maple syrup urine disease: Deficiency of an enzyme called BCKD causes buildup of amino acids in the body. Nerve damage results, and the urine smells like syrup.

Phenylketonuria (PKU): Deficiency of the enzyme PAH results in high levels of phenylalanine in the blood. Mental retardation results if the condition is not recognized.

Glycogen storage diseases: Problems with sugar storage lead to low blood sugar levels, muscle pain, and weakness.

Metal metabolism disorders: Levels of trace metals in the blood are controlled by special proteins. Inherited metabolic disorders can result in protein malfunction and toxic accumulation of metal in the body:

Wilson disease (toxic copper levels accumulate in the liver, brain, and other organs)

Hemochromatosis (the intestines absorb excessive iron, which builds up in the liver, pancreas, joints, and heart, causing damage)

Organic acidemias: methylmalonic acidemia and propionic acidemia.

Urea cycle disorders: ornithine transcarbamylase deficiency and citrullinemia

Hemoglobinopathies – thalassemias, sickle cell disease

Red cell enzyme disorders – glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase, pyruvate kinase

This list is by no means complete.

New variations in the galactose-1-phosphate uridyltransferase (GALT) gene

Clinical and molecular spectra in galactosemic patients from neonatal screening in northeastern Italy: Structural and functional characterization of new variations in the galactose-1-phosphate uridyltransferase (GALT) gene

E Viggiano, A Marabotti, AP Burlina, C Cazzorla, MR D’Apice, et al.
Gene 559 (2015) 112–118
Galactosemia (OMIM 230400) is a rare autosomal recessive inherited disorder caused by deficiency of galactose-1-phosphate uridyltransferase (GALT; OMIM 606999) activity. The incidence of galactosemia is 1 in 30,000–60,000, with a prevalence of 1 in 47,000 in the white population. Neonates with galactosemia can present acute symptoms, such as severe hepatic and renal failure, cataract and sepsis after milk introduction. Dietary restriction of galactose determines the clinical improvement in these patients. However, despite early diagnosis by neonatal screening and dietary treatment, a high percentage of patients develop long-term complications such as cognitive disability, speech problems, neurological and/or movement disorders and, in females, ovarian dysfunction.

With the benefit of early diagnosis by neonatal screening and early therapy, the acute presentation of classical galactosemia can be prevented. The objectives of the current study were to report our experience with a group of galactosemic patients identified through the neonatal screening programs in northeastern Italy during the last 30 years.

No neonatal deaths due to galactosemia complications occurred after the introduction of the neonatal screening program. However, despite the early diagnosis and dietary treatment, the patients with classical galactosemia showed one or more long-term complications.

A total of 18 different variations in the GALT gene were found in the patient cohort: 12 missense, 2 frameshift, 1 nonsense, 1 deletion, 1 silent variation, and 1 intronic. Six (p.R33P, p.G83V, p.P244S, p.L267R, p.L267V, p.E271D) were new variations. The most common variation was p.Q188R (12 alleles, 31.5%), followed by p.K285N (6 alleles, 15.7%) and p.N314D (6 alleles, 15.7%). The other variations comprised 1 or 2 alleles. In the patients carrying a new mutation, the biochemical analysis of GALT activity in erythrocytes showed an activity of < 1%. In silico analysis (SIFT, PolyPhen-2 and the computational analysis on the static protein structure) showed potentially damaging effects of the six new variations on the GALT protein, thus expanding the genetic spectrum of GALT variations in Italy. The study emphasizes the difficulty in establishing a genotype–phenotype correlation in classical galactosemia and underlines the importance of molecular diagnostic testing prior to making any treatment.

Diagnosis and Management of Hereditary Hemochromatosis

Reena J. Salgia, Kimberly Brown
Clin Liver Dis 19 (2015) 187–198

Hereditary hemochromatosis (HH) is a diagnosis most commonly made in patients with elevated iron indices (transferrin saturation and ferritin), and HFE genetic mutation testing showing C282Y homozygosity.

The HFE mutation is believed to result in clinical iron overload through altering hepcidin levels resulting in increased iron absorption.

The most common clinical complications of HH include cirrhosis, diabetes, nonischemic cardiomyopathy, and hepatocellular carcinoma.

Liver biopsy should be performed in patients with HH if the liver enzymes are elevated or serum ferritin is greater than 1000 mg/L. This is useful to determine the degree of iron overload and stage the fibrosis.

Treatment of HH with clinical iron overload involves a combination of phlebotomy and/or chelation therapy. Liver transplantation should be considered for patients with HH-related decompensated cirrhosis.

Health economic evaluation of plasma oxysterol screening in the diagnosis of Niemann–Pick Type C disease among intellectually disabled using discrete event simulation

CDM van Karnebeek, Tima Mohammadi, Nicole Tsaod, Graham Sinclair, et al.
Molecular Genetics and Metabolism 114 (2015) 226–232

Background: Recently a less invasive method of screening and diagnosing Niemann–Pick C (NP-C) disease has emerged. This approach involves the use of a metabolic screening test (oxysterol assay) instead of the current practice of clinical assessment of patients suspected of NP-C (review of medical history, family history and clinical examination for the signs and symptoms). Our objective is to compare costs and outcomes of plasma oxysterol screening versus current practice in diagnosis of NP-C disease among intellectually disabled (ID) patients using decision-analytic methods.
Methods: A discrete event simulation model was conducted to follow ID patients through the diagnosis and treatment of NP-C, forecast the costs and effectiveness for a cohort of ID patients and compare the outcomes and costs in two different arms of the model: plasma oxysterol screening and routine diagnosis procedure (anno 2013) over 5 years of follow up. Data from published sources and clinical trials were used in simulation model. Unit costs and quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs) were discounted at a 3% annual rate in the base case analysis. Deterministic and probabilistic sensitivity analyses were conducted.
Results: The outcomes of the base case model showed that using plasma oxysterol screening for diagnosis of NP-C disease among ID patients is a dominant strategy. It would result in lower total cost and would slightly improve patients’ quality of life. The average amount of cost saving was $3642 CAD and the incremental QALYs per each individual ID patient in oxysterol screening arm versus current practice of diagnosis NP-C was 0.0022 QALYs. Results of sensitivity analysis demonstrated robustness of the outcomes over the wide range of changes in model inputs.
Conclusion: Whilst acknowledging the limitations of this study, we conclude that screening ID children and adolescents with oxysterol tests compared to current practice for the diagnosis of NP-C is a dominant strategy with clinical and economic benefits. The less costly, more sensitive and specific oxysterol test has potential to save costs to the healthcare system while improving patients’ quality of life and may be considered as a routine tool in the NP-C diagnosis armamentarium for ID. Further research is needed to elucidate its effectiveness in patients presenting characteristics other than ID in childhood and adolescence.

Neurological and Behavioral Disorders

Estrogen receptor signaling during vertebrate development

Maria Bondesson, Ruixin Hao, Chin-Yo Lin, Cecilia Williams, Jan-Åke Gustafsson
Biochimica et Biophysica Acta 1849 (2015) 142–151

Estrogen receptors are expressed and their cognate ligands produced in all vertebrates, indicative of important and conserved functions. Through evolution estrogen has been involved in controlling reproduction, affectingboth the development of reproductive organs and reproductive behavior. This review broadly describes the synthesis of estrogens and the expression patterns of aromatase and the estrogen receptors, in relation to estrogen functions in the developing fetus and child. We focus on the role of estrogens for the development of reproductive tissues, as well as non-reproductive effects on the developing brain. We collate data from human, rodent, bird and fish studies and highlight common and species-specific effects of estrogen signaling on fetal development. Morphological malformations originating from perturbed estrogen signaling in estrogen receptor and aromatase knockout mice are discussed, as well as the clinical manifestations of rare estrogen receptor alpha and aromatase gene mutations in humans. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Nuclear receptors in animal development.


Memory function and hippocampal volumes in preterm born very-low-birth-weight (VLBW) young adults

Synne Aanes, Knut Jørgen Bjuland, Jon Skranes, Gro C.C. Løhaugen
NeuroImage 105 (2015) 76–83

The hippocampi are regarded as core structures for learning and memory functions, which is important for daily functioning and educational achievements. Previous studies have linked reduction in hippocampal volume to working memory problems in very low birth weight (VLBW; ≤1500 g) children and reduced general cognitive ability in VLBW adolescents. However, the relationship between memory function and hippocampal volume has not been described in VLBW subjects reaching adulthood. The aim of the study was to investigate memory function and hippocampal volume in VLBW young adults, both in relation to perinatal risk factors and compared to term born controls, and to look for structure–function relationships. Using Wechsler Memory Scale-III and MRI, we included 42 non-disabled VLBW and 61 control individuals at age 19–20 years, and related our findings to perinatal risk factors in the VLBW-group. The VLBW young adults achieved lower scores on several subtests of the Wechsler Memory Scale-III, resulting in lower results in the immediate memory indices (visual and auditory), the working memory index, and in the visual delayed and general memory delayed indices, but not in the auditory delayed and auditory recognition delayed indices. The VLBW group had smaller absolute and relative hippocampal volumes than the controls. In the VLBW group inferior memory function, especially for the working memory index, was related to smaller hippocampal volume, and both correlated with lower birth weight and more days in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Our results may indicate a structural–functional relationship in the VLBW group due to aberrant hippocampal development and functioning after preterm birth.

The relation of infant attachment to attachment and cognitive and behavioural outcomes in early childhood

Yan-hua Ding, Xiu Xua, Zheng-yan Wang, Hui-rong Li, Wei-ping Wang
Early Human Development 90 (2014) 459–464

Background: In China, research on the relation of mother–infant attachment to children’s development is scarce.
Aims: This study sought to investigate the relation of mother–infant attachment to attachment, cognitive and behavioral development in young children.                                                                                                                            Study design: This study used a longitudinal study design.
Subjects: The subjects included healthy infants (n=160) aged 12 to 18 months.
Outcome measures: Ainsworth’s “Strange Situation Procedure” was used to evaluate mother–infant attachment types. The attachment Q-set (AQS) was used to evaluate the attachment between young children and their mothers. The Bayley scale of infant development-second edition (BSID-II) was used to evaluate cognitive developmental level in early childhood. Achenbach’s child behavior checklist (CBCL) for 2- to 3-year-oldswas used to investigate behavioral problems.
Results: In total, 118 young children (73.8%) completed the follow-up; 89.7% of infants with secure attachment and 85.0% of infants with insecure attachment still demonstrated this type of attachment in early childhood (κ = 0.738, p b 0.05). Infants with insecure attachment collectively exhibited a significantly lower mental development index (MDI) in early childhood than did infants with secure attachment, especially the resistant type. In addition, resistant infants were reported to have greater social withdrawal, sleep problems and aggressive behavior in early childhood.
Conclusion: There is a high consistency in attachment development from infancy to early childhood. Secure mother–infant attachment predicts a better cognitive and behavioral outcome; whereas insecure attachment, especially the resistant attachment, may lead to a lower cognitive level and greater behavioral problems in early childhood.

representations of the HPA axis

representations of the HPA axis

representations of limbic stress-integrative pathways from the prefrontal cortex, amygdala and hippocampus

representations of limbic stress-integrative pathways from the prefrontal cortex, amygdala and hippocampus

Fetal programming of schizophrenia: Select mechanisms

Monojit Debnatha, Ganesan Venkatasubramanian, Michael Berk
Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews 49 (2015) 90–104

Mounting evidence indicates that schizophrenia is associated with adverse intrauterine experiences. An adverse or suboptimal fetal environment can cause irreversible changes in brain that can subsequently exert long-lasting effects through resetting a diverse array of biological systems including endocrine, immune and nervous. It is evident from animal and imaging studies that subtle variations in the intrauterine environment can cause recognizable differences in brain structure and cognitive functions in the offspring. A wide variety of environmental factors may play a role in precipitating the emergent developmental dysregulation and the consequent evolution of psychiatric traits in early adulthood by inducing inflammatory, oxidative and nitrosative stress (IO&NS) pathways, mitochondrial dysfunction, apoptosis, and epigenetic dysregulation. However, the precise mechanisms behind such relationships and the specificity of the risk factors for schizophrenia remain exploratory. Considering the paucity of knowledge on fetal programming of schizophrenia, it is timely to consolidate the recent advances in the field and put forward an integrated overview of the mechanisms associated with fetal origin of schizophrenia.

NMDA receptor dysfunction in autism spectrum disorders

Eun-Jae Lee, Su Yeon Choi and Eunjoon Kim
Current Opinion in Pharmacology 2015, 20:8–13

Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) represent neurodevelopmental disorders characterized by two core symptoms;

(1)  impaired social interaction and communication, and
(2)  restricted and repetitive behaviors, interests, and activities.

ASDs affect ~ 1% of the population, and are considered to be highly genetic in nature. A large number (~600) of ASD-related genetic variations have been identified (, and target gene functions are apparently quite diverse. However, some fall onto common pathways, including synaptic function and chromosome remodeling, suggesting that core mechanisms may exist.

Abnormalities and imbalances in neuronal excitatory and inhibitory synapses have been implicated in diverse neuropsychiatric disorders including autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). Increasing evidence indicates that dysfunction of NMDA receptors (NMDARs) at excitatory synapses is associated with ASDs. In support of this, human ASD-associated genetic variations are found in genes encoding NMDAR subunits. Pharmacological enhancement or suppression of NMDAR function ameliorates ASD symptoms in humans. Animal models of ASD display bidirectional NMDAR dysfunction, and correcting this deficit rescues ASD-like behaviors. These findings suggest that deviation of NMDAR function in either direction contributes to the development of ASDs, and that correcting NMDAR dysfunction has therapeutic potential for ASDs.

Among known synaptic proteins implicated in ASD are metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluRs). Functional enhancement and suppression of mGluR5 are associated with fragile X syndrome and tuberous sclerosis, respectively, which share autism as a common phenotype. More recently, ionotropic glutamate receptors, namely NMDA receptors (NMDARs) and AMPA receptors (AMPARs), have also been implicated in ASDs. In this review, we will focus on NMDA receptors and summarize evidence supporting the hypothesis that NMDAR dysfunction contributes to ASDs, and, by extension, that correcting NMDAR dysfunction has therapeutic potential for ASDs. ASD-related human NMDAR genetic variants.

Chemokines roles within the hippocampus

Chemokines roles within the hippocampus

IL-1 mediates stress-induced activation of the HPA axis

IL-1 mediates stress-induced activation of the HPA axis

A systemic model of the beneficial role of immune processes in behavioral and neural plasticity

A systemic model of the beneficial role of immune processes in behavioral and neural plasticity

Three Classes of Glutamate Receptors

Three Classes of Glutamate Receptors

Clinical studies on ASDs have identified genetic variants of NMDAR subunit genes. Specifically, de novo mutations have been identified in the GRIN2B gene, encoding the GluN2B subunit. In addition, SNP analyses have linked both GRIN2A (GluN2A subunit) and GRIN2B with ASDs. Because assembled NMDARs contain four subunits, each with distinct properties, ASD-related GRIN2A/ GRIN2B variants likely alter the functional properties of NMDARs and/or NMDAR-dependent plasticity.

Pharmacological modulation of NMDAR function can improve ASD symptoms. D-cycloserine (DCS), an NMDAR agonist, significantly ameliorates social withdrawal and repetitive behavior in individuals with ASD. These results suggest that reduced NMDAR function may contribute to the development of ASDs in humans.

We can divide animal studies into two groups. The first group consists of animals in which NMDAR modulators were shown to normalize both NMDAR dysfunction and ASD-like behaviors, establishing strong association between NMDARs and ASD phenotypes (Fig.). In the second group, NMDAR modulators were shown to rescue ASD-like behaviors, but NMDAR dysfunction and its correction have not been demonstrated.

ASD models with data showing rescue of both NMDAR dysfunction and ASD like behaviors Mice lacking neuroligin-1, an excitatory postsynaptic adhesion molecule, show reduced NMDAR function in the hippocampus and striatum, as evidenced by a decrease in NMDA/AMPA ratio and long-term potentiation (LTP). Neuroligin-1 is thought to enhance synaptic NMDAR function, by directly interacting with and promoting synaptic localization of NMDARs.

Fig not shown.

Bidirectional NMDAR dysfunction in animal models of ASD. Animal models of ASD with bidirectional NMDAR dysfunction can be positioned on either side of an NMDAR function curve. Model animals were divided into two groups.

Group 1: NMDAR modulators normalize both NMDAR dysfunction and ASD-like behaviors (green).

Group 2: NMDAR modulators rescue ASD-like behaviors, but NMDAR dysfunction and its rescue have not been demonstrated (orange). Note that Group 2 animals are tentatively placed on the left-hand side of the slope based on the observed DCS rescue of their ASD-like phenotypes, but the directions of their NMDAR dysfunctions remain to be experimentally determined.

ASD models with data showing rescue of ASD-like behaviors but no demonstrated NMDAR dysfunction

Tbr1 is a transcriptional regulator, one of whose targets is the gene encoding the GluN2B subunit of NMDARs. Mice haploinsufficient for Tbr1 (Tbr1+/-) show structural abnormalities in the amygdala and limited GluN2B induction upon behavioral stimulation. Both systemic injection and local amygdalar infusion of DCS rescue social deficits and impaired associative memory in Tbr1+/- mice. However, reduced NMDAR function and its DCS-dependent correction have not been demonstrated.

Spatial working memory and attention skills are predicted by maternal stress during pregnancy

André Plamondon, Emis Akbari, Leslie Atkinson, Meir Steiner
Early Human Development 91 (2015) 23–29

Introduction: Experimental evidence in rodents shows that maternal stress during pregnancy (MSDP) negatively impacts spatial learning and memory in the offspring. We aim to investigate the association between MSDP (i.e., life events) and spatial working memory, as well as attention skills (attention shifting and attention focusing), in humans. The moderating roles of child sex, maternal anxiety during pregnancy and postnatal care are also investigated.  Methods: Participants were 236mother–child dyads that were followed from the second trimester of pregnancy until 4 years postpartum. Measurements included questionnaires and independent observations.
Results: MSDP was negatively associated with attention shifting at 18monthswhen concurrent maternal anxiety was low. MSDP was associated with poorer spatial working memory at 4 years of age, but only for boys who experienced poorer postnatal care.
Conclusion: Consistent with results observed in rodents, MSDP was found to be associated with spatial working memory and attention skills. These results point to postnatal care and maternal anxiety during pregnancy as potential targets for interventions that aim to buffer children from the detrimental effects of MSDP.

Acute and massive bleeding from placenta previa and infants’ brain damage

Ken Furuta, Shuichi Tokunaga, Seishi Furukawa, Hiroshi Sameshima
Early Human Development 90 (2014) 455–458

Background: Among the causes of third trimester bleeding, the impact of placenta previa on cerebral palsy is not well known.
Aims: To clarify the effect ofmaternal bleeding fromplacenta previa on cerebral palsy, and in particular when and how it occurs.
Study design: A descriptive study.
Subjects: Sixty infants born to mothers with placenta previa in our regional population-based study of 160,000 deliveries from 1998 to 2012. Premature deliveries occurring atb26 weeks of gestation and placenta accrete were excluded.
Outcome measures: Prevalence of cystic periventricular leukomalacia (PVL) and cerebral palsy (CP).
Results: Five infants had PVL and 4 of these infants developed CP (1/40,000 deliveries). Acute and massive bleeding (>500 g) within 8 h) occurred at around 30–31 weeks of gestation, and was severe enough to deliver the fetus. None of the 5 infants with PVL underwent antenatal corticosteroid treatment, and 1 infant had mild neonatal hypocapnia with a PaCO2 < 25 mm Hg. However, none of the 5 PVL infants showed umbilical arterial academia with pH < 7.2, an abnormal fetal heart rate monitoring pattern, or neonatal hypotension.
Conclusions: Our descriptive study showed that acute and massive bleeding from placenta previa at around 30 weeks of gestation may be a risk factor for CP, and requires careful neonatal follow-up. The underlying process connecting massive placental bleeding and PVL requires further investigation.

Impact of bilirubin-induced neurologic dysfunction on neurodevelopmental outcomes

Courtney J. Wusthoff, Irene M. Loe
Seminars in Fetal & Neonatal Medicine 20 (2015) 52e57

Extreme neonatal hyperbilirubinemia has long been known to cause the clinical syndrome of kernicterus, or chronic bilirubin encephalopathy (CBE). Kernicterus most usually is characterized by choreoathetoid cerebral palsy (CP), impaired upward gaze, and sensorineural hearing loss, whereas cognition is relatively spared. The chronic condition of kernicterus may be, but is not always, preceded in the acute stage by acute bilirubin encephalopathy (ABE). This acute neonatal condition is also due to hyperbilirubinemia, and is characterized by lethargy and abnormal behavior, evolving to frank neonatal encephalopathy, opisthotonus, and seizures. Less completely defined is the syndrome of bilirubin-induced neurologic dysfunction (BIND).

Bilirubin-induced neurologic dysfunction (BIND) is the constellation of neurologic sequelae following milder degrees of neonatal hyperbilirubinemia than are associated with kernicterus. Clinically, BIND may manifest after the neonatal period as developmental delay, cognitive impairment, disordered executive function, and behavioral and psychiatric disorders. However, there is controversy regarding the relative contribution of neonatal hyperbilirubinemia versus other risk factors to the development of later neurodevelopmental disorders in children with BIND. In this review, we focus on the empiric data from the past 25 years regarding neurodevelopmental outcomes and BIND, including specific effects on developmental delay, cognition, speech and language development, executive function, and the neurobehavioral disorders, such as attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and autism.

As noted in a technical report by the American Academy of Pediatrics Subcommittee on Hyperbilirubinemia, “it is apparent that the use of a single total serum bilirubin level to predict long-term outcomes is inadequate and will lead to conflicting results”. As described above, this has certainly been the case in research to date. To clarify how hyperbilirubinemia influences neurodevelopmental outcome, more sophisticated consideration is needed both of how to assess bilirubin exposure leading to neurotoxicity, and of those comorbid conditions which may lower the threshold for brain injury.

For example, premature infants are known to be especially susceptible to bilirubin neurotoxicity, with kernicterus reported following TB levels far lower than the threshold expected in term neonates. Similarly, among extremely preterm neonates, BBC is proportional to gestational age, meaning that the most premature infants have the highest UB, even for similar TB levels. Thus, future studies must be adequately powered to examine preterm infants separately from term infants, and should consider not just peak TB, but also BBC, as independent variables in neonates with hyperbilirubinemia. Similarly, an analysis by the NICHD NRN found that, among ELBW infants, higher UB levels were associated with a higher risk of death or NDI. However, increased TB levels were only associated with death or NDI in unstable infants. Again, UB or BBC appeared to be more useful than TB.

Are the neuromotor disabilities of bilirubin-induced neurologic dysfunction disorders related to the cerebellum and its connections?

Jon F. Watchko, Michael J. Painter, Ashok Panigrahy
Seminars in Fetal & Neonatal Medicine 20 (2015) 47e51

Investigators have hypothesized a range of subcortical neuropathology in the genesis of bilirubin induced neurologic dysfunction (BIND). The current review builds on this speculation with a specific focus on the cerebellum and its connections in the development of the subtle neuromotor disabilities of BIND. The focus on the cerebellum derives from the following observations:
(i) the cerebellum is vulnerable to bilirubin-induced injury; perhaps the most vulnerable region within the central nervous system;
(ii) infants with cerebellar injury exhibit a neuromotor phenotype similar to BIND; and                                                       (iii) the cerebellum has extensive bidirectional circuitry projections to motor and non-motor regions of the brain-stem and cerebral cortex that impact a variety of neurobehaviors.
Future study using advanced magnetic resonance neuroimaging techniques have the potential to shed new insights into bilirubin’s effect on neural network topology via both structural and functional brain connectivity measurements.

Bilirubin-induced neurologic damage is most often thought of in terms of severe adverse neuromotor (dystonia with or without athetosis) and auditory (hearing impairment or deafness) sequelae. Observed together, they comprise the classic neurodevelopmental phenotype of chronic bilirubin encephalopathy or kernicterus, and may also be seen individually as motor or auditory predominant subtypes. These injuries reflect both a predilection of bilirubin toxicity for neurons (relative to glial cells) and the regional topography of bilirubin-induced neuronal damage characterized by prominent involvement of the globus pallidus, subthalamic nucleus, VIII cranial nerve, and cochlear nucleus.

It is also asserted that bilirubin neurotoxicity may be associated with other less severe neurodevelopmental disabilities, a condition termed “subtle kernicterus” or “bilirubin-induced neurologic dysfunction” (BIND). BIND is defined by a constellation of “subtle neurodevelopmental disabilities without the classical findings of kernicterus that, after careful evaluation and exclusion of other possible etiologies, appear to be due to bilirubin neurotoxicity”. These purportedly include:

(i) mild-to-moderate disorders of movement (e.g., incoordination, clumsiness, gait abnormalities, disturbances in static and dynamic balance, impaired fine motor skills, and ataxia);                                                                                             (ii) disturbances in muscle tone; and
(iii) altered sensorimotor integration. Isolated disturbances of central auditory processing are also included in the spectrum of BIND.

  • Cerebellar vulnerability to bilirubin-induced injury
  • Cerebellar injury phenotypes and BIND
  • Cerebellar projections
Transverse section of cerebellum and brainstem

Transverse section of cerebellum and brainstem

Transverse section of cerebellum and brain-stem from a 34 gestational-week premature kernicteric infant formalin-fixed for two weeks. Yellow staining is evident in the cerebellar dentate nuclei (upper arrow) and vestibular nuclei at the pontomedullary junction (lower arrowhead). Photo is courtesy of Mahmdouha Ahdab-Barmada and reprinted with permission from Taylor-Francis Group (Ahdab Barmada M. The neuropathology of kernicterus: definitions and debate. In: Maisel MJ, Watchko JF editors. Neonatal jaundice. Amsterdam: Harwood Academic Publishers; 2000. p. 75e88

Whether cerebellar injury is primal or an integral part of disturbed neural circuitry in bilirubin-induced CNS damage is unclear. Movement disorders, however, are increasingly recognized to arise from abnormalities of neuronal circuitry rather than localized, circumscribed lesions. The cerebellum has extensive bidirectional circuitry projections to an array of brainstem nuclei and the cerebral cortex that modulate and refine motor activities. In this regard, the cerebellum is characteristically subdivided into three lobes based on neuroanatomic and phylogenetic criteria as well as by their primary afferent and efferent connections. They include:
(i) flocculonodular lobe (archicerebellum);
(ii) anterior lobe (paleocerebellum); and
(iii) posterior lobe (neocerebellum).

The archicerebellum, the oldest division phylogenically, receives extensive input from the vestibular system and is therefore also known as the vestibulocerebellum and is important for equilibrium control. The paleocerebellum, also a primitive region, receives extensive somatosensory input from the spinal cord, including the anterior and posterior spinocerebellar pathways that convey unconscious proprioception, and is therefore also known as the spinocerebellum. The neocerebellum is the most recently evolved region, receives most of the input from the cerebral cortex, and is thus termed the cerebrocerebellum. This area has greatly expanded in association with the extensive development of the cerebral cortex in mammals and especially primates. To cause serious longstanding dysfunction, cerebellar injury must typically involve the deep cerebellar nuclei and their projections.

Schematic of the bidirectional connectivity between the cerebellum and other

Schematic of the bidirectional connectivity between the cerebellum and other

Schematic of the bidirectional connectivity between the cerebellum and other brain regions including the cerebral cortex. Most cerebro-cerebellar afferent projections pass through the basal (anterior or ventral) pontine nuclei and intermediate cerebellar peduncle, whereas most cerebello-cerebral efferent projections pass through the dentate and ventrolateral thalamic nuclei. DCN, deep cerebellar nuclei; RN, red nucleus; ATN, anterior thalamic nucleus; PFC, prefrontal cortex; MC, motor cortex; PC, parietal cortex; TC, temporal cortex; STN, subthalamic nucleus; APN, anterior pontine nuclei. Reprinted under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License from D’Angelo E, Casali S. Seeking a unified framework for cerebellar function and dysfunction: from circuit to cognition. Front Neural Circuits 2013; 6:116.

Given the vulnerability of the cerebellum to bilirubin-induced injury, cerebellar involvement should also be evident in classic kernicterus, contributing to neuromotor deficits observed therein. It is of interest, therefore, that cerebellar damage may play a role in the genesis of bilirubin-induced dystonia, a prominent neuromotor feature of chronic bilirubin encephalopathy in preterm and term neonates alike. This complex movement disorder is characterized by involuntary sustained muscle contractions that result in abnormal position and posture. Moreover, dystonia that is brief in duration results in chorea, and, if brief and repetitive, leads to athetosis ‒ conditions also classically observed in kernicterus. Recent evidence suggests that dystonic movements may depend on disruption of both basal ganglia and cerebellar neuronal networks, rather than isolated dysfunction of only one motor system.

Dystonia is also a prominent feature in Gunn rat pups and neonatal Ugt1‒/‒-deficient mice both robust models of kernicterus. The former is used as an experimental model of dystonia. Although these models show basal ganglia injury, the sine qua non of bilirubin-induced murine neuropathology is cerebellar damage and resultant cerebellar hypoplasia.

Studies are needed to define more precisely the motor network abnormalities in kernicterus and BIND. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has been widely used in evaluating infants at risk for bilirubin-induced brain injury using conventional structural T1-and T2-weighted imaging. Infants with chronic bilirubin encephalopathy often demonstrate abnormal bilateral, symmetric, high-signal intensity on T2-weighted MRI of the globus pallidus and subthalamic nucleus, consistent with the neuropathology of kernicterus. Early postnatal MRI of at-risk infants, although frequently showing increased T1-signal in these regions, may give false-positive findings due to the presence of myelin in these structures.

Diffusion tensor imaging and tractography could be used to delineate long-term changes involving specific white matter pathways, further elucidating the neural basis of long-term disability in infants and children with chronic bilirubin encephalopathy and BIND. It will be equally valuable to use blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) “resting state” functional MRI to study intrinsic connectivity in order to identify vulnerable brain networks in neonates with kernicterus and BIND. Structural networks of the CNS (connectome) and functional network topology can be characterized in infants with kernicterus and BIND to determine disease-related pattern(s) with respect to both long- and short-range connectivity. These findings have the potential to shed novel insights into the pathogenesis of these disorders and their impact on complex anatomical connections and resultant functional deficits.

Audiologic impairment associated with bilirubin-induced neurologic damage

Cristen Olds, John S. Oghalai
Seminars in Fetal & Neonatal Medicine 20 (2015) 42e46

Hyperbilirubinemia affects up to 84% of term and late preterm infants in the first week of life. The elevation of total serum/plasma bilirubin (TB) levels is generally mild, transitory, and, for most children, inconsequential. However, a subset of infants experiences lifelong neurological sequelae. Although the prevalence of classic kernicterus has fallen steadily in the USA in recent years, the incidence of jaundice in term and premature infants has increased, and kernicterus remains a significant problem in the global arena. Bilirubin-induced neurologic dysfunction (BIND) is a spectrum of neurological injury due to acute or sustained exposure of the central nervous system(CNS) to bilirubin. The BIND spectrum includes kernicterus, acute bilirubin encephalopathy, and isolated neural pathway dysfunction.

Animal studies have shown that unconjugated bilirubin passively diffuses across cell membranes and the blood‒brain barrier (BBB), and bilirubin not removed by organic anion efflux pumps accumulates within the cytoplasm and becomes toxic. Exposure of neurons to bilirubin results in increased oxidative stress and decreased neuronal proliferation and presynaptic neuro-degeneration at central glutaminergic synapses. Furthermore, bilirubin administration results in smaller spiral ganglion cell bodies, with decreased cellular density and selective loss of large cranial nerve VIII myelinated fibers. When exposed to bilirubin, neuronal supporting cells have been found to secrete inflammatory markers, which contribute to increased BBB permeability and bilirubin loading.

The jaundiced Gunn rat is the classic animal model of bilirubin toxicity. It is homozygous for a premature stop codon within the gene for UDP-glucuronosyltransferase family 1 (UGT1). The resultant gene product has reduced bilirubin-conjugating activity, leading to a state of hyperbilirubinemia. Studies with this rat model have led to the concept that impaired calcium homeostasis is an important mechanism of neuronal toxicity, with reduced expression of calcium-binding proteins in affected cells being a sensitive index of bilirubin-induced neurotoxicity. Similarly, application of bilirubin to cultured auditory neurons from brainstem cochlear nuclei results in hyperexcitability and excitotoxicity.

The auditory pathway and normal auditory brainstem response (ABR).

The auditory pathway and normal auditory brainstem response (ABR).

The auditory pathway and normal auditory brain-stem response (ABR). The ipsilateral (green) and contralateral (blue) auditory pathways are shown, with structures that are known to be affected by hyperbilirubinemia highlighted in red. Roman numerals in parentheses indicate corresponding waves in the normal human ABR (inset). Illustration adapted from the “Ear Anatomy” series by Robert Jackler and Christine Gralapp, with permission.

Bilirubin-induced neurologic dysfunction (BIND)

Vinod K. Bhutani, Ronald Wong
Seminars in Fetal & Neonatal Medicine 20 (2015) 1

Beyond the traditional recognized areas of fulminant injury to the globus pallidus as seen in infants with kernicterus, other vulnerable areas include the cerebellum, hippocampus, and subthalamic nuclear bodies as well as certain cranial nerves. The hippocampus is a brain region that is particularly affected by age related morphological changes. It is generally assumed that a loss in hippocampal volume results in functional deficits that contribute to age-related cognitive deficits. Lower grey matter volumes within the limbic-striato-thalamic circuitry are common to other etiological mechanisms of subtle neurologic injury. Lower grey matter volumes in the amygdala, caudate, frontal and medial gyrus are found in schizophrenia and in the putamen in autism. Thus, in terms of brain volumetrics, schizophrenia and autism spectrum disorders have a clear degree of overlap that may reflect shared etiological mechanisms. Overlap with injuries observed in infants with BIND raises the question about how these lesions are arrived at in the context of the impact of common etiologies.

Stress-induced perinatal and transgenerational epigenetic programming of brain development and mental health

Olena Babenko, Igor Kovalchuk, Gerlinde A.S. Metz
Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews 48 (2015) 70–91

Research efforts during the past decades have provided intriguing evidence suggesting that stressful experiences during pregnancy exert long-term consequences on the future mental wellbeing of both the mother and her baby. Recent human epidemiological and animal studies indicate that stressful experiences in utero or during early life may increase the risk of neurological and psychiatric disorders, arguably via altered epigenetic regulation. Epigenetic mechanisms, such as miRNA expression, DNA methylation, and histone modifications are prone to changes in response to stressful experiences and hostile environmental factors. Altered epigenetic regulation may potentially influence fetal endocrine programming and brain development across several generations. Only recently, however, more attention has been paid to possible transgenerational effects of stress. In this review we discuss the evidence of transgenerational epigenetic inheritance of stress exposure in human studies and animal models. We highlight the complex interplay between prenatal stress exposure, associated changes in miRNA expression and DNA methylation in placenta and brain and possible links to greater risks of schizophrenia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism, anxiety- or depression-related disorders later in life. Based on existing evidence, we propose that prenatal stress, through the generation of epigenetic alterations, becomes one of the most powerful influences on mental health in later life. The consideration of ancestral and prenatal stress effects on lifetime health trajectories is critical for improving strategies that support healthy development and successful aging.

Sensitive time-windows for susceptibility in neurodevelopmental disorders

Rhiannon M. Meredith, Julia Dawitz and Ioannis Kramvis
Trends in Neurosciences, June 2012; 35(6): 335-344

Many neurodevelopmental disorders (NDDs) are characterized by age-dependent symptom onset and regression, particularly during early postnatal periods of life. The neurobiological mechanisms preceding and underlying these developmental cognitive and behavioral impairments are, however, not clearly understood. Recent evidence using animal models for monogenic NDDs demonstrates the existence of time-regulated windows of neuronal and synaptic impairments. We propose that these developmentally-dependent impairments can be unified into a key concept: namely, time-restricted windows for impaired synaptic phenotypes exist in NDDs, akin to critical periods during normal sensory development in the brain. Existence of sensitive time-windows has significant implications for our understanding of early brain development underlying NDDs and may indicate vulnerable periods when the brain is more susceptible to current therapeutic treatments.

Fig (not shown)

Misregulated mechanisms underlying spine morphology in NDDs. Several proteins implicated in monogenic NDDs (highlighted in red) are linked to the regulation of the synaptic cytoskeleton via F-actin through different Rho-mediated signaling pathways (highlighted in green). Mutations in OPHN1, TSC1/2, FMRP, p21-activated kinase (PAK) are directly linked to human NDDs of intellectual disability. For instance, point mutations in OPHN1 and a PAK isoform are linked to non-syndromic mental retardation, whereas mutations or altered expression of TSC1/2 and FMRP are linked to TSC and FXS, respectively. Cytoplasmic interacting protein (CYFIP) and LIM-domain kinase 1 (LIMK1) are known to interact with FMRP and PAK, respectively [105]. LIMK1 is one of many dysregulated proteins contributing to the NDD Williams syndrome. Mouse models are available for all highlighted (red) proteins and reveal specific synaptic and behavioral deficits. Local protein synthesis in synapses, dendrites and glia is also regulated by proteins such as TSC1/2 and the FMRP/CYFIP complex. Abbreviations: 4EBP, 4E binding protein; eIF4E, eukaryotic translation initiation factor 4E.

Fig (not shown)

Sensitive time-windows, synaptic phenotypes and NDD gene targets. Sensitive time-windows exist in neural circuits, during which gene targets implicated in NDDs are normally expressed. Misregulation of these genes can affect multiple synaptic phenotypes during a restricted developmental period. The effect upon synaptic phenotypes is dependent upon the temporal expression of these NDD genes and their targets. (a) Expression outside a critical period of development will have no effect upon synaptic phenotypes. (b,c) A temporal expression pattern that overlaps with the onset (b) or closure (c) of a known critical period can alter the synaptic phenotype during that developmental time-window.

Outstanding questions

(1) Can treatment at early presymptomatic stages in animal models for NDDs prevent or ease the later synaptic, neuronal, and behavioral impairments?

(2) Are all sensory critical periods equally misregulated in mouse models for a specific NDD? Are there different susceptibilities for auditory, visual and somatosensory neurocircuits that reflect the degree of impairments observed in patients?

(3) If one critical period is missed or delayed during formation of a layer-specific connection in a network, does the network overcome this misregulated connectivity or plasticity window?

(4) In monogenic NDDs, does the severity of misregulating one particular time-window for synaptic establishment during development correlate with the importance of that gene for that synaptic circuit?

(5) Why do critical periods close in brain development?

(6) What underlies the regression of some altered synaptic phenotypes in Fmr1-KO mice?

(7) Can the concept of susceptible time-windows be applied to other NDDs, including schizophrenia and Tourette’s syndrome?


Cardiac output monitoring in newborns

Willem-Pieter de Boode
Early Human Development 86 (2010) 143–148

There is an increased interest in methods of objective cardiac output measurement in critically ill patients. Several techniques are available for measurement of cardiac output in children, although this remains very complex in newborns. Cardiac output monitoring could provide essential information to guide hemodynamic management. An overview is given of various methods of cardiac output monitoring with advantages and major limitations of each technology together with a short explanation of the basic principles.

Fick principle

According to the Fick principle the volume of blood flow in a given period equals the amount of substance entering the blood stream in the same period divided by the difference in concentrations of the substrate upstream respectively downstream to the point of entry in the circulation. This substance can be oxygen (O2-Fick) or carbon dioxide (CO2-FICK), so cardiac output can be calculated by dividing measured pulmonary oxygen uptake by the arteriovenous oxygen concentration difference. The direct O2-Fick method is regarded as gold standard in cardiac output monitoring in a research setting, despite its limitations. When the Fick principle is applied for carbon dioxide (CO2 Fick), the pulmonary carbon dioxide exchange is divided by the venoarterial CO2 concentration difference to calculate cardiac output.

In the modified CO2 Fick method pulmonary CO2 exchange is measured at the endotracheal tube. Measurement of total CO2 concentration in blood is more complex and simultaneous sampling of arterial and central venous blood is required. However, frequent blood sampling will result in an unacceptable blood loss in the neonatal population.

Blood flow can be calculated if the change in concentration of a known quantity of injected indicator is measured in time distal to the point of injection, so an indicator dilution curve can be obtained. Cardiac output can then be calculated with the use of the Stewart–Hamilton equation. Several indicators are used, such as indocyanine green, Evans blue and brilliant red in dye dilution, cold solutions in thermodilution, lithium in lithium dilution, and isotonic saline in ultrasound dilution.

Cardiovascular adaptation to extra uterine life

Alice Lawford, Robert MR Tulloh
Paediatrics And Child Health 2014; 25(1): 1-6.

The adaptation to extra uterine life is of interest because of its complexity and the ability to cause significant health concerns. In this article we describe the normal changes that occur and the commoner abnormalities that are due to failure of normal development and the effect of congenital cardiac disease. Abnormal development may occur as a result of problems with the mother, or with the fetus before birth. After birth it is essential to determine whether there is an underlying abnormality of the fetal pulmonary or cardiac development and to determine the best course of management of pulmonary hypertension or congenital cardiac disease. Causes of underdevelopment, maldevelopment and maladaptation are described as are the causes of critical congenital heart disease. The methods of diagnosis and management are described to allow the neonatologist to successfully manage such newborns.

Fetal vascular structures that exist to direct blood flow

Fetal structure Function
Arterial duct Connects pulmonary artery to the aorta and shunts blood right to left; diverting flow away from fetal lungs
Foramen ovale Opening between the two atria thatdirects blood flow returning to right

atrium through the septal wall into the left atrium bypassing lungs

Ductus venosus Receives oxygenated blood fromumbilical vein and directs it to the

inferior vena cava and right atrium

Umbilical arteries Carrying deoxygenated blood fromthe fetus to the placenta
Umbilical vein Carrying oxygenated blood from theplacenta to the fetus

Maternal causes of congenital heart disease

Maternal disorders rubella, SLE, diabetes mellitus
Maternal drug use Warfarin, alcohol
Chromosomal abnormality Down, Edward, Patau, Turner, William, Noonan


Fetal and Neonatal Circulation  The fetal circulation is specifically adapted to efficiently exchange gases, nutrients, and wastes through placental circulation. Upon birth, the shunts (foramen ovale, ductus arteriosus, and ductus venosus) close and the placental circulation is disrupted, producing the series circulation of blood through the lungs, left atrium, left ventricle, systemic circulation, right heart, and back to the lungs.

Clinical monitoring of systemic hemodynamics in critically ill newborns

Willem-Pieter de Boode
Early Human Development 86 (2010) 137–141

Circulatory failure is a major cause of mortality and morbidity in critically ill newborn infants. Since objective measurement of systemic blood flow remains very challenging, neonatal hemodynamics is usually assessed by the interpretation of various clinical and biochemical parameters. An overview is given about the predictive value of the most used indicators of circulatory failure, which are blood pressure, heart rate, urine output, capillary refill time, serum lactate concentration, central–peripheral temperature difference, pH, standard base excess, central venous oxygen saturation and color.

Key guidelines

➢ The clinical assessment of cardiac output by the interpretation of indirect parameters of systemic blood flow is inaccurate, irrespective of the level of experience of the clinician

➢ Using blood pressure to diagnose low systemic blood flow will consequently mean that too many patients will potentially be undertreated or overtreated, both with substantial risk of adverse effects and iatrogenic damage.

➢ Combining different clinical hemodynamic parameters enhances the predictive value in the detection of circulatory failure, although accuracy is still limited.

➢ Variation in time (trend monitoring) might possibly be more informative than individual, static values of clinical and biochemical parameters to evaluate the adequacy of neonatal circulation.

Monitoring oxygen saturation and heart rate in the early neonatal period

J.A. Dawson, C.J. Morley
Seminars in Fetal & Neonatal Medicine 15 (2010) 203e207

Pulse oximetry is commonly used to assist clinicians in assessment and management of newly born infants in the delivery room (DR). In many DRs, pulse oximetry is now the standard of care for managing high risk infants, enabling immediate and dynamic assessment of oxygenation and heart rate. However, there is little evidence that using pulse oximetry in the DR improves short and long term outcomes. We review the current literature on using pulse oximetry to measure oxygen saturation and heart rate and how to apply current evidence to management in the DR.

Practice points

  • Understand how SpO2 changes in the first minutes after birth.
  • Apply a sensor to an infant’s right wrist as soon as possible after birth.
  • Attach sensor to infant then to oximeter cable.
  • Use two second averaging and maximum sensitivity.

Using pulse oximetry assists clinicians:

  1. Assess changes in HR in real time during transition.
  2. Assess oxygenation and titrate the administration of oxygen to maintain oxygenation within the appropriate range for SpO2 during the first minutes after birth.

Research directions

  • What are the appropriate centiles to target during the minutes after birth to prevent hypoxia and hyperoxia: 25th to 75th, or 10th to 90th, or just the 50th (median)?
  • Can the inspired oxygen be titrated against the SpO2 to keep the SpO2 in the ‘normal range’?
  • Does the use of centile charts in the DR for HR and oxygen saturation reduce the rate of hyperoxia when infants are treated with oxygen.
  • Does the use of pulse oximetry immediately after birth improve short term outcomes, e.g. efficacy of immediate respiratory support, intubation rates in the DR, percentage of inspired oxygen, rate of use of adrenalin or chest compressions, duration of hypoxia/hyperoxia and bradycardia.
  • Does the use of pulse oximetry in the DR improve short term respiratory and long term neurodevelopmental outcomes for preterm infants, e.g. rate of intubation, use of surfactant, and duration of ventilation, continuous positive airway pressure, or supplemental oxygen?
  • Can all modern pulse oximeters be used effectively in the DR or do some have a longer delay before giving an accurate signal and more movement artefact?
  • Would a longer averaging time result in more stable data?

Peripheral haemodynamics in newborns: Best practice guidelines

Michael Weindling, Fauzia Paize
Early Human Development 86 (2010) 159–165

Peripheral hemodynamics refers to blood flow, which determines oxygen and nutrient delivery to the tissues. Peripheral blood flow is affected by vascular resistance and blood pressure, which in turn varies with cardiac function. Arterial oxygen content depends on the blood hemoglobin concentration (Hb) and arterial pO2; tissue oxygen delivery depends on the position of the oxygen-dissociation curve, which is determined by temperature and the amount of adult or fetal hemoglobin. Methods available to study tissue perfusion include near-infrared spectroscopy, Doppler flowmetry, orthogonal polarization spectral imaging and the peripheral perfusion index. Cardiac function, blood gases, Hb, and peripheral temperature all affect blood flow and oxygen extraction. Blood pressure appears to be less important. Other factors likely to play a role are the administration of vasoactive medications and ventilation strategies, which affect blood gases and cardiac output by changing the intrathoracic pressure.


NIRS with partial venous occlusion to measure venous oxygen saturation

NIRS with partial venous occlusion to measure venous oxygen saturation

NIRS with partial venous occlusion to measure venous oxygen saturation. Taken from Yoxall and Weindling

Schematic representation of the biphasic relationship between oxygen delivery and oxygen consumption in tissue

Schematic representation of the biphasic relationship between oxygen delivery and oxygen consumption in tissue


Schematic representation of the biphasic relationship between oxygen delivery and oxygen consumption in tissue.  (a) oxygen delivery (DO2). (b) As DO2 decreases, VO2 is dependent on DO2. The slope of the line indicates the FOE, which in this case is about 0.50. (c) The slope of the line indicates the FOE in the normal situation where oxygenation is DO2 independent, usually < 0.35

The oxygen-dissociation curve

The oxygen-dissociation curve


The oxygen-dissociation curve

Considerable information about the response of the peripheral circulation has been obtained using NIRS with venous occlusion. Although these measurements were validated against blood co-oximetry in human adults and infants, they can only be made intermittently by a trained operator and are thus not appropriate for general clinical use. Further research is needed to find other better measures of peripheral perfusion and oxygenation which may be easily and continuously monitored, and which could be useful in a clinical setting.

Peripheral oxygenation and management in the perinatal period

Michael Weindling
Seminars in Fetal & Neonatal Medicine 15 (2010) 208e215

The mechanisms for the adequate provision of oxygen to the peripheral tissues are complex. They involve control of the microcirculation and peripheral blood flow, the position of the oxygen dissociation curve including the proportion of fetal and adult hemoglobin, blood gases and viscosity. Systemic blood pressure appears to have little effect, at least in the non-shocked state. The adequate delivery of oxygen (DO2) depends on consumption (VO2), which is variable. The balance between VO2 and DO2 is given by fractional oxygen extraction (FOE ¼ VO2/DO2). FOE varies from organ to organ and with levels of activity. Measurements of FOE for the whole body produce a range of about 0.15-0.33, i.e. the body consumes 15-33% of oxygen transported.

Fig (not shown)

Biphasic relationship between oxygen delivery (DO2) and oxygen consumption (VO2) in tissue. Dotted lines show fractional oxygen extraction (FOE). ‘A’ indicates the normal situation when VO2 is independent ofDO2 and FOE is about 0.30. AsDO2 decreases in the direction of the arrow, VO2 remains independent of DO2 until the critical point is reached at ‘B’; in this illustration, FOE is about 0.50. The slope of the dotted line indicates the FOE (¼ VO2/DO2), which increases progressively as DO2 decreases.

Relationship between haemoglobin F fraction (HbF) and peripheral fractional oxygen extraction

Relationship between haemoglobin F fraction (HbF) and peripheral fractional oxygen extraction

(A)Relationship between haemoglobin F fraction (HbF) and peripheral fractional oxygen extraction in anaemic and control infants. (From Wardle et al.)  (B) HbF synthesis and concentration. (From Bard and Widness.) (C) Oxygen dissociation curve.

Peripheral fractional oxygen extraction in babies

Peripheral fractional oxygen extraction in babies


Peripheral fractional oxygen extraction in babies with asymptomatic or symptomatic anemia compared to controls. Bars represent the median for each group. (From Wardle et al.)

Practice points

  • Peripheral tissue DO2 is complex: cardiac function, blood gases, Hb concentration and the proportion of HbF, and peripheral temperature all play a part in determining blood flow and oxygen extraction in the sick, preterm infant. Blood pressure appears to be less important.
  • Other factors likely to play a role are the administration of vasoactive medications and ventilation strategies, which affect blood gases and cardiac output by changing intrathoracic pressure.
  • Central blood pressure is a poor surrogate measurement for the adequacy of DO2 to the periphery. Direct measurement, using NIRS, laser Doppler flowmetry or other means, may give more useful information.
  • Reasons for total hemoglobin concentration (Hb) being a relatively poor indicator of the adequacy of the provision of oxygen to the tissues:
  1. Hb is only indirectly related to red blood cell volume, which may be a better indicator of the body’s oxygen delivering capacity.
  2. Hb-dependent oxygen availability depends on the position of the oxygen-hemoglobin dissociation curve.
  3. An individual’s oxygen requirements vary with time and from organ to organ. This means that DO2 also needs to vary.
  4. It is possible to compensate for a low Hb by increasing cardiac output and ventilation, and so the ability to compensate for anemia depends on an individual’s cardio-respiratory reserve as well as Hb.
  5. The normal decrease of Hb during the first few weeks of life in both full-term and preterm babies usually occurs without symptoms or signs of anemia or clinical consequences.

The relationship between VO2 and DO2 is complex and various factors need to be taken into account, including the position of the oxygen dissociation curve, determined by the proportion of HbA and HbF, temperature and pH. Furthermore, diffusion of oxygen from capillaries to the cell depends on the oxygen tension gradient between erythrocytes and the mitochondria, which depends on microcirculatory conditions, e.g. capillary PO2, distance of the cell from the capillary (characterized by intercapillary distances) and the surface area of open capillaries. The latter can change rapidly, for example, in septic shock where arteriovenous shunting occurs associated with tissue hypoxia in spite of high DO2 and a low FOE.

Changes in local temperature deserve particular consideration. When the blood pressure is low, there may be peripheral vasoconstriction with decreased local perfusion and DO2. However, the fall in local tissue temperature would also be expected to be associated with a decreased metabolic rate and a consequent decrease in VO2. Thus a decreased DO2 may still be appropriate for tissue needs.


Accurate Measurements of Oxygen Saturation in Neonates: Paired Arterial and Venous Blood Analyses

Shyang-Yun Pamela K. Shiao
Newborn and Infant Nurs Rev,  2005; 5(4): 170–178

Oxygen saturation (So2) measurements (functional measurement, So2; and fractional measurement, oxyhemoglobin [Hbo2]) and monitoring are commonly investigated as a method of assessing oxygenation in neonates. Differences exist between the So2 and Hbo2 when blood tests are performed, and clinical monitors indicate So2 values. Oxyhemoglobin will decrease with the increased levels of carbon monoxide hemoglobin (Hbco) and methemo-globin (MetHb), and it is the most accurate measurements of oxygen (O2) association of hemoglobin (Hb). Pulse oximeter (for pulse oximetry saturation [Spo2] measurement) is commonly used in neonates. However, it will not detect the changes of Hb variations in the blood for accurate So2 measurements. Thus, the measurements from clinical oximeters should be used with caution. In neonates, fetal hemoglobin (HbF) accounts for most of the circulating Hb in their blood. Fetal hemoglobin has a high O2 affinity, thus releases less O2 to the body tissues, presenting a left-shifted Hbo2 dissociation curve.5,6 To date, however, limited data are available with HbF correction, for accurate arterial and venous (AV) So2 measurements (arterial oxygen saturation [Sao2] and venous oxygen saturation [Svo2]) in neonates, using paired AV blood samples.

In a study of critically ill adult patients, increased pulmonary CO production and elevation in arterial Hbco but not venous Hbco were documented by inflammatory stimuli inducing pulmonary heme oxygenase–1. In normal adults, venous Hbco level might be slightly higher than or equal to arterial Hbco because of production of CO by enzyme heme oxygenase–2, which is predominantly produced in the liver and spleen. However, hypoxia or pulmonary inflammation could induce heme oxygenase–1 to increase endogenous CO, thus elevating pulmonary arterial and systemic arterial Hbco levels in adults. Both endogenous and exogenous CO can suppress proliferation of pulmonary smooth muscles, a significant consideration for the prevention of chronic lung diseases in newborns. Despite these considerations, a later study in healthy adults indicated that the AV differences in Hbco were from technical artifacts and perhaps from inadequate control of different instruments. Thus, further studies are needed to provide more definitive answers for the AV differences of Hbco for adults and neonates with acute and chronic lung diseases.

Methemoglobin is an indicator of Hb oxidation and is essential for accurate measurement of Hbo2, So2, and oxygenation status. No evidence exists to show the AV MetHb difference, although this difference was elucidated with the potential changes of MetHb with different O2 levels.  Methemoglobin can be increased with nitric oxide (NO) therapy, used in respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) to reduce pulmonary hypertension and during heart surgery. Nitric oxide, in vitro, is an oxidant of Hb, with increased O2 during ischemia reperfusion. In hypoxemic conditions in vivo, nitrohemoglobin is a product generated by vessel responsiveness to nitrovasodilators. Nitro-hemoglobin can be spontaneously reversible in vivo, requiring no chemical agents or reductase. However, when O2 levels were increased experimentally in vitro following acidic conditions (pH 6.5) to simulate reperfusion conditions, MetHb levels were increased for the hemolysates (broken red cells). Nitrite-induced oxidation of Hb was associated with an increase in red blood cell membrane rigidity, thus contributing to Hb breakdown. A newer in vitro study of whole blood cells, however, concluded that MetHb formation is not dependent on increased O2 levels. Additional studies are needed to examine in vivo reperfusion of O2 and MetHb effects.

Purpose: The aim of this study was to examine the accuracy of arterial oxygen saturation (Sao2) and venous oxygen saturation (Svo2) with paired arterial and venous (AV) blood in relation to pulse oximetry saturation (Spo2) and oxyhemoglobin (Hbo2) with fetal hemoglobin determination, and their Hbo2 dissociation curves. Method: Twelve preterm neonates with gestational ages ranging from 27 to 34 weeks at birth, who had umbilical AV lines inserted, were investigated. Analyses were performed with 37 pairs of AV blood samples by using a blood volume safety protocol. Results: The mean differences between Sao2 and Svo2, and AV Hbo2 were both 6 percent (F6.9 and F6.7 percent, respectively), with higher Svo2 than those reported for adults. Biases were 2.1 – 0.49 for Sao2, 2.0 – 0.44 for Svo2, and 3.1 – 0.45 for Spo2, compared against Hbo2. With left-shifted Hbo2 dissociation curves in neonates, for the critical values of oxygen tension values between 50 and 75 millimeters of mercury, Hbo2 ranged from 92 to 93.4 percent; Sao2 ranged from 94.5 to 95.7 percent; and Spo2 ranged from 93.7 to 96.3 percent (compared to 85–94 percent in healthy adults). Conclusions: In neonates, both left-shifted Hbo2 dissociation curve and lower AV differences of oxygen saturation measurements indicated low flow of oxygen to the body tissues. These findings demonstrate the importance of accurate assessment of oxygenation statues in neonates.

In these neonates, the mean AV blood differences for both So2 and Hbo2 were about 6 percent, which was much lower than those reported for healthy adults (23 percent) for O2 supply and demand. In addition, with very high levels of HbF releasing less O2 to the body tissue, the results of blood analyses are worrisome for these critically ill neonates for low systemic oxygen states.  O’Connor and Hall determined AV So2 in neonates without HbF determination. Much of the AV So2 difference is dependent on Svo2 measurement. The ranges of Svo2 spanned for 35 percent, and the ranges of Sao2 spanned 6 percent in these neonates. The greater intervals for Svo2 measurements contribute to greater sensitivity for the measurements (than Sao2 measurements) in responding to nursing care and changes of O2 demand. Thus, Svo2 measurement is essential for better assessment of oxygenation status in neonates.

The findings of this study on AV differences of So2 were limited with very small number of paired AV blood samples. However, critically ill neonates need accurate assessment of oxygenation status because of HbF, which releases less O2 to the tissues. Decreased differences of AV So2 measurements added further possibilities of lower flow of O2 to the body tissues and demonstrated the greater need to accurately assess the proper oxygenation in the neonates. The findings of this study continued to clarify the accuracy of So2 measurements for neonates. Additional studies are needed to examine So2 levels in neonates to further validate these findings by using larger sample sizes.

Neonatal ventilation strategies and long-term respiratory outcomes

Sandeep Shetty, Anne Greenough
Early Human Development 90 (2014) 735–739

Long-term respiratory morbidity is common, particularly in those born very prematurely and who have developed bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD), but it does occur in those without BPD and in infants born at term. A variety of neonatal strategies have been developed, all with short-term advantages, but meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) have demonstrated that only volume-targeted ventilation and prophylactic high-frequency oscillatory ventilation (HFOV) may reduce BPD. Few RCTs have incorporated long-term follow-up, but one has demonstrated that prophylactic HFOV improves respiratory and functional outcomes at school age, despite not reducing BPD. Results from other neonatal interventions have demonstrated that any impact on BPD may not translate into changes in long-term outcomes. All future neonatal  ventilation RCTs should have long-term outcomes rather than BPD as their primary outcome if they are to impact on clinical practice.

A Model Analysis of Arterial Oxygen Desaturation during Apnea in Preterm Infants

Scott A. Sands, BA Edwards, VJ Kelly, MR Davidson, MH Wilkinson, PJ Berger
PLoS Comput Biol 5(12): e1000588

Rapid arterial O2 desaturation during apnea in the preterm infant has obvious clinical implications but to date no adequate explanation for why it exists. Understanding the factors influencing the rate of arterial O2 desaturation during apnea (_SSaO2 ) is complicated by the non-linear O2 dissociation curve, falling pulmonary O2 uptake, and by the fact that O2 desaturation is biphasic, exhibiting a rapid phase (stage 1) followed by a slower phase when severe desaturation develops (stage 2). Using a mathematical model incorporating pulmonary uptake dynamics, we found that elevated metabolic O2 consumption accelerates _SSaO2 throughout the entire desaturation process. By contrast, the remaining factors have a restricted temporal influence: low pre-apneic alveolar PO2 causes an early onset of desaturation, but thereafter has little impact; reduced lung volume, hemoglobin content or cardiac output, accelerates _SSaO2 during stage 1, and finally, total blood O2 capacity (blood volume and hemoglobin content) alone determines _SSaO2 during stage 2. Preterm infants with elevated metabolic rate, respiratory depression, low lung volume, impaired cardiac reserve, anemia, or hypovolemia, are at risk for rapid and profound apneic hypoxemia. Our insights provide a basic physiological framework that may guide clinical interpretation and design of interventions for preventing sudden apneic hypoxemia.

A novel approach to study oxidative stress in neonatal respiratory distress syndrome

Reena Negi, D Pande, K Karki, A Kumar, RS Khanna, HD Khanna
BBA Clinical 3 (2015) 65–69

Oxidative stress is an imbalance between the systemic manifestation of reactive oxygen species and a biological system’s ability to readily detoxify the reactive intermediates or to repair the resulting damage. It is a physiological event in the fetal-to-neonatal transition, which is actually a great stress to the fetus. These physiological changes and processes greatly increase the production of free radicals, which must be controlled by the antioxidant defense system, the maturation of which follows the course of the gestation. This could lead to several functional alterations with important repercussions for the infants. Adequately mature and healthy infants are able to tolerate this drastic change in the oxygen concentration. A problem occurs when the intrauterine development is incomplete or abnormal. Preterm or intrauterine growth retarded (IUGR) and low birth weight neonates are typically of this kind. An oxidant/antioxidant imbalance in infants is implicated in the pathogenesis of the major complications of prematurity including respiratory distress syndrome (RDS), necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), chronic lung disease, retinopathy of prematurity and intraventricular hemorrhage (IVH).

Background: Respiratory distress syndrome of the neonate (neonatal RDS) is still an important problem in treatment of preterm infants. It is accompanied by inflammatory processes with free radical generation and oxidative stress. The aim of study was to determine the role of oxidative stress in the development of neonatal RDS. Methods: Markers of oxidative stress and antioxidant activity in umbilical cord blood were studied in infants with neonatal respiratory distress syndrome with reference to healthy newborns. Results: Status of markers of oxidative stress (malondialdehyde, protein carbonyl and 8-hydroxy-2-deoxy guanosine) showed a significant increase with depleted levels of total antioxidant capacity in neonatal RDS when compared to healthy newborns. Conclusion: The study provides convincing evidence of oxidative damage and diminished antioxidant defenses in newborns with RDS. Neonatal RDS is characterized by damage of lipid, protein and DNA, which indicates the augmentation of oxidative stress. General significance: The identification of the potential biomarker of oxidative stress consists of a promising strategy to study the pathophysiology of neonatal RDS.

Neonatal respiratory distress syndrome represents the major lung complications of newborn babies. Preterm neonates suffer from respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) due to immature lungs and require assisted ventilation with high concentrations of oxygen. The pathogenesis of this disorder is based on the rapid formation of the oxygen reactive species, which surpasses the detoxification capacity of antioxidative defense system. The high chemical reactivity of free radical leads to damage to a variety of cellular macro molecules including proteins, lipids and nucleic acid. This results in cell injury and may induce respiratory cell death.

Malondialdehyde (MDA) is one of the final products of polyunsaturated fatty acids peroxidation. The present study showed increased concentration of MDA in neonates with respiratory disorders than that of control in consonance with the reported study.

Anemia, Apnea of Prematurity, and Blood Transfusions

Kelley Zagol, Douglas E. Lake, Brooke Vergales, Marion E. Moorman, et al
J Pediatr 2012;161:417-21

The etiology of apnea of prematurity is multifactorial; however, decreased oxygen carrying capacity may play a role. The respiratory neuronal network in neonates is immature, particularly in those born preterm, as demonstrated by their paradoxical response to hypoxemia. Although adults increase the minute ventilation in response to hypoxemia, newborns have a brief increase in ventilation followed by periodic breathing, respiratory depression, and occasionally cessation of respiratory effort. This phenomenon may be exacerbated by anemia in preterm newborns, where a decreased oxygen carrying capacity may result in decreased oxygen delivery to the central nervous system, a decreased efferent output of the respiratory neuronal network, and an increase in apnea.

Objective Compare the frequency and severity of apneic events in very low birth weight (VLBW) infants before and after blood transfusions using continuous electronic waveform analysis. Study design We continuously collected waveform, heart rate, and oxygen saturation data from patients in all 45 neonatal intensive care unit beds at the University of Virginia for 120 weeks. Central apneas were detected using continuous computer processing of chest impedance, electrocardiographic, and oximetry signals. Apnea was defined as respiratory pauses of >10, >20, and >30 seconds when accompanied by bradycardia (<100 beats per minute) and hypoxemia (<80% oxyhemoglobin saturation as detected by pulse oximetry). Times of packed red blood cell transfusions were determined from bedside charts. Two cohorts were analyzed. In the transfusion cohort, waveforms were analyzed for 3 days before and after the transfusion for all VLBW infants who received a blood transfusion while also breathing spontaneously. Mean apnea rates for the previous 12 hours were quantified and differences for 12 hours before and after transfusion were compared. In the hematocrit cohort, 1453 hematocrit values from all VLBW infants admitted and breathing spontaneously during the time period were retrieved, and the association of hematocrit and apnea in the next 12 hours was tested using logistic regression. Results Sixty-seven infants had 110 blood transfusions during times when complete monitoring data were available. Transfusion was associated with fewer computer-detected apneic events (P < .01). Probability of future apnea occurring within 12 hours increased with decreasing hematocrit values (P < .001). Conclusions Blood transfusions are associated with decreased apnea in VLBW infants, and apneas are less frequent at higher hematocrits.

Bronchopulmonary dysplasia: The earliest and perhaps the longest lasting obstructive lung disease in humans

Silvia Carraro, M Filippone, L Da Dalt, V Ferraro, M Maretti, S Bressan, et al.
Early Human Development 89 (2013) S3–S5

Bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) is one of the most important sequelae of premature birth and the most common form of chronic lung disease of infancy, an umbrella term for a number of different diseases that evolve as a consequence of a neonatal respiratory disorder. BPD is defined as the need for supplemental oxygen for at least 28 days after birth, and its severity is graded according to the respiratory support required at 36 post-menstrual weeks.

BPD was initially described as a chronic respiratory disease occurring in premature infants exposed to mechanical ventilation and oxygen supplementation. This respiratory disease (later named “old BPD”) occurred in relatively large premature newborn and, from a pathological standpoint, it was characterized by intense airway inflammation, disruption of normal pulmonary structures and lung fibrosis.

Bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) is one of the most important sequelae of premature birth and the most common form of chronic lung disease of infancy. From a clinical standpoint BPD subjects are characterized by recurrent respiratory symptoms, which are very frequent during the first years of life and, although becoming less severe as children grow up, they remain more common than in term-born controls throughout childhood, adolescence and into adulthood. From a functional point of view BPD subjects show a significant airflow limitation that persists during adolescence and adulthood and they may experience an earlier and steeper decline in lung function during adulthood. Interestingly, patients born prematurely but not developing BPD usually fare better, but they too have airflow limitations during childhood and later on, suggesting that also prematurity per se has life-long detrimental effects on pulmonary function. For the time being, little is known about the presence and nature of pathological mechanisms underlying the clinical and functional picture presented by BPD survivors. Nonetheless, recent data suggest the presence of persistent neutrophilic airway inflammation and oxidative stress and it has been suggested that BPD may be sustained in the long term by inflammatory pathogenic mechanisms similar to those underlying COPD. This hypothesis is intriguing but more pathological data are needed.  A better understanding of these pathogenetic mechanisms, in fact, may be able to orient the development of novel targeted therapies or prevention strategies to improve the overall respiratory health of BPD patients.

We have a limited understanding of the presence and nature of pathological mechanisms in the lung of BPD survivors. The possible role of asthma-like inflammation has been investigated because BPD subjects often present with recurrent wheezing and other symptoms resembling asthma during their childhood and adolescence. But BPD subjects have normal or lower than normal exhaled nitric oxide levels and exhaled air temperatures, whereas they are higher than normal in asthmatic patients.

Of all obstructive lung diseases in humans, BPD has the earliest onset and is possibly the longest lasting. Given its frequent association with other conditions related to preterm birth (e.g. growth retardation, pulmonary hypertension, neurodevelopmental delay, hearing defects, and retinopathy of prematurity), it often warrants a multidisciplinary management.

Effects of Sustained Lung Inflation, a lung recruitment maneuver in primary acute respiratory distress syndrome, in respiratory and cerebral outcomes in preterm infants

Chiara Grasso, Pietro Sciacca, Valentina Giacchi, Caterina Carpinato, et al.
Early Human Development 91 (2015) 71–75

Background: Sustained Lung Inflation (SLI) is a maneuver of lung recruitment in preterm newborns at birth that can facilitate the achieving of larger inflation volumes, leading to the clearance of lung fluid and formation of functional residual capacity (FRC). Aim: To investigate if Sustained Lung Inflation (SLI) reduces the need of invasive procedures and iatrogenic risks. Study design: 78 newborns (gestational age ≤ 34 weeks, weighing ≤ 2000 g) who didn’t breathe adequately at birth and needed to receive SLI in addition to other resuscitation maneuvers (2010 guidelines). Subjects: 78 preterm infants born one after the other in our department of Neonatology of Catania University from 2010 to 2012. Outcome measures: The need of intubation and surfactant, the ventilation required, radiological signs, the incidence of intraventricular hemorrhage (IVH), periventricular leukomalacia, retinopathy in prematurity from III to IV plus grades, bronchopulmonary dysplasia, patent ductus arteriosus, pneumothorax and necrotizing enterocolitis. Results: In the SLI group infants needed less intubation in the delivery room (6% vs 21%; p b 0.01), less invasive mechanical ventilation (14% vs 55%; p ≤ 0.001) and shorter duration of ventilation (9.1 days vs 13.8 days; p ≤ 0.001). There wasn’t any difference for nasal continuous positive airway pressure (82% vs 77%; p = 0.43); but there was less surfactant administration (54% vs 85%; p ≤ 0.001) and more infants received INSURE (40% vs 29%; p=0.17). We didn’t found any differences in the outcomes, except for more mild intraventricular hemorrhage in the SLI group (23% vs 14%; p = 0.15; OR= 1.83). Conclusion: SLI is easier to perform even with a single operator, it reduces the necessity of more complicated maneuvers and surfactant without statistically evident adverse effects.

Long-term respiratory consequences of premature birth at less than 32 weeks of gestation

Anne Greenough
Early Human Development 89 (2013) S25–S27

Chronic respiratory morbidity is a common adverse outcome of very premature birth, particularly in infants who had developed bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD). Prematurely born infants who had BPD may require supplementary oxygen at home for many months and affected infants have increased healthcare utilization until school age. Chest radiograph abnormalities are common; computed tomography of the chest gives predictive information in children with ongoing respiratory problems. Readmission to hospital is common, particularly for those who have BPD and suffer respiratory syncytial virus lower respiratory infections (RSV LRTIs). Recurrent respiratory symptoms requiring treatment are common and are associated with evidence of airways obstruction and gas trapping. Pulmonary function improves with increasing age, but children with BPD may have ongoing airflow limitation. Lung function abnormalities may be more severe in those who had RSV LRTIs, although this may partly be explained by worse premorbid lung function. Worryingly, lung function may deteriorate during the first year. Longitudinal studies are required to determine if there is catch up growth.

Long-term pulmonary outcomes of patients with bronchopulmonary dysplasia

Anita Bhandari and Sharon McGrath-Morrow
Seminars in Perinatology 37 (2013)132–137

Bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) is the commonest cause of chronic lung disease in infancy. The incidence of BPD has remained unchanged despite many advances in neonatal care. BPD starts in the neonatal period but its effects can persist long term. Premature infants with BPD have a greater incidence of hospitalization, and continue to have a greater respiratory morbidity and need for respiratory medications, compared to those without BPD. Lung function abnormalities, especially small airway abnormalities, often persist. Even in the absence of clinical symptoms, BPD survivors have persistent radiological abnormalities and presence of emphysema has been reported on chest computed tomography scans. Concern regarding their exercise tolerance remains. Long-term effects of BPD are still unknown, but given reports of a more rapid decline in lung function and their susceptibility to develop chronic obstructive pulmonary disease phenotype with aging, it is imperative that lung function of survivors of BPD be closely monitored.

Neonatal ventilation strategies and long-term respiratory outcomes

Sandeep Shetty, Anne Greenough
Early Human Development 90 (2014) 735–739

Long-term respiratory morbidity is common, particularly in those born very prematurely and who have developed bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD), but it does occur in those without BPD and in infants born at term. A variety of neonatal strategies have been developed, all with short-term advantages, but meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) have demonstrated that only volume-targeted ventilation and prophylactic high-frequency oscillatory ventilation (HFOV) may reduce BPD. Few RCTs have incorporated long-term follow-up, but one has demonstrated that prophylactic HFOV improves respiratory and functional outcomes at school age, despite not reducing BPD. Results from other neonatal interventions have demonstrated that any impact on BPD may not translate into changes in long-term outcomes. All future neonatal ventilation RCTs should have long-term outcomes rather than BPD as their primary outcome if they are to impact on clinical practice.

Prediction of neonatal respiratory distress syndrome in term pregnancies by assessment of fetal lung volume and pulmonary artery resistance index

Mohamed Laban, GM Mansour, MSE Elsafty, AS Hassanin, SS EzzElarab
International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics 128 (2015) 246–250

Objective: To develop reference cutoff values for mean fetal lung volume (FLV) and pulmonary artery resistance index (PA-RI) for prediction of neonatal respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) in low-risk term pregnancies. Methods: As part of a cross-sectional study, women aged 20–35 years were enrolled and admitted to a tertiary hospital in Cairo, Egypt, for elective repeat cesarean at 37–40 weeks of pregnancy between January 1, 2012, and July 31, 2013. FLV was calculated by virtual organ computer-aided analysis, and PA-RI was measured by Doppler ultrasonography before delivery. Results: A total of 80 women were enrolled. Neonatal RDS developed in 11 (13.8%) of the 80 newborns. Compared with neonates with RDS, healthy neonates had significantly higher FLVs (P b 0.001) and lower PA-RIs (P b 0.001). Neonatal RDS is less likely with FLV of at least 32 cm3 or PA-RI less than or equal to 0.74. Combining these two measures improved the accuracy of prediction. Conclusion: The use of either FLV or PA-RI predicted neonatal RDS. The predictive value increased when these two measures were combined

Pulmonary surfactant - a front line of lung host defense, 2003 JCI0318650.f2

Pulmonary surfactant – a front line of lung host defense, 2003 JCI0318650.f2

Pulmonary hypertension in bronchopulmonary dysplasia

Sara K.Berkelhamer, Karen K.Mestan, and Robin H. Steinhorn
Seminars In  Perinatology 37 (2013)124–131

Pulmonary hypertension (PH) is a common complication of neonatal respiratory diseases, including bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD), and recent studies have increased aware- ness that PH worsens the clinical course, morbidity and mortality of BPD. Recent evidence indicates that up to 18% of all extremely low-birth-weight infants will develop some degree of PH during their hospitalization, and the incidence rises to 25–40% of the infants with established BPD. Risk factors are not yet well understood, but new evidence shows that fetal growth restriction is a significant predictor of PH. Echocardiography remains the primary method for evaluation of BPD-associated PH, and the development of standardized screening timelines and techniques for identification of infants with BPD-associated PH remains an important ongoing topic of investigation. The use of pulmonary vasodilator medications, such as nitric oxide, sildenafil, and others, in the BPD population is steadily growing, but additional studies are needed regarding their long-term safety and efficacy.
An update on pharmacologic approaches to bronchopulmonary dysplasia

Sailaja Ghanta, Kristen Tropea Leeman, and Helen Christou
Seminars In Perinatology 37 (2013)115–123

Bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) is the most prevalent long-term morbidity in surviving extremely preterm infants and is linked to increased risk of reactive airways disease, pulmonary hypertension, post-neonatal mortality, and adverse neurodevelopmental outcomes. BPD affects approximately 20% of premature newborns, and up to 60% of premature infants born before completing 26 weeks of gestation. It is characterized by the need for assisted ventilation and/or supplemental oxygen at 36 weeks postmenstrual age. Approaches to prevention and treatment of BPD have evolved with improved understanding of its pathogenesis. This review will focus on recent advancements and detail current research in pharmacotherapy for BPD. The evidence for both current and potential future experimental therapies will be reviewed in detail. As our understanding of the complex and multifactorial pathophysiology of BPD changes, research into these current and future approaches must continue to evolve.

Diuretics and bronchodilators
Macrolide antibiotics
Recombinant human Clara cell 10-kilodalton protein(rhCC10)
Vitamin A
Leukotriene receptor antagonist
Pulmonary vasodilators

Skeletal and Muscle

Skeletal Stem Cells in Space and Time

Moustapha Kassem and Paolo Bianco
Cell  Jan 15, 2015; 160: 17-19

The nature, biological characteristics, and contribution to organ physiology of skeletal stem cells are not completely determined. Chan et al. and Worthley et al. demonstrate that a stem cell for skeletal tissues, and a system of more restricted, downstream progenitors, can be identified in mice and demonstrate its role in skeletal tissue maintenance and regeneration.

The groundbreaking concept that bone, cartilage, marrow adipocytes, and hematopoiesis-supporting stroma could originate from a common progenitor and putative stem cell was surprising at the time when it was formulated (Owen and Friedenstein, 1988). The putative stem cell, nonhematopoietic in nature, would be found in the postnatal bone marrow stroma, generate tissues previously thought of as foreign to each other, and support the turnover of tissues and organs that self-renew at a much slower rate compared to other tissues associated with stem cells (blood, epithelia). This concept also connected bone and bone marrow as parts of a single-organ system, implying their functional interplay. For many years, the evidence underpinning the concept has been incomplete.

While multipotency of stromal progenitors has been demonstrated by in vivo transplantation experiments, self-renewal, the defining property of a stem cell, has not been easily demonstrated until recently in humans (Sacchetti et al., 2007) and mice (Mendez-Ferrer et al., 2010). Meanwhile, a confusing and plethoric terminology has been introduced into the literature, which diverted and confounded the search for a skeletal stem cell and its physiological significance (Bianco et al., 2013).

Two studies in this issue of Cell (Chan et al., 2015; Worthley et al., 2015), using a combination of rigorous single-cell analyses and lineage tracing technologies, mark significant steps toward rectifying the course of skeletal stem cell discovery by making several important points, within and beyond skeletal physiology.

First, a stem cell for skeletal tissues, and a system of more restricted, downstream progenitors can in fact be identified and linked to defined phenotype(s) in the mouse. The system is framed conceptually, and approached experimentally, similar to the hematopoietic system.

Second, based on its assayable functions and potential, the stem cell at the top of the hierarchy is defined as a skeletal stem cell (SSC). As noted earlier (Sacchetti et al., 2007) (Bianco et al., 2013), this term clarifies, well beyond semantics, that the range of tissues that the self-renewing stromal progenitor (originally referred to as an ‘‘osteogenic’’ or ‘‘stromal’’ stem cell) (Owen and Friedenstein, 1988) can actually generate in vivo, overlaps with the range of tissues that make up the skeleton.

Third, these cells are spatially restricted, local residents of the bone/bone marrow organ. The systemic circulation is not a sizable contributor to their recruitment to locally deployed functions.

Fourth, a native skeletogenic potential is inherent to the system of progenitor/ stem cells found in the skeleton, and internally regulated by bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) signaling. This is reflected in the expression of regulators and antagonists of BMP signaling within the system, highlighting potential feedback mechanisms modulating expansion or quiescence of specific cell compartments.

Fifth, in cells isolated from other tissues, an assayable skeletogenic potential is not inherent: it can only be induced de novo by BMP reprogramming. These two studies (Chan et al., 2015, Worthley et al., 2015) corroborate the classical concept of ‘‘determined’’ and ‘‘inducible’’ skeletal progenitors (Owen and Friedenstein, 1988): the former residing in the skeleton, the latter found in nonskeletal tissues; the former capable of generating skeletal tissues, in vivo and spontaneously, the latter requiring reprogramming signals in order to acquire a skeletogenic capacity; the former operating in physiological bone formation, the latter in unwanted, ectopic bone formation in diseases such as fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva.

To optimize our ability to obtain specific skeletal tissues for medical application, the study by Chan et al. offers a glimpse of another facet of the biology of SSC lineages and progenitors. Chan et al. show that a homogeneous cell population inherently committed to chondrogenesis can alter its output to generate bone if cotransplanted with multipotent progenitors. Conversely, osteogenic cells can be shifted to a chondrogenic fate by blockade of vascular endothelial growth factor receptor, consistent with the avascular and hypoxic milieu of cartilage. This has two important implications:

  • commitment is flexible in the system;
  • the choir is as important as the soloist and can modulate the solo tune.

Reversibility and population behavior thus emerge as two features that may be characteristic, albeit not unique, of the stromal system, resonating with conceptually comparable evidence in the human system.

The two studies by Chan et al. and Worthely et al. emphasize the relevance not only of their new data, but also of a proper concept of a skeletal stem cell per se, for proper clinical use. Confusion arising from improper conceptualization of skeletal stem cells has markedly limited clinical development of skeletal stem cell biology.

Gremlin 1 Identifies a Skeletal Stem Cell with Bone, Cartilage, and Reticular Stromal Potential

Daniel L. Worthley, Michael Churchill, Jocelyn T. Compton, Yagnesh Tailor, et al.
Cell, Jan 15, 2015; 160: 269–284

The stem cells that maintain and repair the postnatal skeleton remain undefined. One model suggests that perisinusoidal mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) give rise to osteoblasts, chondrocytes, marrow stromal cells, and adipocytes, although the existence of these cells has not been proven through fate-mapping experiments. We demonstrate here that expression of the bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) antagonist gremlin 1 defines a population of osteochondroreticular (OCR) stem cells in the bone marrow. OCR stem cells self-renew and generate osteoblasts, chondrocytes, and reticular marrow stromal cells, but not adipocytes. OCR stem cells are concentrated within the metaphysis of long bones not in the perisinusoidal space and are needed for bone development, bone remodeling, and fracture repair. Grem1 expression also identifies intestinal reticular stem cells (iRSCs) that are cells of origin for the periepithelial intestinal mesenchymal sheath. Grem1 expression identifies distinct connective tissue stem cells in both the bone (OCR stem cells) and the intestine (iRSCs).

Identification and Specification of the Mouse Skeletal Stem Cell

Charles K.F. Chan, Eun Young Seo, James Y. Chen, David Lo, A McArdle, et al.
Cell, Jan 15, 2015; 160: 285–298

How are skeletal tissues derived from skeletal stem cells? Here, we map bone, cartilage, and stromal development from a population of highly pure, postnatal skeletal stem cells (mouse skeletal stem cells, mSSCs) to their downstream progenitors of bone, cartilage, and stromal tissue. We then investigated the transcriptome of the stem/progenitor cells for unique gene-expression patterns that would indicate potential regulators of mSSC lineage commitment. We demonstrate that mSSC niche factors can be potent inducers of osteogenesis, and several specific combinations of recombinant mSSC niche factors can activate mSSC genetic programs in situ, even in nonskeletal tissues, resulting in de novo formation of cartilage or bone and bone marrow stroma. Inducing mSSC formation with soluble factors and subsequently regulating the mSSC niche to specify its differentiation toward bone, cartilage, or stromal cells could represent a paradigm shift in the therapeutic regeneration of skeletal tissues.

Bone mesenchymal development

Bone mesenchymal development

Bone mesenchymal development

The bone-remodeling cycle

The bone-remodeling cycle

Nuclear receptor modulation – Role of coregulators in selective estrogen receptor modulator (SERM) actions

Qin Feng, Bert W. O’Malley
Steroids 90 (2014) 39–43

Selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs) are a class of small-molecule chemical compounds that bind to estrogen receptor (ER) ligand binding domain (LBD) with high affinity and selectively modulate ER transcriptional activity in a cell- and tissue-dependent manner. The prototype of SERMs is tamoxifen, which has agonist activity in bone, but has antagonist activity in breast. Tamoxifen can reduce the risk of breast cancer and, at same time, prevent osteoporosis in postmenopausal women. Tamoxifen is widely prescribed for treatment and prevention of breast cancer. Mechanistically the activity of SERMs is determined by the selective recruitment of coactivators and corepressors in different cell types and tissues. Therefore, understanding the coregulator function is the key to understanding the tissue selective activity of SERMs.


Hematopoietic Stem Cell Arrival Triggers Dynamic Remodeling of the Perivascular Niche

Owen J. Tamplin, Ellen M. Durand, Logan A. Carr, Sarah J. Childs, et al.
Cell, Jan 15, 2015; 160: 241–252

Hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells (HSPCs) can reconstitute and sustain the entire blood system. We generated a highly specific transgenic reporter of HSPCs in zebrafish. This allowed us to perform high resolution live imaging on endogenous HSPCs not currently possible in mammalian bone marrow. Using this system, we have uncovered distinct interactions between single HSPCs and their niche. When an HSPC arrives in the perivascular niche, a group of endothelial cells remodel to form a surrounding pocket. This structure appears conserved in mouse fetal liver. Correlative light and electron microscopy revealed that endothelial cells surround a single HSPC attached to a single mesenchymal stromal cell. Live imaging showed that mesenchymal stromal cells anchor HSPCs and orient their divisions. A chemical genetic screen found that the compound lycorine promotes HSPC-niche interactions during development and ultimately expands the stem cell pool into adulthood. Our studies provide evidence for dynamic niche interactions upon stem cell colonization.

Neonatal anemia

Sanjay Aher, Kedar Malwatkar, Sandeep Kadam
Seminars in Fetal & Neonatal Medicine (2008) 13, 239e247

Neonatal anemia and the need for red blood cell (RBC) transfusions are very common in neonatal intensive care units. Neonatal anemia can be due to blood loss, decreased RBC production, or increased destruction of erythrocytes. Physiologic anemia of the newborn and anemia of prematurity are the two most common causes of anemia in neonates. Phlebotomy losses result in much of the anemia seen in extremely low birthweight infants (ELBW). Accepting a lower threshold level for transfusion in ELBW infants can prevent these infants being exposed to multiple donors.

Management of anemia in the newborn

Naomi L.C. Luban
Early Human Development (2008) 84, 493–498

Red blood cell (RBC) transfusions are administered to neonates and premature infants using poorly defined indications that may result in unintentional adverse consequences. Blood products are often manipulated to limit potential adverse events, and meet the unique needs of neonates with specific diagnoses. Selection of RBCs for small volume (5–20 mL/kg) transfusions and for massive transfusion, defined as extracorporeal bypass and exchange transfusions, are of particular concern to neonatologists. Mechanisms and therapeutic treatments to avoid transfusion are another area of significant investigation. RBCs collected in anticoagulant additive solutions and administered in small aliquots to neonates over the shelf life of the product can decrease donor exposure and has supplanted the use of fresh RBCs where each transfusion resulted in a donor exposure. The safety of this practice has been documented and procedures established to aid transfusion services in ensuring that these products are available. Less well established are the indications for transfusion in this population; hemoglobin or hematocrit alone are insufficient indications unless clinical criteria (e.g. oxygen desaturation, apnea and bradycardia, poor weight gain) also augment the justification to transfuse. Comorbidities increase oxygen consumption demands in these infants and include bronchopulmonary dysplasia, rapid growth and cardiac dysfunction. Noninvasive methods or assays have been developed to measure tissue oxygenation; however, a true measure of peripheral oxygen offloading is needed to improve transfusion practice and determine the value of recombinant products that stimulate erythropoiesis. The development of such noninvasive methods is especially important since randomized, controlled clinical trials to support specific practices are often lacking, due at least in part, to the difficulty of performing such studies in tiny infants.
The Effect of Blood Transfusion on the Hemoglobin Oxygen Dissociation Curve of Very Early Preterm Infants During the First Week of Life

Virginie De HaUeux, Anita Truttmann, Carmen Gagnon, and Harry Bard
Seminars in Perinatology, 2002; 26(6): 411-415

This study was conducted during the first week of life to determine the changes in Ps0 (PO2 required to achieve a saturation of 50% at pH 7.4 and 37~ and the proportions of fetal hemoglobin (I-IbF) and adult hemoglobin (HbA) prior to and after transfusion in very early preterm infants. Eleven infants with a gestational age <–27 weeks have been included in study. The hemoglobin dissociation curve and the Ps0 was determined by Hemox-analyser. Liquid chromatography was also performed to determine the proportions of HbF and HbA. The mean gestational age of the 11 infants was 25.1 weeks (-+1 weeks) and their mean birth weight was 736 g (-+125 g). They received 26.9 mL/kg of packed red cells. The mean Ps0 prior and after transfusion was 18.5 +- 0.8 and 21.0 + 1 mm Hg (P = .0003) while the mean percentage of HbF was 92.9 -+ 1.1 and 42.6 -+ 5.7%, respectively. The data of this study show a decrease of hemoglobin oxygen affinity as a result of blood transfusion in very early preterm infants prone to O 2 toxicity. The shift in HbO 2 curve after transfusion should be taken into consideration when oxygen therapy is being regulated for these infants.

Effect of neonatal hemoglobin concentration on long-term outcome of infants affected by fetomaternal hemorrhage

Mizuho Kadooka, H Katob, A Kato, S Ibara, H Minakami, Yuko Maruyama
Early Human Development 90 (2014) 431–434

Background: Fetomaternal hemorrhage (FMH) can cause severe morbidity. However, perinatal risk factors for long-term poor outcome due to FMH have not been extensively studied.                                                                                 Aims: To determine which FMH infants are likely to have neurological sequelae.
Study design: A single-center retrospective observational study. Perinatal factors, including demographic characteristics, Kleihauer–Betke test, blood gas analysis, and neonatal blood hemoglobin concentration ([Hb]), were analyzed in association with long-term outcomes.
Subjects: All 18 neonates referred to a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit of Kagoshima City Hospital and diagnosed with FMH during a 15-year study period. All had a neonatal [Hb] b7.5 g/dL and 15 of 17 neonates tested had Kleihauer–Betke test result N4.0%.
Outcome measures: Poor long-term outcome was defined as any of the following determined at 12 month old or more: cerebral palsy, mental retardation, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and epilepsy.
Results: Nine of the 18 neonates exhibited poor outcomes. Among demographic characteristics and blood variables compared between two groups with poor and favorable outcomes, significant differences were observed in [Hb] (3.6 ± 1.4 vs. 5.4 ± 1.1 g/dL, P = 0.01), pH (7.09 ± 0.11 vs. 7.25 ± 0.13, P = 0.02) and base deficits (17.5 ± 5.4 vs. 10.4 ± 6.0 mmol/L, P = 0.02) in neonatal blood, and a number of infants with [Hb] ≤ 4.5 g/dL (78%[7/9] vs. 22%[2/9], P= 0.03), respectively. The base deficit in neonatal arterial blood increased significantly with decreasing neonatal [Hb].
Conclusions: Severe anemia causing severe base deficit is associated with neurological sequelae in FMH infants

Clinical and hematological presentation among Indian patients with common hemoglobin variants

Khushnooma Italia, Dipti Upadhye, Pooja Dabke, Harshada Kangane, et al.
Clinica Chimica Acta 431 (2014) 46–51

Background: Co-inheritance of structural hemoglobin variants like HbS, HbD Punjab and HbE can lead to a variable clinical presentation and only few cases have been described so far in the Indian population.
Methods: We present the varied clinical and hematological presentation of 22 cases (HbSD Punjab disease-15, HbSE disease-4, HbD Punjab E disease-3) referred to us for diagnosis.
Results: Two of the 15 HbSDPunjab disease patients had moderate crisis, one presented with mild hemolytic anemia; however, the other 12 patients had a severe clinical presentation with frequent blood transfusion requirements, vaso occlusive crisis, avascular necrosis of the femur and febrile illness. The 4 HbSE disease patients had a mild to moderate presentation. Two of the 3 HbD Punjab E patients were asymptomatic with one patient’s sibling having a mild presentation. The hemoglobin levels of the HbSD Punjab disease patients ranged from 2.3 to 8.5 g/dl and MCV from 76.3 to 111.6 fl. The hemoglobin levels of the HbD Punjab E and HbSE patients ranged from 10.8 to 11.9 and 9.8 to 10.0 g/dl whereas MCV ranged from 67.1 to 78.2 and 74.5 to 76.0 fl respectively.
Conclusions: HbSD Punjab disease patients should be identified during newborn screening programs and managed in a way similar to sickle cell disease. Couple at risk of having HbSD Punjab disease children may be given the option of prenatal diagnosis in subsequent pregnancies.

Sickle cell anemia is the most common hemoglobinopathy seen across the world. It is caused by a point mutation in the 6th codon of the beta (β) globin gene leading to the substitution of the amino acid glutamic acid to valine. The sickle gene is frequently seen in Africa, some Mediterranean countries, India, Middle East—Saudi Arabia and North America. In India the prevalence of hemoglobin S (HbS) carriers varies from 2 to 40% among different population groups and HbS is mainly seen among the scheduled tribe, scheduled caste and other backward class populations in the western, central and parts of eastern and southern India. Sickle cell anemia has a variable clinical presentation in India with the most severe clinical presentation seen in central India whereas patients in the western region show a mild to moderate clinical presentation.

Hemoglobin D Punjab (HbD Punjab) (also known as HbD Los-Angeles, HbD Portugal, HbD North Carolina, D Oak Ridge and D Chicago) is another hemoglobin variant due to a point mutation in codon 121 of the β globin gene resulting in the substitution of the amino acid glutamic acid to glycine. It is a widely distributed hemoglobin with a relatively low prevalence of 0.86% in the Indo-Pak subcontinent, 1–3% in north-western India, 1–3% in the Black population in the Caribbean and North America and has also been reported among the English. It accounts for 55.6% of all the Hb variants seen in the Xenjiang province of China.

Hemoglobin E (HbE) is the most common abnormal hemoglobin in Southeast Asia. In India, the frequency ranges from 4% to 51% in the north eastern region and 3% to 4% in West Bengal in the east. The HbE mutation (β26 GAG→AAG) creates an alternative splice site and the βE chain is insufficiently synthesized, hence the phenotype of this disorder is that of a mild form of β thalassemia.

Though these 3 structural variants are prevalent in different regions of India, their interaction is increasingly seen in all states of the country due to migration of people to different regions for a better livelihood. There are very few reports on interaction of these commonly seen Hb variants and the phenotypic–genotypic presentation of these cases is important for genetic counseling and management.

HbF of patients with HbSD Punjab disease with variable clinical severity. The HbF values of 4 patients are not included as they were post blood transfusion

The genotypes of the patients were confirmed by restriction enzyme digestion and ARMS (Fig). Patients 1 to 15 were characterized as compound heterozygous for HbS and HbD Punjab whereas patients 16 to 19 were characterized as compound heterozygous for HbS and HbE. Patient nos. 20 to 22 were characterized as compound heterozygous for HbE and HbD Punjab.

Molecular characterization of HbS and HbDPunjab by restriction enzyme digestion and of HbE by ARMS.

Molecular characterization of HbS and HbDPunjab by restriction enzyme digestion and of HbE by ARMS.

Molecular characterization of HbS and HbDPunjab by restriction enzyme digestion and of HbE by ARMS.

The 3 common β globin gene variants of hemoglobin, HbS, HbE and HbD Punjab are commonly seen in India, with HbS having a high prevalence in the central belt and some parts of western, eastern and southern India, HbE in the eastern and north eastern region whereas HbD is mostly seen in the north western part of India. These hemoglobin variants have been reported in different population groups. However, with migration and intermixing of the different populations from different geographic regions, occasional cases of HbSD Punjab and HbSE are being reported. There are several HbD variants like HbD Punjab, HbD Iran, HbD Ibadan. However, of these only HbD Punjab interacts with HbS to form a clinically significant condition as the glutamine residue facilitates polymerization of HbS. HbD Iran and HbD Ibadan are non-interacting and produce benign conditions like the sickle cell trait. The first case of HbSD Punjab disease was a brother and sister considered to have atypical sickle cell disease in 1934. This family was further reinvestigated and reported as the first case of HbD Los Angeles which has the same mutation as the HbD Punjab. Serjeant et al. reported HbD Punjab in an English parent in 6 out of 11 HbSD-Punjab disease cases. This has been suggested to be due to the stationing of nearly 50,000 British troops on the Indian continent for a period of 200 y and the introduction into Britain of their Anglo-Indian children.

HbSD Punjab disease shows a similar pattern to HbS homozygous on alkaline hemoglobin electrophoresis but can be differentiated on acid agar gel electrophoresis and on HPLC. In HbSD Punjab disease cases, the peripheral blood films show anisocytosis, poikilocytosis, target cells and irreversibly sickled cells. Values of HbF and HbA2 are similar to those in sickle homozygous cases. HbSD Punjab disease is characterized by a moderately severe hemolytic anemia.

Twenty-one cases of HbSDPunjab were reported by Serjeant of which 16 were reported by different workers among patients originating from Caucasian, Spanish, Australian, Irish, English, Portuguese, Black, American, Venezuelan, Caribbean, Mexican, Turkish and Jamaican backgrounds. Yavarian et al. 2009 reported a multi centric origin of HbD Punjab which in combination with HbS results in sickle cell disease. Patel et al. 2010 have also reported 12 cases of HbSD Punjab from the Orissa state of eastern India. Majority of these cases were symptomatic, presenting with chronic hemolytic anemia and frequent painful crises.

HbF levels >20% were seen in 4 out of our 11 clinically severe patients of HbSD-Punjab disease with the mean HbF levels of 16.8% in 8 clinically severe patients, while 3 clinically severe patients were post transfused. However, the 3 patients with a mild to moderate clinical presentation showed a mean HbF level of 8.6%. This is in contrast to the relatively milder clinical presentation associated with high HbF seen in patients with sickle cell anemia. This was also reported by Adekile et al. 2010 in 5 cases of HbS-DLos Angeles where high HbF did not ameliorate the severe clinical presentation seen in these patients.

These 15 cases of HbSDPunjab disease give us an overall idea of the severe clinical presentation of the disease in different regions of India. However the HbDPunjabE cases were milder or asymptomatic and the HbSE cases were moderately symptomatic. Since most of the cases of HbSDPunjab disease were clinically severe, it is important to pick up these cases during newborn screening and enroll them into a comprehensive care program with the other sickle cell disease patients with introduction of therapeutic interventions such as penicillin prophylaxis if required and pneumococcal immunization. In fact, 2 of our cases (No. 6 and 7) were identified during newborn screening for sickle cell disorders. The parents can be given information on home care and educated to detect symptoms that may lead to serious medical emergencies. The parents of these patients as well as the couples who are at risk of having a child with HbSDPunjab disease could also be counseled about the option of prenatal diagnosis in subsequent pregnancies. It is thus important to document the clinical and hematological presentation of compound heterozygotes with these common β globin chain variants.

Common Hematologic Problems in the Newborn Nursery

Jon F. Watchko
Pediatr Clin N Am – (2015) xxx-xxx

Common RBC disorders include hemolytic disease of the newborn, anemia, and polycythemia. Another clinically relevant hematologic issue in neonates to be covered herein is thrombocytopenia. Disorders of white blood cells will not be reviewed.


(1)               Early clinical jaundice or rapidly developing hyperbilirubinemia are often signs of hemolysis, the differential diagnosis of which commonly includes immune-mediated disorders, red-cell enzyme deficiencies, and red-cell membrane defects.

(2)             Knowledge of the maternal blood type and antibody screen is critical in identifying non-ABO alloantibodies in the maternal serum that may pose a risk for severe hemolytic disease in the newborn.

(3)             Moderate to severe thrombocytopenia in an otherwise well-appearing newborn strongly suggests immune-mediated (alloimmune or autoimmune) thrombocytopenia.

Hemolytic conditions in the neonate

1. Immune-mediated (positive direct Coombs test)  a. Rhesus blood group: Anti-D, -c, -C, -e, -E, CW, and several others

  b. Non-Rhesus blood groups: Kell, Duffy, Kidd, Xg, Lewis, MNS, and others

  c. ABO blood group: Anti-A, -B

2. Red blood cell (RBC) enzyme defects

  a. Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficiency

  b. Pyruvate kinase deficiency

  c. Others

3. RBC membrane defects

  a. Hereditary spherocytosis

  b. Elliptocytosis

  c. Stomatocytosis

  d. Pyknocytosis

  e. Others

4. Hemoglobinopathies

  a. alpha-thalassemia

  b. gamma-thalassemia

Standard maternal antibody screeningAlloantibody                                 Blood Group

D, C, c, E, e, f, CW, V                     Rhesus

K, k, Kpa, Jsa                                  Kell

Fya, Fyb                                          Duffy

Jka, Jkb                                           Kidd

Xga                                                  Xg

Lea, Leb                                          Lewis

S, s, M, N                                        MNS

P1                                                    P

Lub                                                  Lutheran

Non-ABO alloantibodies reported to cause moderate to severe hemolytic disease of the newbornWithin Rh system: Anti-D, -c, -C, -Cw, -Cx, -e, -E, -Ew, -ce, -Ces, -Rh29, -Rh32, -Rh42, -f, -G, -Goa, -Bea, -Evans, -Rh17, -Hro, -Hr, -Tar, -Sec, -JAL, -STEM

Outside Rh system:  Anti-LW, -K, -k, -Kpa, -Kpb, -Jka, -Jsa, -Jsb, -Ku, -K11, -K22, -Fya, -M, -N, -S, -s, -U, -PP1 pk, -Dib, -Far, -MUT, -En3, -Hut, -Hil, -Vel, -MAM, -JONES, -HJK, -REIT


Red Blood Cell Enzymopathies

G6PD9 and pyruvate kinase (PK) deficiency are the 2 most common red-cell enzyme disorders associated with marked neonatal hyperbilirubinemia. Of these, G6PD deficiency is the more frequently encountered and it remains an important cause of kernicterus worldwide, including the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, the prevalence in Western countries a reflection in part of immigration patterns and intermarriage. The risk of kernicterus in G6PD deficiency also relates to the potential for unexpected rapidly developing extreme hyperbilirubinemia in this disorder associated with acute severe hemolysis.

Red Blood Cell Membrane Defects

Establishing a diagnosis of RBC membrane defects is classically based on the development of Coombs-negative hyperbilirubinemia, a positive family history, and abnormal RBC smear, albeit it is often difficult because newborns normally exhibit a marked variation in red-cell membrane size and shape. Spherocytes, however, are not often seen on RBC smears of hematologically normal newborns and this morphologic abnormality, when prominent, may yield a diagnosis of hereditary spherocytosis (HS) in the immediate neonatal period. Given that approximately 75% of families affected with hereditary spherocytosis manifest an autosomal dominant phenotype, a positive family history can often be elicited and provide further support for this diagnosis. More recently, Christensen and Henry highlighted the use of an elevated mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration (MCHC) (>36.0 g/dL) and/or elevated ratio of MCHC to mean corpuscular volume, the latter they term the “neonatal HS index” (>0.36, likely >0.40) as screening tools for HS. An index of greater than 0.36 had 97% sensitivity, greater than 99% specificity, and greater than 99% negative predictive value for identifying HS in neonates. Christensen and colleagues also provided a concise update of morphologic RBC features that may be helpful in diagnosing this and other underlying hemolytic conditions in newborns.

The diagnosis of HS can be confirmed using the incubated osmotic fragility test when coupled with fetal red-cell controls or eosin-5-maleimide flow cytometry. One must rule out symptomatic ABO hemolytic disease by performing a direct Coombs test, as infants so affected also may manifest prominent micro-spherocytosis. Moreover, HS and symptomatic ABO hemolytic disease can occur in the same infant and result in severe hyperbilirubinemia and anemia.  Of other red-cell membrane defects, only hereditary elliptocytosis,  stomato-cytosis, and infantile pyknocytosis have been reported to exhibit significant hemolysis in the newborn period. Hereditary elliptocytosis and stomatocytosis are both rare. Infantile pyknocytosis, a transient red-cell membrane abnormality manifesting itself during the first few months of life, is more common.

Risk factors for bilirubin neurotoxicityIsoimmune hemolytic disease

G6PD deficiency




Albumin less than 3.0 g/dL
Data from Maisels MJ, Bhutani VK, Bogen D, et al. Hyperbilirubinemia in the newborn infant > or 535 weeks’ gestation: an update with clarifications. Pediatrics 2009; 124:1193–8.


Polycythemia (venous hematocrit 65%) in seen in infants across a range of conditions associated with active erythropoiesis or passive transfusion.76,77 They include, among others, placental insufficiency, the infant of a diabetic mother, recipient in twin-twin transfusion syndrome, and several aneuploidies, including trisomy. The clinical concern related to polycythemia is the risk for microcirculatory complications of hyperviscosity. However, determining which polycythemic infants are hyperviscous and when to intervene is a challenge.




Metabolic disorders presenting as liver disease

Germaine Pierre, Efstathia Chronopoulou
Paediatrics and Child Health 2013; 23(12): 509-514
The liver is a highly metabolically active organ and many inherited metabolic disorders have hepatic manifestations. The clinical presentation in these patients cannot usually be distinguished from liver disease due to acquired causes like infection, drugs or hematological disorders. Manifestations include acute and chronic liver failure, cholestasis and hepatomegaly. Metabolic causes of acute liver failure in childhood can be as high as 35%. Certain disorders like citrin deficiency and Niemann-Pick C disease may present in infancy with self-limiting cholestasis before presenting in later childhood or adulthood with irreversible disease. This article reviews important details from the history and clinical examination when evaluating the pediatric patient with suspected metabolic disease, the specialist and genetic tests when investigating, and also discusses specific disorders, their clinical course and treatment. The role of liver transplantation is also briefly discussed. Increased awareness of this group of disorders is important as in many cases, early diagnosis leads to early intervention with improved outcome. Diagnosis also allows genetic counselling and future family planning.

Adult liver disorders caused by inborn errors of metabolism: Review and update

Sirisak Chanprasert, Fernando Scaglia
Molecular Genetics and Metabolism 114 (2015) 1–10

Inborn errors of metabolism (IEMs) are a group of genetic diseases that have protean clinical manifestations and can involve several organ systems. The age of onset is highly variable but IEMs afflict mostly the pediatric population. However, in the past decades, the advancement in management and new therapeutic approaches have led to the improvement in IEM patient care. As a result, many patients with IEMs are surviving into adulthood and developing their own set of complications. In addition, some IEMs will present in adulthood. It is important for internists to have the knowledge and be familiar with these conditions because it is predicted that more and more adult patients with IEMs will need continuity of care in the near future. The review will focus on Wilson disease, alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, citrin deficiency, and HFE-associated hemochromatosis which are typically found in the adult population. Clinical manifestations and pathophysiology, particularly those that relate to hepatic disease as well as diagnosis and management will be discussed in detail.

Inborn errors of metabolism (IEMs) are a group of genetic diseases characterized by abnormal processing of biochemical reactions, resulting in accumulation of toxic substances that could interfere with normal organ functions, and failure to synthesize essential compounds. IEMs are individually rare, but collectively numerous. The clinical presentations cover a broad spectrum and can involve almost any organ system. The age of onset is highly variable but IEMs afflict mostly the pediatric population.

Wilson disease is an autosomal recessive genetic disorder of copper metabolism. It is characterized by an abnormal accumulation of inorganic copper in various tissues, most notably in the liver and the brain, especially in the basal ganglia. The disease was first described in 1912 by Kinnier Wilson, and affects between 1 in 30,000 and 1 in 100,000 individuals. Clinical features are variable and depend on the extent  and the severity of copper deposition. Typically, patients tend to develop hepatic disease at a younger age than the neuropsychiatric manifestations. Individuals withWilson disease eventually succumb to complications of end stage liver disease or become debilitated from neurological problems, if they are left untreated.

The clinical presentations of Wilson disease are varied affecting many organ systems. However, the overwhelming majority of cases display hepatic and neurologic symptoms. In general, patients with hepatic disease present between the first and second decades of life although patients as young as 3 years old or over 50 years old have also been reported. The most common modes of presentations are acute self-limited hepatitis and chronic active hepatitis that are indistinguishable from other hepatic disorders although liver aminotransferases are generally much lower than in autoimmune or viral hepatitis. Acute fulminant hepatic failure is less common but is observed in approximately 3% of all cases of acute liver failure. Symptoms of acute liver failure include jaundice, coagulopathy, and hepatic encephalopathy. Cirrhosis can develop over time and may be clinically silent. Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is rarely associated with Wilson disease, but may occur in the setting of cirrhosis and chronic inflammation.

Copper is an essential element, and is required for the proper functioning of various proteins and enzymes. The total body content of copper in a healthy adult individual is approximately 70–100 mg, while the daily requirements are estimated to be between 1 and 5 mg. Absorption occurs in the small intestine. Copper is taken up to the hepatocytes via the copper transporter hTR1. Once inside the cell, copper is bound to various proteins including metallothionein and glutathione, however, it is the metal chaperone, ATOX1 that helps direct copper to the ATP7B protein for intracellular transport and excretion. At the steady state, copper will be bound to ATP7B and is then incorporated to ceruloplasmin and secreted into the systemic circulation. When the cellular copper concentration arises, ATP7B protein will be redistributed from the trans-Golgi network to the prelysosomal vesicles facilitating copper excretion into the bile. The molecular defects in ATP7B lead to a reduction of copper excretion. Excess copper is accumulated in the liver causing tissue injury. The rate of accumulation of copper varies among individuals, and it may depend on other factors such as alcohol consumption, or viral hepatitis infections. If the liver damage is not severe, patients will accumulate copper in various tissues including the brain, the kidney, the eyes, and the musculoskeletal system leading to clinical disease. A failure of copper to incorporate into ceruloplasmin leads to secretion of the unsteady protein that has a shorter half-life, resulting in the reduced concentrations of ceruloplasmin seen in most patients with Wilson disease.

Wilson disease used to be a progressive fatal condition during the first half of the 20th century because there was no effective treatment available at that time. Penicillamine was the first pharmacologic agent introduced in 1956 for treating this condition. Penicillamine is a sulfhydryl-bearing amino acid cysteine doubly substituted with methyl groups. This drug acts as a chelating agent that promotes the urinary excretion of copper. It is rapidly absorbed in the gastrointestinal track, and over 80% of circulating penicillamine is excreted via the kidneys. Although it is very effective, approximately 10%–50% of Wilson disease patients with neuropsychiatric presentations may experience worsening of their symptoms, and often times the worsening symptoms may not be reversible.

Alpha1-antitrypsin deficiency

Alpha1-antitrypsin deficiency (AATD) is one of the most common genetic liver diseases in children and adults, affecting 1 in 2000 to 1 in 3000 live births worldwide. It is transmitted in an autosomal co-dominant fashion with variable expressivity. Alpha1 antitrypsin (A1AT) is a member of the serine protease inhibitor (SERPIN) family. Its function is to counteract the proteolytic effect of neutrophil elastase and other neutrophil proteases. Mutations in the SERPINA1, the gene encoding A1AT, result in changes in the protein structure with the PiZZ phenotype being the most common cause of liver and lung disease-associated AATDs. Although, it classically causes early onset chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in adults, liver disease characterized by chronic inflammation, hepatic fibrosis, and cirrhosis is not uncommon in the adult population. Decreased plasma concentration of A1AT predisposes lung tissue to be more susceptible to injury from protease enzymes. However, the underlying mechanism of liver injury is different, and is believed to be caused by accumulation of polymerized mutant A1AT in the hepatocyte endoplasmic reticulum (ER). Currently, there is no specific treatment for liver disease-associated AATD, but A1AT augmentation therapy is available for patients affected with pulmonary involvement.

A1AT is a single-chain, 52-kDa polypeptide of approximately 394 amino acids [56]. It is synthesized in the liver, circulates in the plasma, and functions as an inhibitor of neutrophil elastase and other proteases such as cathepsin G, and proteinase 3. A1AT has a globular shape composed of two central β sheets surrounded by a small β sheet and nine α helices. The pathophysiology underlying liver disease is thought to be a toxic gain-of-function mutation associated with the PiZZ phenotypes. This hypothesis has been supported by the fact that null alleles which produce no detectable plasma A1AT, are not associated with liver disease. In addition, the transgenic mouse model of AATD PiZZ developed periodic acid-Schiff-positive diastase-resistant intrahepatic globule early in life similar to AATD patients. The PiZZ phenotype results in the blockade of the final processing of A1AT in the liver, as only 15% of the A1AT reaches the circulation whereas 85% of non-secreted protein is accumulated in the hepatocytes.

Citrin deficiency

Citrin deficiency is a relatively newly-defined autosomal recessive disease. It encompasses two different sub-groups of patients, neonatal intrahepatic cholestasis caused by citrin deficiency (NICCD), and adult onset citrullinemia type 2 (CTLN 2).

AGC2 exports aspartate out of the mitochondrial matrix in exchange for glutamate and a proton. Thus, this protein has an important role in ureagenesis and gluconeogenesis. In CTLN2, a defect in this protein is believed to limit the supply of aspartate for the formation of argininosuccinate in the cytosol resulting in impairment of ureagenesis. Interestingly, the mouse model of citrin deficiency (Ctrn−/−) fails to develop symptoms of CTLN2 suggesting that the mitochondrial aspartate is not the only source of ureagenesis. However, it should be noted that the rodent liver expresses higher glycerol-phosphate shuttle activity than the human counterpart. With the intact glycerol-phosphate dehydrogenase, it can compensate for the deficiency of AGC2, as demonstrated by the AGC2 and glycerol-phosphate dehydrogenase double knock-out mice that exhibit similar features to those observed in human CTLN2.

HFE-associated hemochromatosis

HFE-associated hemochromatosis is an inborn error of iron metabolism characterized by excessive iron storage resulting in tissue and organ damage. It is the most common autosomal recessive disorder in the Caucasian population, affecting 0.3%–0.5% of individuals of Northern European descent. The term “hemochromatosis” was coined in 1889 by the German pathologist Friedrich Daniel Von Recklinghausen, who described it as bronze stain of organs caused by a blood borne pigment.

The classic clinical triad of cirrhosis, diabetes, and bronze skin pigmentation is rarely observed nowadays given the early recognition, diagnosis, and treatment of this condition. The most common presenting symptoms are nonspecific including weakness, lethargy, and arthralgia.

The liver is a major site of iron storage in healthy individuals and as such it is the organ that is universally affected in HFE-associated hemochromatosis. Elevation of liver aminotransferases indicative of hepatocyte injury is the most common mode of presentation and it can be indistinguishable from other causes of hepatitis. Approximately 15%–40% of patients with HFE-associated hemochromatosis have other liver conditions, including chronic viral hepatitis B or C infection, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, and alcoholic liver disease.


The liver in haemochromatosis

Rune J. Ulvik
Journal of Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology xxx (2014) xxx–xxx

The review deals with genetic, regulatory and clinical aspects of iron homeostasis and hereditary hemochromatosis. Hemochromatosis was first described in the second half of the 19th century as a clinical entity characterized by excessive iron overload in the liver. Later, increased absorption of iron from the diet was identified as the pathophysiological hallmark. In the 1970s genetic evidence emerged supporting the apparent inheritable feature of the disease. And finally in 1996 a new “hemochromato-sis gene” called HFE was described which was mutated in about 85% of the patients. From the year2000 onward remarkable progress was made in revealing the complex molecular regulation of iron trafficking in the human body and its disturbance in hemochromatosis. The discovery of hepcidin and ferroportin and their interaction in regulating the release of iron from enterocytes and macrophages to plasma were important milestones. The discovery of new, rare variants of non-HFE-hemochromatosis was explained by mutations in the multicomponent signal transduction pathway controlling hepcidin transcription. Inhibited transcription induced by the altered function of mutated gene products, results in low plasma levels of hepcidin which facilitate entry of iron from enterocytes into plasma. In time this leads to progressive accumulation of iron and subsequently development of disease in the liver and other parenchymatous organs. Being the major site of excess iron storage and hepcidin synthesis the liver is a cornerstone in maintaining normal systemic iron homeostasis. Its central pathophysiological role in HFE-hemochromatosis with downgraded hepcidin synthesis, was recently shown by the finding that liver transplantation normalized the hepcidin levels in plasma and there was no sign of iron accumulation in the new liver.


Decoding the enigma of necrotizing enterocolitis in premature infants

Roberto Murgas TorrazzaNan Li, Josef Neu
Pathophysiology 21 (2014) 21–27

Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is an enigmatic disease that affects primarily premature infants. It often occurs suddenly and when it occurs, treatment attempts at treatment often fail and results in death. If the infant survives, there is a significant risk of long term sequelae including neurodevelopmental delays. The pathophysiology of NEC is poorly understood and thus prevention has been difficult. In this review, we will provide an overview of why progress may be slow in our understanding of this disease, provide a brief review diagnosis, treatment and some of the current concepts about the pathophysiology of this disease.

Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) has been reported since special care units began to house preterm infants .With the advent of modern neonatal intensive care approximately 40 years ago, the occurrence and recognition of the disease markedly increased. It is currently the most common and deadly gastro-intestinal illness seen in preterm infants. Despite major efforts to better understand, treat and prevent this devastating disease, little if any progress has been made during these 4 decades. Underlying this lack of progress is the fact that what is termed “NEC” is likely more than one disease, or mimicked by other diseases, each with a different etiopathogenesis.

Human gut microbiome

Human gut microbiome

Term or near term infants with “NEC” when compared to matched controls usually have occurrence of their disease in the first week after birth, have a significantly higher frequency of prolonged rupture of membranes, chorio-amnionitis, Apgar score <7 at 1 and 5 min, respiratory problems, congenital heart disease, hypoglycemia, and exchange transfusions. When a “NEC” like illness presents in term or near term infants, it should be noted that these are likely to be distinct in pathogenesis than the most common form of NEC and should be differentiated as such.

The infants who suffer primary ischemic necrosis are term or near term infants (although this can occur in preterms) who have concomitant congenital heart disease, often related to poor left ventricular output or obstruction. Other factors that have been associated with primary ischemia are maternal cocaine use, hyperviscosity caused by polycythemia or a severe antecedent hypoxic–ischemic event. Whether the dis-ease entity that results from this should be termed NEC can be debated on historical grounds, but the etiology is clearly different from the NEC seen in most preterm infants.

The pathogenesis of NEC is uncertain, and the etiology seems to be multifactorial. The “classic” form of NEC is highly associated with prematurity; intestinal barrier immaturity, immature immune response, and an immature regulation of intestinal blood flow (Fig.). Although genetics appears to play a role, the environment, especially a dysbiotic intestinal microbiota acting in concert with host immaturities predisposes the preterm infant to disruption of the intestinal epithelia, increased permeability of tight junctions, and release of inflammatory mediators that leads to intestinal mucosa injury and therefore development of necrotizing enterocolitis.

NEC is a multifactorial disease

NEC is a multifactorial disease

What causes NEC? NEC is a multifactorial disease with an interaction of several etiophathologies

It is clear from this review that there are several entities that have been described as NEC. What is also clear is that despite having some overlap in the final parts of the pathophysiologic cascade that lead to necrosis, the disease that is most commonly seen in the preterm infant is likely to have an origin that differs markedly from that seen in term infants with congenital heart disease or severe hypoxic–ischemic injury. Thus, epidemiologic studies will need to differentiate these entities, if the aim is to dissect common features that are most highly associated with development of the disease. At this juncture, we areleft with more of a population based preventative approach, where the use of human milk, evidence based feeding guide-lines, considerations for microbial therapy once these are proved safe and effective and approved as such by regulatory authorities, and perhaps even measures that prevent prematurity will have a major impact on this devastating disease.

Influenced by the microbiota, intestinal epithelial cells (IECs) elaborate cytokines

Influenced by the microbiota, intestinal epithelial cells (IECs) elaborate cytokines

Influenced by the microbiota, intestinal epithelial cells (IECs) elaborate cytokines, including thymic stromal lymphoprotein (TSLP), transforming growthfactor (TGF), and interleukin-10 (IL-10), that can influence pro-inflammatory cytokine production by dendritic cells (DC) and macrophages present in the laminapropria (GALT) and Peyer’s patches. Signals from commensal organisms may influence tissue-specific functions, resulting in T-cell expansion and regulation of the numbers of Th-1,
Th-2, and Th-3 cells. Also modulated by the microbiota, other IEC derived factors, including APRIL (a proliferation-inducing ligand),B-cell activating factor (BAFF), secretory leukocyte peptidase inhibitor (SLPI), prostaglandin E2(PGE2), and other metabolites, directly regulate functions ofboth antigen presenting cells and lymphocytes in the intestinal ecosystem. NK: natural killer cell; LN: lymph node; DC: dendritic cells.Modified from R. Sharma, C. Young, M. Mshvildadze, J. Neu, Intestinal microbiota does it play a role in diseases of the neonate? NeoReviews 10 (4) (2009)e166, with permission

Cross-talk between monocyte.macrophage cells and T.NK lymphocytes

Cross-talk between monocyte.macrophage cells and T.NK lymphocytes

Current Issues in the Management of Necrotizing Enterocolitis

Marion C. W. Henry and R. Lawrence Moss
Seminars in Perinatology, 2004; 28(3): 221-233

Necrotizing enterocolitis is almost exclusively a disease of prematurity, with 90% of all cases occurring in premature infants and 90% of those infants weighing less than 2000 g. Prematurity is the only risk factor for necrotizing enterocolitis consistently identified in case control studies and the disease is rare in countries where prematurity is uncommon such as Japan and Sweden. When necrotizing enterocolitis does occur in full-term infants, it appears to by a somewhat different disease, typically associated with some predisposing condition.

NEC occurs in one to three in 1,000 live births and most commonly affects babies born between 30-32 weeks. It is most often diagnosed during the second week of life and occurs more often in previously fed infants. The mortality from NEC has been cited as 10% to 50% of all NEC cases. Surgical mortality has decreased over the last several decades from 70% to between 20 and 50%. The incremental cost per case of acute hospital care is estimated at $74 to 186 thousand compared to age matched controls, not including additional costs of long term care for the infants’ with lifelong morbidity. Survivors may develop short bowel syndrome, recurrent bouts of catheter-related sepsis, malabsorption, malnutrition, and TPN induced liver failure.

Although extensive research concerning the pathophysiology of necrotizing enterocolitis has occurred, a complete understanding has not been fully elucidated. The classic histologic finding is coagulation necrosis; present in over 90% of specimens. This finding suggests the importance of ischemia in the pathogenesis of NEC. Inflammation and bacterial overgrowth also are present. These findings support the assumptions by Kosloske that NEC occurs by the interaction of 3 events:

  • intestinal ischemia,
  • colonization by pathogenic bacteria and
  • excess protein substrate in the intestinal lumen.

Additionally, the immunologic immaturity of the neonatal gut has been implicated in the development of NEC. Reparative tissue changes including epithelial regeneration, formation of granulation tissue and fibrosis, and mixed areas of acute and chronic inflammatory changes suggest that the pathogenesis of NEC may involve a chronic process of injury and repair.

Premature newborns born prior to the 32nd week of gestational age may have compromised intestinal peristalsis and decreased motility. These motility problems may lead to poor clearance of bacteria, and subsequent bacterial overgrowth. Premature infants also have an immature intestinal tract in terms of immunologic immunity.

There are fewer functional B lymphocytes present and the ability to produce sufficient secretory IgA is reduced. Pepsin, gastric acid and mucus are also not produced as well in prematurity. All of these factors may contribute to the limited proliferation of intestinal flora and the decreased binding of these flora to mucosal cells (Fig).

Role of nitric oxide in the pathogenesis of NEC

Role of nitric oxide in the pathogenesis of NEC

Role of nitric oxide in the pathogenesis of NEC.

Characteristics of the immature gut leading to increased risk of necrotizing enterocolitis

Characteristics of the immature gut leading to increased risk of necrotizing enterocolitis

Characteristics of the immature gut leading to increased risk of necrotizing enterocolitis.

As understanding of the pathophysiology of necrotizing enterocolitis continues to evolve, a unifying concept is emerging. Initially, there is likely a subclinical insult leading to NEC. This may arise from a brief episode of hypoxia or infection. With colonization of the intestines, bacteria bind to the injured mucosa eliciting an inflammatory response which leads to further inflammation.

Intestinal Microbiota Development in Preterm Neonates and Effect of Perinatal Antibiotics

Silvia Arboleya, Borja Sanchez,, Christian Milani, Sabrina Duranti, et al.
Pediatr 2014;-:—).

Objectives Assess the establishment of the intestinal microbiota in very low birth-weight preterm infants and to evaluate the impact of perinatal factors, such as delivery mode and perinatal antibiotics.
Study design We used 16S ribosomal RNA gene sequence-based microbiota analysis and quantitative polymerase chain reaction to evaluate the establishment of the intestinal microbiota. We also evaluated factors affecting the microbiota, during the first 3 months of life in preterm infants (n = 27) compared with full-term babies (n = 13).
Results Immaturity affects the microbiota as indicated by a reduced percentage of the family Bacteroidaceae during the first months of life and by a higher initial percentage of Lactobacillaceae in preterm infants compared with full term infants. Perinatal antibiotics, including intrapartum antimicrobial prophylaxis, affects the gut microbiota, as indicated by increased Enterobacteriaceae family organisms in the infants.

Human gut microbiome

Human gut microbiome

Conclusions Prematurity and perinatal antibiotic administration strongly affect the initial establishment of microbiota with potential consequences for later health.

Ischemia and necrotizing enterocolitis: where, when, and how

Philip T. Nowicki
Seminars in Pediatric Surgery (2005) 14, 152-158

While it is accepted that ischemia contributes to the pathogenesis of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), three important questions regarding this role subsist. First, where within the intestinal circulation does the vascular pathophysiology occur? It is most likely that this event begins within the intramural microcirculation, particularly the small arteries that pierce the gut wall and the submucosal arteriolar plexus insofar as these represent the principal sites of resistance regulation in the gut. Mucosal damage might also disrupt the integrity or function of downstream villous arterioles leading to damage thereto; thereafter, noxious stimuli might ascend into the submucosal vessels via downstream venules and lymphatics. Second, when during the course of pathogenesis does ischemia occur? Ischemia is unlikely to the sole initiating factor of NEC; instead, it is more likely that ischemia is triggered by other events, such as inflammation at the mucosal surface. In this context, it is likely that ischemia plays a secondary, albeit critical role in disease extension. Third, how does the ischemia occur? Regulation of vascular resistance within newborn intestine is principally determined by a balance between the endothelial production of the vasoconstrictor peptide endothelin-1 (ET-1) and endothelial production of the vasodilator free radical nitric oxide (NO). Under normal conditions, the balance heavily favors NO-induced vasodilation, leading to a low resting resistance and high rate of flow. However, factors that disrupt endothelial cell function, eg, ischemia-reperfusion, sustained low-flow perfusion, or proinflammatory mediators, alter the ET-1:NO balance in favor of constriction. The unique ET-1–NO interaction thereafter might facilitate rapid extension of this constriction, generating a viscous cascade wherein ischemia rapidly extends into larger portions of the intestine.

Schematic representation of the intestinal microcirculation

Schematic representation of the intestinal microcirculation

Schematic representation of the intestinal microcirculation. Small mesenteric arteries pierce the muscularis layers and terminate in the submucosa where they give rise to 1A (1st order) arterioles. 2A (2nd order) arterioles arise from the 1A. Although not shown here, these 2A arterioles connect merge with several 1A arterioles, thus generating an arteriolar plexus, or manifold that serves to pressurize the terminal downstream microvasculature. 3A (3rd order) arterioles arise from the 2A and proceed to the mucosa, giving off a 4A branch just before descent into the mucosa. This 4A vessel travels to the muscularis layers. Each 3A vessel becomes the single arteriole perfusing each villus.

Collectively, these studies indicate that disruption of endothelial cell function has the potential to disrupt the normal balance between NO and ET-1 within the newborn intestinal circulation, and that such an event can generate significant ischemia. In this context, it is important to note that NO and ET-1 each regulate the expression and activity of the other. An increased [NO] within the microvascular environment reduces ET-1 expression and compromises ligand binding to the ETA receptor (thus decreasing its contractile efficacy), while ET-1 compromises eNOS expression. Thus, factors that upset the balance between NO and ET-1 will have an immediate and direct effect on vascular tone, but also exert an additional indirect effect by extenuating the disruption of balance between these two factors.

It is not difficult to construct a hypothesis that links the perturbations of I/R and sustained low-flow perfusion with an initial inflammatory insult. Initiation of an inflammatory process at the mucosal–luminal interface could have a direct impact on villus and mucosal 3A arterioles, damaging arteriolar integrity and disrupting villus hemodynamics. Ascent of proinflammatory mediators to the submucosal 1A–2A arteriolar plexus could occur via draining venules and lymphatics, generating damage to vascular effector systems therein; these mediators might include cytokines and platelet activating factor, as these elements have been recovered from human infants with NEC. This event, coupled with a generalized loss of 3A flow throughout a large portion of the mucosal surface, could compromise flow rate within the submucosal arteriolar plexus.

Necrotizing enterocolitis: An update

Loren Berman, R. Lawrence Moss
Seminars in Fetal & Neonatal Medicine 16 (2011) 145e150

Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is a leading cause of death among patients in the neonatal intensive care unit, carrying a mortality rate of 15e30%. Its pathogenesis is multifactorial and involves an over reactive response of the immune system to an insult. This leads to increased intestinal permeability, bacterial translocation, and sepsis. There are many inflammatory mediators involved in this process, but thus far none has been shown to be a suitable target for preventive or therapeutic measures. NEC usually occurs in the second week of life after the initiation of enteral feeds, and the diagnosis is made based on physical examination findings, laboratory studies, and abdominal radiographs. Neonates with NEC are followed with serial abdominal examinations and radiographs, and may require surgery or primary peritoneal drainage for perforation or necrosis. Many survivors are plagued with long term complications including short bowel syndrome, abnormal growth, and neurodevelopmental delay. Several evidence-based strategies exist that may decrease the incidence of NEC including promotion of human breast milk feeding, careful feeding advancement, and prophylactic probiotic administration in at-risk patients. Prevention is likely to have the greatest impact on decreasing mortality and morbidity related to NEC, as little progress has been made with regard to improving outcomes for neonates once the disease process is underway.

Immune Deficiencies

Primary immunodeficiencies: A rapidly evolving story

Nima Parvaneh, Jean-Laurent Casanova,  LD Notarangelo, ME Conley
J Allergy Clin Immunol 2013;131:314-23.

The characterization of primary immunodeficiencies (PIDs) in human subjects is crucial for a better understanding of the biology of the immune response. New achievements in this field have been possible in light of collaborative studies; attention paid to new phenotypes, infectious and otherwise; improved immunologic techniques; and use of exome sequencing technology. The International Union of Immunological Societies Expert Committee on PIDs recently reported on the updated classification of PIDs. However, new PIDs are being discovered at an ever-increasing rate. A series of 19 novel primary defects of immunity that have been discovered after release of the International Union of Immunological Societies report are discussed here. These new findings highlight the molecular pathways that are associated with clinical phenotypes and suggest potential therapies for affected patients.

Combined Immunodeficiencies

  • T-cell receptor a gene mutation: T-cell receptor ab1 T-cell depletion

T cells comprise 2 distinct lineages that express either ab or gd T-cell receptor (TCR) complexes that perform different tasks in immune responses. During T-cell maturation, the precise order and efficacy of TCR gene rearrangements determine the fate of the cells. Productive β-chain gene rearrangement produces a pre-TCR on the cell surface in association with pre-Tα invariant peptide (β-selection). Pre-TCR signals promote α-chain recombination and transition to a double-positive stage (CD41CD81). This is the prerequisite for central tolerance achieved through positive and negative selection of thymocytes.

  • Ras homolog gene family member H deficiency: Loss of naive T cells and persistent human papilloma virus infections
  • MST1 deficiency: Loss of naive T cells

New insight into the role of MST1 as a critical regulator of T-cell homing and function was provided by the characterization of 8 patients from 4 unrelated families who had homozygous nonsense mutations in STK4, the gene encoding MST1. MST1 was originally identified as an ubiquitously expressed kinase with structural homology to yeast Ste. MST1 is the mammalian homolog of the Drosophila Hippo protein, controlling cell growth, apoptosis, and tumorigenesis. It has both proapoptotic and antiapoptotic functions.

  • Lymphocyte-specific protein tyrosine kinase deficiency: T-cell deficiency with CD41 lymphopenia

Defects in pre-TCR– and TCR-mediated signaling lead to aberrant T-cell development and function (Fig). One of the earliest biochemical events occurring after engagement of the (pre)-TCR is the activation of lymphocyte-specific protein tyrosine kinase (LCK), a member of the SRC family of protein tyrosine kinases. This kinase then phosphorylates immunoreceptor tyrosine-based activation motifs of intracellular domains of CD3 subunits. Phosphorylated immunoreceptor tyrosine-based activation motifs recruit z-chain associated protein kinase of 70 kDa, which, after being phosphorylated by LCK, is responsible for activation of critical downstream events. Major consequences include activation of the membrane-associated enzyme phospholipase Cg1, activation of the mitogen-activated protein kinase, nuclear translocation of nuclear factor kB (NFkB), and Ca21/Mg21 mobilization. Through these pathways, LCK controls T-cell development and activation. In mice lacking LCK, T-cell development in the thymus is profoundly blocked at an early double-negative stage.

TCR signaling

TCR signaling

TCR signaling. Multiple signal transduction pathways are stimulated through the TCR. These pathways collectively activate transcription factors that organize T-cell survival, proliferation, differentiation, homeostasis, and migration. Mutant molecules in patients with TCR-related defects are indicated in red.

  • Uncoordinated 119 deficiency: Idiopathic CD41 lymphopenia

Idiopathic CD41 lymphopenia (ICL) is a very heterogeneous clinical entity that is defined, by default, by persistent CD41 T-cell lymphopenia (<300 cells/mL or <20% of total T cells) in the absence of HIV infection or any other known cause of immunodeficiency.

Well-Defined Syndromes with Immunodeficiency

  • Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome protein–interacting protein deficiency: Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome-like phenotype

In hematopoietic cells Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome protein (WASP) is stabilized through forming a complex with WASP interacting protein (WIP).

  • Phospholipase Cg2 gain-of-function mutations: Cold urticaria, immunodeficiency, and autoimmunity/autoinflammatory

This is a unique phenotype, sharing features of antibody deficiency, autoinflammatory diseases, and immune dysregulatory disorders, making its classification difficult. Two recent studies validated the pleiotropy of genetic alterations in the same gene.

Predominantly Antibody Defects

  • Defect in the p85a subunit of phosphoinositide 3-kinase: Agammaglobulinemia and absent B cells
  • CD21 deficiency: Hypogammaglobulinemia
  • LPS-responsive beige-like anchor deficiency:
  • Hypogammaglobulinemia with autoimmunity and

early colitis

Defects Of Immune Dysregulation

  • Pallidin deficiency: Hermansky-Pudlak syndrome type 9
  • CD27 deficiency: Immune dysregulation and
  • persistent EBV infection

Congenital Defects Of Phagocyte Number, Function, Or Both

  • Interferon-stimulated gene 15 deficiency: Mendelian susceptibility to mycobacterial diseases

Defects In Innate Immunity

  • NKX2-5 deficiency: Isolated congenital asplenia
  • Toll/IL-1 receptor domain–containing adaptor inducing IFN-b and TANK-binding kinase 1 deficiencies: Herpes simplex encephalitis
  • Minichromosome maintenance complex component 4 deficiency: NK cell deficiency associated with growth retardation and adrenal insufficiency

Autoinflammatory Disorders

  • A disintegrin and metalloproteinase 17 deficiency: Inflammatory skin and bowel disease


Cross-talk between monocyte.macrophage cells and T.NK lymphocytes

Cross-talk between monocyte.macrophage cells and T.NK lymphocytes

Cross-talk between monocyte/macrophage cells and T/NK lymphocytes. Genes in the IL-12/IFN-g pathway are particularly important for protection against mycobacterial disease. IRF8 is an IFN-g–inducible transcription factor required for the induction of various target genes, including IL-12. The NF-kB essential modulator (NEMO) mutations in the LZ domain impair CD40-NEMO–dependent pathways. Some gp91phox mutations specifically abolish the respiratory burst in monocyte-derived macrophages. ISG15 is secreted by neutrophils and potentiates IFN-g production by NK/T cells. Genetic defects that preclude monocyte development (eg, GATA2) can also predispose to mycobacterial infections (not shown). Mutant molecules in patients with unusual susceptibility to infection are indicated in red.

The field of PIDs is advancing at full speed in 2 directions. New genetic causes of known PIDs are being discovered (eg, CD21 and TRIF). Moreover, new phenotypes qualify as PIDs with the identification of a first genetic cause (eg, generalized pustular psoriasis). Recent findings contribute fundamental knowledge about immune system biology and its perturbation in disease. They are also of considerable clinical benefit for the patients and their families. A priority is to further translate these new discoveries into improved diagnostic methods and more effective therapeutic strategies, promoting the well-being of patients with PIDs.

Primary immunodeficiencies

Luigi D. Notarangelo
J Allergy Clin Immunol 2010; 125(2): S182-194

In the last years, advances in molecular genetics and immunology have resulted in the identification of a growing number of genes causing primary immunodeficiencies (PIDs) in human subjects and a better understanding of the pathophysiology of these disorders. Characterization of the molecular mechanisms of PIDs has also facilitated the development of novel diagnostic assays based on analysis of the expression of the protein encoded by the PID-specific gene. Pilot newborn screening programs for the identification of infants with severe combined immunodeficiency have been initiated. Finally, significant advances have been made in the treatment of PIDs based on the use of subcutaneous immunoglobulins, hematopoietic cell transplantation from unrelated donors and cord blood, and gene therapy. In this review we will discuss the pathogenesis, diagnosis, and treatment of PIDs, with special attention to recent advances in the field.



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Classification of Microbiota –

An Overview of Clinical Microbiology, Classification, and Antimicrobial Resistance

Author and Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP

Classification of Microbiota

Introduction to Overview of Microbiology

This is a contribution to a series of pieces on the history of biochemistry, molecular biology, physiology and medicine in the 20th century.  Here I describe the common microbial organisms encountered in the clinical laboratory, the method of their collection, plating, culture and identification, and antibiotic sensitivity testing and resistant strains.

I may begin with the recognition that there are common strains in the environment that are not pathogenic, and there are pathogenic bacteria.
In addition, there are bacteria that coexist in the body habitat under specific conditions so that we are able to map the types expected to location, such as, skin, mouth and nasal cavities, the colon, the vagina and urinary system.  Meningitides occur as a result of extension from the nasal cavity to the brain.  When bacteria invade the circulation, it is referred to as septicemia, and the bacteria can cause valvular heart damage.

Bacteriology can be traced to origins in the 19th century.  The clinical features of localized infection are classically referred to as redness, heat, a raised lesion (pustule), and exudate (serous or purulent – watery or cellular).  This not only holds for a focal lesion (as skin), but also for pneumonia, urinary infection, and genital. It may be accompanied by cough, or bloody cough and wheezing, or by an unclear urine. In the case of septicemia, there is fever, and there may be seizures or delirium.

Collection and handling of specimens

Specimens are collected by sterile technique by a nurse or physician and sent to a lab as a swab, or as a blood specimen.  In the case of a febrile illness, blood cultures may be obtained from opposite arms, and another an hour later.  This is related to the possible cyclical seeding of bacteria into the circulation.  If the specimen is collected from a site of infection, a swab may be put onto a glass slide for gram staining.  The specimen collected is sent to the laboratory.

We may consider syphilis and tuberculosis special cases that I’ll set aside.  I shall not go into virology either, although I may referred to smallpox, influenza, polio, HIV under epidemic.  The first step in identification is the Gram stain, developed in the 19th century.  Organisms of the skin are Gram positive and appear blue on staining.  They are cocci, or circular, organized in characteristic clusters (staphylococcus, streptococcus) or in pairs (diplococci, eg. Pneumococcus), and if from the intestine (enterococcus).  If they are elongated rods, they might be coliform.  If they stain red, they are Gram negative.  Gram negative rods are coliform, and are enterobacteriaceae. Meningococci are Gram negative cocci.  So we have certain information about these organisms before we plate them for growth.

Laboratory growth characteristics

The specimen is applied to an agar plate with a metal rod applicator, or perhaps onto more than one agar plate.  The agar plate contains a growth media or a growth inhibitor that is more favorable to certain species than to others.  The bacteria are grown at 37o C in an incubator and colonies develop that are white or nonwhite, and they are smooth or wrinkled.  The appearance of the colonies is characteristic for certain strains.  If there is no contamination, all of the colonies look the same.  The next step is to:

  • Gram stain from a colony
  • Transfer samples from the colony to a series of growth media that identify presence or absence of specific nutrient requirements for growth (which is presumed from the prior findings).

In addition, the colony samples are grown on an agar to which is applied antibiotic tabs.  The tabs either allow or repress growth.  It wa some 50 years ago that the infectious disease physician and microbiologist Abraham Braude would culture the bacteria on agar plates that had a gradient of antibiotic to check for concentration that would inhibit growth.

Principles of Diagnosis (Extracts)

By John A. Washington

The clinical presentation of an infectious disease reflects the interaction between the host and the microorganism. This interaction is affected by the host immune status and microbial virulence factors. Signs and symptoms vary according to the site and severity of infection. Diagnosis requires a composite of information, including history, physical examination, radiographic findings, and laboratory data.

Microbiologic Examination

Direct Examination and Techniques: Direct examination of specimens reveals gross pathology. Microscopy may identify microorganisms. Immunofluorescence, immuno-peroxidase staining, and other immunoassays may detect specific microbial antigens. Genetic probes identify genus- or species-specific DNA or RNA sequences.

Culture: Isolation of infectious agents frequently requires specialized media. Nonselective (noninhibitory) media permit the growth of many microorganisms. Selective media contain inhibitory substances that permit the isolation of specific types of microorganisms.

Microbial Identification: Colony and cellular morphology may permit preliminary identification. Growth characteristics under various conditions, utilization of carbohydrates and other substrates, enzymatic activity, immunoassays, and genetic probes are also used.

Serodiagnosis: A high or rising titer of specific IgG antibodies or the presence of specific IgM antibodies may suggest or confirm a diagnosis.

Antimicrobial Susceptibility: Microorganisms, particularly bacteria, are tested in vitro to determine whether they are susceptible to antimicrobial agents.

Diagnostic medical microbiology is the discipline that identifies etiologic agents of disease. The job of the clinical microbiology laboratory is to test specimens from patients for microorganisms that are, or may be, a cause of the illness and to provide information (when appropriate) about the in vitro activity of antimicrobial drugs against the microorganisms identified (Fig. 1).

Laboratory procedures used in confirming a clinical diagnosis of infectious disease with a bacterial etiology

A variety of microscopic, immunologic, and hybridization techniques have been developed for rapid diagnosis

techniques have been developed for rapid diagnosis

techniques have been developed for rapid diagnosis

From: Chapter 10, Principles of Diagnosis
Medical Microbiology. 4th edition.
Baron S, editor.
Galveston (TX): University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston; 1996.

For immunologic detection of microbial antigens, latex particle agglutination, coagglutination, and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) are the most frequently used techniques in the clinical laboratory. Antibody to a specific antigen is bound to latex particles or to a heat-killed and treated protein A-rich strain of Staphylococcus aureus to produce agglutination (Fig. 10-2). There are several approaches to ELISA; the one most frequently used for the detection of microbial antigens uses an antigen-specific antibody that is fixed to a solid phase, which may be a latex or metal bead or the inside surface of a well in a plastic tray. Antigen present in the specimen binds to the antibody as inFig. 10-2. The test is then completed by adding a second antigen-specific antibody bound to an enzyme that can react with a substrate to produce a colored product. The initial antigen antibody complex forms in a manner similar to that shown inFigure 10-2. When the enzyme-conjugated antibody is added, it binds to previously unbound antigenic sites, and the antigen is, in effect, sandwiched between the solid phase and the enzyme-conjugated antibody. The reaction is completed by adding the enzyme substrate.

agglutination test ch10f2

agglutination test ch10f2

Figure 2 Agglutination test in which inert particles (latex beads or heat-killed S aureus Cowan 1 strain with protein A) are coated with antibody to any of a variety of antigens and then used to detect the antigen in specimens or in isolated bacteria

Genetic probes are based on the detection of unique nucleotide sequences with the DNA or RNA of a microorganism. Once such a unique nucleotide sequence, which may represent a portion of a virulence gene or of chromosomal DNA, is found, it is isolated and inserted into a cloning vector (plasmid), which is then transformed into Escherichia coli to produce multiple copies of the probe. The sequence is then reisolated from plasmids and labeled with an isotope or substrate for diagnostic use. Hybridization of the sequence with a complementary sequence of DNA or RNA follows cleavage of the double-stranded DNA of the microorganism in the specimen.

The use of molecular technology in the diagnoses of infectious diseases has been further enhanced by the introduction of gene amplication techniques, such as the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) in which DNA polymerase is able to copy a strand of DNA by elongating complementary strands of DNA that have been initiated from a pair of closely spaced oligonucleotide primers. This approach has had major applications in the detection of infections due to microorganisms that are difficult to culture (e.g. the human immunodeficiency virus) or that have not as yet been successfully cultured (e.g. the Whipple’s disease bacillus).

Solid media, although somewhat less sensitive than liquid media, provide isolated colonies that can be quantified if necessary and identified. Some genera and species can be recognized on the basis of their colony morphologies.

In some instances one can take advantage of differential carbohydrate fermentation capabilities of microorganisms by incorporating one or more carbohydrates in the medium along with a suitable pH indicator. Such media are called differential media (e.g., eosin methylene blue or MacConkey agar) and are commonly used to isolate enteric bacilli. Different genera of the Enterobacteriaceae can then be presumptively identified by the color as well as the morphology of colonies.

Culture media can also be made selective by incorporating compounds such as antimicrobial agents that inhibit the indigenous flora while permitting growth of specific microorganisms resistant to these inhibitors. One such example is Thayer-Martin medium, which is used to isolate Neisseria gonorrhoeae. This medium contains vancomycin to inhibit Gram-positive bacteria, colistin to inhibit most Gram-negative bacilli, trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole to inhibit Proteus species and other species that are not inhibited by colistin and anisomycin to inhibit fungi. The pathogenic Neisseria species, N gonorrhoeae and N meningitidis, are ordinarily resistant to the concentrations of these antimicrobial agents in the medium.

Infection of the bladder (cystitis) or kidney (pyelone-phritis) is usually accompanied by bacteriuria of about ≥ 104 CFU/ml. For this reason, quantitative cultures (Fig. 10-3) of urine must always be performed. For most other specimens a semiquantitative streak method (Fig. 10-3) over the agar surface is sufficient. For quantitative cultures, a specific volume of specimen is spread over the agar surface and the number of colonies per milliliter is estimated.

Identification of bacteria (including mycobacteria) is based on growth characteristics (such as the time required for growth to appear or the atmosphere in which growth occurs), colony and microscopic morphology, and biochemical, physiologic, and, in some instances, antigenic or nucleotide sequence characteristics. The selection and number of tests for bacterial identification depend upon the category of bacteria present (aerobic versus anaerobic, Gram-positive versus Gram-negative, cocci versus bacilli) and the expertise of the microbiologist examining the culture. Gram-positive cocci that grow in air with or without added CO2 may be identified by a relatively small number of tests. The identification of most Gram-negative bacilli is far more complex and often requires panels of 20 tests for determining biochemical and physiologic characteristics.

Antimicrobial susceptibility tests are performed by either disk diffusion or a dilution method. In the former, a standardized suspension of a particular microorganism is inoculated onto an agar surface to which paper disks containing various antimicrobial agents are applied. Following overnight incubation, any zone diameters of inhibition about the disks are measured. An alternative method is to dilute on a log2 scale each antimicrobial agent in broth to provide a range of concentrations and to inoculate each tube or, if a microplate is used, each well containing the antimicrobial agent in broth with a standardized suspension of the microorganism to be tested. The lowest concentration of antimicrobial agent that inhibits the growth of the microorganism is the minimal inhibitory concentration.

Classification Principles

This Week’s Citation Classic®_______ Sneath P H A & Sokal R R.
Numerical taxonomy: the principles and practice of
numerical classification. San Francisco: Freeman, 1973. 573 p.
[Medical Research Council Microbial Systematics Unit, Univ. Leicester, England
and Dept. Ecology and Evolution, State Univ. New York, Stony Brook, NY]
Numerical taxonomy establishes classification
of organisms based on their similarities. It utilizes
many equally weighted characters and employs
clustering and similar algorithms to yield
objective groupings. It can beextended to give
phylogenetic or diagnostic systems and can be
applied to many other fields of endeavour.

Mathematical Foundations of Computer Science 1998
Lecture Notes in Computer Science Volume 1450, 1998, pp 474-482
Date: 28 May 2006
Positive Turing and truth-table completeness for NEXP are incomparable 1998
Levke Bentzien

The truth-table method [matrix method] is one of the decision procedures for sentence logic (q.v., §3.2). The method is based on the fact that the truth value of a compound formula of sentence logic, construed as a truth-function, is determined by the truth values of its arguments (cf. “Sentence logic” §2.2). To decide whether a formula A is a tautology or not, we list all possible combinations of truth values to the variables in A: A is a tautology if it takes the value truth under each assignment.

Using ideas introduced by Buhrman et al. ([2], [3]) to separate various completeness notions for NEXP = NTIME (2poly), positive Turing complete sets for NEXP are studied. In contrast to many-one completeness and bounded truth-table completeness with norm 1 which are known to coincide on NEXP ([3]), whence any such set for NEXP is positive Turing complete, we give sets A and B such that

A is ≤ bT(2) P -complete but not ≤ posT P -complete for NEXP

B is ≤ posT P -complete but not ≤ tt P -complete for NEXP. These results come close to optimality since a further strengthening of (1), as was done by Buhrman in [1] for EXP = DTIME(2poly), seems to require the assumption NEXP = co-NEXP.

Computability and Models
The University Series in Mathematics 2003, pp 1-10
Truth-Table Complete Computably Enumerable Sets
Marat M. Arslanov

We prove a truth-table completeness criterion for computably enumerable sets.
The authors research was partially supported by Russian Foundation of Basic Research, Project 99-01-00830, and RFBR-INTAS, Project 97-91-71991.

Department of Microbiology, Lovelace Foundation for Medical Education and Research,
Albuquerque, N.M. 87108, U.S.A.
Space life sciences 1971-12-1; 3(2): pp 135-156
(Received 15 July, 1971)
Abstract. A logical basis for classification is that elements grouped together and higher categories of elements should have a high degree of similarity with the provision that all groups and categories be disjoint to some degree. A methodology has been developed for constructing classifications automatically that gives
nearly instantaneous correlations of character patterns of organisms with time and clusters with apparent similarity. This means that automatic numerical identification will always construct schemes from which disjoint answers can be obtained if test sensitivities for characters are correct. Unidentified organisms are recycled through continuous classification with reconstruction of identification schemes. This process is
cyclic and self-correcting. The method also accumulates and analyzes data which updates and presents a more accurate biological picture.

Syndromic classification: A process for amplifying information using S-clustering

Eugene W. Rypka, PHD

Optimal classification/Rypka < Optimal classification>


1 Rypka’s Method

1.1 Equations

1.2 Examples

2 Notes and References

Rypka’s Method

Rypka’s[1] method[2] utilizes the theoretical and empirical separatory equations shown below to perform the task of optimal classification. The method finds the optimal order of the fewest attributes, which in combination define a bounded class of elements.

Application of the method begins with construction of an attribute-valued system in truth table[3] or spreadsheet form with elements listed in the left most column beginning in the second row. Characteristics[4] are listed in the first row beginning in the second column with the code name of the data in the upper left most cell. The values which connect each characteristic with each element are placed in the intersecting cells. Selecting appropriate characteristics to universally define the class of elements may be the most difficult part for the classifier of utilizing this method.

The elements are first sorted in descending order according to their truth table value, which is calculated from the existing sequence and value of characteristics for each element. Duplicate truth table values or multisets for the entire bounded class reveal either the need to eliminate duplicate elements or the need to include additional characteristics.

An empirical separatory value is calculated for each characteristic in the set and the characteristic with the greatest empirical separatory value is exchanged with the characteristic which occupies the most significant attribute position.

Next the second most significant characteristic is found by calculating an empirical separatory value for each remaining characteristic in combination with the first characteristic. The characteristic which produces the greatest separatory value is then exchanged with the characteristic which occupies the second most significant attribute position.

Next the third most significant characteristic is found by calculating an empirical separatory value for each remaining characteristic in combination with the first and second characteristics. The characteristic which produces the greatest empirical separatory value is then exchanged with the characteristic which occupies the third most significant attribute position. This procedure may continue until all characteristics have been processed or until one hundred percent separation of the elements has been achieved.

A larger radix will allow faster identification by excluding a greater percentage of elements per characteristic. A binary radix for instance excludes only fifty percent of the elements per characteristic whereas a five-valued radix excludes eighty percent of the elements per characteristic.[5] What follows is an elucidation of the matrix and separatory equations.[6]

Computational Example
Bounded Class Data

bounded class data

Bounded Class Dimensions

G = 28 – 28 elements – i = 0…G-1[1]

C = 10 – 10 characteristics or attributes – j = 0…C-1

V = 5 – 5 valued logic – l = 0…V-1

Order of Elements

order of elements

Count multisets

count multisets

Squared multiset Counts

squared multiset counts

Separatory Values

separatory values


max(T) = 309 = S8 = highest initial separatory value


Mathcad’s ORIGIN function applies to all arrays such that if more than one array is being used and one array requires a zero origin then the other arrays must use a zero origin with all variables being adapted as well.

Rypka’s Method Edit

Rypka’s[1] method[2] utilizes the theoretical and empirical separatory equations shown below to perform the task of optimal classification. The method finds the optimal order of the fewest attributes, which in combination define a bounded class of elements.

Application of the method begins with construction of an attribute-valued system in truth table[3] or spreadsheet form with elements listed in the left most column beginning in the second row. Characteristics[4] are listed in the first row beginning in the second column with the title of the attributes in the upper left most cell. Normally the file name of the data is given the title of the element class. The values which connect each characteristic with each element are placed in the intersecting cells. Selecting characteristics which all elements share may be the most difficult part of creating a database which can utilizing this method.

The elements are first sorted in descending order according to their truth table value, which is calculated from the existing sequence and value of characteristics for each element. Duplicate truth table values or multisets for the entire bounded class reveal either the need to eliminate duplicate elements or the need to include additional characteristics.

An empirical separatory value is calculated for each characteristic in the set and the characteristic with the greatest empirical separatory value is exchanged with the characteristic which occupies the most significant attribute position.

Next the second most significant characteristic is found by calculating an empirical separatory value for each remaining characteristic in combination with the first characteristic. The characteristic which produces the greatest separatory value is then exchanged with the characteristic which occupies the second most significant attribute position.

Next the third most significant characteristic is found by calculating an empirical separatory value for each remaining characteristic in combination with the first and second characteristics. The characteristic which produces the greatest empirical separatory value is then exchanged with the characteristic which occupies the third most significant attribute position. This procedure may continue until all characteristics have been processed or until one hundred percent separation of the elements has been achieved.

A larger radix will allow faster identification by excluding a greater percentage of elements per characteristic. A binary radix for instance excludes only fifty percent of the elements per characteristic whereas a five-valued radix excludes eighty percent of the elements per characteristic.[5] What follows is an elucidation of the matrix and separatory equations.[6]

Syndromic Classification: A Process for Amplifying Information Using S-Clustering

Eugene W. Rypka, PhD
University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA
Statistics Editor: Marcello Pagano, PhD
Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Nutrition 1996; 12(11/12): 827-829

In a previous issue of Nutrition, Drs. Bernstein and Pleban’ use the method of S-clustering to aid in nutritional classification of patients directly on-line. Classification of this type is called primary or syndromic classification.* It is created by a process called separatory (S-) clustering (E. Rypka, unpublished observations). The authors use S-clustering in Table I.  S-clustering extracts features (analytes, variables) from endogenous data that amplify or maximize structural information to create classes of patients (pathophysiologic events) which are the most disjointed or separable. S-clustering differs from other classificatory methods because it finds in a database a theoretic- or more- number of variables with the required variety that map closest to an ideal, theoretic, or structural information standard. In Table I of their article, Bernstein and Pleban’ indicate there would have to be 3 ’ = 243 rows to show all possible patterns. In Table II of this article, I have used a 33 = 27 row truth table to convey the notion of mapping amplified information to an ideal, theoretic standard using just the first three columns. Variables are scaled for use in S-clustering.

A Survey of Binary Similarity and Distance Measures
Seung-Seok Choi, Sung-Hyuk Cha, Charles C. Tappert
The binary feature vector is one of the most common
representations of patterns and measuring similarity and
distance measures play a critical role in many problems
such as clustering, classification, etc. Ever since Jaccard
proposed a similarity measure to classify ecological
species in 1901, numerous binary similarity and distance
measures have been proposed in various fields. Applying
appropriate measures results in more accurate data
analysis. Notwithstanding, few comprehensive surveys
on binary measures have been conducted. Hence we
collected 76 binary similarity and distance measures used
over the last century and reveal their correlations through
the hierarchical clustering technique.

This paper is organized as follows. Section 2 describes
the definitions of 76 binary similarity and dissimilarity
measures. Section 3 discusses the grouping of those
measures using hierarchical clustering. Section 4
concludes this work.

Historically, all the binary measures observed above have
had a meaningful performance in their respective fields.
The binary similarity coefficients proposed by Peirce,
Yule, and Pearson in 1900s contributes to the evolution
of the various correlation based binary similarity
measures. The Jaccard coefficient proposed at 1901 is
still widely used in the various fields such as ecology and
biology. The discussion of inclusion or exclusion of
negative matches was actively arisen by Sokal & Sneath
in during 1960s and by Goodman & Kruskal in 1970s.

Polyphasic Taxonomy of the Genus Vibrio: Numerical Taxonomy of Vibrio cholerae, Vibrio
parahaemolyticus, and Related Vibrio Species
JOURNAL OF BACTERIOLOGY, Oct. 1970;  104(1): 410-433
A set of 86 bacterial cultures, including 30 strains of Vibrio cholerae, 35 strains of
V. parahaemolyticus, and 21 representative strains of Pseudomonas, Spirillum,
Achromobacter, Arthrobacter, and marine Vibrio species were tested for a total of 200
characteristics. Morphological, physiological, and biochemical characteristics were
included in the analysis. Overall deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) base compositions
and ultrastructure, under the electron microscope, were also examined. The taxonomic
data were analyzed by computer by using numerical taxonomy programs
designed to sort and cluster strains related phenetically. The V. cholerae strains
formed an homogeneous cluster, sharing overall S values of >75%. Two strains,
V. cholerae NCTC 30 and NCTC 8042, did not fall into the V. cholerae species
group when tested by the hypothetical median organism calculation. No separation
of “classic” V. cholerae, El Tor vibrios, and nonagglutinable vibrios was observed.
These all fell into a single, relatively homogeneous, V. cholerae species cluster.
PJ. parahaemolyticus strains, excepting 5144, 5146, and 5162, designated members
of the species V. alginolyticus, clustered at S >80%. Characteristics uniformly
present in all the Vibrio species examined are given, as are also characteristics and
frequency of occurrence for V. cholerae and V. parahaemolyticus. The clusters formed
in the numerical taxonomy analyses revealed similar overall DNA base compositions,
with the range for the Vibrio species of 40 to 48% guanine plus cytosine. Generic
level of relationship of V. cholerae and V. parahaemolyticus is considered
dubious. Intra- and intergroup relationships obtained from the numerical taxonomy
studies showed highly significant correlation with DNA/DNA reassociation data.

A Numerical Classification of the Genus Bacillus
Journal of General Microbiology (1988), 134, 1847-1882.

Three hundred and sixty-eight strains of aerobic, endospore-forming bacteria which included type and reference cultures of Bacillus and environmental isolates were studied. Overall similarities of these strains for 118 unit characters were determined by the SSMS,, and Dp coefficients and clustering achieved using the UPGMA algorithm. Test error was within acceptable limits. Six cluster-groups were defined at 70% SSM which corresponded to 69% Sp and 48-57% SJ.G roupings obtained with the three coefficients were generally similar but there were some changes in the definition and membership of cluster-groups and clusters, particularly with the SJ coefficient. The Bacillus strains were distributed among 31 major (4 or more strains), 18 minor (2 or 3 strains) and 30 single-member clusters at the 83% SsMle vel. Most of these clusters can be regarded as taxospecies. The heterogeneity of several species, including Bacillus breuis, B. circulans, B. coagulans, B. megateriun, B . sphaericus and B . stearothermophilus, has been indicated  and the species status of several taxa of hitherto uncertain validity confirmed. Thus on the basis of the numerical phenetic and appropriate (published) molecular genetic data, it is proposed
that the following names be recognized; BacillusJlexus (Batchelor) nom. rev., Bacillus fusiformis (Smith et al.) comb. nov., Bacillus kaustophilus (Prickett) nom. rev., Bacilluspsychrosaccharolyticus (Larkin & Stokes) nom. rev. and Bacillus simplex (Gottheil) nom. rev. Other phenetically well-defined taxospecies included ‘ B. aneurinolyticus’, ‘B. apiarius’, ‘B. cascainensis’, ‘B. thiaminolyticus’ and three clusters of environmental isolates related to B . firmus and previously described as ‘B. firmus-B. lentus intermediates’. Future developments in the light of the numerical phenetic data are discussed.

Numerical Classification of Bacteria
Part II. * Computer Analysis of Coryneform Bacteria (2)
Comparison of Group-Formations Obtained on Two
Different Methods of Scoring Data
By Eitaro MASUOan d Toshio NAKAGAWA
[Agr. Biol. Chem., 1969; 33(8): 1124-1133.
Sixty three organisms selected from 12 genera of bacteria were subjected to numerical analysis. The purpose of this work is to examine the relationships among 38 coryneform bacteria included in the test organisms by two coding methods-Sneath’s and Lockhart’s systems-, and to compare the results with conventional classification. In both cases of codification, five groups and one or two single item(s) were found in the resultant classifications. Different codings brought, however, a few distinct differences in some groups , especially in a group of sporogenic bacilli or lactic-acid bacteria. So far as the present work concerns, the result obtained on Lockhart’s coding rather than that obtained on Sneath’s coding resembled the conventional classification. The taxonomic positions of corynebacteria were quite different from those of the conventional classification, regardless
of which coding method was applied.
Though animal corynebacteria have conventionally been considered to occupy the
taxonomic position neighboring to genera Arthrobacter and Cellulornonas and regarded to be the nucleus of so-called “coryneform bacteria,’ the present work showed that many of the corynebacteria are akin to certain mycobacteria rather than to the organisms belonging to the above two genera.

Numerical Classification of Bacteria
Part III. Computer Analysis of “Coryneform Bacteria” (3)
Classification Based on DNA Base Compositions
By EitaroM ASUaOnd ToshioN AKAGAWA
Agr. Biol. Chem., 1969; 33(11): 1570-1576
It has been known that the base compositions of deoxyribonucleic acids (DNA) are
quite different from organism to organism. A pertinent example of this diversity is
found in bacterial species. The base compositions of DNA isolated from a wide variety
of bacteria are distributed in a range from 25 to 75 GC mole-percent (100x(G+C)/
(A+T+G+C)).1) The usefulness of the information of DNA base composition for
the taxonomy of bacteria has been emphasized by several authors. Lee et al.,” Sueoka,” and Freese) have speculated on the evolutionary significance of microbial DNA base composition. They pointed out that closely related microorganisms generally showed similar base compositions of DNA, and suggested that phylogenetic relationship should be reflected in the GC content.
In the present paper are compared the results of numerical classifications of 45
bacteria based on the two different similarity matrices: One representing the overall
similarities of phenotypic properties, the other representing the similarities of GC contents.

Advanced computational algorithms for microbial community analysis using massive 16S rRNA
sequence data
Y Sun, Y Cai, V Mai, W Farmerie, F Yu, J Li and S Goodison
Nucleic Acids Research, 2010; 38(22): e205

With the aid of next-generation sequencing technology, researchers can now obtain millions of microbial signature sequences for diverse applications ranging from human epidemiological studies to global ocean surveys. The development of advanced computational strategies to maximally extract pertinent information from massive nucleotide data has become a major focus of the bioinformatics community. Here, we describe a novel analytical strategy including discriminant and topology analyses that enables researchers to deeply investigate the hidden world of microbial communities, far beyond basic microbial diversity estimation. We demonstrate the utility of our
approach through a computational study performed on a previously published massive human gut 16S rRNA data set. The application of discriminant and
topology analyses enabled us to derive quantitative disease-associated microbial signatures and describe microbial community structure in far more detail than previously achievable. Our approach provides rigorous statistical tools for sequence based studies aimed at elucidating associations between known or unknown organisms and a variety of physiological or environmental conditions.

What is Drug Resistance?

Antimicrobial resistance is the ability of microbes, such as bacteria, viruses, parasites, or fungi, to grow in the presence of a chemical (drug) that would normally kill it or limit its growth.

Diagram showing the difference between non-resistant bacteria and drug resistant bacteria.

Credit: NIAID

DrugResistance difference between non-resistant bacteria and drug resistant bacteria

DrugResistance difference between non-resistant bacteria and drug resistant bacteria

Diagram showing the difference between non-resistant bacteria and drug resistant bacteria. Non-resistant bacteria multiply, and upon drug treatment, the bacteria die. Drug resistant bacteria multiply as well, but upon drug treatment, the bacteria continue to spread.

Between 5 and 10 percent of all hospital patients develop an infection. About 90,000 of these patients die each year as a result of their infection, up from 13,300 patient deaths in 1992.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (April 2011), antibiotic resistance in the United States costs an estimated $20 billion a year in excess health care costs, $35 million in other societal costs and more than 8 million additional days that people spend in the hospital.

Resistance to Antibiotics: Are We in the Post-Antibiotic Era?

Alfonso J. Alanis
Archives of Medical Research 36 (2005) 697–705

Serious infections caused by bacteria that have become resistant to commonly used antibiotics have become a major global healthcare problem in the 21st century. They not only are more severe and require longer and more complex treatments, but they are also significantly more expensive to diagnose and to treat. Antibiotic resistance, initially a problem of the hospital setting associated with an increased number of hospital acquired infections usually in critically ill and immunosuppressed patients, has now extended into the community causing severe infections difficult to diagnose and treat. The molecular mechanisms by which bacteria have become resistant to antibiotics are diverse and complex. Bacteria have developed resistance to all different classes of antibiotics discovered to date. The most frequent type of resistance is acquired and transmitted horizontally via the conjugation of a plasmid. In recent times new mechanisms of resistance have resulted in the simultaneous development of resistance to several antibiotic classes creating very dangerous multidrug-resistant (MDR) bacterial strains, some also known as ‘‘superbugs’’. The indiscriminate and inappropriate use of antibiotics in outpatient clinics, hospitalized patients and in the food industry is the single largest factor leading to antibiotic resistance. The pharmaceutical industry, large academic institutions or the government are not investing the necessary resources to produce the next generation of newer safe and effective antimicrobial drugs. In many cases, large pharmaceutical companies have terminated their anti-infective research programs altogether due to economic reasons. The potential negative consequences of all these events are relevant because they put society at risk for the spread of potentially serious MDR bacterial infections.

Targeting the Human Macrophage with Combinations of Drugs and Inhibitors of Ca2+ and K+ Transport to Enhance the Killing of Intracellular Multi-Drug Resistant M. tuberculosis (MDR-TB) – a Novel, Patentable Approach to Limit the Emergence of XDR-TB

Marta Martins
Recent Patents on Anti-Infective Drug Discovery, 2011, 6, 000-000

The emergence of resistance in Tuberculosis has become a serious problem for the control of this disease. For that reason, new therapeutic strategies that can be implemented in the clinical setting are urgently needed. The design of new compounds active against mycobacteria must take into account that Tuberculosis is mainly an intracellular infection of the alveolar macrophage and therefore must maintain activity within the host cells. An alternative therapeutic approach will be described in this review, focusing on the activation of the phagocytic cell and the subsequent killing of the internalized bacteria. This approach explores the combined use of antibiotics and phenothiazines, or Ca2+ and K+ flux inhibitors, in the infected macrophage. Targeting the infected macrophage and not the internalized bacteria could overcome the problem of bacterial multi-drug resistance. This will potentially eliminate the appearance of new multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) cases and subsequently prevent the emergence of extensively-drug resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB). Patents resulting from this novel and innovative approach could be extremely valuable if they can be implemented in the clinical setting. Other patents will also be discussed such as the treatment of TB using immunomodulator compounds (for example: betaglycans).

Six Epigenetic Faces of Streptococcus

Kevin Mayer

Medical illustration of Streptococcus pneumonia. [CDC]

Streptococcus pneumonia

Streptococcus pneumonia

It appears that S. pneumoniae has even more personalities, each associated with a different proclivity toward invasive, life-threatening disease. In fact, any of six personalities may emerge depending on the action of a single genetic switch.

To uncover the switch, an international team of scientists conducted a study in genomics, but they looked beyond nucleotide polymorphisms or accessory regions as possible phenotype-shifting mechanisms. Instead, they focused on the potential of restriction-modification (RM) systems to mediate gene regulation via epigenetic changes.

Scientists representing the University of Leicester, Griffith University’s Institute for Glycomics, theUniversity of Adelaide, and Pacific Biosciences realized that the S. pneumoniae genome contains two Type I, three Type II, and one Type IV RM systems. Of these, only the DpnI Type II RM system had been described in detail. Switchable Type I systems had been described previously, but these reports did not provide evidence for differential methylation or for phenotypic impact.

As it turned out, the Type I system embodied a mechanism capable of randomly changing the bacterium’s characteristics into six alternative states. The mechanism’s details were presented September 30 in Nature Communications, in an article entitled, “A random six-phase switch regulates pneumococcal virulence via global epigenetic changes.”

“The underlying mechanism for such phase variation consists of genetic rearrangements in a Type I restriction-modification system (SpnD39III),” wrote the authors. “The rearrangements generate six alternative specificities with distinct methylation patterns, as defined by single-molecule, real-time (SMRT) methylomics.”

Eradication of multidrug-resistant A. baumanniii in burn wounds by antiseptic pulsed electric field.

A Golberg, GF Broelsch, D Vecchio,S Khan, MR Hamblin, WG Austen, Jr, RL Sheridan,  ML Yarmush.

Emerging bacterial resistance to multiple drugs is an increasing problem in burn wound management. New non-pharmacologic interventions are needed for wound disinfection. Here we report on a novel physical method for disinfection: antiseptic pulsed electric field (PEF) applied externally to the infected wounds.  In an animal model, we show that PEF can reduce the load of multidrug resistant Acinetobacter baumannii present in a full thickness burn wound by more than four orders of magnitude, as detected by bioluminescence imaging. Furthermore, using a finite element numerical model, we demonstrate that PEF provides non-thermal, homogeneous, full thickness treatment for the burn wound, thus, overcoming the limitation of treatment depth for many topical antimicrobials. These modeling tools and our in vivo results will be extremely useful for further translation of the PEF technology to the clinical setting. We believe that PEF, in combination with systemic antibiotics, will synergistically eradicate multidrug-resistant burn wound infections, prevent biofilm formation and restore natural skin microbiome. PEF provides a new platform for infection combat in patients, therefore it has a potential to significantly decreasing morbidity and mortality.

Golberg, A. & Yarmush, M. L. Nonthermal irreversible electroporation: fundamentals, applications, and challenges. IEEE Trans Biomed Eng 60, 707-14 (2013).

Mechanisms Of Antibiotic Resistance In Salmonella: Efflux Pumps, Genetics, Quorum Sensing And Biofilm Formation.

Martins M, McCusker M, Amaral L, Fanning S
Perspectives in Drug Discovery and Design 02/2011; 8:114-123.

In Salmonella the main mechanisms of antibiotic resistance are mutations in target genes (such as DNA gyrase and topoisomerase IV) and the over-expression of efflux pumps. However, other mechanisms such as changes in the cell envelope; down regulation of membrane porins; increased lipopolysaccharide (LPS) component of the outer cell membrane; quorum sensing and biofilm formation can also contribute to the resistance seen in this microorganism. To overcome this problem new therapeutic approaches are urgently needed. In the case of efflux-mediated multidrug resistant isolates, one of the treatment options could be the use of efflux pump inhibitors (EPIs) in combination with the antibiotics to which the bacteria is resistant. By blocking the efflux pumps resistance is partly or wholly reversed, allowing antibiotics showing no activity against the MDR strains to be used to treat these infections. Compounds that show potential as an EPI are therefore of interest, as well as new strategies to target the efflux systems. Quorum sensing (QS) and biofilm formation are systems also known to be involved in antibiotic resistance. Consequently, compounds that can disrupt or inhibit these bacterial “communication systems” will be of use in the treatment of these infections.

Role of Phenothiazines and Structurally Similar Compounds of Plant Origin in the Fight against Infections by Drug Resistant Bacteria

SG Dastidar, JE Kristiansen, J Molnar and L Amaral
Antibiotics 2013, 2, 58-71;

Phenothiazines have their primary effects on the plasma membranes of prokaryotes and eukaryotes. Among the components of the prokaryotic plasma membrane affected are efflux pumps, their energy sources and energy providing enzymes, such as ATPase, and genes that regulate and code for the permeability aspect of a bacterium. The response of multidrug and extensively drug resistant tuberculosis to phenothiazines shows an alternative therapy for its treatment. Many phenothiazines have shown synergistic activity with several antibiotics thereby lowering the doses of antibiotics administered for specific bacterial infections. Trimeprazine is synergistic with trimethoprim. Flupenthixol (Fp) has been found to be synergistic with penicillin and chlorpromazine (CPZ); in addition, some antibiotics are also synergistic. Along with the antibacterial action described in this review, many phenothiazines possess plasmid curing activities, which render the bacterial carrier of the plasmid sensitive to antibiotics. Thus, simultaneous applications of a phenothiazine like TZ would not only act as an additional antibacterial agent but also would help to eliminate drug resistant plasmid from the infectious bacterial cells.

Multidrug Efflux Pumps Described for Staphylococcus aureus

Efflux Pump  Family Regulator(s) Substrate Specificity  References 
Chromosomally-encoded Efflux Systems 
NorA MFS MgrA, NorG(?) Hydrophilic fluoroquinolones (ciprofloxacin, norfloxacin)QACs (tetraphenylphosphonium, benzalkonium chloride)

Dyes (e.g. ethidium bromide, rhodamine)

NorB MFS MgrA, NorG Fluoroquinolones (e.g. hydrophilic: ciprofloxacin, norfloxacin and hydrophobic: moxifloxacin,
sparfloxacin)TetracyclineQACs (e.g. tetraphenylphosphonium, cetrimide)Dyes (e.g. ethidium bromide)
NorC MFS MgrA(?), NorG Fluoroquinolones (e.g. hydrophilic: ciprofloxacin and hydrophobic: moxifloxacin)Dyes (e.g. rhodamine) [35,36]
MepA MATE MepR Fluoroquinolones (e.g. hydrophilic: ciprofloxacin, norfloxacin and hydrophobic: moxifloxacin,
sparfloxacin)Glycylcyclines (e.g. tigecycline)QACs (e.g. tetraphenylphosphonium, cetrimide, benzalkonium chloride)Dyes (e.g. ethidium bromide)
MdeA MFS n.i. Hydrophilic fluoroquinolones (e.g. ciprofloxacin, norfloxacin)Virginiamycin, novobiocin, mupirocin, fusidic acid

QACs (e.g. tetraphenylphosphonium, benzalkonium chloride, dequalinium)

Dyes (e.g. ethidium bromide)

SepA n.d. n.i. QACs (e.g. benzalkonium chloride)Biguanidines (e.g. chlorhexidine)

Dyes (e.g. acriflavine)

SdrM MFS n.i. Hydrophilic fluoroquinolones (e.g. norfloxacin)Dyes (e.g. ethidium bromide, acriflavine) [42]
LmrS MFS n.i. Oxazolidinone (linezolid)Phenicols (e.g. choramphenicol, florfenicol)

Trimethoprim, erythromycin, kanamycin, fusidic acid

QACs (e.g. tetraphenylphosphonium)

Detergents (e.g. sodium docecyl sulphate)

Dyes (e.g. ethidium bromide)


Plasmid-encoded Efflux Systems

QacA MFS QacR QACs (e.g. tetraphenylphosphonium, benzalkonium chloride, dequalinium)Biguanidines (e.g. chlorhexidine)

Diamidines (e.g. pentamidine)

Dyes (e.g. ethidium bromide, rhodamine, acriflavine)

QacB MFS QacR QACs (e.g. tetraphenylphosphonium, benzalkonium chloride)Dyes (e.g. ethidium bromide, rhodamine, acriflavine) [53]
Smr SMR n.i. QACs (e.g. benzalkonium chloride, cetrimide)Dyes (e.g. ethidium bromide) [58,61]
QacG SMR n.i. QACs (e.g. benzalkonium chloride, cetyltrymethylammonium)Dyes (e.g. ethidium bromide) [67]
QacH SMR n.i. QACs (e.g. benzalkonium chloride, cetyltrymethylammonium)Dyes (e.g. ethidium bromide) [68]
QacJ SMR n.i. QACs (e.g. benzalkonium chloride, cetyltrymethylammonium)Dyes (e.g. ethidium bromide) [69]

a n.d.: The family of transporters to which SepA belongs is not elucidated to date.
b n.i.: The transporter has no regulator identified to date.
QACs: quaternary ammonium compounds
The importance of efflux pumps in bacterial antibiotic resistance

  1. A. Webber and L. J. V. Piddock
    Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy (2003) 51, 9–11 pumps are transport proteins involved in the extrusion of toxic substrates (including virtually all classes of clinically relevant antibiotics) from within cells into the external environment. These proteins are found in both Gram-positive and -negative bacteria as well as in eukaryotic organisms. Pumps may be specific for one substrate or may transport a range of structurally dissimilar compounds (including antibiotics of multiple classes); such pumps can be associated with multiple drug resistance (MDR). In the prokaryotic kingdom there are five major families of efflux transporter: MF (major facilitator), MATE (multidrug and toxic efflux), RND (resistance-nodulation-division), SMR (small multidrug resistance) and ABC (ATP binding cassette). All these systems utilize the proton motive force as an energy source. Advances in DNA technology have led to the identification of members of the above families. Transporters that efflux multiple substrates, including antibiotics, have not evolved in response to the stresses of the antibiotic era. All bacterial genomes studied contain efflux pumps that indicate their ancestral origins. It has been estimated that ∼5–10% of all bacterial genes are involved in transport and a large proportion of these encode efflux pumps.
The efflux pump

The efflux pump

Multidrug-resistance efflux pumps — not just for resistance

Laura J. V. Piddock
Nature Reviews | Microbiology | Aug 2006; 4: 629

It is well established that multidrug-resistance efflux pumps encoded by bacteria can confer clinically relevant resistance to antibiotics. It is now understood that these efflux pumps also have a physiological role(s). They can confer resistance to natural substances produced by the host, including bile, hormones and host defense molecules. In addition, some efflux pumps of the resistance nodulation division (RND) family have been shown to have a role in the colonization and the persistence of bacteria in the host. Here, I present the accumulating evidence that multidrug-resistance efflux pumps have roles in bacterial pathogenicity and propose that these pumps therefore have greater clinical relevance than is usually attributed to them.

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