Archive for the ‘Translational Science’ Category

Reporter and Curator: Dr. Sudipta Saha, Ph.D.

Researchers have classified a brand-new organ inside human body. Known as the mesentery, the new organ is found in our digestive systems, and was long thought to be made up of fragmented, separate structures. But recent research has shown that it’s actually one, continuous organ. The evidence for the organ’s reclassification is now published in The Lancet Gastroenterology & Hepatology. Although we now know about the structure of this new organ, its function is still poorly understood, and studying it could be the key to better understanding and treatment of abdominal and digestive disease.


J Calvin Coffey, a researcher from the University Hospital Limerick in Ireland, who first discovered that the mesentery was an organ. In 2012, Coffey and his colleagues showed through detailed microscopic examinations that the mesentery is actually a continuous structure. Over the past four years, they’ve gathered further evidence that the mesentery should actually be classified as its own distinct organ, and the latest paper makes it official. Mesentery is a double fold of peritoneum – the lining of the abdominal cavity – that holds our intestine to the wall of our abdomen. It was described by the Italian polymath Leanardo da Vinci in 1508, but it has been ignored throughout the centuries, until now. Although there are generally considered to be five organs in the human body, there are in fact now 79, including the mesentery. The heart, brain, liver, lungs and kidneys are the vital organs, but there are another 74 that play a role in keeping us healthy. The distinctive anatomical and functional features of mesentery have been revealed that justify designation of the mesentery as an organ. Accordingly, the mesentery should be subjected to the same investigatory focus that is applied to other organs and systems. This provides a platform from which to direct future scientific investigation of the human mesentery in health and disease.



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Series A: e-Books on Cardiovascular Diseases

Series A Content Consultant: Justin D Pearlman, MD, PhD, FACC


Regenerative and Translational Medicine

The Therapeutic Promise for

Cardiovascular Diseases

  • on Amazon since 12/26/2015



Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP, Senior Editor, Author and Curator


Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN, Editor and Curator


Part One:

Cardiovascular Diseases,Translational Medicine (TM) and Post TM

Introduction to Part 1: Cardiovascular Diseases,Translational Medicine (TM) and Post TM

Chapter 1: Translational Medicine Concepts

1.0 Post-Translational Modification of Proteins

1.1 Identifying Translational Science within the Triangle of Biomedicine

1.2 State of Cardiology on Wall Stress, Ventricular Workload and Myocardial Contractile Reserve: Aspects of Translational Medicine (TM)

1.3 Risk of Bias in Translational Science

1.4 Biosimilars: Intellectual Property Creation and Protection by Pioneer and by Biosimilar Manufacturers

Chapter 2: Causes and the Etiology of Cardiovascular Diseases: Translational Approaches for Cardiothoracic Medicine

2.1 Genomics

2.1.1 Genomics-Based Classification

2.1.2  Targeting Untargetable Proto-Oncogenes

2.1.3  Searchable Genome for Drug Development

2.1.4 Zebrafish Study Tool

2.1.5  International Human Genome Sequencing Consortium (2004) Finishing the euchromatic sequence of the human genome.

2.2  Proteomics

2.2.1 The Role of Tight Junction Proteins in Water and Electrolyte Transport

2.2.2 Selective Ion Conduction

2.2.3 Translational Research on the Mechanism of Water and Electrolyte Movements into the Cell

2.2.4 Inhibition of the Cardiomyocyte-Specific Kinase TNNI3K ­ Oxidative Stress

2.2.5 Oxidized Calcium Calmodulin Kinase and Atrial Fibrillation

2.2.6 S-Nitrosylation in Cardiac Ischemia and Acute Coronary Syndrome

2.2.7 Acetylation and Deacetylation

2.2.8 Nitric Oxide Synthase Inhibitors (NOS-I) 

2.3 Cardiac and Vascular Signaling

2.3.1 The Centrality of Ca(2+) Signaling and Cytoskeleton Involving Calmodulin Kinases and Ryanodine Receptors in Cardiac Failure, Arterial Smooth Muscle, Post-ischemic Arrhythmia, Similarities and Differences, and Pharmaceutical Targets

2.3.2 Leptin Signaling in Mediating the Cardiac Hypertrophy associated with Obesity

2.3.3 Triggering of Plaque Disruption and Arterial Thrombosis

2.3.4 Sensors and Signaling in Oxidative Stress

2.3.5 Resistance to Receptor of Tyrosine Kinase

2.3.6  S-nitrosylation signaling in cell biology.

2.4  Platelet Endothelial Interaction

2.4.1 Platelets in Translational Research ­ 1

2.4.2 Platelets in Translational Research ­ 2: Discovery of Potential Anti-platelet Targets

2.4.3 The Final Considerations of the Role of Platelets and Platelet Endothelial Reactions in Atherosclerosis and Novel Treatments

2.4.4 Endothelial Function and Cardiovascular Disease
Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP

2.5 Post-translational modifications (PTMs)

2.5.1 Post-Translational Modifications

2.5.2.  Analysis of S-nitrosylated Proteins

2.5.3  Mechanisms of Disease: Signal Transduction: Akt Phosphorylates HK-II at Thr-473 and Increases Mitochondrial HK-II Association to Protect Cardiomyocytes

2.5.4  Acetylation and Deacetylation of non-Histone Proteins

2.5.5  Study Finds Low Methylation Regions Prone to Structural Mutation

2.6 Epigenetics and lncRNAs

2.6.1 The Magic of the Pandora’s Box : Epigenetics and Stemness with Long non-coding RNAs (lincRNA)

2.6.2 The SILENCE of the Lambs” Introducing The Power of Uncoded RNA

2.6.3 Long Noncoding RNA Network regulates PTEN Transcription

2.6.4 How mobile elements in “Junk” DNA promote cancer. Part 1: Transposon-mediated tumorigenesis.

2.6.5 Transposon-mediated Gene Therapy improves Pulmonary Hemodynamics and attenuates Right Ventricular Hypertrophy: eNOS gene therapy reduces Pulmonary vascular remodeling and Arterial wall hyperplasia

2.6.6 Junk DNA codes for valuable miRNAs: non-coding DNA controls Diabetes

2.6.7 Targeted Nucleases

2.6.8 Late Onset of Alzheimer’s Disease and One-carbon Metabolism
Dr. Sudipta Saha

2.6.9 Amyloidosis with Cardiomyopathy

2.6.10 Long non-coding RNAs: Molecular Regulators of Cell Fate

2.7 Metabolomics

2.7.1 Expanding the Genetic Alphabet and Linking the Genome to the Metabolome

2.7.2 How Methionine Imbalance with Sulfur-Insufficiency Leads to Hyperhomocysteinemia

2.7.3 A Second Look at the Transthyretin Nutrition Inflammatory Conundrum

2.7.4 Transthyretin and Lean Body Mass in Stable and Stressed State

2.7.5 Hyperhomocysteinemia interaction with Protein C and Increased Thrombotic Risk

2.7.6 Telling NO to Cardiac Risk

2.8 Mitochondria and Oxidative Stress

2.8.1 Reversal of Cardiac Mitochondrial Dysfunction

2.8.2 Calcium Signaling, Cardiac Mitochondria and Metabolic Syndrome

2.8.3. Mitochondrial Dysfunction and Cardiac Disorders

2.8.4 Mitochondrial Metabolism and Cardiac Function

2.8.5 Mitochondria and Cardiovascular Disease: A Tribute to Richard Bing

2.8.6 MIT Scientists on Proteomics: All the Proteins in the Mitochondrial Matrix Identified

2.8.7 Mitochondrial Dynamics and Cardiovascular Diseases

2.8.8 Mitochondrial Damage and Repair under Oxidative Stress

2.8.9 Nitric Oxide has a Ubiquitous Role in the Regulation of Glycolysis -with a Concomitant Influence on Mitochondrial Function

2.8.10 Mitochondrial Mechanisms of Disease in Diabetes Mellitus

2.8.11 Mitochondria Dysfunction and Cardiovascular Disease – Mitochondria: More than just the “Powerhouse of the Cell”

Chapter 3: Risks and Biomarkers for Diagnosis and Prognosis in Translational Cardiothoracic Medicine

3.1 Biomarkers. Diagnosis and Management: Biomarkers. Present and Future.

3.2 Landscape of Cardiac Biomarkers for Improved Clinical Utilization

3.3 Achieving Automation in Serology: A New Frontier in Best

3.4 Accurate Identification and Treatment of Emergent Cardiac Events

3.5 Prognostic Marker Importance of Troponin I in Acute Decompensated Heart Failure (ADHF)

3.6 High-Sensitivity Cardiac Troponin Assays Preparing the United States for High-Sensitivity Cardiac Troponin Assays

3.7 Voices from the Cleveland Clinic On Circulating apoA1: A Biomarker for a Proatherogenic Process in the Artery Wall

3.8 Triggering of Plaque Disruption and Arterial Thrombosis

3.9 Relationship between Adiposity and High Fructose Intake Revealed

3.10 The Cardio-Renal Syndrome (CRS) in Heart Failure (HF)

3.11 Aneuploidy and Carcinogenesis

3.12 “Sudden Cardiac Death,” SudD is in Ferrer inCode’s Suite of Cardiovascular Genetic Tests to be Commercialized in the US

Chapter 4: Therapeutic Aspects in Translational Cardiothoracic Medicine

4.1 Molecular and Cellular Cardiology

4.1.1 αllbβ3 Antagonists As An Example of Translational Medicine Therapeutics

4.1.2 Three-Dimensional Fibroblast Matrix Improves Left Ventricular Function post MI

4.1.3 Biomaterials Technology: Models of Tissue Engineering for Reperfusion and Implantable Devices for Revascularization

4.1.4 CELLWAVE Randomized Clinical Trial: Modest improvement in LVEF at 4 months ­ “Shock wave­facilitated intracoronary administration of BMCs” vs “Shock wave treatment alone”

4.1.5 Prostacyclin and Nitric Oxide: Adventures in vascular biology –  a tale of two mediators

4.1.6 Cardiac Contractility & Myocardium Performance: Ventricular Arrhythmiasand Non-ischemic Heart Failure – Therapeutic Implications for Cardiomyocyte Ryanopathy

4.1.7 Publications on Heart Failure by Prof. William Gregory Stevenson, M.D., BWH

4.2 Interventional Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery – Mechanical Circulatory Support and Vascular Repair

4.2.1 Mechanical Circulatory Support System, LVAD, RVAD, Biventricular as a Bridge to Heart Transplantation or as “Destination Therapy”: Options for Patients in Advanced Heart Failure

4.2.2 Heart Transplantation: NHLBI’s Ten Year Strategic Research Plan to Achieving Evidence-based Outcomes

4.2.3 Improved Results for Treatment of Persistent type 2 Endoleak after Endovascular Aneurysm Repair: Onyx Glue Embolization

4.2.4 Carotid Endarterectomy (CEA) vs. Carotid Artery Stenting (CAS): Comparison of CMMS high-risk criteria on the Outcomes after Surgery: Analysis of the Society for Vascular Surgery (SVS) Vascular Registry Data

4.2.5 Effect of Hospital Characteristics on Outcomes of Endovascular Repair of Descending Aortic Aneurysms in US Medicare Population

4.2.6 Hypertension and Vascular Compliance: 2013 Thought Frontier – An Arterial Elasticity Focus

4.2.7 Preventive Medicine Philosophy: Excercise vs. Drug, IF More of the First THEN Less of the Second

4.2.8 Cardio-oncology and Onco-Cardiology Programs: Treatments for Cancer Patients with a History of Cardiovascular Disease

Summary to Part One


Part Two:

Cardiovascular Diseases and Regenerative Medicine

Introduction to Part Two

Chapter 1: Stem Cells in Cardiovascular Diseases

1.1 Regeneration: Cardiac System (cardiomyogenesis) and Vasculature (angiogenesis)

1.2 Notable Contributions to Regenerative Cardiology by Richard T. Lee (Lee’s Lab, Part I)

1.3 Contributions to Cardiomyocyte Interactions and Signaling (Lee’s Lab, Part II)

1.4 Jmjd3 and Cardiovascular Differentiation of Embryonic Stem Cells

1.5 Stem Cell Therapy for Coronary Artery Disease (CAD)

1.6 Intracoronary Transplantation of Progenitor Cells after Acute MI

1.7 Progenitor Cell Transplant for MI and Cardiogenesis (Part 1)

1.8 Source of Stem Cells to Ameliorate Damage Myocardium (Part 2)

1.9 Neoangiogenic Effect of Grafting an Acellular 3-Dimensional Collagen Scaffold Onto Myocardium (Part 3)

1.10 Transplantation of Modified Human Adipose Derived Stromal Cells Expressing VEGF165

1.11 Three-Dimensional Fibroblast Matrix Improves Left Ventricular Function Post MI

Chapter 2: Regenerative Cell and Molecular Biology

2.1 Circulating Endothelial Progenitors Cells (cEPCs) as Biomarkers

2.2 Stem Cell Research — The Frontier at the Technion in Israel

2.3 Blood vessel-generating stem cells discovered

2.4 Heart Renewal by pre-existing Cardiomyocytes: Source of New Heart Cell Growth Discovered

2.5 The Heart: Vasculature Protection – A Concept-based Pharmacological Therapy including THYMOSIN

2.6 Innovations in Bio instrumentation for Measurement of Circulating Progenetor Endothelial Cells in Human Blood.

2.7 Endothelial Differentiation and Morphogenesis of Cardiac Precursor

Chapter 3: Therapeutics Levels In Molecular Cardiology

3.1 Secrets of Your Cells: Discovering Your Body’s Inner Intelligence (Sounds True, on sale May 1, 2013) by Sondra Barrett

3.2 Human Embryonic-Derived Cardiac Progenitor Cells for Myocardial Repair

3.3 Repair using iPPCs or Stem Cells

3.3.1 Reprogramming cell in Tissue Repair

3.3.2 Heart patients’ skin cells turned into healthy heart muscle cells

3.4 Arteriogenesis and Cardiac Repair: Two Biomaterials – Injectable Thymosin beta4 and Myocardial Matrix Hydrogel 

3.5 Cardiovascular Outcomes: Function of circulating Endothelial Progenitor Cells (cEPCs): Exploring Pharmaco-therapy targeted at Endogenous Augmentation of cEPCs

3.6 Calcium Cycling (ATPase Pump) in Cardiac Gene Therapy: Inhalable Gene Therapy for Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension and Percutaneous Intra-coronary Artery Infusion for Heart Failure: Contributions by Roger J. Hajjar, MD

Chapter 4: Research Proposals for Endogenous Augmentation of circulating Endothelial Progenitor Cells (cEPCs)

4.1 Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR-gamma) Receptors Activation: PPARγ transrepression for Angiogenesis in Cardiovascular Disease and PPARγ transactivation for Treatment of Diabetes

4.2 Clinical Trials Results for Endothelin System: Pathophysiological role in Chronic Heart Failure, Acute Coronary Syndromes and MI – Marker of Disease Severity or Genetic Determination?

4.3 Endothelin Receptors in Cardiovascular Diseases: The Role of eNOS Stimulation

4.4 Inhibition of ET-1, ETA and ETA-ETB, Induction of NO production, stimulation of eNOS and Treatment Regime with PPAR-gamma agonists (TZD): cEPCs Endogenous Augmentation for Cardiovascular Risk Reduction – A Bibliography

4.5 Positioning a Therapeutic Concept for Endogenous Augmentation of cEPCs — Therapeutic Indications for Macrovascular Disease: Coronary, Cerebrovascular and Peripheral

4.6 Endothelial Dysfunction, Diminished Availability of cEPCs, Increasing CVD Risk for Macrovascular Disease – Therapeutic Potential of cEPCs

4.7 Vascular Medicine and Biology: CLASSIFICATION OF FAST ACTING THERAPY FOR PATIENTS AT HIGH RISK FOR MACROVASCULAR EVENTS Macrovascular Disease – Therapeutic Potential of cEPCs

4.8 Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) and the Role of agent alternatives in endothelial Nitric Oxide Synthase (eNOS) Activation and Nitric Oxide Production

4.9 Resident-cell-based Therapy in Human Ischaemic Heart Disease: Evolution in the PROMISE of Thymosin beta4 for Cardiac Repair

4.10 Macrovascular Disease – Therapeutic Potential of cEPCs: Reduction Methods for CV Risk

4.11 Bystolic’s generic Nebivolol – positive effect on circulating Endothelial Proginetor Cells endogenous augmentation

4.12 Heart Vasculature – Regeneration and Protection of Coronary Artery Endothelium and Smooth Muscle: A Concept-based Pharmacological Therapy of a Combination Three Drug Regimen including THYMOSIN

Summary to Part Two

Epilogue to Volume Four

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Agenda for Frontiers in Cancer Immunotherapy, February 27 – 28, 2017, The New York Academy of Sciences

Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN


  •  Frontiers in Cancer Immunotherapy

    February 27 – 28, 2017
    The New York Academy of Sciences

    Presented by The Mushett Family Foundation, Science, Science Immunology, Science Translational Medicine, and the New York Academy of Sciences

    Register Now


    * Presentation titles and times are subject to change.

    Day 1: February 27, 2017

    7:45 AM Breakfast and Registration
    8:30 AM Introduction and Welcome Remarks
    Representative, Mushett Family Foundation
    Representative, Science, Science Translational Medicine, and Science Immunology
    Representative, The New York Academy of Sciences
    8:55 AM Day 1 Keynote Address:
    Immune Checkpoint Blockade in Cancer Therapy: New Insights, Opportunities and Prospects for A Cure
    James P. Allison, PhD, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

    Session 1: Assessment of Current Therapeutic Approaches in Cancer Immunotherapy: Successes and Challenges

    9:40 AM Title to Be Announced
    Phillip D. Greenberg, MD, University of Washington
    10:05 AM In situ Vaccination for the Treatment of Cancer
    Nina Bhardwaj, MD, PhD, Mount Sinai School of Medicine
    10:30 AM Treating the Tumor and Treating the Host
    Ronald Levy, MD, Stanford University
    10:55 AM Networking Coffee Break

    Session 2: Evaluation of Combination Therapy Strategies to Improve Clinical Outcomes

    11:25 AM Title to Be Announced
    Jedd D. Wolchok, MD, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
    11:50 AM The Promise of Epigenetic Therapies for Enhancing the Efficacy of Immune Checkpoint Therapy
    Stephen B. Baylin, MD, Johns Hopkins University
    12:15 PM HPV Theraputic Vacccines: Where Are We Now and Where Are We Going?
    Cornelia (Connie) Liu Trimble, MD, Johns Hopkins University
    12:40 PM Networking Lunch and Poster Viewing
    12:55 PM Underrepresented Minorities, Women, and Early Career Investigator Career Development Workshop and Lunch Running Concurrently with the Networking Lunch

    For Graduate Students, Post-doctoral Fellows, and Junior Faculty

    Editor’s Guide to Writing and Publishing Your Paper

    Angela Colmone, PhD, Senior Editor, Science Translational Medicine
    Kristen Mueller, PhD, Senior Editor, Science
    Yevgeniya Nusinovich, MD, PhD, Associate Editor, Science Translational Medicine

    Session 3: Identification of Relevant Prognostic and Predictive Biomarkers for the Development of Immune-Monitoring Strategies

    2:00 PM Inflammation and Cancer: Fueling Response and Resistance of Immunotherapies
    Lisa Coussens, PhD, Oregon Health Sciences University
    2:25 PM High-throughput Single-Cell Analysis for T-Cell Receptor Ligands and Sequences
    Mark Davis, PhD, Stanford University
    2:50 PM Response and Resistance to PD-1 Blockade Therapy
    Antoni Ribas, MD, PhD, University of California Los Angeles
    3:15 PM Networking Coffee Break

    Session 4: Hot Topic Short Talks

    3:40 PM Short Talk Selected from Submitted Abstracts
    3:55 PM Short Talk Selected from Submitted Abstracts

    Session 5: Development of Strategies to Overcome Immune Tolerance

    4:10 PM Title to Be Announced
    Thomas Gajewski, MD, PhD, University of Chicago
    4:35 PM Molecular and Epigenetic Programs Underlying CD8 T Cell Dysfunction in Solid Tumors
    Andrea Schietinger, PhD, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
    5:00 PM Targeting FoxP3+ T-cells in Cancers; Friends or Foes?
    Hiroyoshi Nishikawa, MD, PhD, National Cancer Center Hospital, Japan
    5:25 PM Panel Discussion
    5:50 PM Closing Remarks
    6:00 PM Poster Session 1 and Networking Reception
    7:00 PM Day 1 Adjourns

    Day 2: February 28, 2017

    8:00 AM Breakfast and Registration
    8:00 PM Underrepresented Minorities, Women, and Early Career Investigator Mentoring Breakfast Running Concurrently with the General Breakfast

    Session 6: Clinical Research Break Out Sessions

    9:00 AM Breakout Group 1: How to Manage Toxicities in Cancer Immunotherapy?
    Jedd D. Wolchok, MD, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
    Breakout Group 2: How to Incorporate Biomarkers into Early Phase Immunotherapy Trials?
    Jonathan Cebon, MBBS, PhD, FRACP, Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Centre
    Breakout Group 3: What are the Latest Strategies for Cancer Immunotherapy Development — a Pharmaceutical Industry Perspective?
    Ira Mellman, PhD, Genentech
    10:00 AM Networking Coffee Break

    Session 7: Optimizing Incorporation of Cancer Genomics and Epigenomics into Immunotherapy Research and Clinical Strategies

    10:30 AM Title to Be Announced
    Steven Rosenberg, MD, PhD, National Cancer Institute, U.S. National Institutes of Health
    10:55 AM Title to Be Announced
    Michele Maio, MD, PhD, University Hospital, Sienna, Italy
    11:20 AM Using Cancer-specific Neoantigens to Personalize Cancer Immunotherapy
    Robert Schreiber, PhD, Washington University
    11:45 AM Networking Lunch and Poster Session 2

    Session 8: Targeting T-cells in Cancer Immunotherapy

    1:15 PM Regulatory T-cells and Strategies for Inhibition for Cancer Therapy
    Alexander Rudensky, PhD, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
    1:40 PM Use of Engineered Chimeric Antigen Receptors for Leukemia Treatment
    Crystal Mackall, MD, Stanford University
    2:05 PM Title to Be Announced
    Kunle Odunsi, MD, PhD, Roswell Park Cancer Institute
    2:30 PM Networking Coffee Break

    Session 9: Hot Topic Short Talks

    3:00 PM Short Talk Selected from Submitted Abstracts
    3:15 PM Short Talk Selected from Submitted Abstracts

    Session 10: Emerging Technologies in Cancer Immunotherapy

    3:30 PM Title to Be Announced
    Laurence Zitvogel, MD, PhD, Institut National de la Santé et Recherche Médicale
    3:55 PM Emerging Technologies in Cancer Immunotherapy
    Carl June, MD, University of Pennsylvania
    4:20 PM Closing Remarks
    4:30 PM Conference Adjourns

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Familial transthyretin amyloid polyneuropathy

Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP



First-Ever Evidence that Patisiran Reduces Pathogenic, Misfolded TTR Monomers and Oligomers in FAP Patients

We reported data from our ongoing Phase 2 open-label extension (OLE) study of patisiran, an investigational RNAi therapeutic targeting transthyretin (TTR) for the treatment of TTR-mediated amyloidosis (ATTR amyloidosis) patients with familial amyloidotic polyneuropathy (FAP). Alnylam scientists and collaborators from The Scripps Research Institute and Misfolding Diagnostics, Inc. were able to measure the effects of patisiran on pathogenic, misfolded TTR monomers and oligomers in FAP patients. Results showed a rapid and sustained reduction in serum non-native conformations of TTR (NNTTR) of approximately 90%. Since NNTTR is pathogenic in ATTR amyloidosis and the level of NNTTR reduction correlated with total TTR knockdown, these results provide direct mechanistic evidence supporting the therapeutic hypothesis that TTR knockdown has the potential to result in clinical benefit. Furthermore, complete 12-month data from all 27 patients that enrolled in the patisiran Phase 2 OLE study showed sustained mean maximum reductions in total serum TTR of 91% for over 18 months and a mean 3.1-point decrease in mNIS+7 at 12 months, which compares favorably to an estimated increase in mNIS+7 of 13 to 18 points at 12 months based upon analysis of historical data sets in untreated FAP patients with similar baseline characteristics. Importantly, patisiran administration continues to be generally well tolerated out to 21 months of treatment.

Read our press release

View the non-native TTR poster (480 KB PDF)

View the complete 12-month patisiran Phase 2 OLE data presentation (620 KB PDF)

We are encouraged by these new data that provide continued support for our hypothesis that patisiran has the potential to halt neuropathy progression in patients with FAP. If these results are replicated in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, we believe that patisiran could emerge as an important treatment option for patients suffering from this debilitating, progressive and life-threatening disease.


Hereditary ATTR Amyloidosis with Polyneuropathy (hATTR-PN)

ATTR amyloidosis is a progressive, life-threatening disease caused by misfolded transthyretin (TTR) proteins that accumulate as amyloid fibrils in multiple organs, but primarily in the peripheral nerves and heart. ATTR amyloidosis can lead to significant morbidity, disability, and mortality. The TTR protein is produced primarily in the liver and is normally a carrier for retinol binding protein – one of the vehicles used to transport vitamin A around the body.  Mutations in the TTR gene cause misfolding of the protein and the formation of amyloid fibrils that typically contain both mutant and wild-type TTR that deposit in tissues such as the peripheral nerves and heart, resulting in intractable peripheral sensory neuropathy, autonomic neuropathy, and/or cardiomyopathy.

Click to Enlarge


ATTR represents a major unmet medical need with significant morbidity and mortality. There are over 100 reported TTR mutations; the particular TTR mutation and the site of amyloid deposition determine the clinical manifestations of the disease whether it is predominantly symptoms of neuropathy or cardiomyopathy.

Specifically, hereditary ATTR amyloidosis with polyneuropathy (hATTR-PN), also known as familial amyloidotic polyneuropathy (FAP), is an inherited, progressive disease leading to death within 5 to 15 years. It is due to a mutation in the transthyretin (TTR) gene, which causes misfolded TTR proteins to accumulate as amyloid fibrils predominantly in peripheral nerves and other organs. hATTR-PN can cause sensory, motor, and autonomic dysfunction, resulting in significant disability and death.

It is estimated that hATTR-PN, also known as FAP, affects approximately 10,000 people worldwide.  Patients have a life expectancy of 5 to 15 years from symptom onset, and the only treatment options for early stage disease are liver transplantation and TTR stabilizers such as tafamidis (approved in Europe) and diflunisal.  Unfortunately liver transplantation has limitations, including limited organ availability as well as substantial morbidity and mortality. Furthermore, transplantation eliminates the production of mutant TTR but does not affect wild-type TTR, which can further deposit after transplantation, leading to cardiomyopathy and worsening of neuropathy. There is a significant need for novel therapeutics to treat patients who have inherited mutations in the TTR gene.

Our ATTR program is the lead effort in our Genetic Medicine Strategic Therapeutic Area (STAr) product development and commercialization strategy, which is focused on advancing innovative RNAi therapeutics toward genetically defined targets for the treatment of rare diseases with high unmet medical need.  We are developing patisiran (ALN-TTR02), an intravenously administered RNAi therapeutic, to treat the hATTR-PN form of the disease.

Patisiran for the Treatment hATTR-PN

APOLLO Phase 3 Trial

In 2012, Alnylam entered into an exclusive alliance with Genzyme, a Sanofi company, to develop and commercialize RNAi therapeutics, including patisiran and revusiran, for the treatment of ATTR amyloidosis in Japan and the broader Asian-Pacific region. In early 2014, this relationship was extended as a significantly broader alliance to advance RNAi therapeutics as genetic medicines. Under this new agreement, Alnylam will lead development and commercialization of patisiran in North America and Europe while Genzyme will develop and commercialize the product in the rest of world.


Hereditary ATTR Amyloidosis with Cardiomyopathy (hATTR-CM)

ATTR amyloidosis is a progressive, life-threatening disease caused by misfolded transthyretin (TTR) proteins that accumulate as amyloid fibrils in multiple organs, but primarily in the peripheral nerves and heart. ATTR amyloidosis can lead to significant morbidity, disability, and mortality. The TTR protein is produced primarily in the liver and is normally a carrier for retinol binding protein – one of the vehicles used to transport vitamin A around the body.  Mutations in the TTR gene cause misfolding of the protein and the formation of amyloid fibrils that typically contain both mutant and wild-type TTR that deposit in tissues such as the peripheral nerves and heart, resulting in intractable peripheral sensory neuropathy, autonomic neuropathy, and/or cardiomyopathy.

Click to Enlarge                  

ATTR represents a major unmet medical need with significant morbidity and mortality. There are over 100 reported TTR mutations; the particular TTR mutation and the site of amyloid deposition determine the clinical manifestations of the disease, whether it is predominantly symptoms of neuropathy or cardiomyopathy.

Specifically, hereditary ATTR amyloidosis with cardiomyopathy (hATTR-CM), also known as familial amyloidotic cardiomyopathy (FAC), is an inherited, progressive disease leading to death within 2 to 5 years. It is due to a mutation in the transthyretin (TTR) gene, which causes misfolded TTR proteins to accumulate as amyloid fibrils primarily in the heart. Hereditary ATTR amyloidosis with cardiomyopathy can result in heart failure and death.

While the exact numbers are not known, it is estimated hATTR-CM, also known as FAC affects at least 40,000 people worldwide.  hATTR-CM is fatal within 2 to 5 years of diagnosis and treatment is currently limited to supportive care.  Wild-type ATTR amyloidosis (wtATTR amyloidosis), also known as senile systemic amyloidosis, is a nonhereditary, progressive disease leading to death within 2 to 5 years. It is caused by misfolded transthyretin (TTR) proteins that accumulate as amyloid fibrils in the heart. Wild-type ATTR amyloidosis can cause cardiomyopathy and result in heart failure and death. There are no approved therapies for the treatment of hATTR-CM or SSA; hence there is a significant unmet need for novel therapeutics to treat these patients.

Our ATTR program is the lead effort in our Genetic Medicine Strategic Therapeutic Area (STAr) product development and commercialization strategy, which is focused on advancing innovative RNAi therapeutics toward genetically defined targets for the treatment of rare diseases with high unmet medical need.  We are developing revusiran (ALN-TTRsc), a subcutaneously administered RNAi therapeutic for the treatment of hATTR-CM.

Revusiran for the Treatment of hATTR-CM

ENDEAVOUR Phase 3 Trial

In 2012, Alnylam entered into an exclusive alliance with Genzyme, a Sanofi company, to develop and commercialize RNAi therapeutics, including patisiran and revusiran, for the treatment of ATTR amyloidosis in Japan and the broader Asian-Pacific region. In early 2014, this relationship was extended as a broader alliance to advance RNAi therapeutics as genetic medicines. Under this new agreement, Alnylam and Genzyme have agreed to co-develop and co-commercialize revusiran in North America and Europe, with Genzyme developing and commercializing the product in the rest of world. This broadened relationship on revusiran is aimed at expanding and accelerating the product’s global value.

Pre-Clinical Data and Advancement of ALN-TTRsc02 for Transthyretin-Mediated Amyloidosis

We presented pre-clinical data with ALN-TTRsc02, an investigational RNAi therapeutic targeting transthyretin (TTR) for the treatment of TTR-mediated amyloidosis (ATTR amyloidosis).  In pre-clinical studies, including those in non-human primates (NHPs), ALN-TTRsc02 achieved potent and highly durable knockdown of serum TTR of up to 99% with multi-month durability achieved after just a single dose, supportive of a potentially once quarterly dose regimen. Results from studies comparing TTR knockdown activity of ALN-TTRsc02 to that of revusiran showed that ALN-TTRsc02 has a markedly superior TTR knockdown profile.  Further, in initial rat toxicology studies, ALN-TTRsc02 was found to be generally well tolerated with no significant adverse events at doses as high as 100 mg/kg.

Read our press release

View the presentation


Emerging Therapies for Transthyretin Cardiac Amyloidosis Could Herald a New Era for the Treatment of HFPEF

Oct 14, 2015   |  Adam Castano, MDDavid Narotsky, MDMathew S. Maurer, MD, FACC

Heart failure with a preserved ejection fraction (HFPEF) is a clinical syndrome that has no pharmacologic therapies approved for this use to date. In light of failed medicines, cardiologists have refocused treatment strategies based on the theory that HFPEF is a heterogeneous clinical syndrome with different etiologies. Classification of HFPEF according to etiologic subtype may, therefore, identify cohorts with treatable pathophysiologic mechanisms and may ultimately pave the way forward for developing meaningful HFPEF therapies.1

A wealth of data now indicates that amyloid infiltration is an important mechanism underlying HFPEF. Inherited mutations in transthyretin cardiac amyloidosis (ATTRm) or the aging process in wild-type disease (ATTRwt) cause destabilization of the transthyretin (TTR) protein into monomers or oligomers, which aggregate into amyloid fibrils. These insoluble fibrils accumulate in the myocardium and result in diastolic dysfunction, restrictive cardiomyopathy, and eventual congestive heart failure (Figure 1). In an autopsy study of HFPEF patients, almost 20% without antemortem suspicion of amyloid had left ventricular (LV) TTR amyloid deposition.2 Even more resounding evidence for the contribution of TTR amyloid to HFPEF was a study in which 120 hospitalized HFPEF patients with LV wall thickness ≥12 mm underwent technetium-99m 3,3-diphosphono-1,2-propranodicarboxylic acid (99mTc-DPD) cardiac imaging,3,4 a bone isotope known to have high sensitivity and specificity for diagnosing TTR cardiac amyloidosis.5,6 Moderate-to-severe myocardial uptake indicative of TTR cardiac amyloid deposition was detected in 13.3% of HFPEF patients who did not have TTR gene mutations. Therefore, TTR cardiac amyloid deposition, especially in older adults, is not rare, can be easily identified, and may contribute to the underlying pathophysiology of HFPEF.

Figure 1

As no U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved drugs are currently available for the treatment of HFPEF or TTR cardiac amyloidosis, the development of medications that attenuate or prevent TTR-mediated organ toxicity has emerged as an important therapeutic goal. Over the past decade, a host of therapies and therapeutic drug classes have emerged in clinical trials (Table 1), and these may herald a new direction for treating HFPEF secondary to TTR amyloid.

Table 1

TTR Silencers (siRNA and Antisense Oligonucleotides)


Ribonucleic acid interference (RNAi) has surfaced as an endogenous cellular mechanism for controlling gene expression. Small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) delivered into cells can disrupt the production of target proteins.7,8 A formulation of lipid nanoparticle and triantennary N-acetylgalactosamine (GalNAc) conjugate that delivers siRNAs to hepatocytes is currently in clinical trials.9 Prior research demonstrated these GalNAc-siRNA conjugates result in robust and durable knockdown of a variety of hepatocyte targets across multiple species and appear to be well suited for suppression of TTR gene expression and subsequent TTR protein production.

The TTR siRNA conjugated to GalNAc, ALN-TTRSc, is now under active investigation as a subcutaneous injection in phase 3 clinical trials in patients with TTR cardiac amyloidosis.10 Prior phase 2 results demonstrated that ALN-TTRSc was generally well tolerated in patients with significant TTR disease burden and that it reduced both wild-type and mutant TTR gene expression by a mean of 87%. Harnessing RNAi technology appears to hold great promise for treating patients with TTR cardiac amyloidosis. The ability of ALN-TTRSc to lower both wild-type and mutant proteins may provide a major advantage over liver transplantation, which affects the production of only mutant protein and is further limited by donor shortage, cost, and need for immunosuppression.

Antisense Oligonucleotides

Antisense oligonucleotides (ASOs) are under clinical investigation for their ability to inhibit hepatic expression of amyloidogenic TTR protein. Currently, the ASO compound, ISIS-TTRRx, is under investigation in a phase 3 multicenter, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial in patients with familial amyloid polyneuropathy (FAP).11 The primary objective is to evaluate its efficacy as measured by change in neuropathy from baseline relative to placebo. Secondary measures will evaluate quality of life (QOL), modified body mass index (mBMI) by albumin, and pharmacodynamic effects on retinol binding protein. Exploratory objectives in a subset of patients with LV wall thickness ≥13 mm without a history of persistent hypertension will examine echocardiographic parameters, N-terminal pro–B-type natriuretic peptide (NT-proBNP), and polyneuropathy disability score relative to placebo. These data will facilitate analysis of the effect of antisense oligonucleotide-mediated TTR suppression on the TTR cardiac phenotype with a phase 3 trial anticipated to begin enrollment in 2016.

TTR Stabilizers (Diflunisal, Tafamidis)


Several TTR-stabilizing agents are in various stages of clinical trials. Diflunisal, a traditionally used and generically available nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), binds and stabilizes familial TTR variants against acid-mediated fibril formation in vitro and is now in human clinical trials.12,13 The use of diflunisal in patients with TTR cardiac amyloidosis is controversial given complication of chronic inhibition of cyclooxygenase (COX) enzymes, including gastrointestinal bleeding, renal dysfunction, fluid retention, and hypertension that may precipitate or exacerbate heart failure in vulnerable individuals.14-17 In TTR cardiac amyloidosis, an open-label cohort study suggested that low-dose diflunisal with careful monitoring along with a prophylactic proton pump inhibitor could be safely administered to compensated patients.18 An association was observed, however, between chronic diflunisal use and adverse changes in renal function suggesting that advanced kidney disease may be prohibitive in diflunisal therapy.In FAP patients with peripheral or autonomic neuropathy randomized to diflunisal or placebo, diflunisal slowed progression of neurologic impairment and preserved QOL over two years of follow-up.19 Echocardiography demonstrated cardiac involvement in approximately 50% of patients.20 Longer-term safety and efficacy data over an average 38 ± 31 months in 40 Japanese patients with hereditary ATTR amyloidosis who were not candidates for liver transplantation showed that diflunisal was mostly well tolerated.12 The authors cautioned the need for attentive monitoring of renal function and blood cell counts. Larger multicenter collaborations are needed to determine diflunisal’s true efficacy in HFPEF patients with TTR cardiac amyloidosis.


Tafamidis is under active investigation as a novel compound that binds to the thyroxine-binding sites of the TTR tetramer, inhibiting its dissociation into monomers and blocking the rate-limiting step in the TTR amyloidogenesis cascade.21 The TTR compound was shown in an 18-month double-blind, placebo-controlled trial to slow progression of neurologic symptoms in patients with early-stage ATTRm due to the V30M mutation.22 When focusing on cardiomyopathy in a phase 2, open-label trial, tafamidis also appeared to effectively stabilize TTR tetramers in non-V30M variants, wild-type and V122I, as well as biochemical and echocardiographic parameters.23,24 Preliminary data suggests that clinically stabilized patients had shorter disease duration, lower cardiac biomarkers, less myocardial thickening, and higher EF than those who were not stabilized, suggesting early institution of therapy may be beneficial. A phase 3 trial has completed enrollment and will evaluate the efficacy, safety, and tolerability of tafamidis 20 or 80 mg orally vs. placebo.25 This will contribute to long-term safety and efficacy data needed to determine the therapeutic effects of tafamidis among ATTRm variants.

Amyloid Degraders (Doxycycline/TUDCA and Anti-SAP Antibodies)


While silencer and stabilizer drugs are aimed at lowering amyloidogenic precursor protein production, they cannot remove already deposited fibrils in an infiltrated heart. Removal of already deposited fibrils by amyloid degraders would be an important therapeutic strategy, particularly in older adults with heavily infiltrated hearts reflected by thick walls, HFPEF, systolic heart failure, and restrictive cardiomyopathy. Combined doxycycline and tauroursodeoxycholic acid (TUDCA) disrupt TTR amyloid fibrils and appeared to have an acceptable safety profile in a small phase 2 open-label study among 20 TTR patients. No serious adverse reactions or clinical progression of cardiac or neuropathic involvement was observed over one year.26 An active phase 2, single-center, open-label, 12-month study will assess primary outcome measures including mBMI, neurologic impairment score, and NT-proBNP.27 Another phase 2 study is examining the tolerability and efficacy of doxycycline/TUDCA over an 18-month period in patients with TTR amyloid cardiomyopathy.28 Additionally, a study in patients with TTR amyloidosis is ongoing to determine the effect of doxycycline alone on neurologic function, cardiac biomarkers, echocardiographic parameters, modified body mass index, and autonomic neuropathy.29

Anti-SAP Antibodies

In order to safely clear established amyloid deposits, the role of the normal, nonfibrillar plasma glycoprotein present in all human amyloid deposits, serum amyloid P component (SAP), needs to be more clearly understood.30 In mice with amyloid AA type deposits, administration of antihuman SAP antibody triggered a potent giant cell reaction that removed massive visceral amyloid deposits without adverse effects.31 In humans with TTR cardiac amyloidosis, anti-SAP antibody treatments could be feasible because the bis-D proline compound, CPHPC, is capable of clearing circulating human SAP, which allow anti-SAP antibodies to reach residual deposited SAP. In a small, open-label, single-dose-escalation, phase 1 trial involving 15 patients with systemic amyloidosis, none of whom had clinical evidence of cardiac amyloidosis, were treated with CPHPC followed by human monoclonal IgG1 anti-SAP antibody.32 No serious adverse events were reported and amyloid deposits were cleared from the liver, kidney, and lymph node. Anti-SAP antibodies hold promise as a potential amyloid therapy because of their potential to target all forms of amyloid deposits across multiple tissue types.

Mutant or wild-type TTR cardiac amyloidoses are increasingly recognized as a cause of HFPEF. Clinicians need to be aware of this important HFPEF etiology because the diverse array of emerging disease-modifying agents for TTR cardiac amyloidosis in human clinical trials has the potential to herald a new era for the treatment of HFPEF.


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The Acid-Mediated Denaturation Pathway of Transthyretin Yields a Conformational Intermediate That Can Self-Assemble into Amyloid

Zhihong Lai , Wilfredo Colón , and Jeffery W. Kelly *
Department of Chemistry, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas 77843-3255
Biochemistry199635 (20), pp 6470–6482
Publication Date (Web): May 21, 1996  Copyright © 1996 American Chemical Society

Transthyretin (TTR) amyloid fibril formation is observed during partial acid denaturation and while refolding acid-denatured TTR, implying that amyloid fibril formation results from the self-assembly of a conformational intermediate. The acid denaturation pathway of TTR has been studied in detail herein employing a variety of biophysical methods to characterize the intermediate(s) capable of amyloid fibril formation. At physiological concentrations, tetrameric TTR remains associated from pH 7 to pH 5 and is incapable of amyloid fibril formation. Tetrameric TTR dissociates to a monomer in a process that is dependent on both pH and protein concentration below pH 5. The extent of amyloid fibril formation correlates with the concentration of the TTR monomer having an altered, but defined, tertiary structure over the pH range of 5.0−3.9. The inherent Trp fluorescence-monitored denaturation curve of TTR exhibits a plateau over the pH range where amyloid fibril formation is observed (albeit at a higher concentration), implying that a steady-state concentration of the amyloidogenic intermediate with an altered tertiary structure is being detected. Interestingly, 1-anilino-8-naphthalenesulfonate fluorescence is at a minimum at the pH associated with maximal amyloid fibril formation (pH 4.4), implying that the amyloidogenic intermediate does not have a high extent of hydrophobic surface area exposed, consistent with a defined tertiary structure. Transthyretin has two Trp residues in its primary structure, Trp-41 and Trp-79, which are conveniently located far apart in the tertiary structure of TTR. Replacement of each Trp with Phe affords two single Trp containing variants which were used to probe local pH-dependent tertiary structural changes proximal to these chromophores. The pH-dependent fluorescence behavior of the Trp-79-Phe mutant strongly suggests that Trp-41 is located near the site of the tertiary structural rearrangement that occurs in the formation of the monomeric amyloidogenic intermediate, likely involving the C-strand−loop−D-strand region. Upon further acidification of TTR (below pH 4.4), the structurally defined monomeric amyloidogenic intermediate begins to adopt alternative conformations that are not amyloidogenic, ultimately forming an A-state conformation below pH 3 which is also not amyloidogenic. In summary, analytical equilibrium ultracentrifugation, SDS−PAGE, far- and near-UV CD, fluorescence, and light scattering studies suggest that the amyloidogenic intermediate is a monomeric predominantly β-sheet structure having a well-defined tertiary structure.


Prevention of Transthyretin Amyloid Disease by Changing Protein Misfolding Energetics

Per Hammarström*, R. Luke Wiseman*, Evan T. Powers, Jeffery W. Kelly   + Author Affiliations

Science  31 Jan 2003; 299(5607):713-716

Genetic evidence suggests that inhibition of amyloid fibril formation by small molecules should be effective against amyloid diseases. Known amyloid inhibitors appear to function by shifting the aggregation equilibrium away from the amyloid state. Here, we describe a series of transthyretin amyloidosis inhibitors that functioned by increasing the kinetic barrier associated with misfolding, preventing amyloidogenesis by stabilizing the native state. The trans-suppressor mutation, threonine 119 → methionine 119, which is known to ameliorate familial amyloid disease, also functioned through kinetic stabilization, implying that this small-molecule strategy should be effective in treating amyloid diseases.


Rational design of potent human transthyretin amyloid disease inhibitors

Thomas Klabunde1,2, H. Michael Petrassi3, Vibha B. Oza3, Prakash Raman3, Jeffery W. Kelly3 & James C. Sacchettini1

Nature Structural & Molecular Biology 2000; 7: 312 – 321.      

The human amyloid disorders, familial amyloid polyneuropathy, familial amyloid cardiomyopathy and senile systemic amyloidosis, are caused by insoluble transthyretin (TTR) fibrils, which deposit in the peripheral nerves and heart tissue. Several nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and structurally similar compounds have been found to strongly inhibit the formation of TTR amyloid fibrils in vitro. These include flufenamic acid, diclofenac, flurbiprofen, and resveratrol. Crystal structures of the protein–drug complexes have been determined to allow detailed analyses of the protein–drug interactions that stabilize the native tetrameric conformation of TTR and inhibit the formation of amyloidogenic TTR. Using a structure-based drug design approach ortho-trifluormethylphenyl anthranilic acid and N-(meta-trifluoromethylphenyl) phenoxazine 4,6-dicarboxylic acid have been discovered to be very potent and specific TTR fibril formation inhibitors. This research provides a rationale for a chemotherapeutic approach for the treatment of TTR-associated amyloid diseases.


First European consensus for diagnosis, management, and treatment of transthyretin familial amyloid polyneuropathy

Adams, Davida; Suhr, Ole B.b; Hund, Ernstc; Obici, Laurad; Tournev, Ivailoe,f; Campistol, Josep M.g; Slama, Michel S.h; Hazenberg, Bouke P.i; Coelho, Teresaj; from the European Network for TTR-FAP (ATTReuNET)

Current Opin Neurol: Feb 2016; 29 – Issue – p S14–S26

Purpose of review: Early and accurate diagnosis of transthyretin familial amyloid polyneuropathy (TTR-FAP) represents one of the major challenges faced by physicians when caring for patients with idiopathic progressive neuropathy. There is little consensus in diagnostic and management approaches across Europe.

Recent findings: The low prevalence of TTR-FAP across Europe and the high variation in both genotype and phenotypic expression of the disease means that recognizing symptoms can be difficult outside of a specialized diagnostic environment. The resulting delay in diagnosis and the possibility of misdiagnosis can misguide clinical decision-making and negatively impact subsequent treatment approaches and outcomes.

Summary: This review summarizes the findings from two meetings of the European Network for TTR-FAP (ATTReuNET). This is an emerging group comprising representatives from 10 European countries with expertise in the diagnosis and management of TTR-FAP, including nine National Reference Centres. The current review presents management strategies and a consensus on the gold standard for diagnosis of TTR-FAP as well as a structured approach to ongoing multidisciplinary care for the patient. Greater communication, not just between members of an individual patient’s treatment team, but also between regional and national centres of expertise, is the key to the effective management of TTR-FAP.

Transthyretin familial amyloid polyneuropathy (TTR-FAP) is a highly debilitating and irreversible neurological disorder presenting symptoms of progressive sensorimotor and autonomic neuropathy [1▪,2▪,3]. TTR-FAP is caused by misfolding of the transthyretin (TTR) protein leading to protein aggregation and the formation of amyloid fibrils and, ultimately, to amyloidosis (commonly in the peripheral and autonomic nervous system and the heart) [4,5]. TTR-FAP usually proves fatal within 7–12 years from the onset of symptoms, most often due to cardiac dysfunction, infection, or cachexia [6,7▪▪].

The prevalence and disease presentation of TTR-FAP vary widely within Europe. In endemic regions (northern Portugal, Sweden, Cyprus, and Majorca), patients tend to present with a distinct genotype in large concentrations, predominantly a Val30Met substitution in the TTR gene [8–10]. In other areas of Europe, the genetic footprint of TTR-FAP is more varied, with less typical phenotypic expression [6,11]. For these sporadic or scattered cases, a lack of awareness among physicians of variable clinical features and limited access to diagnostic tools (i.e., pathological studies and genetic screening) can contribute to high rates of misdiagnosis and poorer patient outcomes [1▪,11]. In general, early and late-onset variants of TTR-FAP, found within endemic and nonendemic regions, present several additional diagnostic challenges [11,12,13▪,14].

Delay in the time to diagnosis is a major obstacle to the optimal management of TTR-FAP. With the exception of those with a clearly diagnosed familial history of FAP, patients still invariably wait several years between the emergence of first clinical signs and accurate diagnosis [6,11,14]. The timely initiation of appropriate treatment is particularly pertinent, given the rapidity and irreversibility with which TTR-FAP can progress if left unchecked, as well as the limited effectiveness of available treatments during the later stages of the disease [14]. This review aims to consolidate the existing literature and present an update of the best practices in the management of TTR-FAP in Europe. A summary of the methods used to achieve a TTR-FAP diagnosis is presented, as well as a review of available treatments and recommendations for treatment according to disease status.

Patients with TTR-FAP can present with a range of symptoms [11], and care should be taken to acquire a thorough clinical history of the patient as well as a family history of genetic disease. Delay in diagnosis is most pronounced in areas where TTR-FAP is not endemic or when there is no positive family history [1▪]. TTR-FAP and TTR-familial amyloid cardiomyopathy (TTR-FAC) are the two prototypic clinical disease manifestations of a broader disease spectrum caused by an underlying hereditary ATTR amyloidosis [19]. In TTR-FAP, the disease manifestation of neuropathy is most prominent and definitive for diagnosis, whereas cardiomyopathy often suggests TTR-FAC. However, this distinction is often superficial because cardiomyopathy, autonomic neuropathy, vitreous opacities, kidney disease, and meningeal involvement all may be present with varying severity for each patient with TTR-FAP.

Among early onset TTR-FAP with usually positive family history, symptoms of polyneuropathy present early in the disease process and usually predominate throughout the progression of the disease, making neurological testing an important diagnostic aid [14]. Careful clinical examination (e.g., electromyography with nerve conduction studies and sympathetic skin response, quantitative sensation test, quantitative autonomic test) can be used to detect, characterize, and scale the severity of neuropathic abnormalities involving small and large nerve fibres [10]. Although a patient cannot be diagnosed definitively with TTR-FAP on the basis of clinical presentation alone, symptoms suggesting the early signs of peripheral neuropathy, autonomic dysfunction, and cardiac conduction disorders or infiltrative cardiomyopathy are all indicators that further TTR-FAP diagnostic investigation is warranted. Late-onset TTR-FAP often presents as sporadic cases with distinct clinical features (e.g., milder autonomic dysfunction) and can be more difficult to diagnose than early-onset TTR-FAP (Table 2) [1▪,11,12,13▪,14,20].

Genetic testing is carried out to allow detection of specific amyloidogenic TTR mutations (Table 1), using varied techniques depending on the expertise and facilities available in each country (Table S2, A targeted approach to detect a specific mutation can be used for cases belonging to families with previous diagnosis. In index cases of either endemic and nonendemic regions that do not have a family history of disease, are difficult to confirm, and have atypical symptoms, TTR gene sequencing is required for the detection of both predicted and new amyloidogenic mutations [26,27].

Following diagnosis, the neuropathy stage and systemic extension of the disease should be determined in order to guide the next course of treatment (Table 4) [3,30,31]. The three stages of TTR-FAP severity are graded according to a patient’s walking disability and degree of assistance required [30]. Systemic assessment, especially of the heart, eyes, and kidney, is also essential to ensure all aspects of potential impact of the disease can be detected [10].

Table 4

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The goals of cardiac investigations are to detect serious conduction disorders with the risk of sudden death and infiltrative cardiomyopathy. Electrocardiograms (ECG), Holter-ECG, and intracardiac electrophysiology study are helpful to detect conduction disorders. Echocardiograms, cardiac magnetic resonance imaging, scintigraphy with bone tracers, and biomarkers (e.g., brain natriuretic peptide, troponin) can all help to diagnose infiltrative cardiomyopathy[10]. An early detection of cardiac abnormalities has obvious benefits to the patient, given that the prophylactic implantation of pacemakers was found to prevent 25% of major cardiac events in TTR-FAP patients followed up over an average of 4 years [32▪▪]. Assessment of cardiac denervation with 123-iodine meta-iodobenzylguanidine is a powerful prognostic marker in patients diagnosed with FAP [33].



Tafamidis is a first-in-class therapy that slows the progression of TTR amyloidogenesis by stabilizing the mutant TTR tetramer, thereby preventing its dissociation into monomers and amyloidogenic and toxic intermediates [55,56]. Tafamidis is currently indicated in Europe for the treatment of TTR amyloidosis in adult patients with stage I symptomatic polyneuropathy to delay peripheral neurological impairment [57].

In an 18-month, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of patients with early-onset Val30Met TTR-FAP, tafamidis was associated with a 52% lower reduction in neurological deterioration (P = 0.027), a preservation of nerve function, and TTR stabilization versus placebo [58▪▪]. However, only numerical differences were found for the coprimary endpoints of neuropathy impairment [neuropathy impairment score in the lower limb (NIS-LL) responder rates of 45.3% tafamidis vs 29.5% placebo; P = 0.068] and quality of life scores [58▪▪]. A 12-month, open-label extension study showed that the reduced rates of neurological deterioration associated with tafamidis were sustained over 30 months, with earlier initiation of tafamidis linking to better patient outcomes (P = 0.0435) [59▪]. The disease-slowing effects of tafamidis may be dependent on the early initiation of treatment. In an open-label study with Val30Met TTR-FAP patients with late-onset and advanced disease (NIS-LL score >10, mean age 56.4 years), NIS-LL and disability scores showed disease progression despite 12 months of treatment with tafamidis, marked by a worsening of neuropathy stage in 20% and the onset of orthostatic hypotension in 22% of patients at follow-up [60▪].

Tafamidis is not only effective in patients exhibiting the Val30Met mutation; it also has proven efficacy, in terms of TTR stabilization, in non-Val30Met patients over 12 months [61]. Although tafamidis has demonstrated safe use in patients with TTR-FAP, care should be exercised when prescribing to those with existing digestive problems (e.g., diarrhoea, faecal incontinence) [60▪].

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Diflunisal is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that, similar to tafamidis, slows the rate of amyloidogenesis by preventing the dissociation, misfolding, and misassembly of the mutated TTR tetramer [62,63]. Off-label use has been reported for patients with stage I and II disease, although diflunisal is not currently licensed for the treatment of TTR-FAP.

Evidence for the clinical effectiveness of diflunisal in TTR-FAP derives from a placebo-controlled, double-blind, 24-month study in 130 patients with clinically detectable peripheral or autonomic neuropathy[64▪]. The deterioration in NIS scores was significantly more pronounced in patients receiving placebo compared with those taking diflunisal (P = 0.001), and physical quality of life measures showed significant improvement among diflunisal-treated patients (P = 0.001). Notable during this study was the high rate of attrition in the placebo group, with 50% more placebo-treated patients dropping out of this 2-year study as a result of disease progression, advanced stage of the disease, and varied mutations.

One retrospective analysis of off-label use of diflunisal in patients with TTR-FAP reported treatment discontinuation in 57% of patients because of adverse events that were largely gastrointestinal [65]. Conclusions on the safety of diflunisal in TTR-FAP will depend on further investigations on the impact of known cardiovascular and renal side-effects associated with the NSAID drug class [66,67].





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Cardiac Hypertrophy-associated transcript as a potential long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs) candidate that influences Cardiomyocyte Hypertrophy


Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD


Sci Transl Med. 2016 Feb 17;8(326):326ra22. doi: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aaf1475.

Long noncoding RNA Chast promotes cardiac remodeling.


Recent studies highlighted long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs) to play an important role in cardiac development. However, understanding of lncRNAs in cardiac diseases is still limited. Global lncRNA expression profiling indicated that several lncRNA transcripts are deregulated during pressure overload-induced cardiac hypertrophy in mice. Using stringent selection criteria, we identified Chast (cardiac hypertrophy-associated transcript) as a potential lncRNA candidate that influences cardiomyocyte hypertrophy. Cell fractionation experiments indicated that Chast is specifically up-regulated in cardiomyocytes in vivo in transverse aortic constriction (TAC)-operated mice. In accordance, CHAST homolog in humans was significantly up-regulated in hypertrophic heart tissue from aortic stenosis patients and in human embryonic stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes upon hypertrophic stimuli. Viral-based overexpression of Chast was sufficient to induce cardiomyocyte hypertrophy in vitro and in vivo. GapmeR-mediated silencing of Chast both prevented and attenuated TAC-induced pathological cardiac remodeling with no early signs on toxicological side effects. Mechanistically, Chast negatively regulated Pleckstrin homology domain-containing protein family M member 1 (opposite strand of Chast), impeding cardiomyocyte autophagy and driving hypertrophy. These results indicate that Chast can be a potential target to prevent cardiac remodeling and highlight a general role of lncRNAs in heart diseases.

Copyright © 2016, American Association for the Advancement of Science.

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Bioprinting basics

Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP



The ABCs of 3D Bioprinting of Living Tissues, Organs   5/06/2016 

(Credit: Ozbolat Lab/Penn State University)
(Credit: Ozbolat Lab/Penn State University)

Although first originated in 2003, the world of bioprinting is still very new and ambiguous. Nevertheless, as the need for organ donation continues to increase worldwide, and organ and tissue shortages prevail, a handful of scientists have started utilizing this cutting-edge science and technology for various areas of regenerative medicine to possibly fill that organ-shortage void.

Among these scientists is Ibrahim Tarik Ozbolat, an associate professor of Engineering Science and Mechanics Department and the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences at Penn State University, who’s been studying bioprinting and tissue engineering for years.

While Ozbolat is not the first to originate 3D bioprinting research, he’s the first one at Penn State University to spearhead the studies at Ozbolat Lab, Leading Bioprinting Research.

“Tissue engineering is a big need. Regenerative medicine, biofabrication of tissues and organs that can replace the damage or diseases is important,” Ozbolat told R&D Magazine after his seminar presentation at Interphex last week in New York City, titled 3D Bioprinting of Living Tissues & Organs.”

3D bioprinting is the process of creating cell patterns in a confined space using 3D-printing technologies, where cell function and viability are preserved within the printed construct.

Recent progress has allowed 3D printing of biocompatible materials, cells and supporting components into complex 3D functional living tissues. The technology is being applied to regenerative medicine to address the need for tissues and organs suitable for transplantation. Compared with non-biological printing, 3D bioprinting involves additional complexities, such as the choice of materials, cell types, growth and differentiation factors, and technical challenges related to the sensitivities of living cells and the construction of tissues. Addressing these complexities requires the integration of technologies from the fields of engineering, biomaterials science, cell biology, physics and medicine, according to

“If we’re able to make organs on demand, that will be highly beneficial to society,” said Ozbolat. “We have the capability to pattern cells, locate them and then make the same thing that exists in the body.”

3D bioprinting of tissues and organs

Sean V Murphy & Anthony Atala
Nature Biotechnology 32,773–785(2014)       doi:10.1038/nbt.2958


Additive manufacturing, otherwise known as three-dimensional (3D) printing, is driving major innovations in many areas, such as engineering, manufacturing, art, education and medicine. Recent advances have enabled 3D printing of biocompatible materials, cells and supporting components into complex 3D functional living tissues. 3D bioprinting is being applied to regenerative medicine to address the need for tissues and organs suitable for transplantation. Compared with non-biological printing, 3D bioprinting involves additional complexities, such as the choice of materials, cell types, growth and differentiation factors, and technical challenges related to the sensitivities of living cells and the construction of tissues. Addressing these complexities requires the integration of technologies from the fields of engineering, biomaterials science, cell biology, physics and medicine. 3D bioprinting has already been used for the generation and transplantation of several tissues, including multilayered skin, bone, vascular grafts, tracheal splints, heart tissue and cartilaginous structures. Other applications include developing high-throughput 3D-bioprinted tissue models for research, drug discovery and toxicology.


Future Technologies : Bioprinting

3D printing is increasingly permitting the direct digital manufacture (DDM) of a wide variety of plastic and metal items. While this in itself may trigger a manufacturing revolution, far more startling is the recent development of bioprinters. These artificially construct living tissue by outputting layer-upon-layer of living cells. Currently all bioprinters are experimental. However, in the future, bioprinters could revolutionize medical practice as yet another element of the New Industrial Convergence.

Bioprinters may be constructed in various configurations. However, all bioprinters output cells from a bioprint head that moves left and right, back and forth, and up and down, in order to place the cells exactly where required. Over a period of several hours, this permits an organic object to be built up in a great many very thin layers.

In addition to outputting cells, most bioprinters also output a dissolvable gel to support and protect cells during printing. A possible design for a future bioprinter appears below and in the sidebar, here shown in the final stages of printing out a replacement human heart. Note that you can access larger bioprinter images on the Future Visions page. You may also like to watch my bioprinting video.



Bioprinting Pioneers

Several experimental bioprinters have already been built. For example, in 2002 Professor Makoto Nakamura realized that the droplets of ink in a standard inkjet printer are about the same size as human cells. He therefore decided to adapt the technology, and by 2008 had created a working bioprinter that can print out biotubing similar to a blood vessel. In time, Professor Nakamura hopes to be able to print entire replacement human organs ready for transplant. You can learn more about this groundbreaking work here or read this message from Professor Nakamura. The movie below shows in real-time the biofabrication of a section of biotubing using his modified inkjet technology.


Another bioprinting pioneer is Organovo. This company was set up by a research group lead by Professor Gabor Forgacs from the University of Missouri, and in March 2008 managed to bioprint functional blood vessels and cardiac tissue using cells obtained from a chicken. Their work relied on a prototype bioprinter with three print heads. The first two of these output cardiac and endothelial cells, while the third dispensed a collagen scaffold — now termed ‘bio-paper’ — to support the cells during printing.

Since 2008, Organovo has worked with a company called Invetech to create a commercial bioprinter called the NovoGen MMX. This is loaded with bioink spheroids that each contain an aggregate of tens of thousands of cells. To create its output, the NovoGen first lays down a single layer of a water-based bio-paper made from collagen, gelatin or other hydrogels. Bioink spheroids are then injected into this water-based material. As illustrated below, more layers are subsequently added to build up the final object. Amazingly, Nature then takes over and the bioink spheroids slowly fuse together. As this occurs, the biopaper dissolves away or is otherwise removed, thereby leaving a final bioprinted body part or tissue.


bioprinting stages

As Organovo have demonstrated, using their bioink printing process it is not necessary to print all of the details of an organ with a bioprinter, as once the relevant cells are placed in roughly the right place Nature completes the job. This point is powerfully illustrated by the fact that the cells contained in a bioink spheroid are capable of rearranging themselves after printing. For example, experimental blood vessels have been bioprinted using bioink spheroids comprised of an aggregate mix of endothelial, smooth muscle and fibroblast cells. Once placed in position by the bioprint head, and with no technological intervention, the endothelial cells migrate to the inside of the bioprinted blood vessel, the smooth muscle cells move to the middle, and the fibroblasts migrate to the outside.

In more complex bioprinted materials, intricate capillaries and other internal structures also naturally form after printing has taken place. The process may sound almost magical. However, as Professor Forgacs explains, it is no different to the cells in an embryo knowing how to configure into complicated organs. Nature has been evolving this amazing capability for millions of years. Once in the right places, appropriate cell types somehow just know what to do.

In December 2010, Organovo create the first blood vessels to be bioprinted using cells cultured from a single person. The company has also successfully implanted bioprinted nerve grafts into rats, and anticipates human trials of bioprinted tissues by 2015. However, it also expects that the first commercial application of its bioprinters will be to produce simple human tissue structures for toxicology tests. These will enable medical researchers to test drugs on bioprinted models of the liver and other organs, thereby reducing the need for animal tests.

In time, and once human trials are complete, Organovo hopes that its bioprinters will be used to produce blood vessel grafts for use in heart bypass surgery. The intention is then to develop a wider range of tissue-on-demand and organs-on-demand technologies. To this end, researchers are now working on tiny mechanical devices that can artificially exercise and hence strengthen bioprinted muscle tissue before it is implanted into a patient.

Organovo anticipates that its first artificial human organ will be a kidney. This is because, in functional terms, kidneys are one of the more straight-forward parts of the body. The first bioprinted kidney may in fact not even need to look just like its natural counterpart or duplicate all of its features. Rather, it will simply have to be capable of cleaning waste products from the blood. You can read more about the work of Organovoand Professor Forgac’s in this article from Nature.

Regenerative Scaffolds and Bones

A further research team with the long-term goal of producing human organs-on-demand has created the Envisiontec Bioplotter. Like Organovo’s NovoGen MMX, this outputs bio-ink ’tissue spheroids’ and supportive scaffold materials including fibrin and collagen hydrogels. But in addition, the Envisontech can also print a wider range of biomaterials. These include biodegradable polymers and ceramics that may be used to support and help form artificial organs, and which may even be used as bioprinting substitutes for bone.

Talking of bone, a team lead by Jeremy Mao at the Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine Lab at Columbia University is working on the application of bioprinting in dental and bone repairs. Already, a bioprinted, mesh-like 3D scaffold in the shape of an incisor has been implanted into the jaw bone of a rat. This featured tiny, interconnecting microchannels that contained ‘stem cell-recruiting substances’. In just nine weeks after implantation, these triggered the growth of fresh periodontal ligaments and newly formed alveolar bone. In time, this research may enable people to be fitted with living, bioprinted teeth, or else scaffolds that will cause the body to grow new teeth all by itself. You can read more about this development in this article from The Engineer.

In another experient, Mao’s team implanted bioprinted scaffolds in the place of the hip bones of several rabbits. Again these were infused with growth factors. As reported inThe Lancet, over a four month period the rabbits all grew new and fully-functional joints around the mesh. Some even began to walk and otherwise place weight on their new joints only a few weeks after surgery. Sometime next decade, human patients may therefore be fitted with bioprinted scaffolds that will trigger the grown of replacement hip and other bones. In a similar development, a team from Washington State University have also recently reported on four years of work using 3D printers to create a bone-like material that may in the future be used to repair injuries to human bones.

In Situ Bioprinting

The aforementioned research progress will in time permit organs to be bioprinted in a lab from a culture of a patient’s own cells. Such developments could therefore spark a medical revolution. Nevertheless, others are already trying to go further by developing techniques that will enable cells to be printed directly onto or into the human body in situ. Sometime next decade, doctors may therefore be able to scan wounds and spray on layers of cells to very rapidly heal them.

Already a team of bioprinting researchers lead by Anthony Alata at the Wake Forrest School of Medicine have developed a skin printer. In initial experiments they have taken 3D scans of test injuries inflicted on some mice and have used the data to control a bioprint head that has sprayed skin cells, a coagulant and collagen onto the wounds. The results are also very promising, with the wounds healing in just two or three weeks compared to about five or six weeks in a control group. Funding for the skin-printing project is coming in part from the US military who are keen to develop in situ bioprinting to help heal wounds on the battlefield. At present the work is still in a pre-clinical phase with Alata progressing his research usig pigs. However, trials of with human burn victims could be a little as five years away.

The potential to use bioprinters to repair our bodies in situ is pretty mind blowing. In perhaps no more than a few decades it may be possible for robotic surgical arms tipped with bioprint heads to enter the body, repair damage at the cellular level, and then also repair their point of entry on their way out. Patients would still need to rest and recuperate for a few days as bioprinted materials fully fused into mature living tissue. However, most patients could potentially recover from very major surgery in less than a week.

Cosmetic Applications …

Bioprinting Implications …

More information on bioprinting can be found in my books 3D Printing: Second Editionand The Next Big Thing. There is also a bioprinting section in my 3D Printing Directory. Oh, and there is also a great infographic about bioprinting here. Enjoy!


How to print out a blood vessel

New work moves closer to the age of organs on demand.

Blood vessels can now be ‘printed out’ by machine. Could bigger structures be in the future?SUSUMU NISHINAGA / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

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Natural Killer Cell Response: Treatment of Cancer

Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP


Molecular mechanisms of natural killer cell activation in response to cellular stress

C J Chan1,2,3, M J Smyth1,2,3,4,5 and L Martinet1,2,4,5        Edited by M Piacentini

Cell Death and Differentiation (2014) 21, 5–14;

Protection against cellular stress from various sources, such as nutritional, physical, pathogenic, or oncogenic, results in the induction of both intrinsic and extrinsic cellular protection mechanisms that collectively limit the damage these insults inflict on the host. The major extrinsic protection mechanism against cellular stress is the immune system. Indeed, it has been well described that cells that are stressed due to association with viral infection or early malignant transformation can be directly sensed by the immune system, particularly natural killer (NK) cells. Although the ability of NK cells to directly recognize and respond to stressed cells is well appreciated, the mechanisms and the breadth of cell-intrinsic responses that are intimately linked with their activation are only beginning to be uncovered. This review will provide a brief introduction to NK cells and the relevant receptors and ligands involved in direct responses to cellular stress. This will be followed by an in-depth discussion surrounding the various intrinsic responses to stress that can naturally engage NK cells, and how therapeutic agents may induce specific activation of NK cells and other innate immune cells by activating cellular responses to stress.


  • Stress induces specific intrinsic and extrinsic physiological mechanisms within cells that lead to their identification as functionally abnormal
  • Sources of cellular stress can be nutritional, physical, pathogenic, or oncogenic
  • Intrinsic responses to cellular stress include activation of the DNA-damage response, tumor-suppressor genes, and senescence
  • The extrinsic response to cellular stress is activation of the immune system, such as natural killer cells
  • Intrinsic responses to cellular stress can directly upregulate factors that can activate the immune system, and the immune system been shown to be indispensable for the efficacy of some chemotherapy

Further critical determinants of intrinsic responses to stress and cell death that can activate the immune system must be identified

  • Identification of the different cellular pathways and molecular determinants controlling the immunogenicity of different cancer therapies is required
  • How can we harness the ability of therapeutic agents to activate both the intrinsic and extrinsic responses to cellular stress to achieve more specific and safer approaches to cancer treatment?

Any insult to a cell that leads to its abnormal behavior or premature death can be defined as a source of stress. As the turnover and maintenance of cells in all multi-cellular organisms is tightly regulated, it is essential that stressed cells be rapidly identified to avoid widespread tissue damage and to maintain tissue homeostasis. Various intrinsic cellular mechanisms exist within cells that become activated when they are exposed to stress. These include activation of DNA-damage response proteins, senescence programs, and tumor-suppressor genes.1 Extrinsic mechanisms also exist that combat cellular stress, through the upregulation of mediators that can activate different components of the immune system.2 Although frequently discussed separately, much recent evidence has indicated that intrinsic and extrinsic responses to cellular stress are intimately linked.3

As the link between cell intrinsic and extrinsic responses to stress have been uncovered, these observations are now being harnessed therapeutically, particularly in the context of cancer.4 Indeed, various chemotherapeutic agents and radiotherapy are critically dependent on the immune system to elicit their full therapeutic benefit.5, 6 The mechanisms by which this occurs may be twofold: (i) the induction of intrinsic cellular stress mechanisms activates innate immunity and (ii) the release and presentation of tumor-specific antigens engages an inflammatory adaptive immune response.

NK cells are the major effector lymphocyte of innate immunity found in all the primary and secondary immune compartments as well as various mucosal tissues.7 Through their ability to induce direct cytotoxicity of target cells and produce pro-inflammatory cytokines such as interferon-gamma, NK cells are critically involved in the immune surveillance of tumors8, 9, 10 and microbial infections.11, 12 The major mechanism that regulates NK cell contact-dependent functions (such as cytotoxicity and recognition of targets) is the relative contribution of inhibitory and activating receptors that bind to cognate ligands.

Under normal physiological conditions, NK cell activity is inhibited through the interaction of their inhibitory receptors with major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I.13, 14 However, upon instances of cellular stress that are frequently associated with viral infection and malignant transformation, ligands for activating receptors are often upregulated and MHC class I expression may be downregulated. The upregulation of these activating ligands and downregulation of MHC class I thus provides a signal for NK cells to become activated and display effector functions. Activating receptors are able to provide NK cells with a strong stimulus in the absence of co-stimulation due to the presence of adaptor molecules such as DAP10, DAP12, FcRγ, and CD3ζ that contain immunoreceptor tyrosine-based activating motifs (ITAMs).15, 16,17 By contrast, inhibitory receptors contain inhibitory motifs (ITIMs) within their cytoplasmic tails that can activate downstream targets such as SHP-1 and SHP-2 and directly antagonize those signaling pathways activated through ITAMs.18, 19, 20 The specific details of individual classes of inhibitory and activating receptors and their ligands are summarized in Figure 1 and have been extensively reviewed elsewhere.14, 21 Instead, this review will more focus on the relevant activating receptors that are primarily involved in the direct regulation of NK cell-mediated recognition of cellular stress: natural killer group 2D (NKG2D) and DNAX accessory molecule-1 (DNAM-1).

Figure 1.

Figure 1 - Unfortunately we are unable to provide accessible alternative text for this. If you require assistance to access this image, please contact or the authorNK cell receptors and their cognate ligands. Major inhibitory and activating receptors on NK cells and their cognate ligands on targets are depicted. BAT3, human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-B-associated transcript 3; CRTAM, class I-restricted T-cell-associated molecule; HA, hemagglutinin; HLA-E, HLA class I histocompatibility antigen, alpha chain E; IgG, immunoglobulin G; LFA-1, leukocyte function-associated antigen-1; LLT1, lectin-like transcript 1; TIGIT, T cell immunoglobulin and ITIM domain

Full figure and legend (185K)

NK Cell-Mediated Recognition of Cellular Stress by NKG2D and DNAM-1

NKG2D is a lectin-like type 2 transmembrane receptor expressed as a homodimer in both mice and humans by virtually all NK cells.22, 23 Upon interaction with its ligands, NKG2D can trigger NK cell-mediated cytotoxicity against their targets. The ligands for NKG2D are self proteins related to MHC class I molecules.24 In humans, these ligands consist of the MHC class I chain-related protein (MIC) family (e.g., MICA and MICB) and the UL16-binding protein (ULBP1-6) family.25, 26 In mice, ligands for NKG2D include the retinoic acid early inducible (Rae) gene family, the H60 family, and mouse ULBP-like transcript-1 (MULT-1).27, 28, 29 NKG2D ligands are generally absent on the cell surface of healthy cells but are frequently upregulated upon cellular stress associated with viral infection and malignant transformation.3, 30 Indeed, NKG2D ligand expression has been found on many transformed cell lines, and NKG2D-dependent elimination of tumor cells expressing NKG2D ligands has been well documented in vitro and in tumor transplant experiments.25, 30, 31, 32, 33 In humans, NKG2D ligands have been described on different primary tumors34, 35 and specific NKG2D gene polymorphisms are associated with susceptibility to cancer.36 Finally, blocking NKG2D through gene inactivation or monoclonal antibodies leads to an increased susceptibility to tumor development in mouse models,37, 38demonstrating the key role played by NKG2D in immune surveillance of tumors. NKG2D can also contribute to shape tumor immunogenicity, a process called immunoediting, as demonstrated by the frequent ability of tumor cells to avoid NKG2D-mediated recognition through NKG2D ligand shedding, as discussed later in this review.38, 39, 40

DNAM-1 is a transmembrane adhesion molecule constitutively expressed on T cells, NK cells, macrophages, and a small subset of B cells in mice and humans.41, 42, 43 DNAM-1 contains an extracellular region with two IgV-like domains, a transmembrane region and a cytoplasmic region containing tyrosine- and serine-phosphorylated sites that is able to initiate downstream activation cascades.41, 44 There is accumulating evidence showing that DNAM-1 not only promotes adhesion of NK cells and CTLs but also greatly enhances their cytotoxicity toward ligand-expressing targets.41, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50 The ligands for DNAM-1 are the nectin/nectin-like family members CD155 (PVR, necl-5) and CD112 (PVRL2, nectin-2).45, 46 Like NKG2D ligands, DNAM-1 ligands are frequently expressed on virus-infected and transformed cells.51, 52DNAM-1 ligands, especially CD155, are overexpressed by many types of solid and hematological malignancies and blocking DNAM-1 interactions with its ligands reduces the ability of NK cells to kill tumor cells in vitro.41, 49, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57 Further evidence of the role of DNAM-1 in tumor immune surveillance is provided by studies using experimental and spontaneous models of cancer in vivo showing enhanced tumor spread in the absence of DNAM-1.47, 48, 49, 50, 58

As NKG2D and DNAM-1 ligands are frequently expressed on stressed cells, many studies have sought to determine the mechanisms that underpin these observations. The guiding hypothesis for these studies is that cell-intrinsic responses to stress are directly linked to cell-extrinsic responses that can trigger rapid NK cell surveillance and elimination of stressed cells. Indeed, major cell-intrinsic responses to cellular stress can directly lead to NK cell-activating ligand upregulation and are outlined in the following sections.

The DNA-Damage Response

Cellular stress caused by the activation of the DNA-damage response leads to downstream apoptosis or cell-cycle arrest. The activation of DNA-damage checkpoints occurs when there are excessive DNA strand breaks and replication errors, thereby representing an important tumorigenesis barrier that can slow or inhibit the progression of malignant transformation.59, 60 Two major transducers of the DNA-damage response are the PI3-kinase-related protein kinases ATM (ataxia telangiectasia mutated) and ATR (ATM and Rad3-related). ATM and ATR can modulate numerous signaling pathways such as checkpoint kinases (Chk1 and Chk2, which inhibit cell-cycle progression and promote DNA repair) and p53 (which mediates cell-cycle arrest and apoptosis).61

In addition to the induction of cell-cycle arrest and apoptosis, activation of the DNA-damage response has been shown to promote the expression of several activating ligands that are specific for NK cell receptors, primarily those of the NKG2D receptor. These findings have shown a critical direct link between cellular transformation, apoptosis, and surveillance by the immune system.62 The first evidence of this link between DNA damage and immune cell activation was provided by Raulet and colleagues who showed that NKG2D ligands were upregulated by genotoxic stress and stalled DNA replication conditions known to activate either ATM or ATR.63 These observations have now been extended by several other studies that have defined further DNA-damaging conditions (e.g., genotoxic drugs/chemotherapy, deregulated proliferation, or oxidative stress) that can promote NKG2D ligand upregulation.64, 65, 66, 67

The role of the DNA-damage response in controlling NKG2D ligand expression and subsequent NK cell activation has also been demonstrated in the context of anti-viral immunity, specifically in Abelson murine leukemia virus infection.68 This pathogen was shown to induce activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AID) expression outside the germinal center, resulting in generalized hypermutation, DNA-damage checkpoint activation, and Chk1 phosphorylation. The genotoxic activity of virally induced AID not only restricted the proliferation of infected cells but also induced the expression of NKG2D ligands. More recently, another member of APOBEC-AID family of cytidine deaminases, A3G, has been shown to promote the recognition of HIV-infected cells by NK cells after DNA-damage response activation.69 In this study, viral protein Vpr-mediated repair processes, which generate nicks, gaps, and breaks of DNA, activate an ATM/ATR DNA-damage response that leads to NKG2D ligand expression.

The DNA-damage sensors ATM and ATR have also been shown to regulate other key NK cell-activating ligands such as the DNAM-1 ligand, CD155.58, 65, 70 For example, in the Eμ-myc spontaneous B-cell lymphoma model, activation of the DNA-damage response leads to the upregulation of CD155 in the early-stage transformed B cells, subsequently activating spontaneous tumor regression in an NK cell- and T-cell-dependent manner.58 The DNA-damage response can also regulate the expression of the death receptor DR5.71 The engagement of DR5 by the effector molecule TRAIL, which is expressed by NK cells and T cells, can induce apoptosis of target cells and has been shown to have a key role in immune surveillance against tumors.72 Collectively, these results suggest that the detection of DNA damage, primarily through ATM and ATR, may represent a conserved protection mechanism governing the immunogenicity of infected or transformed cells, leading to direct recognition by NK cells (Figure 2).

Figure 2.

Figure 2 - Unfortunately we are unable to provide accessible alternative text for this. If you require assistance to access this image, please contact or the authorOverview of the molecular pathways leading to NK cell recognition of intrinsic cellular stress. Oncogenic transformation and viral infection can activate intrinsic cellular responses to stress. These responses include activation of the DNA-damage response, senescence, tumor suppressors, and the presentation and/or release of HSPs that, in turn, can activate NK cells through various receptor–ligand interactions. Senescent cells can also release pro-inflammatory cytokines that can recruit NK cells and other innate immunity, such as macrophages. CCL2, C-C motif chemokine ligand 2; CXCL11, C-X-C motif chemokine ligand 11; DR, death receptor 5; IFN, interferon; IL, interleukin; LFA-1, leukocyte function-associated antigen-1; TRAIL, tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand

Full figure and legend (146K)

As a result of these studies, many therapeutic agents known to induce DNA damage have been evaluated for their ability to increase the immunogenicity of cancer cells for a more targeted therapeutic approach using NK cells.64, 65 For example, treatment of multiple myeloma cells with doxorubicin, melphalan, or bortezomib can lead to DNAM-1 and NKG2D ligand upregulation.65Indeed, many chemotherapeutic agents commonly used, especially in hematological malignancies, can trigger the DNA-damage pathway. Therefore, it is reasonable to speculate that there is a general role of ATM and ATR in the induction of NK cell activation as a therapeutic effect of these agents.


Cellular senescence is generally defined as a growth-arrest program in mammalian cells that limits their lifespan.73 The major type of cellular senescence is replicative senescence that occurs due to telomere shortening. However, it is now generally accepted that premature senescence can also occur due to oncogene activation (oncogene-induced senescence) and/or the loss/gain of tumor-suppressor gene function, in the absence of telomere shortening.74 Thus, premature senescence is an important barrier against malignant transformation.59 Upon engagement of the senescence program, although cells are in growth arrest, they remain metabolically active and can produce many pro-inflammatory cytokines, as well as upregulate adhesion molecules and activating ligands to alert the immune system.75, 76, 77Activation of the immune system, in particular innate immunity, has a critical role in the clearance of senescent cells.78, 79, 80, 81More specifically, in a model of hepatocellular carcinoma, it has been shown that reactivation of p53 can induce a senescence program, resulting in tumor regression through the activation of NK cells, macrophages, and neutrophils. Of note, intercellular adhesion molecule (ICAM)-1, which can trigger both adhesion and cytotoxicity of NK cells,82 and interleukin-15, a cytokine that can promote NK cell effector function,83 were both upregulated in senescent tumors. More recently, the potential contribution of NK cells was also shown in the clearance of senescent hepatic stellate cells, a mechanism important in limiting liver fibrosis in response to a fibrogenic agent.80 ICAM-1, NKG2D ligands (MICA and ULPB2), and DNAM-1 ligands (CD155) were all upregulated on senescent hepatic stellate cells.

The specific mechanisms linking the senescence program to immune activation are not yet fully understood. However, the intracellular molecular mechanisms that govern induction of senescence may provide possible indications. Both replicative senescence and premature senescence (e.g., oncogene-induced senescence) have been shown to have common molecular determinants, such as the activation of the DNA-damage response pathway (e.g., ATM and ATR) and downstream activation of p53 and p16INK4A.1, 59, 84, 85, 86 Activation of the DNA-damage response would presumably initiate the upregulation of NK cell-activating ligands as previously discussed. However, how senescence may be linked to the induction of pro-inflammatory cytokine release is a more compelling question and requires further investigation (Figure 2). Nevertheless, induction of pro-inflammatory cytokines is an important protective mechanism in order to recruit immune cells that can rapidly recognize and remove senescent cells. Interestingly, activation of NK cells by senescent cells has been observed in a clinical context when multiple myeloma cells were treated with chemotherapy and genotoxic agents.65 In this setting, NKG2D and DNAM-1 ligands were both upregulated through a mechanism that required activation of the DNA-damage pathway initiated by ATM and ATR.65

Tumor Suppressors: p53

p53 is a potent tumor suppressor and central regulator of apoptosis, DNA repair, and cell proliferation, that is activated in response to DNA damage, oncogene activation, and other cellular stress.87 The number of identified cellular functions that p53 regulates has greatly increased over the past few years, and there is now a vast array of evidence that shows that p53 can be induced by viral infection88 to limit pathogen spread by inducing apoptosis.89, 90 Furthermore, p53 not only acts as an intrinsic barrier against tumorigenesis or pathogenic spread but can also lead to increased cellular immunogenicity. For example, p53 reactivation in a hepatocellular carcinoma can promote tumor regression mediated by innate immunity.78 A direct link between p53 expression and immune cell recognition was recently provided by Textor et al.91 where expression of p53 in lung cancer cell lines strongly upregulated the NKG2D ligands ULBP1 and 2, resulting in NK cell activation. Subsequently, p53-responsive elements were found to directly regulate ULBP1 and 2 expression, the deletion of which abolished the capacity of p53 to mediate ULBP1 and 2 upregulation. Another recent report that used a pharmacological activator of p53 confirmed the ability of p53 to directly induce ULBP2 expression that was independent of ATM/ATR.92 However, it has also been shown that miR34a and miR34C microRNAs (miRNAs) induced by p53 can target ULBP2 mRNA and reduce its cell-surface expression, suggesting that p53 may have a dual role in regulating ULBP2 expression.93 Finally, early work showed that NKG2D ligands can be upregulated by ATR/ATM in the total absence of p53 in tumor cell lines,62, 63 suggesting the existence of ATM/ATR-dependent and p53-independent pathways that regulate NKG2D ligand expression in response to cellular stress.

In addition to regulating NK cell ligand expression, genetic reactivation of p53 in tumors can also induce a wide array of pro-inflammatory mediators ranging from adhesion receptor (ICAM-1) expression to the production of various chemokines (CXCL11 and monocyte chemoattractant protein-1) and cytokines (interleukin-15).78 Furthermore, recent studies in anti-viral immunity indicate that several interferon-inducible genes and Toll-like receptor-3 expression are direct transcriptional targets of p53 and that p53 contributes to production of type I interferon by virally infected cells.94, 95, 96 All together, these studies suggest that p53 accumulation could represent a key determinant of the immunogenicity of stressed cells that are infected or undergoing malignant transformation through its ability to regulate innate immune activation.


Malignant transformation is a complex process that frequently involves the activation of one or more oncogenes in addition to the inactivation or mutation of tumor-suppressor genes (e.g., p53). Oncogene activation is a powerful inducer of cellular stress that is able to activate intrinsic cellular programs that lead to cell apoptosis or senescence (e.g., activation of the DNA-damage response and p53).1 In addition, many recent reports have also shown that major oncogenes can activate extrinsic responses to cellular stress through inducing the upregulation of NK cell-activating ligands.63, 97, 98 This suggests that oncogene activation can represent a key cellular event in alerting the immune system to ongoing cellular transformation (Figure 3).

Figure 3.

Figure 3 - Unfortunately we are unable to provide accessible alternative text for this. If you require assistance to access this image, please contact or the authorMolecular mechanisms that regulate the cell surface expression of NKG2D ligands. The major group of NK cell-activating ligands that are upregulated by intrinsic cellular responses to stress are those that bind the NKG2D receptor. Activation of the DNA-damage response, senescence, oncogenes, tumor suppressors, or sensing of deregulated proliferation can induce NKG2D ligand gene transcription and increase mRNA translation, leading to extracellular protein expression. MMP, matrix metalloproteases

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The enhanced expression of the proto-oncogene Myc has been described as a critical event leading to cellular transformation and is a frequently found genetic alteration in cancer.99 In a recent study, again using the Eμ-myc model, Medzhitov and colleagues demonstrated the ability of c-Myc to alert NK cells to early oncogenic transformation through the upregulation of Rae-1.97 In this study, the induction of Rae-1 was dependent on the direct regulation of Rae-1 transcription by Myc through its interaction with the Raet1 epsilon gene. Collectively, these results provide a possible direct molecular mechanism to explain the increased susceptibility of NKG2D gene-targeted mice to lymphoma development in the Eμ-myc model.38

Recent evidence suggests that several oncogenic mutations of Ras (H-Ras, N-Ras, and K-Ras) can also regulate NKG2D ligand expression in both mice and humans.98 Interestingly, in this case, NKG2D ligands were regulated through MAPK/MEK and PI3K pathways downstream of oncogenic H-RasV12. The activation of PI3K pathways, and more particularly the p110α subunits by virus-encoded proteins, has also been shown to induce the Rae-1 family of ligands.100 As many viruses can manipulate the PI3K pathway101 and tumors often bear Ras and p110α oncogene mutations,102 collectively, this data suggests that there is the existence of a common molecular mechanism by which NK cells sense cellular stress mediated by PI3K-dependent regulation of NKG2D ligands.

Interestingly, whereas Myc was involved in the transcriptional regulation of NKG2D ligands, PI3K can increase NKG2D ligand expression by increasing the translation of Rae-1 mRNA.98 This involved the induction of eIF4E, a protein that enhances the translation of mRNA.103 As number of tumors and viruses can upregulate host translation initiation machinery through the overexpression of eIF4E,104, 105 this may represent an important means by which NK cells can discriminate tumor- and virus-infected cells from normal cells.

Heat-Shock Proteins (HSPs)

HSPs are highly conserved intracellular chaperone molecules that are present in most prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells that mediate protection against cellular damage under conditions of stress. HSPs are distributed in most intracellular compartments of cells where they support the correct folding of nascent polypeptides, prevent protein aggregation, and assist in protein transport across membranes.106 Many tumors display overexpression of HSPs as a response to cellular stress induced by oncogenic transformation.107, 108 HSPs can also be mobilized to the plasma membrane, or even released from cells, under conditions of stress.109

Although intracellular HSPs can promote cell survival by interfering with different apoptosis components, many studies have reported that membrane-bound or soluble HSPs can directly stimulate innate immunity.110 A major immunostimulatory function of HSPs is to promote the presentation of tumor-specific antigens by MHC class I to CD8 T cells.111, 112, 113 Soluble and membrane-bound HSPs can also induce antigen-presenting cell maturation and the resultant secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines.114, 115, 116Finally, HSPs may directly activate NK cells as HSP70, when overexpressed on tumor cells, can induce a selective dose-dependent increase in NK cell-mediated cytotoxicity in vitro.117 NK cells may directly recognize HSP70 through a 14-amino-acid oligomer (TKD) that is localized in the C-terminal domain of the protein through CD94.118, 119 Tumor-specific HSP70 that is either presented at the cell surface or secreted on exosomes can also enhance NK cell activity against diverse types of cancer in vivo.120, 121 Most importantly, hepatocellular carcinoma cells that are treated with various chemotherapeutic agents can become more susceptible to NK cell-mediated cytotoxicity through their release of HSP-containing exosomes, giving the aforementioned findings a therapeutic context.122 Collectively, these results suggest that HSP translocation to the plasma membrane or secretion during cellular stress may represent a potent danger signal that can stimulate NK cell activity, particularly in the context of cancer.


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