Archive for the ‘Translational Research’ Category

Icelandic Population Genomic Study Results by deCODE Genetics come to Fruition: Curation of Current genomic studies

Reporter/Curator: Stephen J. Williams, Ph.D.


UPDATED on 9/6/2017

On 9/6/2017, Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN had attend a talk by Paul Nioi, PhD, Amgen, at HMS, Harvard BioTechnology Club (GSAS).

Nioi discussed his 2016 paper in NEJM, 2016, 374:2131-2141

Variant ASGR1 Associated with a Reduced Risk of Coronary Artery Disease

Paul Nioi, Ph.D., Asgeir Sigurdsson, B.Sc., Gudmar Thorleifsson, Ph.D., Hannes Helgason, Ph.D., Arna B. Agustsdottir, B.Sc., Gudmundur L. Norddahl, Ph.D., Anna Helgadottir, M.D., Audur Magnusdottir, Ph.D., Aslaug Jonasdottir, M.Sc., Solveig Gretarsdottir, Ph.D., Ingileif Jonsdottir, Ph.D., Valgerdur Steinthorsdottir, Ph.D., Thorunn Rafnar, Ph.D., Dorine W. Swinkels, M.D., Ph.D., Tessel E. Galesloot, Ph.D., Niels Grarup, Ph.D., Torben Jørgensen, D.M.Sc., Henrik Vestergaard, D.M.Sc., Torben Hansen, Ph.D., Torsten Lauritzen, D.M.Sc., Allan Linneberg, Ph.D., Nele Friedrich, Ph.D., Nikolaj T. Krarup, Ph.D., Mogens Fenger, Ph.D., Ulrik Abildgaard, D.M.Sc., Peter R. Hansen, D.M.Sc., Anders M. Galløe, Ph.D., Peter S. Braund, Ph.D., Christopher P. Nelson, Ph.D., Alistair S. Hall, F.R.C.P., Michael J.A. Williams, M.D., Andre M. van Rij, M.D., Gregory T. Jones, Ph.D., Riyaz S. Patel, M.D., Allan I. Levey, M.D., Ph.D., Salim Hayek, M.D., Svati H. Shah, M.D., Muredach Reilly, M.B., B.Ch., Gudmundur I. Eyjolfsson, M.D., Olof Sigurdardottir, M.D., Ph.D., Isleifur Olafsson, M.D., Ph.D., Lambertus A. Kiemeney, Ph.D., Arshed A. Quyyumi, F.R.C.P., Daniel J. Rader, M.D., William E. Kraus, M.D., Nilesh J. Samani, F.R.C.P., Oluf Pedersen, D.M.Sc., Gudmundur Thorgeirsson, M.D., Ph.D., Gisli Masson, Ph.D., Hilma Holm, M.D., Daniel Gudbjartsson, Ph.D., Patrick Sulem, M.D., Unnur Thorsteinsdottir, Ph.D., and Kari Stefansson, M.D., Ph.D.

N Engl J Med 2016; 374:2131-2141June 2, 2016DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1508419

Citing Articles (22)


Several sequence variants are known to have effects on serum levels of non–high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol that alter the risk of coronary artery disease.


We sequenced the genomes of 2636 Icelanders and found variants that we then imputed into the genomes of approximately 398,000 Icelanders. We tested for association between these imputed variants and non-HDL cholesterol levels in 119,146 samples. We then performed replication testing in two populations of European descent. We assessed the effects of an implicated loss-of-function variant on the risk of coronary artery disease in 42,524 case patients and 249,414 controls from five European ancestry populations. An augmented set of genomes was screened for additional loss-of-function variants in a target gene. We evaluated the effect of an implicated variant on protein stability.


We found a rare noncoding 12-base-pair (bp) deletion (del12) in intron 4 of ASGR1, which encodes a subunit of the asialoglycoprotein receptor, a lectin that plays a role in the homeostasis of circulating glycoproteins. The del12 mutation activates a cryptic splice site, leading to a frameshift mutation and a premature stop codon that renders a truncated protein prone to degradation. Heterozygous carriers of the mutation (1 in 120 persons in our study population) had a lower level of non-HDL cholesterol than noncarriers, a difference of 15.3 mg per deciliter (0.40 mmol per liter) (P=1.0×10−16), and a lower risk of coronary artery disease (by 34%; 95% confidence interval, 21 to 45; P=4.0×10−6). In a larger set of sequenced samples from Icelanders, we found another loss-of-function ASGR1 variant (p.W158X, carried by 1 in 1850 persons) that was also associated with lower levels of non-HDL cholesterol (P=1.8×10−3).


ASGR1 haploinsufficiency was associated with reduced levels of non-HDL cholesterol and a reduced risk of coronary artery disease. (Funded by the National Institutes of Health and others.)


Amgen’s deCODE Genetics Publishes Largest Human Genome Population Study to Date

Mark Terry, Breaking News Staff reported on results of one of the largest genome sequencing efforts to date, sequencing of the genomes of 2,636 people from Iceland by deCODE genetics, Inc., a division of Thousand Oaks, Calif.-based Amgen (AMGN).

Amgen had bought deCODE genetics Inc. in 2012, saving the company from bankruptcy.

There were a total of four studies, published on March 25, 2015 on the online version of Nature Genetics; titled “Large-scale whole-genome sequencing of the Icelandic population[1],” “Identification of a large set of rare complete human knockouts[2],” “The Y-chromosome point mutation rate in humans[3]” and “Loss-of-function variants in ABCA7 confer risk of Alzheimer’s disease[4].”

The project identified some new genetic variants which increase risk of Alzheimer’s disease and confirmed some variants known to increase risk of diabetes and atrial fibrillation. A more in-depth post will curate these findings but there was an interesting discrete geographic distribution of certain rare variants located around Iceland. The dataset offers a treasure trove of meaningful genetic information not only about the Icelandic population but offers numerous new targets for breast, ovarian cancer as well as Alzheimer’s disease.

View Mark Terry’s article here on

“This work is a demonstration of the unique power sequencing gives us for learning more about the history of our species,” said Kari Stefansson, founder and chief executive officer of deCode and one of the lead authors in a statement, “and for contributing to new means of diagnosing, treating and preventing disease.”

The scale and ambition of the study is impressive, but perhaps more important, the research identified a new genetic variant that increases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and already had identified an APP variant that is associated with decreased risk of Alzheimer’s Disease. It also confirmed variants that increase the risk of diabetes and a variant that results in atrial fibrillation.
The database of human genetic variation (dbSNP) contained over 50 million unique sequence variants yet this database only represents a small proportion of single nucleotide variants which is thought to exist. These “private” or rare variants undoubtedly contribute to important phenotypes, such as disease susceptibility. Non-SNV variants, like indels and structural variants, are also under-represented in public databases. The only way to fully elucidate the genetic basis of a trait is to consider all of these types of variants, and the only way to find them is by large-scale sequencing.

Curation of Population Genomic Sequencing Programs/Corporate Partnerships

Click on “Curation of genomic studies” below for full Table

Curation of genomic studies
Study Partners Population Enrolled Disease areas Analysis
Icelandic Genome


deCODE/Amgen Icelandic 2,636 Variants related to: Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular, diabetes WES + EMR; blood samples
Genome Sequencing Study Geisinger Health System/Regeneron Northeast PA, USA 100,000 Variants related to hypercholestemia, autism, obesity, other diseases WES +EMR +MyCode;

– Blood samples

The 100,000 Genomes Project National Health Service/NHS Genome Centers/ 10 companies forming Gene Consortium including Abbvie, Alexion, AstraZeneca, Biogen, Dimension, GSK, Helomics, Roche,   Takeda, UCB Rare disorders population UK Starting to recruit 100,000 Initially rare diseases, cancer, infectious diseases WES of blood, saliva and tissue samples

Ref paper

Saudi Human Genome Program 7 centers across Saudi Arabia in conjunction with King Abdulaziz City Science & Tech., King Faisal Hospital & Research Centre/Life Technologies General population Saudi Arabia 20,000 genomes over three years First focus on rare severe early onset diseases: diabetes, deafness, cardiovascular, skeletal deformation Whole genome sequence blood samples + EMR
Genome of the Netherlands (GoNL) Consortium consortium of the UMCG,LUMCErasmus MCVU university and UMCU. Samples where contributed by LifeLinesThe Leiden Longevity StudyThe Netherlands Twin Registry (NTR), The Rotterdam studies, and The Genetic Research in Isolated Populations program. All the sequencing work is done by BGI Hong Kong. Families in Netherlands 769 Variants, SNV, indels, deletions from apparently healthy individuals, family trios Whole genome NGS of whole blood no EMR

Ref paper in Nat. Genetics

Ref paper describing project

Faroese FarGen project Privately funded Faroe Islands Faroese population 50,000 Small population allows for family analysis Combine NGS with EMR and genealogy reports
Personal Genome Project Canada $4000.00 fee from participants; collaboration with University of Toronto and SickKids Organization; technical assistance with Harvard Canadian Health System Goal: 100,000 ? just started no defined analysis goals yet Whole exome and medical records
Singapore Sequencing Malay Project (SSMP) Singapore Genome Variation Project

Singapore Pharmacogenomics Project

Malaysian 100 healthy Malays from Singapore Pop. Health Study Variant analysis Deep whole genome sequencing
GenomeDenmark four Danish universities (KU, AU, DTU and AAU), two hospitals (Herlev and Vendsyssel) and two private firms (Bavarian Nordic and BGI-Europe). 150 complete genomes; first 30 published in Nature Comm. ? See link
Neuromics Consortium University of Tübingen and 18 academic and industrial partners (see link for description) European and Australian 1,100 patients with neuro-

degenerative and neuro-

muscular disease

Moved from SNP to whole exome analysis Whole Exome, RNASeq


  1. Gudbjartsson DF, Helgason H, Gudjonsson SA, Zink F, Oddson A, Gylfason A, Besenbacher S, Magnusson G, Halldorsson BV, Hjartarson E et al: Large-scale whole-genome sequencing of the Icelandic population. Nature genetics 2015, advance online publication.
  2. Sulem P, Helgason H, Oddson A, Stefansson H, Gudjonsson SA, Zink F, Hjartarson E, Sigurdsson GT, Jonasdottir A, Jonasdottir A et al: Identification of a large set of rare complete human knockouts. Nature genetics 2015, advance online publication.
  3. Helgason A, Einarsson AW, Gumundsdottir VB, Sigursson A, Gunnarsdottir ED, Jagadeesan A, Ebenesersdottir SS, Kong A, Stefansson K: The Y-chromosome point mutation rate in humans. Nature genetics 2015, advance online publication.
  4. Steinberg S, Stefansson H, Jonsson T, Johannsdottir H, Ingason A, Helgason H, Sulem P, Magnusson OT, Gudjonsson SA, Unnsteinsdottir U et al: Loss-of-function variants in ABCA7 confer risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Nature genetics 2015, advance online publication.

Other post related to DECODE, population genomics, and NGS on this site include:

Illumina Says 228,000 Human Genomes Will Be Sequenced in 2014

CRACKING THE CODE OF HUMAN LIFE: The Birth of BioInformatics & Computational Genomics

CRACKING THE CODE OF HUMAN LIFE: The Birth of BioInformatics and Computational Genomics – Part IIB

Human genome: UK to become world number 1 in DNA testing

Synthetic Biology: On Advanced Genome Interpretation for Gene Variants and Pathways: What is the Genetic Base of Atherosclerosis and Loss of Arterial Elasticity with Aging

Genomic Promise for Neurodegenerative Diseases, Dementias, Autism Spectrum, Schizophrenia, and Serious Depression

Sequencing the exomes of 1,100 patients with neurodegenerative and neuromuscular diseases: A consortium of 18 European and Australian institutions

University of California Santa Cruz’s Genomics Institute will create a Map of Human Genetic Variations

Three Ancestral Populations Contributed to Modern-day Europeans: Ancient Genome Analysis

Impact of evolutionary selection on functional regions: The imprint of evolutionary selection on ENCODE regulatory elements is manifested between species and within human populations


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Pancreatic Cancer and Crossing Roads of Metabolism

Curator: Demet Sag, PhD


PART I: Pancreatic Cancer

  • Intro
  • What is Pancreas cancer
  • What are the current and possible applications for treatment and early diagnosis
  • How pancreatic cancer is related to obesity, overweight, BMI, diabetes
  • Genetics of Pancreatic Cancer

PART II : Translational Research on Molecular Genetics Studies at Immune Response Mechanism 

  • Natural Killer Cells
  • IL-17
  • Chemokines

search_result- pancreatic cancer clinical trial studies 1

PART I: Pancreatic Cancer


Our body works a s a system even during complex diseases that is sometimes forgotten.  From nutrition to basic immune responses since we are born we start to change how we respond and push the envelope to keep hemostasis in our body.

During this time additional factors also increase or decrease the rate of changes such as life style, environment, inherited as well acquired genetic make-up, types of infections, weight and stress only some of them. As a result we customized our body so deserve a personalized medicine for a treatment. Customized approach is its hype with developing technology to analyze data and compare functional genomics of individuals.

However, still we need the basic cell differentiation to solve the puzzle to respond well and connect the dots for physiological problems.  At the stem of the changes there is a cell that respond and amplify its reaction to gain a support to defend at its best . Thus, in this review I like to make a possible connection for pancreatic cancer, obesity-diabetes and innate immune response through natural killer cells.

Pancreatic cancer is one of the most lethal malignancies. Pancreatic cancer is one of the most difficult cancers to treat. Fewer than 5% of patients survive more than 5 years after diagnosis. The 5-year survival rate is despite therapeutic improvements still only 6%. More than 80% of the pancreatic tumors are classified as pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDA).

When cells in the pancreas that secrete digestive enzymes (acinar cells) turn into duct-like structures, pancreatic cancer can develop. Oncogenic signaling – that which causes the development of tumors – can influence these duct-like cells to form lesions that are a cancer risk.


Crossing roads

The recent publication brought up the necessity to understand how pancreatic cancer and IL17 are connected.

Schematic diagram showing the central role of IL-17B–IL-17RB signaling in pancreatic cancer metastasis.

Adapted from an illustration by Heng-Hsiung Wu and colleagues


Simply, obesity and diabetes increases the risks of cancers, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and type-2 DM.  There is a very big public health concern as obesity epidemic, the incidence of diabetes is increasing globally, with an estimated 285 million people, or 6.6% of the population from 20 to 79 years of age, affected this is especially more alarming as child obesity is on the rise.

According to a World Health Organization (WHO) report showing that 400 million people are obese in the world, with a predicted increase to 700 million by 2015  and in the US, 30–35 percent of adults are obese.  In addition, high BMI and increased risk of many common cancers, such as liver, endometrium, breast, pancreas, and colorectal cancers have a linear increasing relationship.

The BMI is calculated by dividing body weight in kilograms by height squared in meters kg/m2). The current standard categories of BMI are as follows: underweight, <18.5; normal weight, 18.5–24.9; overweight, 25.0–29.9; obese, 30.0–34.9; and severely obese, > or = 35.0).

Furthermore, natural killer cells not only control innate immune responses but have function in other immune responses that was not recognized well before.

Recently, there have been reports regarding Natural Killer cells on was about the function of IL17 that is produced by iNKT, a subtype of NK, for a possible drug target.  In addition, regulation of receptors that are up or downregulated by NK cells for a precise determination between compromised cells and healthy cells.

Therefore, instead of sole reliance on SNPs, or GWAS for early diagnostics or only organ system base pathology, compiling the overall health of the system is necessary for a proper molecular diagnostics and targeted therapies.

  • What is Pancreas cancer



  • It is a rare type of cancer.
  • 20K to 200K US cases per year

 Medically manageable

Treatment can help

 Requires a medical diagnosis

  1. lab tests or imaging
  2. spreads rapidly and has a poor prognosis.
  3. treatments may include: removing the pancreas, radiation, and chemotherapy.

 Ages affected; even though person may develop this cancer from age 0 to 60+ there is a high rate of incidence after age 40.


People may experience:

  • Pain: in the abdomen or middle back
  • Whole body: nausea, fatigue, or loss of appetite
  • Also common: yellow skin and eyes, fluid in the abdomen, weight loss, or dark urine
  • The pancreas secretes enzymes that aid digestion and hormones that help regulate the metabolism of sugars.


  • Chemotherapy regimen by injection: Irinotecan, Gemcitabine (Gemzar), Oxaliplatin (Eloxatin)
  • Other treatments: Leucovorin by injection, Fluorouracil by injection (Adrucil)


Also common

  • Chemotherapy regimen: Gemcitabine-Oxaliplatin regimen, Docetaxel-Gemcitabine regimen
  • Procedures: Radiation therapy, Pancreatectomy, surgery to remove pancreatic tumors



  • Radiologist: Uses images to diagnose and treat disease within the body.
  • Oncologist: Specializes in cancer.
  • Palliative medicine: Focuses on improving quality of life for terminally ill patients.
  • General surgeon: Performs a range of surgeries on the abdomen, skin, breast, and soft tissue.
  • Gastroenterologist: Focuses on the digestive system and its disorders.

What are the current and possible applications for treatment and early diagnosis


Several imaging techniques are employed in order to see if cancer exists and to find out how far it has spread. Common imaging tests include:

  • Ultrasound – to visualize tumor
  • Endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) – thin tube with a camera and light on one end
  • Abdominal computerized tomography (CT) scans – to visualize tumor
  • Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) – to x-ray the common bile duct
  • Angiogram – to x-ray blood vessels
  • Barium swallows to x-ray the upper gastrointestinal tract
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) – to visualize tumor
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scans – useful to detect if disease has spread


New solutions in Diagnostics;

The study, published in Nature Communications, suggests that targeting the gene in question – protein kinase D1 (PKD1) – could lead to new ways of halting the development of one of the most difficult tumors to treat.

“As soon as pancreatic cancer develops, it begins to spread, and PKD1 is key to both processes. Given this finding, we are busy developing a PKD1 inhibitor that we can test further,” says the study’s co-lead investigator, Dr. Peter Storz.

Do we have new markers?

Is it possible check the cancer along with glucose levels or insulin at the point of care or companion diagnostics?


New Solutions in Therapies

ABRAXANE (paclitaxel formulated as albumin bound nanoparticles; nab-paclitaxel), in combination with gemcitabine, has been recommended for use within NHS Scotland by the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) for the treatment of metastatic adenocarcinoma of the pancreas.

The SMC decision is based on results from the MPACT (Metastatic Pancreatic Adenocarcinoma Clinical Trial) study, published in the October 2013 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine, which demonstrated an increase in median overall survival of 1.8 months when compared to gemcitabine alone [(8.5 months vs. 6.7 months respectively) (HR 0.72; 95% CI 0.62 to 0.83 P<0.001)]. 

Updated results from post-hoc analysis of the MPACT trial based on an extended data cut-off (8 months) at the time the trial was closed demonstrated an increase in the median overall survival benefit of 2.1 months when compared to gemcitabine alone [(8.7 months vs. 6.6 months respectively) (HR 0.72,95% CI = 0.62 to 0.83, P<.001)].

Using radioactive bacteria to stop the spread of pancreatic cancer – scientists from Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University used bacteria to carry radioisotopes commonly used in cancer treatment directly into pancreatic cancer cells. They found in animal experiments that the incidence of secondary tumors went down dramatically – i.e. the cancer was much less likely to spread (metastasize).

Targeting stroma is another approached that is followed by TGen to potentially extend patient survival in all cases including advanced cases based on a report at Clinical Cancer Research, published online by the American Association for Cancer Research. Thus this eliminates one of the limiting factor to reach tumor cells and destroying the accumulation of stroma — the supporting connective tissue that includes hyaluronan and few other collagen types.

One of the study leaders, Andrew Biankin, a Cancer Research UK scientist at the University of Glasgow in the UK said that “Being able to identify which patients would benefit from platinum-based treatments would be a game-changing moment for treating pancreatic cancer, potentially improving survival for a group of patients.” 

 In the journal Nature, the international team- including scientists from Cancer Research UK showed the evidence of large chunks of DNA being shuffled around, which they were able to classify according to the type of disruption they created in chromosomes.

The study concludes there are four subtypes of pancreatic cancer, depending on the frequency, location and types of DNA rearrangement. It terms the subtypes: stable, locally rearranged, scattered and unstable.

Can we develop an immunotherapy?

 Genetics of Pancreatic Cancer 

There are many ongoing studies to develop diagnostics technologies and treatments. However, the etiology of PC is not well understood. Pancreas has dual functions that include 2% of endocrine hormone secretion and 98% exocrine secretion, enzymes, to help digestion. As a result, pancreatic cancer is related to obesity, overweight, diabetes.

First, eliminating the risk factors can be the simplest path. Next approach is dropping the obesity and diabetes to prevent the occurrence of cancers since in the U.S. population, 50 percent are overweight, 30 percent are medically obese and 10 percent have diabetes mellitus (DM). Tobacco smoking, alcohol consumptions, chronic pancreatitis, and genetic risk factors, have been recognized as potential risk factors for the development and progression of PC.

Many studies showed that the administration of anti-diabetic drugs such as metformin and thiazolidinediones (TZD) class of PPAR-γ agonists decreases the risk of cancers.  Thus, these agents are thought to be the target to diagnose or cure PC.

Type 2 diabetes mellitus has been associated with an increased risk of several human cancers, such as liver, pancreatic, endometrial, colorectal, breast, and bladder cancer. The majority of the data show that metformin therapy decreases, while insulin secretagog drugs slightly increase the risk of certain types of cancers in type 2 diabetes.

Metformin can decrease cell proliferation and induce apoptosis in certain cancer cell lines. Endogenous and exogenous (therapy induced) hyperinsulinemia may be mitogenic and may increase the risk of cancer in type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes mellitus accounts for more than 95% of the cases.

In PDA these cells have been reported to express specific genes such as Aldh1 or CD133. To date, more than 20 case-control studies and cohort and nested case-control studies with information on the association between diabetes and pancreatic cancer, BMI and cancer, and obesity and cancer have been reported.

Meta analysis and cohort studies:


  1. Meta studies for Diabetes and PC

Most of the diabetes and PC studies were included in two meta-analyses, in 1995 and in 2005, investigating the risk of pancreatic cancer in relation to diabetes.

The first meta-analysis, conducted in 1995, included 20 of these 40 published case-control and cohort studies and reported an overall estimated relative risk (RR) of pancreatic cancer of 2.1 with a 95% confidence interval (CI) of 1.6-2.8. These values were relatively unchanged when the analyses were restricted to patients who had diabetes for at least 5 years (RR, 2.0 [95% CI, 1.2-3.2]).

The second meta-analysis, which was conducted in 2005, included 17 case-control and 19 cohort and nested case-control studies published from 1996 to 2005 and demonstrated an overall odds ratio (OR) for pancreatic cancer of 1.8 and 95% CI of 1.7-1.9 .   Individuals diagnosed with diabetes within 4 years before their pancreatic cancer diagnosis had a 50% greater risk of pancreatic cancer than did those diagnosed with diabetes more than 5 years before their cancer diagnosis (OR, 2.1 [95% CI, 1.9-2.3] versus OR, 1.5 [95% CI, 1.3-1.8]; P = 0.005).

  1. In a recent pooled analysis of 2192 patients with pancreatic cancer and 5113 cancer-free controls in three large case-control studies conducted in the United States (results of two of the three studies were published after 2005),
  2. Risk estimates decreased as the number of years with diabetes increased.
  3. Individuals with diabetes for 2 or fewer, 3-5, 6-10, 11-15, or more than 15 years had ORs (95% CIs) of 2.9 (2.1-3.9), 1.9 (1.3-2.6), 1.6 (1.2-2.3), 1.3 (0.9-2.0), and 1.4 (1.0-2.0), respectively (P < 0.0001 for trend).


  1. Meta Studies between BMI and PC

Meta studies in 2003 and 2008 showed a week positive association between BMI and PC.  In 2003, a meta-analysis of six case-control and eight prospective studies including 6,391 PC cases 2% increase in risk per 1 kg/m2 increase in BMI. In 2008, 221 datasets, including 282,137 incidence of cancer cases with 3,338,001 subjects the results were similar  RR, 1.12; CI, 1.02–1.22.

In 2007, 21 prospective studies handled , 10 were from the United States, 9 were from Europe, and 2 were from Asia and studies was conducted including 3,495,981 individuals and 8,062 PC cases. There was no significant difference between men and women and the estimated summary risk ratio (RR) per 5 kg/m2 increase in BMI was 1.12 (95% CI, 1.06–1.17) in men and women combined.

This study concluded that concluded that there was a positive association between BMI and risk of PC, per  a 5 kg/m2 increase in BMI may be equal to  a 12% increased risk of PC.

  • The location and type of the obesity may also signal for a higher risk. The recent Women’s Health Initiative study in the United States among 138,503 postmenopausal showed that  women central obesity  in relation to PC (n=251) after average of 7.7 years of follow-up duration demonstrated that central adiposity is related to developing PC at a higher risk. Based on their result “women in the highest quintile of waist-to-hip ratio have a 70 percent (95% CI, 10–160%) greater risk of PC compared with women in the lowest quintile”
  • Age of obesity or being overweight versus risk of developing PC was also examined.
  • Regardless of their DM status they were at risk and decreased their survival even more so among men than women between age of 14-59.

overweight   14 to 39 years   (highest odds ratio [OR], 1.67; 95% CI, 1.20–2.34) or

obese            20 to 49 years     (highest OR, 2.58; 95% CI, 1.70–3.90)   , independent of DM status.

  • This association was different between men and women from the ages of 14 to 59:

stronger in men               (adjusted OR, 1.80; 95% CI, 1.45–2.23)

weaker in women            (adjusted OR, 1.32; 95% CI, 1.02–1.70).

  • The effect of BMI , obesity and overweight had reduced overall survival of PC regardless of disease stage and tumor resection status

high BMI (= or > 25)                          20 to 49 years , an earlier onset of PC by 2 to 6 years.

obese patients: hazard ratio,               1.86, 95% CI, 1.35–2.56).

overweight or obese                             30 to 79 years,  in the year prior to recruitment

overweight patients: hazard ratio,       1.26, 95% CI, 0.94–1.69;

Similarly, the authors concluded that:

  • Being overweight or obese during early adulthood was associated with a greater risk of PC and a younger age of disease onset, whereas obesity at an older age was associated with a lower overall survival in patients diagnosed with PC.
  • More recently, several large prospective cohort studies with a long duration of follow-up has been conducted in the U.S. showing a positive association between high BMI and the risk of PC (adjusted RR 1.13–1.54), suggesting the role of obesity and overweight with higher risk in the development and eventual death due to PC.
  • Although the role of smoking and gender in the association of obesity and PC is not clear, the new evidence strongly supports a positive association of high BMI with increased risk of PC, consistent with the majority of early findings; however, all recent studies strongly suggest that obesity and overweight are independent risk factor of PC.
  • Diabetes was associated with a 1.8-fold increase in risk of pancreatic cancer (95% CI, 1.5-2.1).

How pancreatic cancer is related to obesity, overweight, BMI, diabetes


Connections in Physiology and Pathology:

Altogether cumulative data suggest that DM has a three-fold increased risk for the development of PC and a two-fold risk for biliary cancer insulin resistance and abnormal glucose metabolism, even in the absence of diabetes, is associated with increased risk for the development of PC.  Obesity alters the metabolism towards insulin resistance through affecting gene expression of inflammatory cytokines, adipose hormones such as adipokines, and PPAR-γ.

Furthermore, adiponectin also pointed out to be a negative link factor for cancers such as colon, breast, and PC.  Therefore, insulin resistance is one of the earliest negative effects of obesity, early altered glucose metabolism, chronic inflammation, oxidative stress and decreased levels of adipose hormone adiponectin and PPAR-γ, key regulators for adipogenesis.

Potential pathways directly linking obesity and diabetes to pancreatic cancer. Obesity and diabetes cause mutiple alterations in glucose and lipid hemastasis, microenvironments, and immune responses, which result in the activation of several oncogenic signaling pathways.

These deregulations increase cell survival and proliferation, eventually leading to the development and progression of pancreatic cancer. ROS, reactive oxygen species; IGF-1, insulin-like growth factor-1; IR, insulin receptors; IGF-1R, insulin-like growth factor-1 receptors; TNFR, tumor necrosis factor receptors; TLR, Toll-like receptors; HIF-1α, hypoxia-inducible factor-α1; AMPK, AMP kinase; IKK, IκB kinase; PPAR-γ, peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-γ; VEGF, vascular endothelial growth factor; MAPK, MAP kinase; mTOR, mammalian target of rapamycin; TSC, tuberous sclerosis complex; Akt, protein kinase B. PI3K, phosphoinositide-3-kinase; STAT3, activator of transcription-3; JNK, c-Jun NH2-terminal kinase.

Top six pathways interacting with obesity or diabetes in modifying the risk of pancreatic cancer are Chemokine Signaling, Pathways in cancer, Cytokine-cytokine receptor interaction, Calcium signaling pathway. MAPK signaling pathway.

This analysis showed

  • GNGT2,
  • RELA,
  • TIAM1,
  • CBLC,
  • IFNA13, 
  • IL22RA1, 
  • IL2RA
  • GNAS,
  • MAP2K7,
  • DAPK3, 
  • EPAS1 and 
  • FOS as contributor genes.

  Furthermore, top overrepresented canonical pathways, including

  1. Role of RIG1-like Receptors in Antiviral Innate Immunity,
  2. Role of PI3K/AKT Signaling in the Pathogenesis of Influenza, and
  3. Molecular Mechanisms of Cancer

in genes interacting with risk factors (P < 10−8) are

  • TRAF6, 
  • RELA,
  • IFNA7,
  • IFNA4,
  • NFKB2,
  • IFNA10,
  • IFNA16,
  • NFKB1,
  • IFNA1/IFNA13,
  • IFNA5,
  • IFNA14,
  • IFNA,
  • GSK3B,
  • IFNA16,
  • IFNA14,
  • TP53,
  • FYN,
  • ARHGEF4,
  • GNAS,
  • CYCS ,
  • AXIN1,
  • ADCY4,
  • PRKAR2A,
  • ARHGEF1 ,
  • CDC42,
  • RAC,3
  • SIN3A,
  • RB1,
  • FOS ,
  • CDH1,
  • GNAT1,
  • PAK3,
  • RHOA,
  • RASGRP1,
  • PIK3CD,
  • BMP6,
  • CHEK2, and
KEGG code Pathway description Risk factor No. of genes/genes with marginal effecta No. of SNPs/eigenSNPs in the interaction analysisb PG x Ec Major contributing genesd
hsa04062e Chemokine Signalinge Obesity 175/27 695/181 3.29 × 10−6 GNGT2 RELA TIAM1
hsa05200 Pathways in cancer Obesity 315/37 806/212 5.35 × 10−4 CBLC RELA
hsa04060 Cytokine-cytokine receptor interaction Obesity 247/36 422/149 6.97 × 10−4 IFNA13 IL22RA1 IL2RA
hsa04020 Calcium signaling pathway Diabetes 171/24 759/190 1.57 × 10−4 GNAS
hsa04010 MAPK signaling pathway Diabetes 260/32 523/154 3.56 × 10−4 FOS MAP2K7
hsa05200 Pathways in cancer Diabetes 315/37 806/212 4.46 × 10−4 DAPK3 EPAS1 FOS

aNumber of genes making up the pathway/ number of genes survived the PCA-LRT (P ≤ 0.10).

bNumber of SNPs in the “reconstructed” pathways/number of principal components for LRT.

cP value was estimated by LRT in logistic regression model with adjustment of age, sex, study site, pack years(continuous), obesity or diabetes as appropriate, and five principal components for population structure.

dGenes with PG x E ≤ 0.05 in logistic regression and P ≤ 0.10 in PCA-LRT.

ePathways remained significant after Bonferroni correction (P < 1.45 × 10−4)


Top overrepresented canonical pathways in genes interacting with risk factors (P < 10−8)

Biological process Risk factor P Valuea Ratiob Contributing genes
Role of RIG1-like Receptors in Antiviral Innate Immunity Obesity 6.71 × 10−11 12/49 (0.25) TRAF6 RELA IFNA7 IFNA4 NFKB2 IFNA10 IFNA16 NFKB1
Role of PI3K/AKT Signaling in the Pathogenesis of Influenza Obesity 8.64 × 10−9 12/74 (0.12) RELA IFNA7 IFNA4 NFKB2 GSK3B IFNA10 IFNA16 NFKB1
Molecular Mechanisms of Cancer Diabetes 1.03 × 10−9 24/378 (0.063) TP53 FYN ARHGEF4 GNAS CYCS AXIN1 ADCY4 PRKAR2A

aCalculated using Fisher’s exact test (right-tailed).

bNumber of genes interacting with a risk factor of interest (P ≤ 0.05) in a given pathway divided by total number of genes making up that pathway.

Pancreatic Cancer and Diabetes:

We conclude that diabetes type II has a fundamental influence on pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma by stimulating cancer cell proliferation, while metformin inhibits cancer cell proliferation. Chronic inflammation had only a minor effect on the pathophysiology of an established adenocarcinoma.

  • Diabetes increases tumor size and proliferation of carcinoma cells
  • Diabetes does not decrease cell death in carcinomas
  • Diabetes II like syndrome reduces the number of Aldh1+cells within the tumor
  • Metformin decreases tumor size and proliferation of carcinoma cells


Much is known about factors increasing the likelihood to develop PDA. Identified risk factors include among others chronic pancreatitis, long lasting diabetes, and obesity. Patients with chronic and especially hereditary pancreatitis have a very high relative risk of developing pancreatic cancer of 13.3 and 69.0, respectively. Patients with diabetes and obesity have a moderately increased relative risk of 1.8 and 1.3. These studies indicate that a substantial number of patients with PDA also suffer from local inflammation or diabetes.


Potential mechanisms underlying the associations of diabetes and cancer.

  • AdipoR1/R2, adiponectin receptor 1/2;
  • AMPK, 5′-AMPactivated protein kinase;
  • IGF-1, insulin-like growth factor-1;
  • IGF-1R, insulin-like growth factor-1 receptor;
  • IKK, IκA;B kinase; IR, insulin receptor;
  • IRS-1, insulin receptor substrate-1;
  • MAPK, mitogen-activated-protein-kinase;
  • mTOR, mammalian target of rapamycin;
  • NF-κA;B, nuclear factor-κA;B;
  • ObR, leptin receptor;
  • PAI-1, plasminogen activator inhibitor-1;
  • PI3-K, phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase;
  • ROS, Reactive oxygen species;
  • TNF-α, tumor necrosis factor- α;
  • TNF-R1, tumor necrosis factor-receptor 1;
  • uPA, urokinase-type plasminogen activator;
  • uPAR, urokinase-type plasminogen activator receptor;
  • VEGF, vascular endothelial growth factor;
  • VEGFR, vascular endothelial growth factor receptor.

Type 2 diabetes mellitus is likely the third modifiable risk factor for pancreatic cancer after cigarette smoking and obesity. The relationship between diabetes and pancreatic cancer is complex. Diabetes or impaired glucose tolerance is present in more than 2/3rd of pancreatic cancer patients.

Epidemiological investigations have found that long-term type 2 diabetes mellitus is associated with a 1.5-fold to 2.0-fold increase in the risk of pancreatic cancer. A causal relationship between diabetes and pancreatic cancer is also supported by findings from prediagnostic evaluations of glucose and insulin levels in prospective studies.

Insulin resistance and associated hyperglycemia, hyperinsulinemia, and inflammation have been suggested to be the underlying mechanisms contributing to development of diabetes-associated pancreatic cancer.

Stem Cells


“A study by Permert et al.using glucose tolerance tests in patients with newly diagnosed pancreatic cancer showed that 75% of patients met criteria for diabetes. Pannala et al. used fasting blood glucose values or previous use of antidiabetic medications to define diabetes in patients with pancreatic cancer (N.=512) and age-matched control non-cancer subjects attending primary care clinics (N.=933) “

Distribution of fasting blood glucose among pancreatic cancer cases and controls. From Pannala et al.

“ They reported a nearly seven-fold higher prevalence of diabetes in pancreatic cancer patients compared to controls (47% vs. 7%). In a retrospective study using similar criteria, Chari et al. found the prevalence of diabetes in pancreatic cancer patients to be 40%.


Relationship between type 2 diabetes and risk of pancreatic cancer in case-control and nested case control studies. “Diamond: point estimate representing study-specific relative risks or summary relative risks with 95% CIs. Horizontal lines: represent 95% confidence intervals (CIs). Test for heterogeneity among studies: P<0.001, I2=93.6%. 1, cohort studies (N.=27) use incidence or mortality rate as the measurements of relative risk; 2, cohort studies (N.=8) use standardized incidence/mortality rate as the measurement of relative risk. From Benet al.”

Table II

Sensitivity and specificity for biomarkers for pancreatic cancer.

Biomarker Study Sensitivity Specificity N.
CA19-9 Goonetilleke 68 79 82 Meta-analysis
Steinberg 69 81 90 Meta-analysis
CA125 Duraker 85 57 78 123
Haguland 86 45 76 95
CEA Ni 87 45 75 68
Haglund 86 54 76 95
Zhao 88 25 86 143
Duraker 85 39 91 123
SPan-1 Kiriyama 74 81 76 64
Chung 89 92 83 67
Kobayashi 90 82 85 200
Du-PAN 2 Satake 83 48 85 239
Sawabu 91 72 94 32
Kawa 92 64 200


PART II:  Targets for Immunomodulation to develop a therapy

Natural Killer Cells:

Natural Killer cells usually placed under non-specific immune response as a first defend mechanism during innate immunity.  NKs responses to innate immune reactions but not only viruses but also bacteria and parasitic infections develop a new line of defense.  These reactions involve amplification of many cytokines based on the specific infection or condition.  Thus, these activities help NKs to evolve.

However, their functions proven to be more than innate immune response since from keeping the pregnancy term to prevent recurrent abortions to complex diseases such as cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular conditions they have roles thorough awakening chemokines and engaging them specifically with their receptors to activate other immune cells.  For example, there is a signaling mechanism connection between NKs and DCs to respond attacks.  Furthermore, there are interactions between various types of immune cells and they are specific for example between NK and Tregs.

During pregnancy there is a special kind of interaction between NK cells and Tregs.

  • There can be several reasons such as to protect pregnancy from the immunosuppressive environment so then the successful implantation of the embryo and tolerance of the mother to the embryo can be established. In normal pregnancy, these cells are not killers, but rather provide a microenvironment that is pregnancy compatible and supports healthy placentation.
  • During cancer development tumors want to build a microenvironment through an array of highly orchestrated immune elements to generate a new environment against the host. In normal pregnancy, decidua, the uterine endometrium,  is critical for the development of placental vasculature.
  • This is the region gets thicks and thin during female cycles to prevent or accept pregnancies. As a result, mother nature created that 70% of all human decidual lymphocytes are NK cells, defined as uterine or decidual NK (dNK) cells.
  • The NK cell of decidua (dNK) and  peripheral blood NK cells are different since  dNK cells are characterized as CD56brightCD16CD3, express killer cell immunoglobulin-like receptors and exhibit low killing capacity despite the presence of cytolytic granules, and a higher frequency of CD4+CD25bright   

The lesson learn here is that pregnancy and mammary tissue are great examples of controlling cellular differentiation and growth since after pregnancy all these cells go back to normal state.

Understanding these minute differences and relations to manipulate gene expression may help to:

  1. Develop better biomaterials to design long lasting medical devices and to deliver vaccines without side effects.
  2. Generate safer vaccines as NKcells are the secret weapons in DC vaccination and studying their behavior together with T-cell activation in vaccinated individuals might predict clinical outcome.
  3. Establish immunotherapies based on interactions between NK cells and Tregs for complex diseases not only cancer, but also many more such as autoimmune disorder, transplants, cardiovascular, diabetes.

pc 1

Trascription factors are the silence players of the gene expression that matches input to output as a cellular response either good or bad but this can be monitored and corrected with a proper meical device or diagnostics tool to provide successful treatment regimen.

  • Therefore, the effects of Tregs on NK during gene regulation analyzed and compared among other living organisms for concerved as well as signature sequence targets even though the study is on human.
  • Unfortunatelly we can’t mutate the human for experimental purposes so comparative developmental studies now its widely called stem cell biology with a system biology approach may help to establish the pathway.

NK and T reg regulation share a common interest called T box proteins. These proteins are conserved and also play role in development of heart at very early development, embryology.  What is shared among all T-box is simply lie behind the capacity for DNA binding through the T-box domain and transcriptional regulatory activity, which plays a role in controlling the expression of developmental gene in all animal species.

 The Special T box protein: T-bet

The first identified T-box protein was Brachyury (T). in a nut shell

  • The T-box domain is made up of about 180 amino-acid residues that includes a specific sequence of DNA
  • called T-box  domain,  TCACACCT between residues 135 and 326 in mouse.
  • However, T-bet which is the T-box protein expressed in T cells and also called as TBX21 is quite conserved in 18 members of the T-box protein (TBX) family
  • since it has a crucial dual role during development and for coordination of both innate and adaptive immune responses.

T-Bet was originally cloned for its role in Th1 lineage, it has a role in Th2 development, too. 

The whole mechanism based on direct activation and modulation mechanisms in that  T-Bet directly activates IFN-γ gene transcription and enhances development of Th1 cells at the same time modulates IL-2 and Th2 cytokines in an IFN-γ-independent manner that creates an attenuation of Th2 cell development.

Thus, certain lipids ligands or markers can be utilized during vaccine design to steer the responses for immune therapies against autoimmune diseases.   As a result, tumors can be removed and defeated by manipulating NKs action.



NKT has functions in diabetes, asthma. One cell type that has been proposed to contribute immensely to the development of asthma is NKT cells, which constitute a small population of lymphocytes that express markers of both T cells (T-cell receptor, TCR) and NK cells (e.g., NK1.1, NKG2D). NKT cells can be subdivided into at least three subtypes, based on their TCR. Type I NKT cells or invariant NKT (iNKT) cells express invariant TCR chains (V14–J18 in mice and V24–J18 in humans) coupled with a limited repertoire of V chains (V8, V7 and V2 in mice and V11 in humans).

The studies in the past decade showed the protective mechanism of NKT cells during the development of Type 1 diabetes can be complex.

  1. First, NKT cells can impair the differentiation of anti-islet reactive T cells into Th1 effector cells in a cell–cell contact dependent manner, which did not require Th2 cytokine production or CD1d recognition.
  2. Second, NKT cells accumulating in the pancreas can indirectly suppress diabetogenic CD4+T cells via IFN-γ production.
  3. Last, anergic iNKT cells induced by protracted αGalCer stimulation can induce the production of noninflammatory DCs, which inhibit diabetes development in an Ag-specific fashion.

These findings point to an important protective role for NKT cells during autoimmune pathogenesis in the pancreas.

A crucial role has been suggested for invariant natural killer T cells (iNKT) in regulating the development of asthma, a complex and heterogeneous disease characterized by airway inflammation and airway hyperreactivity (AHR).

iNKT cells constitute a unique subset of T cells responding to endogenous and exogenous lipid antigens, rapidly secreting a large amount of cytokines, which amplify both innate and adaptive immunity.


Terashima A et al (2008) identified a novel subset of natural killer T (NKT) cells that expresses the interleukin 17 receptor B (IL-17RB) for IL-25 (also known as IL-17E) and is essential for the induction of Airway hypersensitive reaction (AHR). IL-17RB is preferentially expressed on a fraction of CD4(+) NKT cells but not on other splenic leukocyte populations tested.

They strongly suggested that IL-17RB(+) CD4(+) NKT cells play a crucial role in the pathogenesis of asthma.

NKT connection can be established between through targeting IL17 and IL17RB. There is a functional specialization of interleukin-17 family members. Interleukin-17A (IL-17A) is the signature cytokine of the recently identified T helper 17 (Th17) cell subset. IL-17 has six family members (IL-17A to IL-17F).

Although IL-17A and IL-17F share the highest amino acid sequence homology, they perform distinct functions; IL-17A is involved in the development of autoimmunity, inflammation, and tumors, and also plays important roles in the host defenses against bacterial and fungal infections, whereas IL-17F is mainly involved in mucosal host defense mechanisms. IL-17E (IL-25) is an amplifier of Th2 immune responses.

 There is no one easy answer for the role of IL-17 in pancreatic cancer as there are a number of unresolved issues and but it can be only suggested that  pro-tumorigenic IL-17 activity is confined to specific subsets of patients with pancreatic cancer since there is a increased expression of IL-17RB in these patients about ∼40% of pancreatic cancers presented on their histochemical staining (IHC-  immunohistochemistry.

IL17 and breast cancer:

In addition, during breast cancer there is an increased signaling of interleukin-17 receptor B (IL-17RB) and IL-17B.  They promoted tumor formation in breast cancer cells in vivo and even created acinus formation in immortalized normal mammary epithelial cells in vitro cell culture assays.

  • Furthermore, the elevated expression of IL-17RB not only present itself  stronger than HER2 for a better prognosis but also brings the shortest survival rate if patients have increased  IL-17RB and HER2 levels.
  • However, decreased level of IL-17RB in trastuzumab-resistant breast cancer cells significantly reduced their tumor growth.  This may prompt a different independent  role for  IL-17RB and HER2  in breast cancer development.
  • In addition, treatment with antibodies specifically against IL-17RB or IL-17B effectively attenuated tumorigenicity of breast cancer cells.

These results suggest that the amplified IL-17RB/IL-17B signaling pathways may serve as a therapeutic target for developing treatment to manage IL-17RB-associated breast cancer.

IL 17 and Asthma:

A requirement for iNKT cells has also been shown in a model of asthma induced with air pollution, ozone and induced with respiratory viruses chronic asthma studied in detail. In these studies specific types of NKT cells found to that specific types of NK and receptors trigger of asthma symptoms. Taken together, these studies indicate that both Th2 cells (necessary for allergen-specific responses) and iNKT cells producing IL-4 and IL-13 are required for the development of allergen-induced AHR.

Although CD4+ IL-4/IL-13-producing iNKT cells (in concert with antigen-specific Th2 cells) are crucial in allergen-induced AHR, NK1.1IL-17-producing iNKT cells have a major role in ozone-induced AHR.

A main question in iNKT cell biology involves the identification of lipid antigens that can activate iNKT cells since this allow to identify which microorganisms to attack as  a result, the list of microorganisms that produce lipids that activate iNKT cells is rapidly growing.

Invariant natural killer T cells (iNKT) cell function in airway hyperreactivity (AHR). iNKT cells secrete various cytokines, including Th2 cytokines, which have direct effects on hematopoietic cells, airway smooth muscle cells, and goblet cells. Alternatively, iNKT cells could regulate other cell types that are known to be involved in asthma pathogenesis, e.g., neutrophils and alveolar macrophages.


Chemokines  have a crucial role in organogenesis of various organs including lymph nodes, arising from their key roles in stem cell migration. Moreover, most homeostatic chemokines can control the movement of lymphocytes and dendritic cells and eventually adaptive immunity. Chemokines are heparin-binding proteins with 4 cysteine residues in the conserved positions.

The human chemokine system has about 48 chemokines. They are subgrouped based on:

  • Number of cysteines
  • Number of amino acid separating cysteines
  • Presence or absence of ELR motif includes, 3-amino acid sequence, glutamic acid-leucine-arginine
  • functionally classified as inflammatory, homeostatic, or both, based on their expression patterns

Chemokines are structurally divided into 4 subgroups :CXC, CC, CX3C, and C. X represent an aminoacid so the first 2 cysteines are separated by 1 is grouped as CXC and 3 amino acids is called CX3C chemokines but in CC  the first 2 cysteines are adjacent. In the C chemokines there is no second and fourth cysteines.

Various types of inflammatory stimuli induce abundantly the expression of inflammatory chemokines to induce the infiltration of inflammatory cells such as granulocytes and monocytes/macrophages.

  • inflammatory chemokines are CXC chemokines with ELR motif and CCL2.
  • homeostatic chemokines are expressed constitutively in specific tissues or cells.


Chemokines exert their biological activities by binding their corresponding receptors, which belong to G-protein coupled receptor (GPCR) with 7-span transmembrane portions. Thus, the target cell specificity of each chemokine is determined by the expression pattern of its cognate receptor .

Moreover, chemokines can bind to proteoglycans and glycosaminoglycans with a high avidity, because the carboxyl-terminal region is capable of binding heparin.

Consequently, most chemokines are produced as secretory proteins, but upon their secretion, they are immobilized on endothelium cells and/or in extracellular matrix by interacting with proteoglycans and glycosaminoglycans. The immobilization facilitates the generation of a concentration gradient, which is important for inducing the target cells to migrate in a directed way.

The human chemokine system.

Chemokine receptor Chemokines Receptor expression in
Leukocytes Epithelium Endothelium
CXCR2 CXCL1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8 PMN + +
CXCR3 CXCL4, 9, 10, 11 Th1, NK +
CXCR4 CXCL12 Widespread + +
CXCR6 CXCL16 Activated T +
CXCR7 (ACKR3) CXCL12, CXCL11 Widespread + +
Unknown CXCL14 (acts on monocytes)
CCR1 CCL3, 4, 5, 7, 14, 15, 16, 23 Mo, Mϕ, iDC, NK + +
CCR2 CCL2, 7, 8, 12, 13 Mo, Mϕ, iDC, NK
activated T, B
+ +
CCR3 CCL5, 7, 11, 13, 15, 24, 26, 28 Eo, Ba, Th2 +
CCR4 CCL2, 3, 5, 17, 22 iDC, Th2, NK, T, Mϕ
CCR5 CCL3, 4, 5, 8 Mo, Mϕ, NK, Th1
activated T
CCR6 CCL20 iDC, activated T, B +
CCR7 CCL19, 21 mDC, Mϕ, naïve T
activated T
CCR8 CCL1, 4, 17 Mo, iDC, Th2, Treg
CCR9 CCL25 T +
CCR10 CCL27, 28 Activated T, Treg +
Unknown CCL18 (acts on mDC and naïve T)
CX3CR1 CX3CL1 Mo, iDC, NK, Th1 +
XCR1 XCL1, 2 T, NK
Miscellaneous Scavenger receptors for chemokines
Duffy antigen (ACKR1) CCL2, 5, 11, 13, 14
CXCL1, 2, 3, 7, 8
D6 (ACKR2) CCL2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12
CCL13, 14, 17, 22

Leukocyte anonyms are as follows. Ba: basophil, Eo: eosinophil, iDC: immature dendritic cell, mDC: mature dendritic cell, Mo: monocyte, Mϕ: macrophage, NK: natural killer cell, Th1: type I helper T cell, Th2: type II helper T cell, and Treg: regulatory T cell.


There are differences between  human liver and peripheral NK cells. Regulation of NK cell functions by CD226, CD96 and TIGIT.close. CD226 binding to CD155 or CD112 at the cell surface of transformed or infected cells triggers cytotoxic granule exocytosis and target cell lysis by natural killer (NK) cells. TIGIT, CD226, CD96 and CRTAM ligand specificity and signalling.close.

Regulation of NK cell-mediated cancer immunosurveillance through CD155 expression.close.   CD155 is frequently overexpressed by cancer cells.


Liver NK cells Circulating NK cells References
CD3-CD56+ 30.6% (11.6–51.3%) 12.8% (1–22%) 17
CD56bright/total NK cell ~50% ~10% 18,19
CD56dim/total NK cell ~50% ~90% 18,19
CD27 high low 20,21
CD16 + 18,22
CD69 +/−, higher +/− 16
Chemokine receptor CCR7 and CXCR3
Inhibitory receptor (NKG2A) high low 24
Natural cytotoxicity higher high 18,19
TRAIL high low 1
Perforin, Granzyme B high low 2
Cytokine production high
(MIP-1α/β, IL-10,
TNF-α, TNF-β, IFN-γ,
(TNF-α, TNF-β, IFN-γ,
GM-CSF, IL-10)
ADCC high 25
  • In conclusion, having to develop precise early diagnostics is about determining the overlapping genes as key among diabetes, obesity, overweight and pancreas functions even pregnancy can be suggested.


  • It seems feasible to develop an immunotherapy for pancreatic cancer with the focus on chemokines and primary  signaling between iNKT and Tregs such as one of the recent plausable target IL-17 and IL17 RB.


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ISD Scotland. Cancer statistics: Pancreatic Cancer. Available at Accessed February 2015

Von Hoff DD, et al. Increased Survival in Pancreatic Cancer with nab-Paclitaxel plus Gemcitabine. N Engl J Med. 2013;369:1691 – 1703. Available at: Accessed February 2015

Goldstein D et al. nab-Paclitaxel plus gemcitabine for metastatic pancreatic cancer: long-term survival from a phase III trial. JNCI J Ntal Cancer Inst, 2015, 1-10. DOI: 10.1093/jnci/dju413. Accessed February 2015

The Translational Genomics Research Inst. “TGen study: Destroying tumor material that ‘cloaks’ cancer cells could benefit patients.” Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 27 Feb. 2015. Web. 10 Mar. 2015.

Mol Carcinog. 2012 Jan; 51(1): 64–74. doi:  10.1002/mc.20771

Mendonça FM1, de Sousa FR1, Barbosa AL1, Martins SC1, Araújo RL1, Soares R2, Abreu C1. Metabolism. 2015 Metabolic syndrome and risk of cancer: which link? Feb;64(2):182-9.

Huang CK1, et al  Autocrine/paracrine mechanism of interleukin-17B receptor promotes breast tumorigenesis through NF-κB-mediated antiapoptotic pathway. Oncogene. 2014 Jun 5;33(23):2968-77.

 Jiao L et al  Dietary consumption of advanced glycation end products andpancreatic cancer in the prospective NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study.

 Cancer. 2014 Dec 1;120(23):3669-75. doi: 10.1002/cncr.28863. Epub 2014 Oct 14. Clinical and pathologic features of familial pancreatic cancer.

The Rockefeller University Press, doi: 10.1084/jem.20141702 Cancer Lett. 2015 Jan 28;356(2 Pt A):281-8. doi: 10.1016/j.canlet.2014.03.028. Epub 2014 Apr 2.

 Humphris JL1, et al  Australian Pancreatic Cancer Genome Initiative  Br J Cancer. 2014 Nov 25;111(11):2180-6. doi: 10.1038/bjc.2014.525. Epub 2014 Oct 2.

Søreide K1, Sund M2.  Epidemiological-molecular evidence of metabolic reprogramming on proliferation, autophagy and cell signaling in pancreas cancer.  Am J Clin Nutr. 2015 Jan;101(1):126-34. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.114.098061. Epub 2014 Nov 19.

Lin CC1, et al .Independent and joint effect of type 2 diabetes and gastric and hepatobiliary diseases on risk of pancreatic cancer risk: 10-year follow-up of population-based cohort.

Wang Z1 et al  Metformin is associated with reduced risk of pancreatic cancer in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Diabetes Res Clin Pract. 2014 Oct;106(1):19-26. doi: 10.1016/j.diabres.2014.04.007. Epub 2014 Apr 18.

Preziosi G1, Oben JA2, Fusai G3Obesity and pancreatic cancer.  Surg Oncol. 2014 Jun;23(2):61-71. doi: 10.1016/j.suronc.2014.02.003. Epub 2014 Mar 12.

Berger NA1Obesity and cancer pathogenesis. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2014 Apr;1311:57-76. doi: 10.1111/nyas.12416.

De Souza AL1, Saif MW. Diabetes and pancreatic cancer. JOP. 2014 Mar 10;15(2):118-20. doi: 10.6092/1590-8577/2286.

Timofte D et al Metabolic disorders in patients operated for pancreatic cancer.  Rev Med Chir Soc Med Nat Iasi. 2014 Apr-Jun;118(2):392-8.

Lowenfels AB, Maisonneuve P. Epidemiologic and etiologic factors of pancreatic cancer. Hematol Oncol Clin North Am. 2002;16:1–16.

Lowenfels AB, Sullivan T, Fiorianti J, Maisonneuve P. The epidemiology and impact of pancreatic diseases in the United States. Curr Gastroenterol Rep.2005;7:90–95.

Michaud DS. Epidemiology of pancreatic cancer. Minerva Chir. 2004;59:99–111.

Schuster DP. Obesity and the Development of Type 2 Diabetes: the Effects of Fatty Tissue Inflamation. Dovepress; 2010. pp. 253–262.

WHO. World Health Organization Fact Sheet for World Wide Prevalence of Obesity. 2006.

Chang S et al, State ranks of incident cancer burden due to overweight and obesity in the United States, 2003. Obesity (Silver Spring) 2008;16:1636–1650.

Lewis L. Lanie  Evolutionary struggles between NK cells and viruses Nature Reviews Immunology 8, 259-268 (April 2008) | doi:10.1038/nri2276

Seth, S. et alThe murine pan T cell marker CD96 is an adhesion receptor for CD155 and nectin-1. Biochem. Biophys. Res. Commun. 364, 959–965 (2007).

de Andrade et al DNAM-1 control of natural killer cells functions through nectin and nectin-like proteins. Immunol. Cell Biol. 92, 237–244 (2014).

Orange, J. S. Formation and function of the lytic NK-cell immunological synapse. Nature Rev. Immunol. 8, 713–725 (2008).

Lagrue, K. et alThe central role of the cytoskeleton in mechanisms and functions of the NK cell immune synapseImmunol. Rev. 256, 203–221 (2013).

Vyas, Y. M. et alSpatial organization of signal transduction molecules in the NK cell immune synapses during MHC class I-regulated noncytolytic and cytolytic interactionsJ. Immunol. 167, 4358–4367 (2001).

Shibuya, K. et alCD226 (DNAM-1) is involved in lymphocyte function-associated antigen 1 costimulatory signal for naive T cell differentiation and proliferationJ. Exp. Med. 198,1829–1839 (2003).

Lozano, E. et al  The CD226/CD155 interaction regulates the proinflammatory (TH1/TH17)/anti-inflammatory (TH2) balance in humans. J. Immunol. 191, 3673–3680 (2013).

Maier, M. K. et alThe adhesion receptor CD155 determines the magnitude of humoral immune responses against orally ingested antigensEur. J. Immunol. 37, 2214–2225(2007).

Pende, D. et alExpression of the DNAM-1 ligands, Nectin-2 (CD112) and poliovirus receptor (CD155), on dendritic cells: relevance for natural killer-dendritic cell interaction.Blood 107, 2030–2036 (2006).

O’Leary et al  T cell- and B cell-independent adaptive immunity mediated by natural killer cells. Nature Immunol. 7, 507–516(2006).

Sanchez-Correa, B. et alDecreased expression of DNAM-1 on NK cells from acute myeloid leukemia patientsImmunol. Cell Biol. 90, 109–115 (2012).

Mamessier, E. et alHuman breast cancer cells enhance self tolerance by promoting evasion from NK cell antitumor immunity. J. Clin. Invest. 121, 3609–3622 (2011).

Nakai, R. et alOverexpression of Necl-5 correlates with unfavorable prognosis in patients with lung adenocarcinoma. Cancer Sci. 101, 1326–1330 (2010).

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Sloan, K. E. et alCD155/PVR plays a key role in cell motility during tumor cell invasion and migrationBMC Cancer 4, 73 (2004)

Chan, C. J., Smyth, M. J. & Martinet, L. Molecular mechanisms of natural killer cell activation in response to cellular stress. Cell Death Differ. 21, 5–14 (2014).

Li, M. et al. T-cell immunoglobulin and ITIM domain (TIGIT) receptor/poliovirus receptor (PVR) ligand engagement suppresses interferon-γ production of natural killer cells via β-arrestin 2-mediated negative signaling. J. Biol. Chem. 289, 17647–17657 (2014).

Guma, M. et al. Imprint of human cytomegalovirus infection on the NK cell receptor repertoireBlood 104, 3664–3671 (2004).

Sharma S. Natural killer cells and regulatory T cells in early pregnancy loss.

Int J Dev Biol. 2014;58(2-4):219-29. doi: 10.1387/ijdb.140109ss. Review.

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Van Elssen CH, Oth T, Germeraad WT, Bos GM, Vanderlocht J.  Natural killer cells: the secret weapon in dendritic cell vaccination strategies.Clin Cancer Res. 2014 Mar 1;20(5):1095-103. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-13-2302. Review.

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Pedroza-Pacheco I, Madrigal A, Saudemont A. Interaction between natural killer cells and regulatory T cells: perspectives for immunotherapy. Cell Mol Immunol. 2013 May;10(3):222-9. doi: 10.1038/cmi.2013.2. Epub 2013 Mar 25. Review.

Lindau D, Gielen P, Kroesen M, Wesseling P, Adema GJ.  The immunosuppressive tumour network: myeloid-derived suppressor cells, regulatory T cells and natural killer T cells. Immunology. 2013 Feb;138(2):105-15. doi: 10.1111/imm.12036. Review.

Tian Z, Chen Y, Gao B.Natural killer cells in liver disease.  Hepatology. 2013 Apr;57(4):1654-62. doi: 10.1002/hep.26115. Review.

Joyce S, Girardi E, Zajonc DM. J NKT cell ligand recognition logic: molecular basis for a synaptic duet and transmission of inflammatory effectors. Immunol. 2011 Aug 1;187(3):1081-9. doi: 0.4049/jimmunol.1001910. Review.

Diana J, Gahzarian L, Simoni Y, Lehuen A. Innate immunity in type 1 diabetes.  Discov Med. 2011 Jun;11(61):513-20. Review.

Wu L, Van Kaer L.Natural killer T cells in health and disease. Front Biosci (Schol Ed). 2011 Jan 1;3:236-51. Review.

Cantorna MT.  Why do T cells express the vitamin D receptor? Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2011 Jan;1217:77-82. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2010.05823.x. Epub 2010 Nov 29. Review.

Key Papers:

These papers, Gilfian et all and Iguchi-Manaka et al,  were the first to show the role of CD226 in NK cell- and CD8+ T cell-mediated tumour immunosurveillance using Cd226−/− mice.

  • Gilfillan, alDNAM-1 promotes activation of cytotoxic lymphocytes by nonprofessional antigen-presenting cells and tumors. J. Exp. Med. 205, 2965–2973 (2008).
  • Iguchi-Manaka, alAccelerated tumor growth in mice deficient in DNAM-1 receptor.  Exp. Med. 205, 2959–2964 (2008).

Johnston, R. J. et al. The immunoreceptor TIGIT regulates antitumor and antiviral CD8+ T cell effector functionCancer Cell 26, 923–937 (2014).
This study shows that TIGIT is expressed by PD1+ exhausted tumour-infiltrating T cells and that targeting these receptors with monoclonal antibodies represents a promising strategy to restore CD8+ T cell functions in cancer or in chronic infectious disease.

Khakoo, S. I. et alHLA and NK cell inhibitory receptor genes in resolving hepatitis C virus infectionScience 305, 872–874 (2004).

Fang, M. et alCD94 is essential for NK cell-mediated resistance to a lethal viral disease.Immunity 34, 579–589 (2011).
This study using CD94-deficient mice shows that the activating receptor formed by CD94 and NKG2E is essential for the resistance of C57BL/6 mice to mousepox.

Pradeu, T., Jaeger, S. & Vivier, E. The speed of change: towards a discontinuity theory of immunity? Nature Rev. Immunol. 13, 764–769 (2013).
This is an outstanding review on the formulation of a new immune paradigm ‘the discontinuity theory’

Further Reading:

Vol 13, No 4 (2012): July – p. 330-469 Molecular Biology of Pancreatic Cancer: How Useful Is It in Clinical Practice? ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF
George H Sakorafas, Vasileios Smyrniotis
Vol 13, No 4 (2012): July – p. 330-469 Endoscopic Findings of Upper Gastrointestinal Lesions in Patients with Pancreatic Cancer ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF
Koushiro Ohtsubo, Hiroyuki Watanabe, Hisatsugu Mouri, Kaname Yamashita, Kazuo Yasumoto, Seiji Yano
Vol 13, No 5 (2012): September – p. 470-547 Two Avirulent, Lentogenic Strains of Newcastle Disease Virus Are Cytotoxic for Some Human Pancreatic Tumor Lines In Vitro ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF
Robert J Walter, Bashar M Attar, Asad Rafiq, Megan Delimata, Sooraj Tejaswi
Vol 14, No 3 (2013): May – p. 221-303 Duration of Diabetes and Pancreatic Cancer in a Case-Control Study in the Midwest and the Iowa Women’s Health Study (IWHS) Cohort ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF
Sarah A Henry, Anna E Prizment, Kristin E Anderson
Vol 16, No 1 (2015): January – p. 1-99 Endoscopic Management of Pain in Pancreatic Cancer ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF
Parit Mekaroonkamol, Field F Willingham, Saurabh Chawla
Vol 14, No 2 (2013): March – p. 109-220 Advancements in the Management of Pancreatic Cancer: 2013 ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF
Muhammad Wasif Saif
Vol 15, No 5 (2014): September – p. 413-540 New-onset Diabetes: A Clue to the Early Diagnosis of Pancreatic Cancer ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF
Suresh T Chari
Vol 13, No 5 (2012): September – p. 470-547 Effects of Porcine Pancreatic Enzymes on the Pancreas of Hamsters. Part 2: Carcinogenesis Studies ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF
Fumiaki Nozawa, Mehmet Yalniz, Murat Saruc, Jens Standop, Hiroshi Egami, Parviz M Pour
Vol 14, No 5 (2013): September – p. 475-527 Synchronous Triple Cancers of the Pancreas, Stomach, and Cecum Treated with S-1 Followed by Pancrelipase Treatment of Pancreatic Exocrine Insufficiency ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF
Koushiro Ohtsubo, Daisuke Ishikawa, Shigeki Nanjo, Shinji Takeuchi, Tadaaki Yamada, Hisatsugu Mouri, Kaname Yamashita, Kazuo Yasumoto, Toshifumi Gabata, Osamu Matsui, Hiroko Ikeda, Yasushi Takamatsu, Sakae Iwakami, Seiji Yano
Vol 13, No 1 (2012): January – p. 1-123 Newcastle Disease Virus LaSota Strain Kills Human Pancreatic Cancer Cells in Vitro with High Selectivity ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF
Robert J Walter, Bashar M Attar, Asad Rafiq, Sooraj Tejaswi, Megan Delimata
Vol 13, No 3 (2012): May – p. 252-329 Rare Solid Tumors of the Pancreas as Differential Diagnosis of Pancreatic Adenocarcinoma ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF
Sabine Kersting, Monika S Janot, Johanna Munding, Dominique Suelberg, Andrea Tannapfel, Ansgar M Chromik, Waldemar Uhl, Uwe Bergmann
Vol 14, No 4 (2013): July – p. 304-474 A Proteomic Comparison of Formalin-Fixed Paraffin-Embedded Pancreatic Tissue from Autoimmune Pancreatitis, Chronic Pancreatitis, and Pancreatic Cancer ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF  SUPPL. TABLES 1-4 (PDF)
Joao A Paulo, Vivek Kadiyala, Scott Brizard, Peter A Banks, Hanno Steen, Darwin L Conwell
Vol 13, No 4 (2012): July – p. 330-469 Highlights on the First Line Treatment of Metastatic Pancreatic Cancer ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF
Krishna S Gunturu, Jamie Jarboe, Muhammad Wasif Saif
Vol 14, No 2 (2013): March – p. 109-220 Pancreatic Cancer: Updates on Translational Research and Future Applications ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF
Evangelos G Sarris, Konstantinos N Syrigos, Muhammad Wasif Saif
Vol 14, No 4 (2013): July – p. 304-474 Pancreatic Cancer: What About Screening and Detection? ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF
Froso Konstantinou, Kostas N Syrigos, Muhammad Wasif Saif
Vol 14, No 4 (2013): July – p. 304-474 Diabetes and Pancreatic Cancer ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF
Najla Hatem El-Jurdi, Muhammad Wasif Saif
Vol 13, No 5 (2012): September – p. 470-547 Effects of Porcine Pancreatic Enzymes on the Pancreas of Hamsters. Part 1: Basic Studies ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF
Murat Saruc, Fumiaki Nozawa, Mehmet Yalniz, Atsushi Itami, Parviz M Pour
Vol 14, No 2 (2013): March – p. 109-220 Analysis of Endoscopic Pancreatic Function Test (ePFT)-Collected Pancreatic Fluid Proteins Precipitated Via Ultracentrifugation ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF  SUPPL.(XLS)  SUPPL.(PDF)
Joao A Paulo, Vivek Kadiyala, Aleksandr Gaun, John F K Sauld, Ali Ghoulidi, Peter A Banks, Hanno Steen, Darwin L Conwell
Vol 16, No 1 (2015): January – p. 1-99 Regulation Mechanisms of the Hedgehog Pathway in Pancreatic Cancer: A Review ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF
Kim Christin Honselmann, Moritz Pross, Carlo Maria Felix Jung, Ulrich Friedrich Wellner, Steffen Deichmann, Tobias Keck, Dirk Bausch
Vol 14, No 5S (2013): September (Suppl.) – p. 528-602 History of Previous Cancer in Patients Undergoing Resection for Pancreatic Adenocarcinoma ABSTRACT  PDF
Francesca Gavazzi, Maria Rachele Angiolini, Cristina Ridolfi, Maria Carla Tinti, Marco Madonini, Marco Montorsi, Alessandro Zerbi
Vol 13, No 4 (2012): July – p. 330-469 Molecular Biology of Pancreatic Cancer: How Useful Is It in Clinical Practice? ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF
George H Sakorafas, Vasileios Smyrniotis
Vol 13, No 4 (2012): July – p. 330-469 Endoscopic Findings of Upper Gastrointestinal Lesions in Patients with Pancreatic Cancer ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF
Koushiro Ohtsubo, Hiroyuki Watanabe, Hisatsugu Mouri, Kaname Yamashita, Kazuo Yasumoto, Seiji Yano
Vol 13, No 5 (2012): September – p. 470-547 Two Avirulent, Lentogenic Strains of Newcastle Disease Virus Are Cytotoxic for Some Human Pancreatic Tumor Lines In Vitro ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF
Robert J Walter, Bashar M Attar, Asad Rafiq, Megan Delimata, Sooraj Tejaswi
Vol 14, No 3 (2013): May – p. 221-303 Duration of Diabetes and Pancreatic Cancer in a Case-Control Study in the Midwest and the Iowa Women’s Health Study (IWHS) Cohort ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF
Sarah A Henry, Anna E Prizment, Kristin E Anderson
Vol 16, No 1 (2015): January – p. 1-99 Endoscopic Management of Pain in Pancreatic Cancer ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF
Parit Mekaroonkamol, Field F Willingham, Saurabh Chawla
Vol 14, No 2 (2013): March – p. 109-220 Advancements in the Management of Pancreatic Cancer: 2013 ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF
Muhammad Wasif Saif
Vol 15, No 5 (2014): September – p. 413-540 New-onset Diabetes: A Clue to the Early Diagnosis of Pancreatic Cancer ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF
Suresh T Chari
Vol 13, No 5 (2012): September – p. 470-547 Effects of Porcine Pancreatic Enzymes on the Pancreas of Hamsters. Part 2: Carcinogenesis Studies ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF
Fumiaki Nozawa, Mehmet Yalniz, Murat Saruc, Jens Standop, Hiroshi Egami, Parviz M Pour
Vol 14, No 5 (2013): September – p. 475-527 Synchronous Triple Cancers of the Pancreas, Stomach, and Cecum Treated with S-1 Followed by Pancrelipase Treatment of Pancreatic Exocrine Insufficiency ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF
Koushiro Ohtsubo, Daisuke Ishikawa, Shigeki Nanjo, Shinji Takeuchi, Tadaaki Yamada, Hisatsugu Mouri, Kaname Yamashita, Kazuo Yasumoto, Toshifumi Gabata, Osamu Matsui, Hiroko Ikeda, Yasushi Takamatsu, Sakae Iwakami, Seiji Yano
Vol 13, No 1 (2012): January – p. 1-123 Newcastle Disease Virus LaSota Strain Kills Human Pancreatic Cancer Cells in Vitro with High Selectivity ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF
Robert J Walter, Bashar M Attar, Asad Rafiq, Sooraj Tejaswi, Megan Delimata
Vol 13, No 3 (2012): May – p. 252-329 Rare Solid Tumors of the Pancreas as Differential Diagnosis of Pancreatic Adenocarcinoma ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF
Sabine Kersting, Monika S Janot, Johanna Munding, Dominique Suelberg, Andrea Tannapfel, Ansgar M Chromik, Waldemar Uhl, Uwe Bergmann
Vol 14, No 4 (2013): July – p. 304-474 A Proteomic Comparison of Formalin-Fixed Paraffin-Embedded Pancreatic Tissue from Autoimmune Pancreatitis, Chronic Pancreatitis, and Pancreatic Cancer ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF  SUPPL. TABLES 1-4 (PDF)
Joao A Paulo, Vivek Kadiyala, Scott Brizard, Peter A Banks, Hanno Steen, Darwin L Conwell
Vol 13, No 4 (2012): July – p. 330-469 Highlights on the First Line Treatment of Metastatic Pancreatic Cancer ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF
Krishna S Gunturu, Jamie Jarboe, Muhammad Wasif Saif
Vol 14, No 2 (2013): March – p. 109-220 Pancreatic Cancer: Updates on Translational Research and Future Applications ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF
Evangelos G Sarris, Konstantinos N Syrigos, Muhammad Wasif Saif
Vol 14, No 4 (2013): July – p. 304-474 Pancreatic Cancer: What About Screening and Detection? ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF
Froso Konstantinou, Kostas N Syrigos, Muhammad Wasif Saif
Vol 14, No 4 (2013): July – p. 304-474 Diabetes and Pancreatic Cancer ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF
Najla Hatem El-Jurdi, Muhammad Wasif Saif
Vol 13, No 5 (2012): September – p. 470-547 Effects of Porcine Pancreatic Enzymes on the Pancreas of Hamsters. Part 1: Basic Studies ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF
Murat Saruc, Fumiaki Nozawa, Mehmet Yalniz, Atsushi Itami, Parviz M Pour
Vol 14, No 2 (2013): March – p. 109-220 Analysis of Endoscopic Pancreatic Function Test (ePFT)-Collected Pancreatic Fluid Proteins Precipitated Via Ultracentrifugation ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF  SUPPL.(XLS)  SUPPL.(PDF)
Joao A Paulo, Vivek Kadiyala, Aleksandr Gaun, John F K Sauld, Ali Ghoulidi, Peter A Banks, Hanno Steen, Darwin L Conwell
Vol 16, No 1 (2015): January – p. 1-99 Regulation Mechanisms of the Hedgehog Pathway in Pancreatic Cancer: A Review ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF
Kim Christin Honselmann, Moritz Pross, Carlo Maria Felix Jung, Ulrich Friedrich Wellner, Steffen Deichmann, Tobias Keck, Dirk Bausch
Vol 14, No 5S (2013): September (Suppl.) – p. 528-602 History of Previous Cancer in Patients Undergoing Resection for Pancreatic Adenocarcinoma ABSTRACT  PDF
Francesca Gavazzi, Maria Rachele Angiolini, Cristina Ridolfi, Maria Carla Tinti, Marco Madonini, Marco Montorsi, Alessandro Zerbi



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A method of diagnosing pancreatic cancer in a human, the method comprising detecting the level of golgi apparatus protein 1 in a sample from the …


A method for the treatment of pancreatic cancer, which comprises the administration to a human patient with pancreatic cancer of an effective …


A method of treatment of melanoma, colorectal cancer, or pancreatic cancerwherein the treatment inhibits the progress of, reduces the rate of …


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Custom vectors for treating and preventing pancreatic cancer: Dennis L. Panicali, Acton, MA (US); Gail P. Mazzara, Winchester, MA (US); Linda R. …


A method for treating a disease selected from the group consisting of melanoma, stomach cancer, liver cancer, colorectal cancerpancreatic …

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Detection of digestive organ cancer, gastric cancer, colorectal cancerpancreatic cancer, and biliary tract cancer by gene expression profiling


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A method of treating or ameliorating a hyperproliferative disorder selected from the group consisting of glioblastoma, lung cancer, breast cancer . …


A method for treating a Weel kinase mediated cancer selected from the group consisting of breast cancer, lung cancerpancreatic cancer, colon …


wherein said proliferative disorder is breast cancer or pancreatic cancer. …

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A method for treating a cancer in a subject suffering from such cancer, … pancreatic cancer, ovarian cancer, lymphoma, colon cancer, mesothelioma, …


A method of treating cancer, … lung cancer, melanoma, neuroblastomas, oral cancer, ovarian cancerpancreatic cancer, prostate cancer , rectal cance …


A method for treating a subject having breast cancer, ovarian cancer, or pancreatic cancer in need of therapy thereof comprising administering to …

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My daughter died of ovarian cancer. My other daughter and many … (mutation) is known to cause a higher incidence of pancreatic (for instance) cancer …

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A method of treating pancreatic cancer which method comprises administering to a patient a therapeutically effective amount of a compound that is:

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A method of treating pancreatic cancer in a patient, comprising administering to said patient a therapeutically effective amount of a compound …


… wherein the cell proliferative disorder is selected from the group consisting of cervical cancer, colon cancer, ovarian cancerpancreatic cancer, …


A method of inhibiting MEK in a cancer cell selected from the group consisting of human melanoma cells and human pancreatic cancer cells …

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A method for performing a multiplex, high-throughput immunoassay for facilitating a cancer diagnosis, the method comprising:


A method for the treatment of colorectal cancer, lung cancer, breast cancer, prostatecancer, urinary cancer, kidney cancer, and pancreatic …

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Yamaue, Hiroki; to Onco Therapy Science, Inc. Combination therapy for pancreatic cancer using an antigenic peptide and chemotherapeutic agent 08703713 …

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… The Custom vectors for treating and preventing pancreatic cancer … system and apparatus for control of pancreatic beta cell function to improve …

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… Narayan, Vaibhav; and Patterson, Scott, to Celera Corporation Pancreatic cancertargets and uses thereof 08865413 Cl. 435-7.1. Domsch, Matthew L.; …

32.    [PDF] 15 March 2005 – United States Patent and Trademark Office

15 March 2005 – United States Patent and Trademark Office


Combinations of therapeutic agents for treating cancer: … myeloma, colorectal adenocarcinoma, cervical carcinoma and pancreatic carcinoma, …

34.    Patentee Index – United States Patent and Trademark Office

… Inc. Medium-chain length fatty acids, salts and triglycerides in combination with gemcitabine for treatment of pancreatic cancer 08946190 Cl. …

35.    Patentee Index – United States Patent and Trademark Office

Turkson, James; to University of Central Florida Research Foundation, Inc. Drug composition cytotoxic for pancreatic cancer cells 08685941 Cl. 514-49.

36.    Patentee Index – United States Patent and Trademark Office

… David M., to Immunomedics, Inc. Anti-mucin antibodies for early detection and treatment of pancreatic cancer 08795662 Cl. 424-130.1. Gold, …

37.    [PDF]

38.    Patentee Index – United States Patent and Trademark Office

Goggins, Michael G.; and Sato, Norihiro, to Johns Hopkins University, The Aberrantly methylated genes in pancreatic cancer 08785614 Cl. 536-24.3. …


wherein said cancer is pancreatic cnacer, chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML), acute myelogenous leukemia (AML), acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL …

40.    Patentee Index – United States Patent and Trademark Office

Malafa, Mokenge P.; and Sebti, Said M., to University of South Florida Delta-tocotrienol treatment and prevention of pancreatic cancer 08846653 Cl. …

41.    Patentee Index – United States Patent and Trademark Office

… Taro, to National University Corporation Kanazawa University Detection of digestive organ cancer, gastric cancer, colorectal cancerpancreatic …

42.    Patentee Index – United States Patent and Trademark Office

Kirn, David; to Sillajen Biotherapeutics, Inc. Oncolytic vaccinia virus cancer therapy 08980246 Cl. 424-93.2. Kirn, Larry J.; …

43.    Patentee Index – United States Patent and Trademark Office

Malafa, Mokenge P.; and Sebti, Said M., to University of South Florida Delta-tocotrienol treatment and prevention of pancreatic cancer 08846653 Cl. …

44.    Patentee Index – United States Patent and Trademark Office

list of patentees to whom patents were issued on the 2nd day of september, 2014 and to whom reexamination certificates were issued during the week …

45.    Patentee Index – United States Patent and Trademark Office

… Therapeutics Inc. Compounds and compositions for stabilizing hypoxia inducible factor-2 alpha as a method for treating cancer 08865748 Cl. …


high incidence of ras involvement, such as colon and pancreatic tumors. By … withcancer or pre-cancerous states will serve to treat or palliate the …

47.    CPC Scheme – C07K PEPTIDES – United States Patent and …

PEPTIDES (peptides in … Cancer-associated SCM-recognition factor, CRISPP} [2013‑01] … Kazal type inhibitors, e.g. pancreatic secretory inhibitor, …

48.    Class Definition for Class 514 – DRUG, BIO-AFFECTING AND …

… compound X useful as an anti-cancer … certain rules as to patent … Cystic fibrosis is manifested by faulty digestion due to a deficiency of pa …

49.    United States Patent and Trademark Office

Cancer-associated SCM-recognition factor, CRISPP . G01N 2333/4748. . . . . … Bovine/basic pancreatic trypsin inhibitor (BPTI, aprotinin) G01N …

50.    Class Definition for Class 530 – CHEMISTRY: NATURAL RESINS …

CLASS 530 , CHEMISTRY: NATURAL … Typically the processes of this subclass include solvent extraction of pancreatic … as well as with some forms of …


PREPARATIONS FOR MEDICAL, DENTAL, OR TOILET PURPOSES … i.e. Pancreatic stem cells are classified in A61K 35/39, … preparations containing cancer a …


Typically the processes of this subclass include solvent extraction of pancreatic … 828 for cancer -associated proteins … provided for in Class …

53.    United States Patent and Trademark Office

Home page of the United States Patent and … Pancreatic cells} G01N 33/5073 … – relevant features relating to a specifically defined cancer are …

54.    *****TBD***** – United States Patent and Trademark Office

class 514, drug, bio-affecting and body treating compositions …

55.    Patentee Index – United States Patent and Trademark Office

… Dale E., to Buck Institute for Age Research, The Reagents and methods for cancertreatment and … useful for diagnosis and treatment of pancreati …

56.    United States Patent and Trademark Office

Pancreatic ribonuclease ( C12Y 301/27006. . Enterobacter ribonuclease ( C12Y 301/27007. . Ribonuclease F ( C12Y 301/27008. …

57.    Patentee Index – United States Patent and Trademark Office

Institute for Cancer Research: See … and Segev, Hanna, to Technion Research & Development Foundation Limited Populations of pancreatic …

58.    Patentee Index – United States Patent and Trademark Office

Cancer Research Technology Limited: See–Collins, Ian; Reader, John Charles; Klair, Suki; Scanlon, Jane; Addison, Glynn; and Cherry, Michael 08618121 …

59.    Patentee Index – United States Patent and Trademark Office

… to University Health Network Cyclic inhibitors of carnitine palmitoyltransferase and treating cancer … progenitor cells and pancreatic endocrine …

60.    Patentee Index – United States Patent and Trademark Office

… to King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals Cytotoxic compounds for treatingcancer … or preventing a pancreatic dysfunction 08894972 Cl …

61.    Patentee Index – United States Patent and Trademark Office

… and Taylor-Papadimitriou, Joyce, to Københavns Universitet Generation of a cancer-specific … to CuRNA, Inc. Treatment of pancreatic …

62.    Patentee Index – United States Patent and Trademark Office

… to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center Drug delivery of temozolomide for systemic based treatment of cancer … Pancreatic enzyme compositions and …


… a disclosed or even specifically claimed utility (i.e., compound X having an attached radionuclide useful as an anti-cancer diagnostic or …

64.    Patentee Index – United States Patent and Trademark Office

… Chang-Jer, to Gold Nanotech Inc. Physical nano-complexes for preventing and treating cancer and … and protective solution for protecting pancrea …

65.    Patentee Index – United States Patent and Trademark Office

… Thomas T., to Penn State Research Foundation, The In vivo photodynamic therapy ofcancer via a near infrared … of pancreatic beta-cells by …

66.    Patentee Index – United States Patent and Trademark Office

Birnie, Richard; to University of York, The Cancer vaccine 08802619 Cl. 514-1. Birtwhistle, Daniel P.; Long, James R.; and Reinke, Robert E., …

67.    Patentee Index – United States Patent and Trademark Office

… to Cornell University Method for treating cancer 08729133 Cl. 514-673 … methods for promoting the generation of PDX1+ pancreatic cells …

68.    Patentee Index – United States Patent and Trademark Office

… Kurt, to Abbvie Biotherapeutics Inc. Compositions against cancer antigen LIV-1 and uses … H., to Amylin Pharmaceuticals, LLC Pancreatic …

69.    Patentee Index – United States Patent and Trademark Office

… Kenji; and Matsuda, Hirokazu, to Kyoto University Molecular probe for imaging ofpancreatic islets and use … use in the treatment of cancer …

70.    Patentee Index – United States Patent and Trademark Office

… Emi; Matsumi, Chiemi; and Saitoh, Yukie, to Actgen Inc Antibody having anti-cancer … The Plectin-1 targeted agents for detection and treatment …

71.    Patentee Index – United States Patent and Trademark Office

list of patentees to whom patents were issued on the 31th day of december, 2013 and to whom reexamination certificates were issued during the week …

72.    Patentee Index – United States Patent and Trademark Office

… Uemoto, Shinji; and Kawaguchi, Yoshiya, to Kyoto University Method of culturingpancreatic islet-like tissues by a … of breast cancer 08853183 …

Clinical Trials:

Region Name   Number of Studies
World 1824  
Africa   [map]   10  
Central America   [map]   4  
East Asia   [map]   179  
Japan 40   [studies]
Europe   [map]   444  
Middle East   [map]   46  
North America 1189  
Canada   [map]   102   [studies]
Mexico 11   [studies]
United States   [map]   1144   [studies]
Alabama 60   [studies]
Alaska 4   [studies]
Arizona 107   [studies]
Arkansas 23   [studies]
California 235   [studies]
Colorado 79   [studies]
Connecticut 51   [studies]
Delaware 15   [studies]
District of Columbia 36   [studies]
Florida 187   [studies]
Georgia 77   [studies]
Hawaii 15   [studies]
Idaho 11   [studies]
Illinois 139   [studies]
Indiana 94   [studies]
Iowa 51   [studies]
Kansas 39   [studies]
Kentucky 48   [studies]
Louisiana 46   [studies]
Maine 11   [studies]
Maryland 189   [studies]
Massachusetts 142   [studies]
Michigan 116   [studies]
Minnesota 114   [studies]
Mississippi 14   [studies]
Missouri 91   [studies]
Montana 27   [studies]
Nebraska 42   [studies]
Nevada 32   [studies]
New Hampshire 25   [studies]
New Jersey 64   [studies]
New Mexico 27   [studies]
New York 230   [studies]
North Carolina 111   [studies]
North Dakota 22   [studies]
Ohio 136   [studies]
Oklahoma 41   [studies]
Oregon 54   [studies]
Pennsylvania 180   [studies]
Rhode Island 23   [studies]
South Carolina 72   [studies]
South Dakota 23   [studies]
Tennessee 115   [studies]
Texas 212   [studies]
Utah 36   [studies]
Vermont 11   [studies]
Virginia 69   [studies]
Washington 83   [studies]
West Virginia 12   [studies]
Wisconsin 74   [studies]
Wyoming 9   [studies]
North Asia   [map]   24  
Pacifica   [map]   39  
South America   [map]   30  
South Asia   [map]   23  
Southeast Asia   [map]   25  

Search Results for ‘pancreas cancer’

Genomics and Epigenetics: Genetic Errors and Methodologies – Cancer and Other Diseases on March 25, 2015 |  Read Full Post »

@Mayo Clinic: Inhibiting the gene, protein kinase D1 (PKD1), and its protein could stop spread of this form of Pancreatic Cancer on February 24, 2015  Read Full Post »

The Changing Economics of Cancer Medicine: Causes for the Vanishing of Independent Oncology Groups in the US on November 26, 2014 | Read Full Post »

Autophagy-Modulating Proteins and Small Molecules Candidate Targets for Cancer Therapy: Commentary of Bioinformatics Approaches on September 18, 2014 |  Read Full Post »

New Immunotherapy Could Fight a Range of Cancers on June 4, 2014  Read Full Post »

Locally Advanced Pancreatic Cancer: Efficacy of FOLFIRINOX  on June 1, 2014  Read Full Post »


ipilimumab, a Drug that blocks CTLA-4 Freeing T cells to Attack Tumors @DM Anderson Cancer Center on May 28, 2014 | Read Full Post »

NIH Study Demonstrates that a New Cancer Immunotherapy Method could be Effective against a wide range of Cancers  on May 12, 2014 |

Cancer Research: Curations and Reporting Posted in on May 6, 2014 | Read Full Post »

Cancer Research: Curations and Reporting: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN  on April 20, 2014 | Read Full Post »

Prologue to Cancer – e-book Volume One – Where are we in this journey? on April 13, 2014 | Read Full Post »


Epilogue: Envisioning New Insights in Cancer Translational Biology on April 4, 2014 | Read Full Post »


A Synthesis of the Beauty and Complexity of How We View Cancer

on March 26, 2014 Read Full Post »


Pancreatic Cancer Diagnosis: Four Novel Histo-pathologies Screening Characteristics offers more Reliable Identification of Cellular Features associated with Cancer

on November 13, 2013 | Read Full Post »


What`s new in pancreatic cancer research and treatment?

on October 21, 2013 | Read Full Post »


Family History of Cancer may increase the Risk of Close Relatives developing the Same Type of Cancer as well as Different Types

on July 25, 2013 Read Full Post »


2013 Perspective on “War on Cancer” on December 23, 1971

on July 5, 2013 Read Full Post »


Mesothelin: An early detection biomarker for cancer (By Jack Andraka) on April 21, 2013 |  Read Full Post »

Pancreatic Cancer: Genetics, Genomics and Immunotherapy

on April 11, 2013 |  Read Full Post »

New methods for Study of Cellular Replication, Growth, and Regulation on March 25, 2015 Read Full Post »

Diet and Diabetes on March 2, 2015 |  Read Full Post »

Neonatal Pathophysiology on February 22, 2015 |  Read Full Post »

Endocrine Action on Midbrain on February 12, 2015 | Read Full Post »

Gastrointestinal Endocrinology on February 10, 2015 | Read Full Post »

Parathyroids and Bone Metabolism on February 10, 2015 | Read Full Post »

Pancreatic Islets on February 8, 2015 | Read Full Post »

Pituitary Neuroendocrine Axis on February 4, 2015 |Read Full Post »

Highlights in the History of Physiology on December 28, 2014 | Read Full Post »

Outline of Medical Discoveries between 1880 and 1980 on December 3, 2014 | Read Full Post »

Diagnostics Industry and Drug Development in the Genomics Era: Mid 80s to Present on November 21, 2014  Read Full Post »

Implantable Medical Devices to 2015 – Industry Market Research, Market Share, Market Size, Sales, Demand Forecast, Market Leaders, Company Profiles, Industry Trends on November 17, 2014 | Read Full Post »

Pharmacological Action of Steroid Hormones on October 27, 2014 | Read Full Post »

Metabolomics Summary and Perspective on October 16, 2014 | Read Full Post »

Pancreatic Tumors take nearly 20 years to become Lethal after the first Genetic Perturbations – Discovery @ The Johns Hopkins University  on October 15, 2014 |Read Full Post »

Isoenzymes in cell metabolic pathways on October 6, 2014 | Read Full Post »

Metformin, thyroid-pituitary axis, diabetes mellitus, and metabolism on September 28, 2014 | Read Full Post »

Carbohydrate Metabolism on August 13, 2014 | Read Full Post »

A Primer on DNA and DNA Replication on July 29, 2014 | Read Full Post »

The Discovery and Properties of Avemar – Fermented Wheat Germ Extract: Carcinogenesis Suppressor on June 7, 2014 | Read Full Post »

Previous Articles posted on Prostate Cancer

@Mayo Clinic: Inhibiting the gene, protein kinase D1 (PKD1), and its protein could stop spread of this form of Pancreatic Cancer 2012pharmaceutical 2015/02/24
Thymoquinone, an extract of nigella sativa seed oil, blocked pancreatic cancer cell growth and killed the cells by enhancing the process of programmed cell death. larryhbern 2014/07/15
Moringa Oleifera Kills 97% of Pancreatic Cancer Cells in Vitro larryhbern 2014/06/21
The Gonzalez protocol: Worse than useless for pancreatic cancer sjwilliamspa 2014/06/17
An alternative approach to overcoming the apoptotic resistance of pancreatic cancer 2012pharmaceutical 2014/06/03
Locally Advanced Pancreatic Cancer: Efficacy of FOLFIRINOX 2012pharmaceutical 2014/06/01
Consortium of European Research Institutions and Private Partners will develop a microfluidics-based lab-on-a-chip device to identify Pancreatic Cancer Circulating Tumor Cells (CTC) in blood 2012pharmaceutical 2014/04/10
Pancreatic Cancer Diagnosis: Four Novel Histo-pathologies Screening Characteristics offers more Reliable Identification of Cellular Features associated with Cancer 2012pharmaceutical 2013/11/13
What`s new in pancreatic cancer research and treatment? 2012pharmaceutical 2013/10/21
Pancreatic Cancer: Genetics, Genomics and Immunotherapy tildabarliya 2013/04/11
Pancreatic cancer genomes: Axon guidance pathway genes – aberrations revealed 2012pharmaceutical 2012/10/24
Biomarker tool development for Early Diagnosis of Pancreatic Cancer: Van Andel Institute and Emory University 2012pharmaceutical 2012/10/24
Personalized Pancreatic Cancer Treatment Option 2012pharmaceutical 2012/10/16
Battle of Steve Jobs and Ralph Steinman with Pancreatic cancer: How we lost ritusaxena 2012/05/21
Early Biomarker for Pancreatic Cancer Identified pkandala 2012/05/17
Usp9x: Promising therapeutic target for pancreatic cancer ritusaxena 2012/05/14
War on Cancer Needs to Refocus to Stay Ahead of Disease Says Cancer Expert sjwilliamspa 2015/03/27
Antibiotics that target mitochondria effectively eradicate cancer stem cells, across multiple tumor types: Treating cancer like an infectious disease 2012pharmaceutical 2015/02/15
Pancreatic Islets larryhbern 2015/02/08
Vol 13, No 4 (2012): July – p. 330-469 Molecular Biology of Pancreatic Cancer: How Useful Is It in Clinical Practice? ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF
George H Sakorafas, Vasileios Smyrniotis
Vol 13, No 4 (2012): July – p. 330-469 Endoscopic Findings of Upper Gastrointestinal Lesions in Patients with Pancreatic Cancer ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF
Koushiro Ohtsubo, Hiroyuki Watanabe, Hisatsugu Mouri, Kaname Yamashita, Kazuo Yasumoto, Seiji Yano
Vol 13, No 5 (2012): September – p. 470-547 Two Avirulent, Lentogenic Strains of Newcastle Disease Virus Are Cytotoxic for Some Human Pancreatic Tumor Lines In Vitro ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF
Robert J Walter, Bashar M Attar, Asad Rafiq, Megan Delimata, Sooraj Tejaswi
Vol 14, No 3 (2013): May – p. 221-303 Duration of Diabetes and Pancreatic Cancer in a Case-Control Study in the Midwest and the Iowa Women’s Health Study (IWHS) Cohort ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF
Sarah A Henry, Anna E Prizment, Kristin E Anderson
Vol 16, No 1 (2015): January – p. 1-99 Endoscopic Management of Pain in Pancreatic Cancer ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF
Parit Mekaroonkamol, Field F Willingham, Saurabh Chawla
Vol 14, No 2 (2013): March – p. 109-220 Advancements in the Management of Pancreatic Cancer: 2013 ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF
Muhammad Wasif Saif
Vol 15, No 5 (2014): September – p. 413-540 New-onset Diabetes: A Clue to the Early Diagnosis of Pancreatic Cancer ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF
Suresh T Chari
Vol 13, No 5 (2012): September – p. 470-547 Effects of Porcine Pancreatic Enzymes on the Pancreas of Hamsters. Part 2: Carcinogenesis Studies ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF
Fumiaki Nozawa, Mehmet Yalniz, Murat Saruc, Jens Standop, Hiroshi Egami, Parviz M Pour
Vol 14, No 5 (2013): September – p. 475-527 Synchronous Triple Cancers of the Pancreas, Stomach, and Cecum Treated with S-1 Followed by Pancrelipase Treatment of Pancreatic Exocrine Insufficiency ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF
Koushiro Ohtsubo, Daisuke Ishikawa, Shigeki Nanjo, Shinji Takeuchi, Tadaaki Yamada, Hisatsugu Mouri, Kaname Yamashita, Kazuo Yasumoto, Toshifumi Gabata, Osamu Matsui, Hiroko Ikeda, Yasushi Takamatsu, Sakae Iwakami, Seiji Yano
Vol 13, No 1 (2012): January – p. 1-123 Newcastle Disease Virus LaSota Strain Kills Human Pancreatic Cancer Cells in Vitro with High Selectivity ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF
Robert J Walter, Bashar M Attar, Asad Rafiq, Sooraj Tejaswi, Megan Delimata
Vol 13, No 3 (2012): May – p. 252-329 Rare Solid Tumors of the Pancreas as Differential Diagnosis of Pancreatic Adenocarcinoma ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF
Sabine Kersting, Monika S Janot, Johanna Munding, Dominique Suelberg, Andrea Tannapfel, Ansgar M Chromik, Waldemar Uhl, Uwe Bergmann
Vol 14, No 4 (2013): July – p. 304-474 A Proteomic Comparison of Formalin-Fixed Paraffin-Embedded Pancreatic Tissue from Autoimmune Pancreatitis, Chronic Pancreatitis, and Pancreatic Cancer ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF  SUPPL. TABLES 1-4 (PDF)
Joao A Paulo, Vivek Kadiyala, Scott Brizard, Peter A Banks, Hanno Steen, Darwin L Conwell
Vol 13, No 4 (2012): July – p. 330-469 Highlights on the First Line Treatment of Metastatic Pancreatic Cancer ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF
Krishna S Gunturu, Jamie Jarboe, Muhammad Wasif Saif
Vol 14, No 2 (2013): March – p. 109-220 Pancreatic Cancer: Updates on Translational Research and Future Applications ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF
Evangelos G Sarris, Konstantinos N Syrigos, Muhammad Wasif Saif
Vol 14, No 4 (2013): July – p. 304-474 Pancreatic Cancer: What About Screening and Detection? ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF
Froso Konstantinou, Kostas N Syrigos, Muhammad Wasif Saif
Vol 14, No 4 (2013): July – p. 304-474 Diabetes and Pancreatic Cancer ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF
Najla Hatem El-Jurdi, Muhammad Wasif Saif
Vol 13, No 5 (2012): September – p. 470-547 Effects of Porcine Pancreatic Enzymes on the Pancreas of Hamsters. Part 1: Basic Studies ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF
Murat Saruc, Fumiaki Nozawa, Mehmet Yalniz, Atsushi Itami, Parviz M Pour
Vol 14, No 2 (2013): March – p. 109-220 Analysis of Endoscopic Pancreatic Function Test (ePFT)-Collected Pancreatic Fluid Proteins Precipitated Via Ultracentrifugation ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF  SUPPL.(XLS)  SUPPL.(PDF)
Joao A Paulo, Vivek Kadiyala, Aleksandr Gaun, John F K Sauld, Ali Ghoulidi, Peter A Banks, Hanno Steen, Darwin L Conwell
Vol 16, No 1 (2015): January – p. 1-99 Regulation Mechanisms of the Hedgehog Pathway in Pancreatic Cancer: A Review ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF
Kim Christin Honselmann, Moritz Pross, Carlo Maria Felix Jung, Ulrich Friedrich Wellner, Steffen Deichmann, Tobias Keck, Dirk Bausch
Vol 14, No 5S (2013): September (Suppl.) – p. 528-602 History of Previous Cancer in Patients Undergoing Resection for Pancreatic Adenocarcinoma ABSTRACT  PDF
Francesca Gavazzi, Maria Rachele Angiolini, Cristina Ridolfi, Maria Carla Tinti, Marco Madonini, Marco Montorsi, Alessandro Zerbi
Vol 13, No 4 (2012): July – p. 330-469 Molecular Biology of Pancreatic Cancer: How Useful Is It in Clinical Practice? ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF
George H Sakorafas, Vasileios Smyrniotis
Vol 13, No 4 (2012): July – p. 330-469 Endoscopic Findings of Upper Gastrointestinal Lesions in Patients with Pancreatic Cancer ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF
Koushiro Ohtsubo, Hiroyuki Watanabe, Hisatsugu Mouri, Kaname Yamashita, Kazuo Yasumoto, Seiji Yano
Vol 13, No 5 (2012): September – p. 470-547 Two Avirulent, Lentogenic Strains of Newcastle Disease Virus Are Cytotoxic for Some Human Pancreatic Tumor Lines In Vitro ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF
Robert J Walter, Bashar M Attar, Asad Rafiq, Megan Delimata, Sooraj Tejaswi
Vol 14, No 3 (2013): May – p. 221-303 Duration of Diabetes and Pancreatic Cancer in a Case-Control Study in the Midwest and the Iowa Women’s Health Study (IWHS) Cohort ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF
Sarah A Henry, Anna E Prizment, Kristin E Anderson
Vol 16, No 1 (2015): January – p. 1-99 Endoscopic Management of Pain in Pancreatic Cancer ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF
Parit Mekaroonkamol, Field F Willingham, Saurabh Chawla
Vol 14, No 2 (2013): March – p. 109-220 Advancements in the Management of Pancreatic Cancer: 2013 ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF
Muhammad Wasif Saif
Vol 15, No 5 (2014): September – p. 413-540 New-onset Diabetes: A Clue to the Early Diagnosis of Pancreatic Cancer ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF
Suresh T Chari
Vol 13, No 5 (2012): September – p. 470-547 Effects of Porcine Pancreatic Enzymes on the Pancreas of Hamsters. Part 2: Carcinogenesis Studies ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF
Fumiaki Nozawa, Mehmet Yalniz, Murat Saruc, Jens Standop, Hiroshi Egami, Parviz M Pour
Vol 14, No 5 (2013): September – p. 475-527 Synchronous Triple Cancers of the Pancreas, Stomach, and Cecum Treated with S-1 Followed by Pancrelipase Treatment of Pancreatic Exocrine Insufficiency ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF
Koushiro Ohtsubo, Daisuke Ishikawa, Shigeki Nanjo, Shinji Takeuchi, Tadaaki Yamada, Hisatsugu Mouri, Kaname Yamashita, Kazuo Yasumoto, Toshifumi Gabata, Osamu Matsui, Hiroko Ikeda, Yasushi Takamatsu, Sakae Iwakami, Seiji Yano
Vol 13, No 1 (2012): January – p. 1-123 Newcastle Disease Virus LaSota Strain Kills Human Pancreatic Cancer Cells in Vitro with High Selectivity ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF
Robert J Walter, Bashar M Attar, Asad Rafiq, Sooraj Tejaswi, Megan Delimata
Vol 13, No 3 (2012): May – p. 252-329 Rare Solid Tumors of the Pancreas as Differential Diagnosis of Pancreatic Adenocarcinoma ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF
Sabine Kersting, Monika S Janot, Johanna Munding, Dominique Suelberg, Andrea Tannapfel, Ansgar M Chromik, Waldemar Uhl, Uwe Bergmann
Vol 14, No 4 (2013): July – p. 304-474 A Proteomic Comparison of Formalin-Fixed Paraffin-Embedded Pancreatic Tissue from Autoimmune Pancreatitis, Chronic Pancreatitis, and Pancreatic Cancer ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF  SUPPL. TABLES 1-4 (PDF)
Joao A Paulo, Vivek Kadiyala, Scott Brizard, Peter A Banks, Hanno Steen, Darwin L Conwell
Vol 13, No 4 (2012): July – p. 330-469 Highlights on the First Line Treatment of Metastatic Pancreatic Cancer ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF
Krishna S Gunturu, Jamie Jarboe, Muhammad Wasif Saif
Vol 14, No 2 (2013): March – p. 109-220 Pancreatic Cancer: Updates on Translational Research and Future Applications ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF
Evangelos G Sarris, Konstantinos N Syrigos, Muhammad Wasif Saif
Vol 14, No 4 (2013): July – p. 304-474 Pancreatic Cancer: What About Screening and Detection? ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF
Froso Konstantinou, Kostas N Syrigos, Muhammad Wasif Saif
Vol 14, No 4 (2013): July – p. 304-474 Diabetes and Pancreatic Cancer ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF
Najla Hatem El-Jurdi, Muhammad Wasif Saif
Vol 13, No 5 (2012): September – p. 470-547 Effects of Porcine Pancreatic Enzymes on the Pancreas of Hamsters. Part 1: Basic Studies ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF
Murat Saruc, Fumiaki Nozawa, Mehmet Yalniz, Atsushi Itami, Parviz M Pour
Vol 14, No 2 (2013): March – p. 109-220 Analysis of Endoscopic Pancreatic Function Test (ePFT)-Collected Pancreatic Fluid Proteins Precipitated Via Ultracentrifugation ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF  SUPPL.(XLS)  SUPPL.(PDF)
Joao A Paulo, Vivek Kadiyala, Aleksandr Gaun, John F K Sauld, Ali Ghoulidi, Peter A Banks, Hanno Steen, Darwin L Conwell
Vol 16, No 1 (2015): January – p. 1-99 Regulation Mechanisms of the Hedgehog Pathway in Pancreatic Cancer: A Review ABSTRACT  HTML  PDF
Kim Christin Honselmann, Moritz Pross, Carlo Maria Felix Jung, Ulrich Friedrich Wellner, Steffen Deichmann, Tobias Keck, Dirk Bausch
Vol 14, No 5S (2013): September (Suppl.) – p. 528-602 History of Previous Cancer in Patients Undergoing Resection for Pancreatic Adenocarcinoma ABSTRACT  PDF
Francesca Gavazzi, Maria Rachele Angiolini, Cristina Ridolfi, Maria Carla Tinti, Marco Madonini, Marco Montorsi, Alessandro Zerbi

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Voluntary and Involuntary S- Insufficiency

Writer and Curator: Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP 

Transthyretin and the Stressful Condition


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

Transthyretin and Lean Body Mass in Stable and Stressed State

A Second Look at the Transthyretin Nutrition Inflammatory Conundrum

Stabilizers that prevent transthyretin-mediated cardiomyocyte amyloidotic toxicity

Thyroid Function and Disorders

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

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

Vegan Diet is Sulfur Deficient and Heart Unhealthy

How Methionine Imbalance with Sulfur-Insufficiency Leads to Hyperhomocysteinemia

Amyloidosis with Cardiomyopathy

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

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

Automated Inferential Diagnosis of SIRS, sepsis, septic shock

Transthyretin and the Systemic Inflammatory Response 

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

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

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

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

 The Stressful Condition as a Nutritionally Dependent Adaptive Dichotomy

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

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

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

Yves Ingenbleek.
J Nutrition, Health & Aging 2009.

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

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

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

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

Prealbumin and Nutritional Evaluation

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

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

An Informational Approach to Likelihood of Malnutrition 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pallavi Manral and Natalia Reixach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Endoplasmic reticulum: The unfolded protein response is tangled In neurodegeneration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Diet and Exercise

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



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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(1) a behavior change principles approach;

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

(3) a multiple behavioral approach.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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



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

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

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

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Depth Underwater and Underground

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



Deep diving for mammals is dangerous for humans and land based animals for too long, and it has dangerous consequences, most notable in nitrogen emboli  with very deep underwater diving. Other mammals live in water and have adapted to a water habitat.  This is another topic that needs further exploration.

Deep diving has different meanings depending on the context. Even in recreational diving the meaning may vary:

In recreational diving, a depth below about 30 metres (98 ft), where nitrogen narcosis becomes a significant hazard for most divers, may be considered a “deep dive”

In technical diving, a depth below about 60 metres (200 ft) where hypoxic breathing gas becomes necessary to avoid oxygen toxicity may be considered a “deep dive”.

Early experiments carried out by Comex S.A. (Compagnie maritime d’expertises) using hydrox and trimix attained far greater depths than any recreational technical diving. One example being the Comex Janus IV open-sea dive to 501 metres (1,644 ft) in 1977. The open-sea diving depth record was achieved in 1988 by a team of Comex divers who performed pipe line connection exercises at a depth of 534 metres (1,752 ft) in the Mediterranean Sea as part of the Hydra 8 program. These divers needed to breathe special gas mixtures because they were exposed to very high ambient pressure (more than 50 times atmospheric pressure).

Then there is the adaptation to the water habitat as a living environment. The two main types of aquatic ecosystems are marine ecosystems and freshwater ecosystems.

Marine ecosystems are part of the earth’s aquatic ecosystem. The habitats that make up this vast system range from the productive nearshore regions to the barren ocean floor. The marine waters may be fully saline, brackish or nearly fresh. The saline waters have a salinity of 35-50 ppt (= parts per thousand). The freshwater has a salinity of less than 0.5 ppt. The brackish water lies in between these 2. Marine habitats are situated from the coasts, over the continental shelf to the open ocean and deep sea. The ecosystems are sometimes linked with each other and are sometimes replacing each other in other geographical regions. The reason why habitats differ from another is because of the physical factors that influence the functioning and diversity of the habitats. These factors are temperature, salinity, tides, currents, wind, wave action, light and substrate.

Marine ecosystems are home to a host of different species ranging from planktonic organisms that form the base of the marine food web to large marine mammals. Many species rely on marine ecosystems for both food and shelter from predators. They are very important to the overall health of both marine and terrestrial environments. Coastal habitats are those above the spring high tide limit or above the mean water level in non-tidal waters.  They are close to the sea and include habitats such as coastal dunes and sandy shores, beaches , cliffs and supralittoral habitats. Coastal habitats alone account for approximately 30% of all marine biological productivity.

All plant and animal life forms are included from the microscopic picoplankton all the way to the majestic blue whale, the largest creature in the sea—and for that matter in the world. It wasn’t until the writings of Aristotle from 384-322 BC that specific references to marine life were recorded. Aristotle identified a variety of species including crustaceans, echinoderms, mollusks, and fish.
Today’s classification system was developed by Carl Linnaeus external link as an important tool for use in the study of biology and for use in the protection of biodiversity. Without very specific classification information and a naming system to identify species’ relationships, scientists would be limited in attempts to accurately describe the relationships among species. Understanding these relationships helps predict how ecosystems can be altered by human or natural factors.

Preserving biodiversity is facilitated by taxonomy. Species data can be better analyzed to determine the number of different species in a community and to determine how they might be affected by environmental stresses. Family, or phylogenetic, trees for species help predict environmental impacts on individual species and their relatives.

For generations, whales and other marine mammals have intrigued humans. 2,400 years ago, Aristotle, a Greek scientist and philosopher, recognized that whales are mammals, not fish, because they nurse their young and breathe air like other mammals. There are numerous myths and legends surrounding marine mammals. The Greeks believed that killing a dolphin was as bad as murdering a human. An Amazon legend said that river dolphins came to shore dressed as men to woo pretty girls during fiestas. During the Middle Ages, there were numerous legends surrounding the narwhals’ amazing tusk, which was thought to have come from the unicorn.

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Marine mammals evolved from their land dwelling ancestors over time by developing adaptations to life in the water. To aid swimming, the body has become streamlined and the number of body projections has been reduced. The ears have shrunk to small holes in size and shape. Mammary glands and sex organs are not part of the external physiology, and posterior (hind) limbs are no longer present.

Mechanisms to prevent heat loss have also been developed. The cylindrical body shape with small appendages reduces the surface area to volume ratio of the body, which reduces heat loss. Marine mammals also have a counter current heat exchange mechanism created by convergent evolution external link where the heat from the arteries is transferred to the veins as they pass each other before getting to extremities, thus reducing heat loss. Some marine mammals also have a thick layer of fur with a water repellent undercoat and/or a thick layer of blubber that can’t be compressed. The blubber provides insulation, a food reserve, and aids with buoyancy. These heat loss adaptations can also lead to overheating for animals that spend time out of the water. To prevent overheating, seals or sea lions will swim close to the surface with their front flippers waving in the air. They also flick sand onto themselves to keep the sun from directly hitting their skin. Blood vessels can also be expanded to act as a sort of radiator.

One of the major behavioral adaptations of marine mammals is their ability to swim and dive. Pinnipeds swim by paddling their flippers while sirenians and cetaceans move their tails or flukes up and down.

Some marine mammals can swim at relatively high speeds. Sea lions swim up to 35 kph and orcas can reach 50 kph. The fastest marine mammal, however, is the common dolphin, which reaches speeds up to 64 kph. While swimming, these animals take very quick breaths. For example, fin whales can empty and refill their huge lungs in less than 2 seconds. Marine mammals’ larynx and esophagus close automatically when they open their mouths to catch prey during dives. Oxygen is stored in hemoglobin in the blood and in myoglobin in the muscles. The lungs are also collapsible so that air is pushed into the windpipe preventing excess nitrogen from being absorbed into the tissues. Decreasing pressure can cause excess nitrogen to expand in the tissues as animals ascend to shallower depths, which can lead to decompression sickness,  aka “the bends.” Bradycardia, the reduction of heart rate by 10 to 20%, also takes place to aid with slowing respiration during dives and the blood flow to non-essential body parts. These adaptations allow sea otters to stay submerged for 4 to 5 minutes and dive to depths up to 55 m. Pinnipeds can often stay down for 30 minutes and reach average depths of 150-250 m. One marine mammal with exceptional diving skills is the Weddell seal, which can stay submerged for at least 73 minutes at a time at depths up to 600 m. The length and depth of whale dives depends on the species. Baleen whales feed on plankton near the surface of the water and have no need to dive deeply so they are rarely seen diving deeper than 100 m external link. Toothed whales seek larger prey at deeper depths and some can stay down for hours at depths of up to 2,250 m external link.

Human Experience

Albert Behnke: Nitrogen Narcosis

Casey A. Grover and David H. Grover
The Journal of Emergency Medicine, 2014; 46(2):225–227

As early as 1826, divers diving to great depths noted that descent often resulted in a phenomenon of intoxication and euphoria. In 1935, Albert Behnke discovered nitrogen as the cause of this clinical syndrome, a condition now known as nitrogen narcosis. Nitrogen narcosis consists of the development of euphoria, a false sense of security, and impaired judgment upon underwater descent using compressed air below 34 atmospheres (99 to 132 feet). At greater depths, symptoms can progress to loss of consciousness. The syndrome remains relatively unchanged in modern diving when compressed air is used. Behnke’s use of non-nitrogencontaining gas mixtures subsequent to his discovery during the 1939 rescue of the wrecked submarine USS Squalus pioneered the use of non-nitrogencontaining gas mixtures, which are used by modern divers when working at great depth to avoid the effects of nitrogen narcosis.

Behnke’s first duty station as a licensed physician was as assistant medical officer for Submarine Division 20 in San Diego, which was then commanded by one of the Navy’s rising stars, Captain Chester W. Nimitz of World War II fame.
In this setting, Dr. Behnke spent his free time constructively by learning to dive, using the traditional ‘‘hard-hat’’ gear aboard the USS Ortalon, a submarine rescue vessel to which he also rotated. Diving was not a notable specialty of the Navy at the time, and the service was slow in developing the infrastructure for it. Dr. Behnke devoted his efforts to research on the topic of diving medicine, as well as developing a more sound understanding of the biophysics of diving. In 1932, he wrote a letter to the Surgeon General describing some of his observations on arterial gas embolism, which earned him some accolades from the Navy and resulted in his transfer to Harvard’s School of Public Health as a graduate fellow. After 2 years at Harvard, the Navy assigned duty to Dr. Behnke at the Navy’s submarine escape training tower at Pearl Harbor. He worked extensively here on developing techniques for rescuing personnel from disabled submarines on the sea floor. In 1937, he was one of three Navy physicians assigned to the Navy’s Experimental Diving Unit. This team worked on improving the rescue system, plus updating the diving recompression tables originally developed by the British in 1908.

The intoxicating effects of diving were first described by a French physician named Colladon in 1826, who reported that descent in a diving bell resulted in his feeling a ‘‘state of excitement as though I had drunk some alcoholic liquor’’.
The etiology of this phenomenon remained largely unknown until the 1930s, when the British military researcher Damant again highlighted the issue, and reported very unpredictable behavior in his divers during descents as deep as 320 feet during the British Admiralty Deep Sea diving trials. Two initial theories arose as to the etiology for this effect, the first being from psychological causes by Hill and Phillip in 1932, and the second being from oxygen toxicity by Haldane in 1935.

Dr. Behnke and his colleagues at the Harvard School of Public Health had another idea as to the etiology of this phenomenon. In 1935, based on observation of individuals in experiments with a pressure chamber, Dr. Behnke published an article in the American Journal of Physiology in which he posited that nitrogen was the etiology of the intoxicating effects of diving.

Nitrogen narcosis, described as ‘‘rapture of the deep’’ by Jacques Cousteau, still remains a relatively common occurrence in modern diving, despite major advances in diving technology since Behnke’s initial description of the pathophysiologic cause of the condition in 1935. The development of symptoms of this condition varies from diver to diver, but usually begins when a depth of 4 atmospheres (132 feet) is reached in divers using compressed air. More sensitive divers can develop symptoms at only 3 atmospheres (99 feet), and other divers may not be affected up to depths as high as 6 atmospheres (198 feet). Interestingly, tolerance to nitrogen narcosis can be developed by frequent diving and exposure to the effects of compressed air at depth.

  1. Acott C. A brief history of diving and decompression illness. SPUMS J 1999;29:98–109.
    2. Bornmann R. Dr. Behnke, founder of UHMS, dies. Pressure 1992; 21:14.
    3. Behnke AR, Thomson RM, Motley P. The psychologic effects from breathing air at 4 atmospheric pressures. Am J Physiol 1935; 112:554–8.
    4. Behnke AR, Johnson FS, Poppen JR, Motley P. The effect of oxygen on man at pressures from 1 to 4 atmospheres. AmJ Physiol 1934; 110:565–72.

Exhaled nitric oxide concentration and decompression-induced bubble formation: An index of decompression severity in humans?

J.-M. Pontier, Buzzacott, J. Nastorg, A.T. Dinh-Xuan, K. Lambrechts
Nitric Oxide 39 (2014) 29–34

Introduction: Previous studies have highlighted a decreased exhaled nitric oxide concentration (FE NO) in divers after hyperbaric exposure in a dry chamber or following a wet dive. The underlying mechanisms of this decrease remain however unknown. The aim of this study was to quantify the separate effects of submersion, hyperbaric hyperoxia exposure and decompression-induced bubble formation on FE NO after a wet dive.
Methods: Healthy experienced divers (n = 31) were assigned to either

  • a group making a scuba-air dive (Air dive),
  • a group with a shallow oxygen dive protocol (Oxygen dive) or

a group making a deep dive breathing a trimix gas mixture (deep-dive).
Bubble signals were graded with the KISS score. Before and after each dive FE NO values were measured using a hand-held electrochemical analyzer.
Results: There was no change in post-dive values of FE NO values (expressed in ppb = parts per billion) in the Air dive group (15.1 ± 3.6 ppb vs. 14.3 ± 4.7 ppb, n = 9, p = 0.32). There was a significant decrease in post-dive values of FE NO in the Oxygen dive group (15.6 ± 6 ppb vs. 11.7 ± 4.7 ppb, n = 9, p = 0.009). There was an even more pronounced decrease in the deep dive group (16.4 ± 6.6 ppb vs. 9.4 ± 3.5 ppb, n = 13, p < 0.001) and a significant correlation between KISS bubble score >0 (n = 13) and percentage decrease in post-dive FE NO values (r = -0.53, p = 0.03). Discussion: Submersion and hyperbaric hyperoxia exposure cannot account entirely for these results suggesting the possibility that, in combination, one effect magnifies the other. A main finding of the present study is a significant relationship between reduction in exhaled NO concentration and dive-induced bubble formation. We postulate that exhaled NO concentration could be a useful index of decompression severity in healthy human divers.

Brain Damage in Commercial Breath-Hold Divers

Kiyotaka Kohshi, H Tamaki, F Lemaıtre, T Okudera, T Ishitake, PJ Denoble
PLoS ONE 9(8): e105006

Background: Acute decompression illness (DCI) involving the brain (Cerebral DCI) is one of the most serious forms of diving related injuries which may leave residual brain damage. Cerebral DCI occurs in compressed air and in breath-hold divers, likewise. We conducted this study to investigate whether long-term breath-hold divers who may be exposed to repeated symptomatic and asymptomatic brain injuries, show brain damage on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Subjects and Methods: Our study subjects were 12 commercial breath-hold divers (Ama) with long histories of diving work in a district of Japan. We obtained information on their diving practices and the presence or absence of medical problems, especially DCI events. All participants were examined with MRI to determine the prevalence of brain lesions.
Results: Out of 12 Ama divers (mean age: 54.965.1 years), four had histories of cerebral DCI events, and 11 divers demonstrated ischemic lesions of the brain on MRI studies. The lesions were situated in the cortical and/or subcortical area (9 cases), white matters (4 cases), the basal ganglia (4 cases), and the thalamus (1 case). Subdural fluid collections were seen in 2 cases. Conclusion: These results suggest that commercial breath-hold divers are at a risk of clinical or subclinical brain injury which may affect the long-term neuropsychological health of divers.

Decompression illness

Richard D Vann, Frank K Butler, Simon J Mitchell, Richard E Moon
Lancet 2010; 377: 153–64

Decompression illness is caused by intravascular or extravascular bubbles that are formed as a result of reduction in environmental pressure (decompression). The term covers both arterial gas embolism, in which alveolar gas or venous gas emboli (via cardiac shunts or via pulmonary vessels) are introduced into the arterial circulation, and decompression sickness, which is caused by in-situ bubble formation from dissolved inert gas. Both syndromes can occur in divers, compressed air workers, aviators, and astronauts, but arterial gas embolism also arises from iatrogenic causes unrelated to decompression. Risk of decompression illness is
affected by immersion, exercise, and heat or cold. Manifestations range from itching and minor pain to neurological symptoms, cardiac collapse, and death. First aid treatment is 100% oxygen and definitive treatment is recompression to increased pressure, breathing 100% oxygen. Adjunctive treatment, including fluid administration and prophylaxis against venous thromboembolism in paralyzed patients, is also recommended. Treatment is, in most cases, effective although residual deficits can remain in serious cases, even after several recompressions.

Bubbles can have mechanical, embolic, and biochemical effects with manifestations ranging from trivial to fatal. Clinical manifestations can be caused by direct effects from extravascular (autochthonous) bubbles such as mechanical distortion of tissues causing pain, or vascular obstruction causing stroke-like signs and symptoms. Secondary effects can cause delayed symptom onset up to 24 h after surfacing. Endothelial damage by intravascular bubbles can cause capillary leak, extravasation of plasma, and haemoconcentration. Impaired endothelial function, as measured by decreased effects of vasoactive compounds, has been reported in animals and might occur in man. Hypotension can occur in severe cases. Other effects include platelet activation and deposition, leucocyte-endothelial adhesion, and possibly consequences of vascular occlusion believed to occur in thromboembolic stroke such as ischaemia-reperfusion injury, and apoptosis.

Classification of initial and of all eventual manifestations of decompression illness in 2346 recreational diving accidents reported to the Divers Alert Network from 1998 to 2004 For all instances of pain, 58% consisted of joint pain, 35% muscle pain, and 7% girdle pain. Girdle pain often portends spinal cord involvement. Constitutional symptoms included headache, lightheadedness, inappropriate fatigue, malaise, nausea or vomiting, and anorexia. Muscular discomfort included stiffness, pressure, cramps, and spasm but excluded pain. Pulmonary manifestations included dyspnoea and cough.

Other than depth and time, risk of decompression sickness is affected by other factors that affect inert gas exchange and bubble formation, such as immersion (vs dry hyperbaric chamber exposure), exercise, and temperature. Immersion decreases venous pooling and increases venous return and cardiac output. Warm environments improve peripheral perfusion by promoting vasodilation, whereas cool temperatures decrease perfusion through vasoconstriction. Exercise increases both peripheral perfusion and temperature. The effect of environmental conditions on risk of decompression sickness is dependent on the phase of the pressure exposure. Pressure, exercise, immersion, or a hot environment increase inert gas uptake and risk of decompression sickness. During decom-pression these factors increase inert gas elimination and therefore decrease the risk of decompression sickness. Conversely, uptake is reduced during rest or in a cold environment, hence a diver resting in a cold environment on the bottom has decreased risk of decompression sickness. Rest or low temperatures during decompression increase the risk. If exercise occurs after decompression when super-saturation is present, bubble formation increases and risk of decompression sickness rises.

Exercise at specific times before a dive can decrease the risk of serious decompression sickness in animals and incidence of venous gas emboli in both animals and man. The mechanisms of these effects are unknown but might involve modulation of nitric oxide production and effects on endothelium. Venous gas emboli and risk of decompression sickness increase slightly with age and body-mass index.

Arterial gas embolism should be suspected if a diver has a new onset of altered consciousness, confusion, focal cortical signs, or seizure during ascent or within a few minutes after surfacing from a compressed gas dive.

If the diver spends much time at depth and might have absorbed substantial inert gas before surfacing, arterial gas embolism and serious decompression sickness can coexist, and in such cases, spinal cord manifestations can predominate. Other organ systems, such as the heart, can also be affected, but the clinical diagnosis of gas embolism is not reliable without CNS manifestations. Arterial gas embolism is rare in altitude exposure; if cerebral symptoms occur after altitude exposure, the cause is usually decompression sickness.

Nondermatomal hypoaesthesia and truncal ataxia are common in neurological decompression sickness and can be missed by cursory examination. Pertinent information includes level of consciousness and mental status, cranial nerve function, and motor strength. Coordination can be affected disproportionately, and abnormalities can be detected by assessment of finger-nose movement, and, with eyes open and closed, ability to stand and walk and do heel-toe walking backwards and forwards. Many of these simple tests can be done on the scene by untrained companions.

Panel: Differential diagnosis of decompression illness
Inner-ear barotrauma
Middle-ear or maxillary sinus overinfl ation
Contaminated diving gas and oxygen toxic effects
Musculoskeletal strains or trauma sustained before, during, or after diving
Seafood toxin ingestion (ciguatera, pufferfish, paralytic shellfish poisoning)
Immersion pulmonary edema
Water aspiration
Decompression chamber

Decompression chamber

Decompression chamber. fluidic or pneumatic ventilator is shown at the left. The infusion pump is contained within a plastic cover, in which 100% nitrogen is used to decrease the fi re risk in the event of an electrical problem. The monitor screen is outside the chamber and can be seen through the viewing port. Photo from Duke University Medical Center, with permission.

Long-term outcomes of 69 divers with spinal cord decompressionsickness, by manifestation
n %
No residual symptoms 34 49·3
Any residual symptom 35 50·7
Mild paraesthesias, weakness, or pain 14 20·3
Some impairment of daily activities 21 30·4
Difficulty walking 11 15·9
Impaired micturition 13 18·8
Impaired defecation 15 21·7
Impaired sexual function 15 21·7

Decompression illness occurs in a small population but is an international problem that few physicians are trained to recognise or manage. Although its manifestations are often mild, the potential for permanent injury exists in severe cases, especially if unrecognised or inadequately treated. Emergency medical personnel should be aware of manifestations of decompression illness in the setting of a patient with a history of recent diving or other exposure to substantial pressure change, and should contact an appropriate consultation service for advice.

Diving Medicine: Contemporary Topics and Their Controversies

Michael B. Strauss and Robert C. Borer, Jr
Am J Emerg Med 2001; 19:232-238

SCUBA diving is a popular recreational sport. Although serious injuries occur infrequently, when they do knowledge of diving medicine and/or where to obtain appropriate consultation is essential. The emergency physician is likely to be the first physician contact the injured diver has. We discuss 8 subjects
in diving medicine which are contemporary, yet may have controversies associated with them. From this information the physician dealing primarily with the injured diver will have a basis for understanding and managing, as
well as where to find additional help, for his/her patients’ diving injuries.

Over the past 10 years, new knowledge and equipment improvements have made diving safer and more enjoyable. Estimates of actively participating sports divers show a striking increase over this time interval while the number of SCUBA diving deaths annually has remained nearly level at approximately 100. A further indicator of recreational diving safety is that reflected in the nearly constant number of diving injuries (1000 per annum) over the most recent 5 reported years, or approximately 0.53 to 3.4 incidents/10,000 dives.

Divers Alert Network.
The Divers Alert Network (DAN) is a nonprofit organization directed and staffed by experts in the specialty of diving medicine.6 DAN provides immediate consultation for both divers and physicians in the diagnosis and initial management of diving injuries. This 24-hour service is available free world-wide through a dedicated emergency telephone line: 1-919-684-4326. The DAN staff will also identify the nearest appropriate recompression treatment facility and knowledgeable physicians for an expedient referral. General diving medical inquiries can be answered during normal weekday hours either through an information telephone line: 1-919-684-2948 or through an interactive web site

Use of 100% Oxygen for Initial, on the Scene, Management of Diving Accidents
The breathing of pure oxygen is crucial for the initial management of the diving related problems of arterial gas embolism (AGE), decompression sickness (DCS), pulmonary barotrauma (thoracic squeeze), aspiration pneumonitis, and hypoxic encephalopathy associated with near drowning. In 1985, Dick reported that in many cases the neurologic symptoms of AGE and DCS were resolved with the immediate breathing of pure oxygen on the surface. The breathing of pure oxygen reduces bubble size by increasing the differential pressure for the inert gas to diffuse out of the bubble and it also speeds the washout of inert gas from body tissues. The early elimination of the bubble prevents hypoxia and the interaction of the bubble with the blood vessel lining. This interaction leads to secondary problems of capillary leak, bleeding, inflammation, ischemia, and cell death. These secondary problems are the reasons not all DCS symptoms resolve with recompression chamber treatment. The immediate use of pure oxygen for the medical management of these diving problems is analogous to the use of cardiopulmonary resuscitation for the witnessed cardiac arrest; the sooner initiated the better the results.

Diving Education

Medical Fitness for Diving

Asthma has the potential risk for AGE. Neuman reviewed the subject of asthma and diving. He and his coauthors recommend that asthmatics who are asymptomatic, not on medications and have no exercised induced abnormality on pulmonary function studies be allowed to dive.

Conditions leading to loss of consciousness, such as insulin dependent diabetes and epilepsy, can result in drowning. Carefully controlled diving studies in diabetics, who are free from complications, are now defining the safe requirements for diving. Epilepsy remains as a disqualification except in individuals with a history of febrile seizures ending prior to 5 years of age.

Availability of Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatment Facilities

The availability of these chambers makes it possible for divers who become symptomatic after SCUBA diving to readily receive recompression treatment. This is important because the closer the initiation of recompression treatment to the onset of DCS (and AGE) signs and symptoms, the greater the likelihood of full recovery.

Improved Diving Equipment

Mixed and Rebreather Gas Diving
Mixed gas diving involves changing the breathing gas from air which has 20% oxygen to higher oxygen percentages (nitrox). As the amount of oxygen is increased in the gas mixture, the amount of the inert gas (nitrogen) is reduced. With oxygen enriched air there is less tissue deposition of inert gas per unit of time under water for any given depth. However, because of increased oxygen partial pressures, the seizure threshold for oxygen toxicity is lowered. For normal sports diving activities, oxygen toxicity with mixed gas diving is only a theoretical concern.

Decompression Illness is More Than Bubbles

When AGE occurs, DCS symptoms may be concurrent or appear during or after recompression treatment even though the decompression tables were not violated on the dive. When DCS occurs in this situation it appears resistant to recompression treatment (Neuman) perhaps because of the inflammatory reaction generated by the bubble-blood vessel interaction from the AGE. In cases of DCI where components of both DCS and AGE are suspected, the diver should be observed for a minimum of 24 hours after the recompression treatment is completed for the delayed onset of DCS.

No theory of DCS discounts the primary role of bubbles in this condition. However, new information suggests that there are precursors to bubble formation and post-bubbling events that occur as a consequence of the bubbles. As mentioned earlier, venous gas emboli are a common occurrence diving ascent and ordinarily are filtered out harmlessly by the lungs. Precursors to DCS include stasis, dehydration and too rapid of ascents. These conditions allow the ubiquitous VGE to enlarge, coalesce and occlude the venous side of the circulation. Massive venous bubbling to the lungs can cause pulmonary vessel obstruction described as the chokes. If right to left shunts occur in the heart, VGE can become AGE to the brain. If the arterial flow is slow enough and/or the gradients large enough, autochthonus (ie, spontaneous) bubbles can form in the arterial circulation and lead to any of the consequences of AGE. In such situations it could be difficult to determine whether the DCI event was from AGE or DCS even after careful analysis of the dive profile. Hollenbeck’s model for diving paraplegia includes the setting of venous stasis (Batson’s plexus of veins) in the spinal canal, bubble formation, bubble enlargement possibly from off gassing of the spinal cord, blood vessel occlusion, and venous side infarctions of the spinal cord.
Contemporary Management of DCS

Problem Intervention Effect
Bubble Recompression
with HBO
Reduce bubble size
1. Washout inert gas.
2. Change bubble composition by diffusion.
Stasis and dehydration Hydration: oral fluids if alert, IV fluids otherwise. Improve blood flow.
InflammationCell Ischemia ? Anti-inflammatory medicationsHBO Reduce interaction between bubble and blood vessel endothelium.
Improve oxygen availability to hypoxic tissues, reduce edema and also reduces the interaction between bubble and blood vessel endothelium.



We anticipate that in the future there will be further improvements for the safety and enjoyment of the recreational SCUBA diver. For example, the dive computer of the future will be able to individualize dive profiles for different personal medical parameters such as age, body composition and fitness level. Diver locators could quickly target a missing diver and save time and gas consumption as well as prevent serious diving mishaps. Drugs may be developed that would minimize the effect of bubbles interacting with body tissues and prevent DCS and AGE.

Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation therapy for pulmonary decompression illness

Yutaka Kondo, Masataka Fukami and Ichiro Kukita
Kondo et al. Critical Care 2014; 18:438

Pulmonary decompression illness is rarely observed in clinical settings, and most patients die prior to hospitalization. We administered ECMO therapy to rescue a patient, even though this therapy has rarely been reported with good outcome in patients with decompression illness. In addition, we had to select venovenous ECMO even with the patient showing right ventricular failure. A lot of physicians may select venoarterial ECMO if the patient shows right ventricular failure, but the important physiological mechanism of pulmonary decompression illness is massive air embolism in the pulmonary arteries, and the bubbles diminish within the first 24 hours. The management of decompression illness therefore differs substantially from the usual right-sided heart failure.

Extremes of barometric pressure

Jane E Risdall, David P Gradwell
Anaesthesia and Intensive Care Medicine 16:2
Ascent to elevated altitude, commonly achieved through flight, by climbing or by residence in highland regions, exposes the individual to reduced ambient pressure. Although there are physical manifestations of this exposure as a consequence of Boyle’s law, the primary physiological challenge is of hypobaric hypoxia. The acute physiological and longer-term adaptive responses of the cardiovascular, respiratory, hematological and neurological systems to altitude are described, together with an outline of the presentation and management of acute mountain sickness, high-altitude pulmonary edema and high-altitude cerebral edema. While many millions experience modest exposure to altitude as a result of flight in pressurized aircraft, fewer individuals are exposed to increased ambient pressure. The pressure changes during diving and hyperbaric exposures result in greater changes in gas load and gas toxicity. Physiological effects include the consequences of increased work of breathing and redistribution of circulating volume. Neurological manifestations may be the direct result of pressure or a consequence of gas toxicity at depth. Increased tissue gas loads may result in decompression illness on return to surface or subsequent ascent in flight.

  • understand the physical effects of changes in ambient pressure and the physiological consequences on the cardiovascular respiratory and neurological systems
  • gain an awareness that exposure to reduced ambient pressure produces both acute and more chronic effects, with differing signs, symptoms and time to onset at various altitudes
  • develop an awareness of the toxic effects of ‘inert’ gases at increased ambient pressures and the pathogenesis and management of decompression illness

Decompression illness According to Henry’s law, at a constant temperature the amount of gas which dissolves in a liquid is proportional to the pressure of that gas or its partial pressure, if it is part of a mixture of gases. Breathing gases at increased ambient pressure will increase the amount of each gas dissolved in the fluid phases of body tissues. On ascent this excess gas has to be given up. If the ascent is controlled at a sufficiently slow rate, elimination will be via the respiratory system. If the ascent is too fast, excess gas may come out of solution and form free bubbles in the tissues or circulation. Bubbles may contain any of the gases in the breathing mixture, but it is the presence of inert gas bubbles (nitrogen or helium) that are thought most likely to give rise to problems, since the elimination of excess oxygen is achieved by metabolism as well as ventilation. These bubbles may act as venous emboli or may trigger inflammatory tissue responses giving rise to symptoms of decompression illness (DCI). Signs and symptoms of DCI may appear up to 48 hours after exposure to increased ambient pressure and include joint pains, motor and sensory deficits, dyspnoea, cough and skin rashes.

Neurological effects of deep diving

Marit Grønning, Johan A. Aarli
Journal of the Neurological Sciences 304 (2011) 17–21

Deep diving is defined as diving to depths more than 50 m of seawater (msw), and is mainly used for occupational and military purposes. A deep dive is characterized by the compression phase, the bottom time and the decompression phase. Neurological and neurophysiologic effects are demonstrated in divers during the compression phase and the bottom time. Immediate and transient neurological effects after deep dives have been shown in some divers. However, the results from the epidemiological studies regarding long term neurological effects from deep diving are conflicting and still not conclusive.

Possible immediate neurological effects of deep diving
Syndrome Pressure
Hyperoxia/oxygen seizures >152 kPa (5 msw)
Nitrogen narcosis >354 kPa (25 msw)
High pressure nervous syndrome >1.6 MPa (150 msw)
Neurological decompression sickness

Neurological effects have been demonstrated, both clinically and neurophysiologically in divers during the compression phase and the bottom time. Studies of divers before and after deep dives have shown immediate and transient neurological effects in some divers. However, the results from the epidemiological and clinical studies regarding long term neurological effects from deep diving are conflicting and still not conclusive. Prospective clinical studies with sufficient power and sensitivity are needed to solve this important issue.

Today deep diving to more than 100 msw is routinely performed globally in the oil- and gas industry. In the North Sea remote underwater intervention and maintenance is performed by the use of remotely operated vehicles (ROV), both in conjunction to and as an alternative to manned underwater operations. There will, however, always be a need for human divers in the technically more advanced underwater operations and for contingency repair operations.

P300 latency indexes nitrogen narcosis

Barry Fowler, Janice Pogue and Gerry Porlier
Electroencephalography, and clinical Neurophysiology, 1990, 75:221-229

This experiment investigated the effects of nitrogen narcosis on reaction time (RT) and P300 latency and amplitude, Ten subjects breathed either air or a non-narcotic 20% oxygen-80% helium (heliox) mixture in a hyperbaric chamber at 6.5, 8.3 and 10 atmospheres absolute (ATA), The subjects responded under controlled accuracy conditions to visually presented male or female names in an oddball paradigm. Single-trial analysis revealed a strong relationship between RT and P300 latency, both of which were slowed in a dose-related manner by hyperbaric air but not by heliox. A clear-cut dose-response relationship could not be established for P300 amplitude. These results indicate that P300 latency indexes nitrogen narcosis and are interpreted as support for the slowed processing model of inert gas narcosis.

Adaptation to Deep Water Habitat

Effects of hypoxia on ionic regulation, glycogen utilization and antioxidative ability in the gills and liver of the aquatic air-breathing fish Trichogaster microlepis

Chun-Yen Huang, Hui-Chen Lina, Cheng-Huang Lin
Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology, Part A 179 (2015) 25–34

We examined the hypothesis that Trichogaster microlepis, a fish with an accessory air-breathing organ, uses a compensatory strategy involving changes in both behavior and protein levels to enhance its gas exchange ability. This compensatory strategy enables the gill ion-regulatory metabolism to maintain homeostasis during exposure to hypoxia. The present study aimed to determinewhether ionic regulation, glycogen utilization and antioxidant activity differ in terms of expression under hypoxic stresses; fish were sampled after being subjected to 3 or 12 h of hypoxia and 12 h of recovery under normoxia. The air-breathing behavior of the fish increased under hypoxia. No morphological modification of the gills was observed. The expression of carbonic anhydrase II did not vary among the treatments. The Na+/K+-ATPase enzyme activity did not decrease, but increases in Na+/K+-ATPase protein expression and ionocyte levels were observed. The glycogen utilization increased under hypoxia as measured by glycogen phosphorylase protein expression and blood glucose level, whereas the glycogen content decreased. The enzyme activity of several components of the antioxidant system in the gills, including catalase, glutathione peroxidase, and superoxidase dismutase, increased in enzyme activity. Based on the above data, we concluded that T. microlepis is a hypoxia-tolerant species that does not exhibit ion-regulatory suppression but uses glycogen to maintain energy utilization in the gills under hypoxic stress. Components of the antioxidant system showed increased expression under the applied experimental treatments.

Divergence date estimation and a comprehensive molecular tree of extant cetaceans

Michael R. McGowen , Michelle Spaulding, John Gatesy
Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 53 (2009) 891–906

Cetaceans are remarkable among mammals for their numerous adaptations to an entirely aquatic existence, yet many aspects of their phylogeny remain unresolved. Here we merged 37 new sequences from the nuclear genes RAG1 and PRM1 with most published molecular data for the group (45 nuclear loci, transposons, mitochondrial genomes), and generated a supermatrix consisting of 42,335 characters. The great majority of these data have never been combined. Model-based analyses of the supermatrix produced a solid, consistent phylogenetic hypothesis for 87 cetacean species. Bayesian analyses corroborated odontocete (toothed whale) monophyly, stabilized basal odontocete relationships, and completely resolved branching events within Mysticeti (baleen whales) as well as the problematic speciose clade Delphinidae (oceanic dolphins). Only limited conflicts relative to maximum likelihood results were recorded, and discrepancies found in parsimony trees were very weakly supported. We utilized the Bayesian supermatrix tree to estimate divergence dates among lineages using relaxed-clock methods. Divergence estimates revealed rapid branching of basal odontocete lineages near the Eocene–Oligocene boundary, the antiquity of river dolphin lineages, a Late Miocene radiation of balaenopteroid mysticetes, and a recent rapid radiation of Delphinidae beginning [1]10 million years ago. Our comprehensive,  time calibrated tree provides a powerful evolutionary tool for broad-scale comparative studies of Cetacea.

Mitogenomic analyses provide new insights into cetacean origin and evolution

Ulfur Arnason, Anette Gullberg, Axel Janke
Gene 333 (2004) 27–34

The evolution of the order Cetacea (whales, dolphins, porpoises) has, for a long time, attracted the attention of evolutionary biologists. Here we examine cetacean phylogenetic relationships on the basis of analyses of complete mitochondrial genomes that represent all extant cetacean families. The results suggest that the ancestors of recent cetaceans had an explosive evolutionary radiation 30–35 million years before present. During this period, extant cetaceans divided into the two primary groups, Mysticeti (baleen whales) and Odontoceti (toothed whales). Soon after this basal split, the Odontoceti diverged into the four extant lineages, sperm whales, beaked whales, Indian river dolphins and delphinoids (iniid river dolphins, narwhals/belugas, porpoises and true dolphins). The current data set has allowed test of two recent morphological hypotheses on cetacean origin. One of these hypotheses posits that Artiodactyla and Cetacea originated from the extinct group Mesonychia, and the other that Mesonychia/Cetacea constitutes a sister group to Artiodactyla. The current results are inconsistent with both these hypotheses. The findings suggest that the claimed morphological similarities between Mesonychia and Cetacea are the result of evolutionary convergence rather than common ancestry.

The order Cetacea traditionally includes three suborders: the extinct Archaeoceti and the recent Odontoceti and Mysticeti. It is commonly believed that the evolution of ancestral cetaceans from terrestrial to marine (aquatic) life was accompanied by a fast and radical morphological adaptation. Such a scenario may explain why it was, for a long time, difficult to morphologically establish the position of Cetacea in the mammalian tree and even to settle whether Cetacea constituted a monophyletic group.

Biochemical analyses in the 1950s  and 1960s had shown a closer relationship between cetaceans and artiodactyls (even-toed hoofed mammals) than between cetaceans and any other eutherian order and karyological studies in the late 1960s and early 1970s unequivocally supported cetacean monophyly (Arnason, 1969, 1974). The nature of the relationship between cetaceans and artiodactyls was resolved in phylogenetic studies of mitochondrial (mt) cytochrome b (cytb) genes (Irwin and Arnason, 1994; Arnason and Gullberg, 1996) that placed Cetacea within the order Artiodactyla itself as the sister group of the Hippopotamidae (see also Sarich, 1993). The Hippopotamidae/ Cetacea relationship was subsequently supported in studies of nuclear data (Gatesy et al., 1996; Gatesy, 1997) and statistically established in analysis of complete mt genomes (Ursing and Arnason, 1998). The relationship has also been confirmed in analyses of combined nuclear and mt sequences (Gatesy et al., 1999; Cassens et al., 2000) and in studies of short interspersed repetitive elements (SINEs). Artiodactyla and Cetacea are now commonly referred to as Cetartiodactyla.

Previous analyses of the complete cytb gene of more than 30 cetacean species (Arnason and Gullberg, 1996) identified five primary lineages of recent cetaceans, viz., Mysticeti and the four odontocete lineages Physeteridae (sperm whales), Platanistidae (Indian river dolphins), Ziphiidae (beaked whales) and Delphinoidea (iniid river dolphins, porpoises, narwhals and dolphins). However, these studies left unresolved the relationships of the five lineages as well as those between the three delphinoid families Monodontidae (narwhals, belugas), Phocoenidae (porpoises) and Delphinidae (dolphins). Similarly, the relationships between the four mysticete families Balaenidae (right whales), Neobalaenidae (pygmy right whales), Eschrichtiidae (gray whales) and Balaenopteridae (rorquals) were not conclusively resolved in analyses of cytb genes.

Fig. (not shown). Cetartiodactyl relationships and the estimated times of their divergences. The tree was established on the basis of maximum likelihood analysis of the concatenated amino acid (aa) sequences of 12 mt protein-coding genes. Length of alignment 3610 aa. Support values for branches A–H are shown in the insert.
Cetruminantia (branch A) receives moderate support and Cetancodonta (B) strong support. Cetacea (C) splits into monophyletic Mysticeti (baleen whales) and monophyletic Odontoceti (toothed whales). Odontoceti has four basal lineages, Physeteridae (sperm whales: represented by the sperm and pygmy sperm whales), Ziphiidae (beaked whales: bottlenose and Baird’s beaked whales), Platanistidae (Indian river dolphins: Indian river dolphin) and Delphinoidea. Delphinoidea encompasses the families Iniidae (iniid river dolphins: Amazon river dolphin, La Plata dolphin), Monodontidae (narwhals/belugas: narwhal), Phocoenidae (porpoises: harbour porpoise) and Delphinidae (dolphins: white-beaked dolphin). The common odontocete branch and the branches separating the four cetacean lineages are short. These relationships are therefore somewhat unstable (cf. Section 3.1 and Table 1). Iniid river dolphins (F) are solidly nested within the Delphinoidea (E). Thus, traditional river dolphins (Platanistidae + Iniidae) do not form a monophyletic unit. Molecular estimates of divergence times (Sanderson 2002) were based on two calibration points, A/C-60 and O/M-35 (cf. Section 3.2). Due to the short lengths of internal branches, some estimates for these divergences overlap. NJ: neighbor joining; MP: maximum parsimony; LBP: local bootstrap probability; QP: quartet puzzling. The bar shows the number of aa substitutions per site.

The limited molecular resolution among basal cetacean lineages has been known for some time. Studies of hemoglobin and myoglobin (Goodman, 1989; Czelusniak et al., 1990) have either joined Physeteridae and Mysticeti to the exclusion of Delphinoidea (myoglobin data) or Mysticeti and Delphinoidea to the exclusion of Physeteridae (hemoglobin data). Thus, neither of the data sets identified monophyletic Odontoceti by joining the two odontocete lineages (Physeteridae and Delphinoidea) to the exclusion of Mysticeti. A similar instability was recognized and cautioned against in analyses of some mt data, notably, sequences of rRNA genes (Arnason et al., 1993b). The suggestion (Milinkovitch et al., 1993) of a sister group relationship between Physeteridae and the mysticete family Balaenopteridae (rorquals) was based on a myoglobin data set (which joins Physeteridae and Mysticeti to the exclusion of Delphinoidea) that was complemented with partial data of the mt 16S rRNA gene.

The cetancodont divergence times calculated using A/C-60 and O/M-35 as references have been included in Fig. 1. As a result of the short branches separating several cetacean lineages, the estimates of these divergences overlap. The same observation has been made in calculations based on SINE flanking sequences (Nikaido et al., 2001). There is a general consistency between the current and the flanking sequence datings, except for those involving the Balaenopteridae, which are somewhat younger in our analysis than in the SINEs study. The currently estimated age of the divergence between Hippopotamus and Cetacea (c53.5 MYBP) is consistent with the age (>50 MY) of the oldest archaeocete fossils identified so far (Bajpai and Gingerich, 1998). This suggests that the ages allocated to the two references, A/C-60 (the divergence between ruminant artiodactyls and cetancodonts) and O/M-35 (the divergence between odontocetes and mysticetes) are reasonably accurate.

The dating of the divergence between the blue and fin whales is of interest regarding hybridization between closely related mammalian species. Previous molecular analyses (Arnason et al., 1991b; Spilliaert et al., 1991) demonstrated the occurrence of hybridization between these two species. These studies, which were based on three hybrids (one female and two males), showed that either species could be the mother or father in these hybridizations. The two male hybrids had rudimentary testes, whereas the female hybrid was in her second pregnancy. This suggests that the blue and fin whales may be close to the limit for permissible species hybridization among mammals.

The current data set has allowed examination of the coherence between the molecular results and two prevalent morphological hypotheses related to cetacean evolution. The first hypothesis, which in essence originates from Van Valen (1966, 1968), postulates that monophyletic Artiodactyla and monophyletic Cetacea evolved separately from the extinct Palaeocene group Mesonychia. This hypothesis was recently reinforced in a morphological study (Thewissen et al., 2001) that included mesonychians, two archaeocete taxa (Ambuloocetus and Pakicetus) and some extant and fossil artiodactyls. The study of Thewissen et al. (2001) showed a sister group relationship between monophyletic Artiodactyla and monophyletic Cetacea, with Mesonychia as the basal sister group of Artiodactyla/Cetacea, a conclusion consistent with the palaeontological age of Mesonychia relative to that of Artiodactyla and Cetacea. The second hypothesis favours a sister group relationship between Mesonychia and Cetacea with the Mesonychia/Cetacea clade as the sister group of monophyletic Artiodactyla (O’Leary and Geisler, 1999; see also Gatesy and O’Leary, 2001).

Although the position of Mesonychia differs in the two morphological hypotheses, both correspond to a sister group relationship between Cetacea and monophyletic Artiodactyla among extant cetartiodactyls. Thus, both hypotheses can be tested against the current data set. The result of such a test has been included in Table 1, topology (m)(not shown). As evident, both these morphological hypotheses are incongruent with the mitogenomic findings.

Morphological studies have not provided an answer to the question whether mysticetes and odontocetes had separate origins among the archaeocetes (Fordyce and de Muizon, 2001). However, the long common cetacean branch and the short branches separating the five extant cetacean lineages strongly suggest an origin of modern cetaceans from the same archaeocete group (probably the Dorudontidae).

The limbs of Ambulocetus constitute somewhat of an evolutionary enigma. As evident in Thewissen et al.’s (1994) paper, Ambulocetus has very large hind limbs compared to its forelimbs, a difference that is less pronounced in later silhouette drawings of the animal. It is nevertheless evident that evolution from the powerful hindlimbs of Ambulocetus to their rudimentation in archaeocetes constitutes a remarkable morphological reversal if Ambulocetus is connected to the cetacean branch after the separation of the hippopotamid and cetacean lineages.

For natural reasons, systematic schemes have traditionally been based on external morphological characteristics. The rates of morphological and molecular evolution are rarely (if ever) strictly correlated, however, and this may give rise to inconsistency between traditional systematics and molecular findings. The emerging consensus that the order Cetacea resides within another traditional order, Artiodactyla, makes apparent the incongruity in cetartiodactyl nomenclature (Graur and Higgins, 1994). In this instance, a possible solution for maintaining reasonable consistency between nomenclature and phylogeny would be to recognize Cetartiodactyla as an order with three suborders: Suina, Tylopoda and Cetruminantia. According to such a scheme, Cetacea would (together with the Hippopotamidae) constitute a parvorder within the infraorder Cetancodonta.

Cytochrome b and Bayesian inference of whale phylogeny

Laura May-Collado, Ingi Agnarsson
Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 38 (2006) 344–354

In the mid 1990s cytochrome b and other mitochondrial DNA data reinvigorated cetacean phylogenetics by proposing many novel

and provocative hypotheses of cetacean relationships. These results sparked a revision and reanalysis of morphological datasets, and the collection of new nuclear DNA data from numerous loci. Some of the most controversial mitochondrial hypotheses have now become benchmark clades, corroborated with nuclear DNA and morphological data; others have been resolved in favor of more traditional views. That major conflicts in cetacean phylogeny are disappearing is encouraging. However, most recent papers aim specifically to resolve higher-level conflicts by adding characters, at the cost of densely sampling taxa to resolve lower-level relationships. No molecular study to date has included more than 33 cetaceans. More detailed molecular phylogenies will provide better tools for evolutionary studies. Until more genes are available for a high number of taxa, can we rely on readily available single gene mitochondrial data? Here, we estimate the phylogeny of 66 cetacean taxa and 24 outgroups based on Cytb sequences. We judge the reliability of our phylogeny based on the recovery of several deep-level benchmark clades. A Bayesian phylogenetic analysis recovered all benchmark clades and for the Wrst time supported Odontoceti monophyly based exclusively on analysis of a single mitochondrial gene. The results recover the monophyly, with the exception of only one taxa within Cetacea, and the most recently proposed super- and subfamilies. In contrast, parsimony never recovered all benchmark clades and was sensitive to a priori weighting decisions. These results provide the most detailed phylogeny of Cetacea to date and highlight the utility of both Bayesian methodology in general, and of Cytb in cetacean phylogenetics. They furthermore suggest that dense taxon sampling, like dense character sampling, can overcome problems in phylogenetic reconstruction.

Some long standing debates are all but resolved: our understanding of deeper level cetacean phylogeny has grown strong. However, the strong focus of most recent studies, aiming specifically to resolve these higher level conflicts by adding mostly characters rather than taxa, has left our understanding of lower level relationships among whale species lagging behind. Mitogenomic data, for example, is available only for 16 cetacean species, and no molecular study to date has included more than 33 cetaceans. It seems timely to focus on more detailed (genus, and species level) molecular phylogenies. These will provide better tools for detailed evolutionary studies, and are necessary to test existing morphological phylogenetic hypotheses, and current cetacean classification.

We judge the reliability of our phylogeny based on the recovery of the previously mentioned benchmark clades, in addition to the less controversial clades Perissodactyla, Euungulata (sensu Waddell et al., 2001; Perissodactyla+ Cetartiodactyla), Cetacea, and Mysticeti. Because Cytb is thought to be most reliable at lower taxonomic levels (due to high substitution rates), recovering ‘known’ deeper clades gives credibility to these new findings which have not been addressed by studies using few taxa. We compare the performance of Bayesian analyses versus parsimony under four different models, and briefly examine the sensitivity of the results to taxon sampling. We use our results to discuss agreement and remaining conflict in cetacean phylogenetics, and provide comments on current classification.

The Bayesian analysis recovered all seven benchmark clades. Support for five of the benchmark clades is high (100 posterior probabilities) but rather low for Cetancodonta (79) and marginal for the monophyly of Odontoceti. The analysis also recovered all but one family level, and most sub- and superfamily level cetacean taxa. The results broadly corroborate current cetacean classiffcation, while also pointing to some lower-level groups that may need redefinition.

Many recent cetacean phylogenetic studies include relatively few taxa, in part due to a focus on generating more characters to resolve higher level phylogenetics. While addressing crucial questions and providing the backbone for lower level phylogenies, such studies have limited utility for classification, and for comparative evolutionary studies. In some cases sparse taxon sampling may also confound the results. Of course, taxon sampling is usually simply constrained by the availability of character data, but for some reason many studies have opted to include only one, or a few outgroup taxa, even if many are available.

We find that as long as outgroup taxon sampling was extensive, Bayesian analyses of Cytb recovered all the a priori identified benchmark clades. When only a few outgroups were chosen, however, the Bayesian analysis negated Odontoceti monophyly, as have many previous parsimony analyses of mitochondrial DNA. Furthermore, in almost every detailed comparison possible our results mirror the findings O’Leary et al. (2004), the most ‘character-complete’ (but including relatively few cetacean taxa) analysis to date (37,000 characters from morphology, SINE, and 51 gene fragments). This result gives credibility to our findings, including previously untested lower level clades.

  • Monophyly and placement of Mysticeti (baleen whales).
  • Monophyly of Odontoceti (toothed whales)
  • Delphinoids
  • River Dolphins
  • Beaked and sperm whales

A major goal of phylogenetics is a phylogeny of life (i.e., many taxa), based on multiple lines of evidence (many characters of many types). However, when phylogenies based on relatively few characters can be judged reliable based on external evidence (taxonomic congruence with other phylogenies using many characters, but few taxa), they seem like very promising and useful ‘first guess’ hypotheses. The evolution of sexual dimorphism, echolocation, social behavior, and whistles and other communicative signals, and major ecological shifts (e.g., transition to fresh water) are among the numerous interesting questions in cetacean biology that this phylogeny can help answer.

Deep-diving sea lions exhibit extreme bradycardia in long duration dives

Birgitte I. McDonald1, and Paul J. Ponganis
The Journal of Experimental Biology (2014) 217, 1525-1534

Heart rate and peripheral blood flow distribution are the primary determinants of the rate and pattern of oxygen store utilization and ultimately breath-hold duration in marine endotherms. Despite this, little is known about how otariids (sea lions and fur seals) regulate heart rate (fH) while diving. We investigated dive fH in five adult female California sea lions (Zalophus californianus) during foraging trips by instrumenting them with digital electrocardiogram (ECG) loggers and time depth recorders. In all dives, dive fH (number of beats/duration; 50±9 beats min−1) decreased compared with surface rates (113±5 beats min−1), with all dives exhibiting an instantaneous fH below resting (<54 beats min−1) at some point during the dive. Both dive fH and minimum instantaneous fH significantly decreased with increasing dive duration. Typical instantaneous fH profiles of deep dives (>100 m) consisted of:

(1) an initial rapid decline in fH resulting in the lowest instantaneous fH of the dive at the end of descent, often below 10 beats min−1 in dives longer than 6 min in duration;
(2) a slight increase in fH to ~10–40 beats min−1 during the bottom portion of the dive; and
(3) a gradual increase in fH during ascent with a rapid increase prior to surfacing.

Thus, fH regulation in deep-diving sea lions is not simply a progressive bradycardia. Extreme bradycardia and the presumed associated reductions in pulmonary and peripheral blood flow during late descent of deep dives should

(a) contribute to preservation of the lung oxygen store,
(b) increase dependence of muscle on the myoglobin-bound oxygen store,
(c) conserve the blood oxygen store and
(d) help limit the absorption of nitrogen at depth.

This fH profile during deep dives of sea lions may be characteristic of deep-diving marine endotherms that dive on inspiration as similar fH profiles have been recently documented in the emperor penguin, another deep diver that dives on inspiration.

The resting ƒH measured in this study (54±6 beats min−1) was lower than predicted for an animal of similar size (~80 beats min−1 for an 80 kg mammal). In part, this may be due to the fact that the sea lions were probably sleeping. The resting ƒH in our study was also lower than previous measurements in captive juvenile California sea lions (87±17 beats min−1, average mass 30 kg)  and wild Antarctic fur seals (78±5 beats min−1, body mass 30–50 kg). However, we found a significant negative relationship between mass and resting ƒH even with our small sample size of five sea lions (resting ƒH = –0.58 Mb +100.26, r2=0.81, F1,3=12.37, P=0.039). For a 30 kg sea lion, this equation predicts a resting ƒH of 83 beats min−1, which is similar to what was measured previously in juvenile sea lions, suggesting this equation may be useful in estimating resting ƒH in sea lions.

The sea lions exhibited a distinct sinus arrhythmia fluctuating between a minimum of 42±9 and a maximum of 87±12 beats min−1, comparable to the sinus arrhythmias described in other diving birds and mammals, including sea lions. The minimum instantaneous ƒH during the sinus arrhythmia was similar to the mean minimum ƒH in dives less than 3 min (37±7 beats min−1), indicating that in dives less than 3 min (estimated cADL), ƒH only decreased to levels observed during exhalation at rest. This is consistent with observations in emperor penguins and elephant seals, where it was proposed that in dives shorter than the aerobic dive limit (ADL) the reduction in ƒH is regulated by a mechanism of cardiorespiratory control similar to that governing the respiratory sinus arrhythmia, with a further reduction only occurring in dives longer than the ADL.

Fig. 3. (not shown) Instantaneous fH and dive depth profiles of a California sea lion (CSL12_2). Data are from (A) a short, shallow dive (1.3 min, 45 m), (B) a mid-duration dive (4.8 min, 239 m) and (C) a long-duration dive (8.5 min, 305 m). Minimum instantaneous fH reached 37 beats min−1 in the short dive
(A) 19 beats min−1 in the mid-duration dive
(B) and 7 beats min−1 in the long duration dive
(C) Prominent features typical of mid- and long-duration dives include

  • a surface interval tachycardia (pre- and post-dive);
  • a steady rapid decrease in fH during initial descent;
  • a gradual decline in fH towards the end of descent with the lowest fH of the dive at the end of descent;
  • a slight increase and sometimes variable fH during the bottom portion of the dive; and
  • a slow increase in fH during ascent,
  • often ending in a rapid increase just before surfacing.

We obtained the first diving ƒH data from wild sea lions on natural foraging trips, demonstrating how they regulate ƒH over a range of dive durations. Sea lions always decreased dive ƒH from surface ƒH values; however, individual sea lions exhibited different dive ƒH, accounting for a significant amount of the variation in the relationship between dive duration and ƒH (intra-individual correlation: 75–81%)). The individual differences in dive ƒH exhibited in this study suggest that different dive capacities of individual sea lions may partially account for the range of dive strategies exhibited in a previous study (Villegas-Amtmann et al., 2011). Despite the individual differences in ƒH, the pattern of the dive ƒH response was similar in all the sea lions. As predicted, sea lions only consistently displayed a true bradycardia on mid- to long- duration dives (>4 min) (Fig. 5A). Additionally, as seen in freely diving phocids, dive ƒH and minimum ƒH were negatively related to dive duration, with the longest duration dives having the lowest dive ƒH and displaying the most intense bradycardia, often below 10 beats min−1 (Fig. 5A,B).

Profiles of mean fH at 10 s intervals of dives

Profiles of mean fH at 10 s intervals of dives

Fig 4.  Profiles of mean fH at 10 s intervals of dives for (A) six duration categories and (B) five depth categories. Standard error bars are shown. Data were pooled from 461 dives performed by five sea lions. The number of dives in each category and the number of sea lions performing the dives in each category are provided in the keys.

The mild bradycardia and the dive ƒH profiles observed in the shorter duration dives (<3 min) were similar to those observed in trained juvenile California sea lions and adult Stellar sea lions, but much more intense than ƒH observed in freely diving Antarctic fur seals. Surprisingly, although dive ƒH of trained Steller sea lions was similar, Steller sea lions regularly exhibited lower minimum ƒH, with minimum ƒH almost always less than 20 beats min−1 in dives less than 2 min in duration. In the wild, California sea lions rarely exhibited a minimum ƒH less than 20 beats min−1 in similar duration dives (Fig. 5B), suggesting greater blood oxygen transport during these natural short-duration dives.

Fig. 5. (not shown)  fH decreases with increasing dive duration. Dive duration versus (A) dive fH (total number of beats/dive duration), (B) minimum instantaneous fH and (C) bottom fH (total beats at bottom of dive/bottom time) for California sea lions (461 dives from five sea lions).

Although California sea lions are not usually considered exceptional divers, they exhibited extreme bradycardia, comparable to that of the best diving phocids, during their deep dives. In dives greater than 6 min in duration, minimum ƒH was usually less than 10 beats min−1 and sometimes as low as 6 beats mins−1 (Fig. 5B), which is similar to extreme divers such as emperor penguins (3 beats min−1), elephant seals (3 beats min−1), grey seals (2 beats min−1) and Weddell seals (<10 beats min−1), and even as low as what was observed in forced submersion studies. Thus, similar to phocids, the extreme bradycardia exhibited during forced submersions is also a routine component of the sea lion’s physiological repertoire, allowing them to perform long-duration dives.

While the degree of bradycardia observed in long dives of California sea lions was similar to the extreme bradycardia observed in phocids, the ƒH profiles were quite different. In general, phocid ƒH decreases abruptly upon submergence. The intensity of the initial phocid bradycardia either remains relatively stable or intensifies as the dive progresses, and does not start to increase until the seal begins its ascent. In contrast, the ƒH profiles of sea lions were more complex, showing a more gradual decrease during descent, with the minimum ƒH of the dive usually towards the end of descent (Figs 3, 6). There was often a slight increase in ƒH during the bottom portion of the dive, and as soon as the sea lions started to ascend, the ƒH slowly started to increase, often becoming irregular during the middle of ascent, before increasing rapidly as the sea lion approached the surface.

Fig. 6. (not shown) Instantaneous fH and dive depth profiles of the longest dive (10.0 min, 385 m) from a California sea lion (CSL12_1). During this dive, instantaneous fH reached 7 beats min−1 and was less than 20 beats min−1 for over 5.5 min. Post-dive fH was high in the first 0.5–1 min after surfacing, but then declined to ~100 beats min−1 towards the end of the surface interval.

Implications for pulmonary gas exchange

The moderate dive ƒH in short, shallow dives compared with the much slower ƒH of deep long-duration dives suggests more pulmonary blood flow and greater potential for reliance on lung O2. Most of these dives were to depths of less than 100 m (well below the estimated depth of lung collapse near 200 m), so maintenance of a moderate ƒH during these dives may allow sea lions to maximise use of the potentially significant lung O2 stores (~16% of total body O2 stores) throughout the dive. This is supported by venous blood O2 profiles, where, occasionally, there was no decrease in venous blood O2 between the beginning and end of the dive; this can only occur if pulmonary gas exchange continues throughout the dive. Greater utilization of the lung O2 store in sea lions is consistent with higher dive ƒH in other species that both dive on inspiration and typically perform shallow dives (dolphins, porpoises, some penguin species), and in deeper diving species when they perform shallow dives (emperor penguins).

In deeper dives of sea lions, although ƒH was lower and bradycardia more extreme, the diving ƒH profiles suggest that pulmonary gas exchange is also important. In long-duration dives, even though ƒH started to decrease upon or shortly after submergence, the decrease was not as abrupt as in phocids. Additionally, in long deep dives, despite having overall low dive ƒH, there were more heart beats before resting ƒH was reached compared with short, shallow dives. In dives less than 3 min in duration, there were ~10–15 beats until instantaneous ƒH reached resting values. In longer duration dives (>3 min), there were usually ~30–40 beats before instantaneous ƒH reached resting values. We suggest the greater number of heart beats early in these deeper dives enables more gas exchange and blood O2 uptake at shallow depths, thus allowing utilisation of the postulated larger respiratory O2 stores in deeper dives The less abrupt decline in ƒH we observed in sea lions is similar to the more gradual declines documented in emperor penguins and porpoises, where it has also been proposed that the gradual decrease in ƒH allows them to maximise pulmonary gas exchange at shallower depths. However, as sea lions swam deeper, ƒH decreased further (Figs 3, 6), and by 200 m depth (the approximate depth of lung collapse, instantaneous ƒH was 14 beats min−1. Such an extreme decline in ƒH in conjunction with increased pulmonary shunting due to lung compression at greater depths will result in minimization of both O2 and N2 uptake by blood, even before the depth of full lung collapse (100% pulmonary shunt) is reached.

Implications for blood flow

ƒH is often used as a proxy to estimate blood flow and perfusion during diving because of the relative ease of its measurement. This is based on the assumption that stroke volume does not change during diving in sea lions, and, hence, changes in ƒH directly reflect changes in cardiac output. As breath-hold divers maintain arterial pressure while diving, changes in cardiac output should be associated with changes in peripheral vascular resistance and changes in blood flow to tissues. In Weddell seals, a decrease in cardiac output of ~85% during forced submersions resulted in an 80–100% decrease in tissue perfusion in all tissues excluding the brain, adrenal glands and lung. Sea lions exhibited extremely low instantaneous ƒH values that often remained low for significant portions of the dive (Figs 4, 6), suggesting severe decreases in tissue perfusion in dives greater than 5 min in duration. In almost all dives greater than 6 min in duration, instantaneous ƒH reached 10 beats min−1, and stayed below 20 beats min−1 for more than a minute. At a ƒH of 20 beats min−1, cardiac output will be ~36% of resting cardiac output and only about 18% of average surface cardiac output. At these levels of cardiac suppression, most of this flow should be directed towards the brain and heart.


We successfully obtained diving ƒH profiles from a deep-diving otariid during natural foraging trips. We found that

(1) ƒH decreases during all dives, but true and more intense bradycardia only occurred in longer duration dives and
(2) in the longest duration dives, ƒH and presumed cardiac output were as low as 20% of resting values.

We conclude that, although initial high ƒH promotes gas exchange early in deep dives, the extremely low ƒH in late descent of deep dives (a) preserves lung O2, (b) conserves blood O2, (c) increases the dependence of muscle on myoglobin-bound O2 and (d) limits N2 absorption at depth. This ƒH profile, especially during the late descent/early bottom phase of deep dives is similar to that of deep-diving emperor penguins, and may be characteristic of deep diving endotherms that dive on inspiration.

Dive duration was the fixed effect in all models, and to account for the lack of independence caused by having many dives from the same individual, individual (sea lion ID) was included as a random effect. Covariance and random effect structures of the full models were evaluated using Akaike’s information criterion (AIC) and examination of residual plots. AICs from all the tested models are presented with the best model in bold.

Additionally, dives were classified as short-duration (less than 3 min, minimum cADL), mid-duration (3–5 min, range of cADLs) or long-duration (>5 min) dives. Differences in pre-dive ƒH, dive ƒH, minimum ƒH, post-dive ƒH, and heart beats to resting between the categories were investigated using mixed effects ANOVA, followed by post hoc Tukey tests. In all models, dive duration category was the fixed effect and individual (sea lion ID) was included as a random effect. Model fit was accessed by examination of the residuals. All means are expressed ±s.d. and results of the Tukey tests were considered significant at P<0.05. Statistical analysis was performed in R.

Investigating Annual Diving Behaviour by Hooded Seals (Cystophora cristata) within the Northwest Atlantic Ocean

Julie M. Andersen, Mette Skern-Mauritzen, Lars Boehme
PLoS ONE 8(11): e80438.

With the exception of relatively brief periods when they reproduce and molt, hooded seals, Cystophora cristata, spend most of the year in the open ocean where they undergo feeding migrations to either recover or prepare for the next fasting period. Valuable insights into habitat use and diving behavior during these periods have been obtained by attaching Satellite Relay Data Loggers (SRDLs) to 51 Northwest (NW) Atlantic hooded seals (33 females and 18 males) during icebound fasting periods (200422008). Using General Additive Models (GAMs) we describe habitat use in terms of First Passage Time (FPT) and analyze how bathymetry, seasonality and FPT influence the hooded seals’ diving behavior described by maximum dive depth, dive duration and surface duration. Adult NW Atlantic hooded seals exhibit a change in diving activity in areas where they spend .20 h by increasing maximum dive depth, dive duration and surface duration, indicating a restricted search behavior. We found that male and female hooded seals are spatially segregated and that diving behavior varies between sexes in relation to habitat properties and seasonality. Migration periods are described by increased dive duration for both sexes with a peak in May, October and January. Males demonstrated an increase in dive depth and dive duration towards May (post-breeding/pre-molt) and August–October (post-molt/pre-breeding) but did not show any pronounced increase in surface duration. Females dived deepest and had the highest surface duration between December and January (post-molt/pre-breeding). Our results suggest that the smaller females may have a greater need to recover from dives than that of the larger males. Horizontal segregation could have evolved as a result of a resource partitioning strategy to avoid sexual competition or that the energy requirements of males and females are different due to different energy expenditure during fasting periods.

Novel locomotor muscle design in extreme deep-diving whales

P. Velten, R. M. Dillaman, S. T. Kinsey, W. A. McLellan and D. A. Pabst
The Journal of Experimental Biology 216, 1862-1871

Most marine mammals are hypothesized to routinely dive within their aerobic dive limit (ADL). Mammals that regularly perform deep, long-duration dives have locomotor muscles with elevated myoglobin concentrations that are composed of predominantly large, slow-twitch (Type I) fibers with low mitochondrial volume densities (Vmt). These features contribute to extending ADL by increasing oxygen stores and decreasing metabolic rate. Recent tagging studies, however, have challenged the view that two groups of extreme deep-diving cetaceans dive within their ADLs. Beaked whales (including Ziphius cavirostris and Mesoplodon densirostris) routinely perform the deepest and longest average dives of any air-breathing vertebrate, and short-finned pilot whales (Globicephala macrorhynchus) perform high-speed sprints at depth. We investigated the locomotor muscle morphology and estimated total body oxygen stores of several species within these two groups of cetaceans to determine whether they

(1) shared muscle design features with other deep divers and
(2) performed dives within their calculated ADLs.

Muscle of both cetaceans displayed high myoglobin concentrations and large fibers, as predicted, but novel fiber profiles for diving mammals. Beaked whales possessed a sprinterʼs fiber-type profile, composed of ~80% fast-twitch (Type II) fibers with low Vmt. Approximately one-third of the muscle fibers of short-finned pilot whales were slow-twitch, oxidative, glycolytic fibers, a rare fiber type for any mammal. The muscle morphology of beaked whales likely decreases the energetic cost of diving, while that of short-finned pilot whales supports high activity events. Calculated ADLs indicate that, at low metabolic rates, both beaked and short-finned pilot whales carry sufficient onboard oxygen to aerobically support their dives.

Serial cross-sections of the m. longissimus dorsi of Mesoplodon densirostris

Serial cross-sections of the m. longissimus dorsi of Mesoplodon densirostris

Fig. Serial cross-sections of the m. longissimus dorsi of Mesoplodon densirostris (A–D) and Globicephala macrorhynchus (E–H). Scale bars, 50μm. Muscle sections stained for the alkaline (A,E) and acidic (B,F) preincubations of myosin ATPase were used to distinguish Type I and II fibers. Muscle sections stained for succinate dehydrogenase (C,G) and α-glycerophosphate dehydrogenase (D,H) were used to distinguish glycolytic (gl), oxidative (o) and intermediate (i) fibers.

Previous studies of the locomotor muscles of deep-diving marine mammals have demonstrated that these species share a suite of adaptations that increase onboard oxygen stores while slowing the rate at which these stores are utilized, thus extending ADL. Their locomotor muscles display elevated myoglobin concentrations and are composed predominantly of large Type I fibers. Vmt are also lower in deep divers than in shallow divers or athletic terrestrial species. The results of this study indicate that beaked whales and short-finned pilot whales do not uniformly display these characteristics and that each possesses a novel fiber profile compared with those of other deep divers.

The phylogeny of Cetartiodactyla: The importance of dense taxon sampling, missing data, and the remarkable promise of cytochrome b to provide reliable species-level phylogenies

Ingi Agnarsson, Laura J. May-Collado
Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 48 (2008) 964–985

We perform Bayesian phylogenetic analyses on cytochrome b sequences from 264 of the 290 extant cetartiodactyl mammals (whales plus even-toed ungulates) and two recently extinct species, the ‘Mouse Goat’ and the ‘Irish Elk’. Previous primary analyses have included only a small portion of the species diversity within Cetartiodactyla, while a complete supertree analysis lacks resolution and branch lengths limiting its utility for comparative studies. The benefits of using a single-gene approach include rapid phylogenetic estimates for a large number of species. However, single-gene phylogenies often differ dramatically from studies involving multiple datasets suggesting that they often are unreliable. However, based on recovery of benchmark clades—clades supported in prior studies based on multiple independent datasets—and recovery of undisputed traditional taxonomic groups, Cytb performs extraordinarily well in resolving cetartiodactyl phylogeny when taxon sampling is dense. Missing data, however, (taxa with partial sequences) can compromise phylogenetic accuracy, suggesting a tradeoff between the benefits of adding taxa and introducing question marks. In the full data, a few species with a short sequences appear misplaced, however, sequence length alone seems a poor predictor of this phenomenon as other taxa.

The mammalian superorder Cetartiodactyla (whales and eventoed ungulates) contains nearly 300 species including many of immense commercial importance (cow, pig, and sheep) and of conservation interest and aesthetic value (antelopes, deer, giraffe, dolphins, and whales) (MacDonald, 2006). Certain members of this superorder count among the best studied organisms on earth, whether speaking morphologically, behaviorally, physiologically or genetically. Understanding the interrelationships among cetartiodactyl species, therefore, is of obvious importance with equally short sequences were not conspicuously misplaced. Although we recommend awaiting a better supported phylogeny based on more character data to reconsider classification and taxonomy within Cetartiodactyla, the new phylogenetic hypotheses provided here represent the currently best available tool for comparative species-level studies within this group. Cytb has been sequenced for a large percentage of mammals and appears to be a reliable phylogenetic marker as long as taxon sampling is dense. Therefore, an opportunity exists now to reconstruct detailed phylogenies of most of the major mammalian clades to rapidly provide much needed tools for species-level comparative studies.

Our results support the following relationship among the four major cetartiodactylan lineages (((Tylopoda ((Cetancodonta (Ruminantia + Suina))), with variable support. This arrangement has not been suggested previously, to our knowledge (see review in O’Leary and Gatesy, 2008 and discussion).

Relationships among clades within Cetancodonta are identical to those found by May-Collado and Agnarsson (2006).

Within Ruminantia all our analyzes suggest the following relationships among families: (((((Tragulidae((((Antilocapridae(((Giraffidae(( Cervidae(Moschidae + Bovidae))))) with relatively high support, supporting the subdivision of Ruminantia into Tragulina and Pecora.
In the rare cases where our results are inconsistent with benchmark clades, ad hoc explanations seem reasonable. The placement of M. meminna (Tragulidae) within Bovidae is likely an artifact of missing data, although remarkably it is the only conspicuous misplacement of a species across the whole phylogeny at the family level (while three species appear to be misplaced at the subfamily level within Cervidae in the full analysis, see Fig. 5a). This is supported by the fact that the placement of Moschiola receives low support, and the removal of Moschiola prior to analysis increases dramatically the support for clades close to where it nested (not shown, analysis available from authors), suggesting it had a tendency to ‘jump around’. Two other possibilities cannot be ruled out, however. One, that possibly the available sequence in Genbank may be mislabeled. And second, it should be kept in mind that the validity of Tragulidae has never been tested with molecular data including more than two species.

Oxygen and carbon dioxide fluctuations in burrows of subterranean blind mole rats indicate tolerance to hypoxic–hypercapnic stresses

Imad Shams, Aaron Avivi, Eviatar Nevo
Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology, Part A 142 (2005) 376 – 382

The composition of oxygen (O2), carbon dioxide (CO2), and soil humidity in the underground burrows from three species of the Israeli subterranean mole rat Spalax ehrenbergi superspecies were studied in their natural habitat. Two geographically close populations of each species from contrasting soil types were probed. Maximal CO2 levels (6.1%) and minimal O2 levels (7.2%) were recorded in northern Israel in the breeding mounds of S. carmeli in a flooded, poor drained field of heavy clay soil with very high volumetric water content. The patterns of gas fluctuations during the measurement period among the different Spalax species studied were similar. The more significant differentiation in gas levels was not among species, but between neighboring populations inhabiting heavy soils or light soils: O2 was lower and CO2 was higher in the heavy soils (clay and basaltic) compared to the relatively light soils (terra rossa and rendzina). The extreme values of gas concentration, which occurred during the rainy season, seemed to fluctuate with partial flooding of the tunnels, animal digging activity, and over-crowded breeding mounds inhabited by a nursing female and her offspring. The gas composition and soil water content in neighboring sites with different soil types indicated large differences in the levels of hypoxic–hypercapnic stress in different populations of the same species. A growing number of genes associated with hypoxic stress have been shown to exhibit structural and functional differences between the subterranean Spalax and the aboveground rat (Rattus norvegicus), probably reflecting the molecular adaptations that Spalax went through during 40 million years of evolution to survive efficiently in the severe fluctuations in gas composition in the underground habitat.

map of the studied sites

map of the studied sites

Schematic map of the studied sites: S. galili (2n =52): 1— Rehania (chalk); 2— Dalton (basaltic); S. golani (2n =54): 3— Majdal Shams (terra tossa); 4—Masa’ada (basaltic soils); S. carmeli (2n =58): 5— Al-Maker (heavy clay); 6— Muhraqa (terra rossa).

Comparison of gas composition (O2 and CO2) and water content between light and heavy soils inhabited by S. carmeli

Comparison of gas composition (O2 and CO2) and water content between light and heavy soils inhabited by S. carmeli

Comparison of gas composition (O2 and CO2) and water content between light and heavy soils inhabited by S. carmeli, Al-Maker (heavy soil) and Muhraqa (light soil). AverageTSD of measurements in the burrows of approximately 10 animals at a given date is presented. **p <0.01, T-test and Mann– Whitney test).

Subterranean mammals, which live in closed underground burrow systems, experience an atmosphere that is different from the atmosphere above-ground. Gas exchange between these two atmospheres depends on diffusion through the soil, which in turn, depends on soil particle size, water content, and burrow depth. Heavy soils (clay and basaltic), hold water and have little air space for gas diffusion. A large deviation from external gas composition is found in the burrows of Spalax living in these soil types. The maximal measured concentration of CO2 was 6.1% in Spalax breeding mounds, which is one of the highest concentrations among studied mammals in natural conditions. At the same time 7.2% O2 was measured in water saturated heavy clay soil

seasonal variation from August to March in mean O2, CO2, and soil water content

seasonal variation from August to March in mean O2, CO2, and soil water content

Example of seasonal variation from August to March in mean O2, CO2, and soil water content (VWC) in the Al-Maker population (2n =58, heavy soil). Values are presented as mean TSD.

In this study new data were presented for a wild mammal that survives in an extreme hypoxic–hypercapnic environment. Interestingly, the very low concentrations of O2 experienced by Spalax are correlated with the expression pattern of hypoxia related genes.  So far, we have shown higher and longer-term mRNA expression of erythropoietin, the main factor that regulates the level of circulating red blood cells, in subterranean Spalax compared to the above-ground rat in response to hypoxic stress, as well as differences in the response of erythropoietin to hypoxia in different populations of Spalax experiencing different hypoxic stress in nature. We also demonstrated that erythropoietin pattern of expression is different in Spalax than in Rattus throughout development, a pattern suggesting more efficient hypoxic tolerance in Spalax starting as early as in the embryonic stages. Furthermore, vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), which is a critical angiogenic factor that responds to hypoxia, is constitutively expressed at maximal levels in Spalax muscles, the most energy consuming tissue during digging. This level is 1.6-fold higher than in Rattus muscles and is correlated with significantly higher blood vessel concentration in the Spalax muscles compared to the Rattus muscles. Likewise, myoglobin the globin involved in oxygen homeostasis in skeletal muscles, exhibits different expression pattern under normoxia and in response to hypoxia in Spalax muscles compared to rat muscles as well as between different populations of Spalax exposed to different hypoxic stress in nature (unpublished results). Similarly, neuroglobin, a brain-specific globin involved in reversible oxygen binding, i.e., presumably in cellular homeostasis, is expressed differently in the Spalax brain compared to Rattus brain. Like erythropoietin and myoglobin also neuroglobin is expressed differently in Spalax populations experiencing different oxygen supply (unpublished results). Furthermore, Spalax p53 harbors two amino acid substitutions in its binding domain, which are identical to mutations found in p53 of human cancer cells. These substitutions endow Spalax p53 with several-fold higher activation of cell arrest and DNA repair genes compared to human p53 and favor activation of DNA repair genes over apoptotic genes. The study of specific tumoral variants indicates that such preference of growth arrest over apoptosis possibly results as a response to the hypoxic environmental stress known in tumors. Differences in the structure of other molecules related to homeostasis, namely, hemoglobin, haptoglobin (Nevo, 1999), and cytoglobin (unpublished) were also observed in Spalax.

Stress, adaptation, and speciation in the evolution of the blind mole rat, Spalax, in Israel

Eviatar Nevo
Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 66 (2013) 515–525

Environmental stress played a major role in the evolution of the blind mole rat superspecies Spalax ehrenbergi, affecting its adaptive evolution and ecological speciation underground. Spalax is safeguarded all of its life underground from aboveground climatic fluctuations and predators. However, it encounters multiple stresses in its underground burrows including darkness, energetics, hypoxia, hypercapnia, food scarcity, and pathogenicity. Consequently, it evolved adaptive genomic, proteomic, and phenomic complexes to cope with those stresses. Here I describe some of these adaptive complexes, and their theoretical and applied perspectives. Spalax mosaic molecular and organismal evolution involves reductions or regressions coupled with expansions or progressions caused by evolutionary tinkering and natural genetic engineering. Speciation of Spalax in Israel occurred in the Pleistocene, during the last 2.00–2.35 Mya, generating four species associated intimately with four climatic regimes with increasing aridity stress southwards and eastwards representing an ecological speciational adaptive trend: (Spalax golani, 2n = 54?S. galili, 2n = 52?S. carmeli, 2n = 58?S. judaei, 2n = 60). Darwinian ecological speciation occurred gradually with relatively little genetic change by Robertsonian chromosomal and genic mutations. Spalax genome sequencing has just been completed. It involves multiple adaptive complexes to life underground and is an evolutionary model to a few hundred underground mammals. It involves great promise in the future for medicine, space flight, and deep-sea diving.

Stress is a major driving force of evolution (Parsons, 2005; Nevo, 2011). Parsons defined stress as the ‘‘environmental factor causing potential injurious changes to biological systems with a potential for impacts on evolutionary processes’’. The global climatic transition from the middle Eocene to the early Oligocene (45–35 Ma = Million years ago) led to extensive convergent evolution underground of small subterranean mammals across the planet (Nevo, 1999; Lacey et al., 2000; Bennett and Faulkes, 2000; Begall et al., 2007). The subterranean ecotope provided small mammals with shelter from predators and extreme aboveground climatic stressful fluctuations of temperature and humidity. However, they had to evolve genomic adaptive complexes for the immense underground stresses of darkness, energy for burrowing in solid soil, low productivity and food scarcity, hypoxia, hypercapnia, and high infectivity. These stresses have been described in Nevo (1999, 2011) and Nevo et al. (2001); and Nevo list of Spalax publication at with many cited references relevant to these stresses).

blind subterranean mole rat of the Spalax ehrenbergi superspecies

blind subterranean mole rat of the Spalax ehrenbergi superspecies

The blind subterranean mole rat of the Spalax ehrenbergi superspecies in Israel. An extreme example of adaptation to life underground

Circadian rhythm and genes

adaptive circadian genes. We identified the circadian rhythm of Spalax
(Nevo et al., 1982) and described, cloned, sequenced, and expressed several circadian genes in Spalax. These include Clock, MOP3, three Period (Per), and cryptochromes (Avivi et al., 2001, 2002, 2003). The Spalax circadian genes are differentially conserved, yet characterized by a significant number of amino acid substitutions. The glutamine-rich area of Clock, which is assumed to function in circadian rhythmicity, is expanded in Spalax compared with that of mice and humans and is different in amino acid composition from that of rats. All three Per genes of Spalax oscillate with a periodicity of 24 h in the suprachaismatic nucleus, eye, and Harderian gland and are expressed in peripheral organs. Per genes are involved in clock resetting. Spalax Per 3 is unique in mammals though its function is still unresolved. The Spalax Per genes contribute to the unique adaptive circadian rhythm to life underground. The cryptochrome (Cry) genes, found in animals and plants, act both as photoreceptors and as ingredients of the negative feedback mechanism of the biological Clock. The CRY 1 protein is significantly closer to the human homolog than to that of mice, as was also shown in parts of the immunogenetic system. Both Cry 1 and Cry 2 mRNAs were found in the SCN, eye, harderian gland, and in peripheral tissues. Remarkably, the distinctly hypertrophied harderian gland is central in Spalax’s unique underground circadian rhythmicity (Pevet et al., 1984).

  • Spalax eye mosaic evolution
  • Gene expression in the eye of Spalax
  • Brain evolution in Spalax to underground stresses
  • Spalax: four species in Israel

The morphological, physiological, and behavioral Spalax eye patterns are underlain by gene expression representing regressive and progressive associated transcripts. Regressive transcripts involve B-2 microglobulin, transketolase, four keratins, alpha enolase, and different heat shock proteins. Several proteins may be involved in eye degeneration. These include heat shock protein 90alpha (hsp90alpha), found also in the blind fish Astyanax mexicanus, two transcripts of programmed cell death proteins, oculospanin, and peripherin 2, both belonging to the Tetraspanin family, in which 60 different mutations cause eye degeneration in humans. Several progressive transcripts in the Spalax eye are found in the retina of many mammals involving gluthatione, peroxidase 4, B spectrin, and Ankyrin; the last two characterize rod cells in the retina. Some transcripts are involved in metabolic processing of retinal, a vertebrate key component in phototransduction, and a relative of vitamin A.

cross section of the developing eye of the mole rat

cross section of the developing eye of the mole rat

Light micrographs showing cross section of the developing eye of the mole rat Spalax ehrenbergi. (A) Optic cup and lens vesicle initially develop normally (x100). (B) Eye at a later embryonic stage. Note appearance of iris-ciliary body rudiment (arrows), and development of the lens nucleus (L). ON, optic nerve (x100). (C) Eye at a still later fetal stage. Note massive growth of the iris-ciliary body complex colobomatous opening (arrow) (x100). (D) Early postnatal stage. The iris-ciliary body complex completely fills the chamber. The lens is vascularized and vacuolated (x100). (E) Adult eye. Eyelids are completely closed and pupil is absent. Note atrophic appearance of the optic disc region (arrow) (x65). (F) Higher magnification of the adult retina. The different retinal layers are retained: PE, pigment epithelium: RE, receptor layer; ON, outer nuclear layer: IN, inner nuclear layer; GC, ganglion cell layer (x500) (from Sanyal et al., 1990, Fig. 1).

The brains of subterranean mammals underwent dramatic evolution in accordance with underground stresses for digging and photoperiodic perception associated with vibrational, tactile, vocal, olfactory, and magnetic communication systems replacing sight, as is seen in Spalax. The brain of Spalax is twice as large as that of the laboratory rat of the same body size. The somatosensory region in the isocortex of Spalax is 1.7 times, the thalamic nuclei 1.3 times, and the motor cortex 3.1 times larger than in the sighted laboratory rat Rattus norvegicus matched to body size.

The ecological stress determinant in Spalax brain evolution is highlighted by the four species of the Spalax ehrenbergi superspecies in Israel. They differentiated chromosomally (by means of Robertsonian mutations and fission), allopatrically, and clinally southwards into four species associated with different climatic regimes, following the gradient of increasing aridity stress and decreasing predictability southwards towards the desert: Spalax galili (2n = 52) ->S. golani (2n = 54)->S. carmeli (2n = 58)->S. judaei (2n = 60), and eastwards S. galili ->S. golani (2n = 52–>54) (Fig. 2). This chromosomal speciation trend southwards is associated with the regional aridity stress southwards (and eastwards) in Israel, budding new species adapted genomically, proteomically, and phenomically (i.e., in morphology, physiology, and behavior) to increasing stresses of higher solar radiation, temperature, and drought southwards (Nevo, 1999; Nevo et al., 2001; Nevo
list of Spalax at A uniquely recent discovery of incipient sympatric ecological speciation at a microscale in Spalax triggered by local stresses occurs within Spalax galili.

retinal input to primary visual structures in Spalax

retinal input to primary visual structures in Spalax

Relative degree of retinal input to primary visual structures in Spalax, hamster, rat, and Spalacopus cyanus (South American Octodontidae, ‘‘coruro’’). These rodents are of similar body size (120–140 g). B. Relative degree of change in the proportions of retinal input to different primary visual structures in Spalax compared with measures obtained in other rodents. A relative progressive development in Spalax is seen in structures involved in photoperiodic and neuroendocrine functions (SCN, BNST).The main regressive feature is the drastic relative reduction of retinal input to the superior colliculus. The main regressive feature is the drastic reduction of retinal input to the superior colliculus. The relative size of other visual structures in Spalax is modified compared to that of the other species. c. Comparison of the absolute size (volume, mm3 x 10-4) of visual structures in Spalax and other rodents. The size of the SCN is equivalent in all species. The vLGN and dLGN are reduced by 87–93% in Spalax. The retino-recipient layers of the superior colliculus are reduced by 97%. Abbreviations: SCN: suprachiasmatic nucleus; BNST: bed nucleus of the stria terminalis; dLGN: dorsal lateral geniculate nucleus; SC: superior colliculus [From Cooper et al., 1993 (Fig 3)].

Subterranean life has a high energetic cost if an animal has to burrow in order to obtain its food. For a 150 g Thomomys bottae, burrowing 1 m may be 360–3400 times more expensive energetically than moving the same distance on the surface (Vleck, 1979). Mean rates of oxygen consumption during burrowing at 22 oC are from 2.8 to 7.1 times the RMR. Vleck developed a model examining the energetics of foraging by burrowing and found that, in the desert, Thomomys adjusts the burrow segment length to minimize the cost of burrowing. Since burrowing becomes less economic as body size increases, Vleck (1981) predicted that the maximum possible body size that a subterranean mammal can attain depends on a balance between habitat productivity and the cost of burrowing in local soils. Vleck’s cost of burrowing hypothesis has been verified in multiple cases. Heth (1989) demonstrated longer burrows in the rendzina soil and shorter ones in the terra rossa soil, associating lower productivity in the former for Spalax.

Food is a limiting factor for subterranean mammals. The abundance and distribution of food explain some of the ecological, physiological, and behavioral characteristics of subterranean mammals. In a field test of Spalax foraging strategy, we concluded that Spalax was a generalist due to the constraints of the subterranean ecotope. Restricted foraging time primarily during the winter when soil is wet, and the high energetic investment of tunneling to get to food items is significantly reduced than in summertime.
We also identified a decrease in the basic metabolic rate towards the desert, i.e., economizing energetics. The maintenance of adequate O2 transport in a subterranean mammal confronting hypoxia requires adaptation along the O2 transport system, achieved by increasing the flow of O2 in the convection systems (ventilation and perfusion) and by reduction of oxygen pressure (PO2) gradients at the diffusion barriers (lung blood, blood-tissue (Arieli, 1990). The PO2 gradient between blood capillaries and respiring mitochondria capillaries is large, and any adaptation at this level could be significant for O2 transport. Reduction of diffusion distance in a muscle can be achieved, like in Spalax, by increasing the number of capillaries that surround muscle fiber or by reducing fiber areas.

Geographic distribution in Israel of the four chromosomal species belonging to the S. ehrenbergi superspecies

Geographic distribution in Israel of the four chromosomal species belonging to the S. ehrenbergi superspecies

Geographic distribution in Israel of the four chromosomal species belonging to the S. ehrenbergi superspecies that are separated by narrow hybrid zones (2n = 52, 54, 58, and 60, now named as S. galili, S. golani, S. carmeli, and S. judaei, respectively; see Nevo et al., 2001).

Spalacid evolution, based on mtDNA, is driven by climatic oscillations and stresses. The underground ecotope provided subterranean mammals with shelter from extreme climate (temperature and humidity) fluctuations, and predators. However, they had to extensively and intensively adapt to the multiple underground stresses (darkness, energetic, low productivity and
food scarcity, hypoxia, hypercapnia, and high infectivity). All subterranean mammals, including spalacids as an extreme case, share convergent molecular and organismal adaptations to their shared unique underground ecotope. Evolution underground, as exemplified here in spalacids, led to mosaic molecular and organismal evolutionary syndromes to cope with multiple stresses.

Speciation involves all rates – from gradual to rapid. Subterranean mammals, with the spalacid example discussed above, provide uniquely rich evolutionary global tests of speciation and adaptation, convergence, regression, progression, and mosaic evolutionary processes. Adaptation and speciation underground was one of the most dramatic natural experiments verifying Darwinian evolution.

The Spalax genome sequencing has just been completed. It is being analyzed and will soon be published in 2012. This will be a milestone in understanding how numerous mammals across the globe, who found underground shelter from climatic fluctuations and stresses above ground, cope with the new suite of stresses they encountered underground, demanding a new engineering overhaul on all organizational levels, selecting for adaptive complexes to cope with the new underground stresses. The main current and future challenges are to compare and contrast genome sequences and identify the genomic basis of adaptation and speciation.

This global Cenozoic experiment could answer the following open questions: How heterozygous is the whole genome? How prevalent are retrotransposons and what is their functional role? How many genes are involved in the Spalax genome and how are they regulated? What are the genic and regulatory networks resisting the multiple stresses underground? How much of the Spalax genome is conserved and how much is reorganized to cope with the underground stresses? How is the solitary blind mole rat, Spalax, different from the social naked mole rat Heterocephalus? How are the processes of reduction, expansion, and genetic tinkering and engineering reflected across the genome? How effective is copy number variation in regulation? Is there similarity in the transcriptomes of subterranean mammals? How could we harness the rich genome repertoire of Spalax to revolutionize medicine, especially in the realm of hypoxia tolerance and the related major diseases of the western world, e.g., cancer, stroke, and cardiovascular diseases? What is the phylogenetic origin of Spalax? How much of the Spalax genome represents its phylogenetic roots and how much of coding and noncoding genomic regions are shared with other subterranean mammals across the globe in adapting to life underground?

The Atmospheric Environment of the Fossorial Mole Rat (Spalax Ehrenbergi): Effects of Season, Soil Texture, Rain, Temperature and Activity

  1. Arieli
    Comp Biochen Physiol. 1978; 63A:569-5151. The fossorial mole rat (Spalax ehrenbergi) may inhabit heavy soil with low gas permeability.
  2. Air composition in burrows in heavy soil deviates from atmospheric air more than that of burrows in light soil.
  3. In winter and spring O2 and CO2 concentrations in breeding mounds were 16.5% O2 and 2.5-3x CO2 and the extreme values measured were 14.0% O2 and 4.8% Cot.
  4. Hypoxia and hypercapnia in the burrow develop shortly after rain and when ambient temperature drops.
  5. Composition of the burrows air is influenced by the solubility of CO2 in soil water and by faster penetration of oxygen than outflowing of CO2.

Hypo-osmotic stress-induced physiological and ion-osmoregulatory responses in European sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax) are modulated differentially by nutritional status

Amit Kumar Sinha, AF Dasan, R Rasoloniriana, N Pipralia, R Blust, G De Boeck
Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology, Part A 181 (2015) 87–99

We investigated the impact of nutritional status on the physiological, metabolic and ion-osmoregulatory performance of European sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax)when acclimated to seawater (32 ppt), brackishwater (20 and 10 ppt) and hyposaline water (2.5 ppt) for 2 weeks. Following acclimation to different salinities, fish were either fed or fasted (unfed for 14 days). Plasma osmolality, [Na+], [Cl−] and muscle water contentwere severely altered in fasted fish acclimated to 10 and 2.5 ppt in comparison to normal seawater-acclimated fish, suggesting ion regulation and acid–base balance disturbances. In contrast to feed-deprived fish, fed fish were able to avoid osmotic perturbation more effectively. This was accompanied by an increase in Na+/K+-ATPase expression and activity, transitory activation of H+-ATPase (only at 2.5 ppt) and down-regulation of Na+/K+/2Cl− gene expression. Ammonia excretion rate was inhibited to a larger extent in fasted fish acclimated to low salinities while fed fish were able to excrete efficiently. Consequently, the build-up of ammonia in the plasma of fed fish was relatively lower. Energy stores, especially glycogen and lipid, dropped in the fasted fish at low salinities and progression towards the anaerobic metabolic pathway became evident by an increase in plasma lactate level. Overall, the results indicate no osmotic stress in both feeding treatments within the salinity range of 32 to 20 ppt. However, at lower salinities (10–2.5 ppt) feed deprivation tends to reduce physiological, metabolic, ion-osmo-regulatory and molecular compensatory mechanisms and thus limits the fish’s abilities to adapt to a hypo-osmotic environment.

The absence of ion-regulatory suppression in the gills of the aquatic air-breathing fish Trichogaster lalius during oxygen stress

Chun-Yen Huang, Hsueh-Hsi Lin, Cheng-Huang Lin, Hui-Chen Lin
Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology, Part A 179 (2015) 7–16

The strategy for most teleost to survive in hypoxic or anoxic conditions is to conserve energy expenditure, which can be achieved by suppressing energy-consuming activities such as ion regulation. However, an air-breathing fish can cope with hypoxic stress using a similar adjustment or by enhancing gas exchange ability, both behaviorally and physiologically. This study examined Trichogaster lalius, an air-breathing fish without apparent gill modification, for their gill ion-regulatory abilities and glycogen utilization under a hypoxic  treatment. We recorded air-breathing frequency, branchial morphology, and the expression of ion-regulatory proteins (Na+/K+-ATPase and vacuolar-type H+-ATPase) in the 1st and 4th gills and labyrinth organ (LO), and the expression of glycogen utilization (GP, glycogen phosphorylase protein expression and glycogen content) and other protein responses (catalase, CAT; carbonic anhydrase II, CAII; heat shock protein 70, HSP70; hypoxia-inducible factor-1α, HIF-1α; proliferating cell nuclear antigen, PCNA; superoxidase dismutase, SOD) in the gills of T. lalius after 3 days in hypoxic and restricted conditions. No morphological modification of the 1st and 4th gills was observed. The air breathing behavior of the fish and CAII protein expression both increased under hypoxia. Ion-regulatory abilities were not suppressed in the hypoxic or restricted groups, but glycogen utilization was enhanced within the groups. The expression of HIF-1α, HSP70 and PCNA did not vary among the treatments. Regarding the antioxidant system, decreased CAT enzyme activity was observed among the groups. In conclusion, during hypoxic stress, T. lalius did not significantly reduce energy consumption but enhanced gas exchange ability and glycogen expenditure.

The combined effect of hypoxia and nutritional status on metabolic and ionoregulatory responses of common carp (Cyprinus carpio)

Sofie Moyson, HJ Liew, M Diricx, AK Sinha, R Blusta, G De Boeck
Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology, Part A 179 (2015) 133–143

In the present study, the combined effects of hypoxia and nutritional status were examined in common carp (Cyprinus carpio), a relatively hypoxia tolerant cyprinid. Fish were either fed or fasted and were exposed to hypoxia (1.5–1.8mgO2 L−1) at or slightly above their critical oxygen concentration during 1, 3 or 7 days followed by a 7 day recovery period. Ventilation initially increased during hypoxia, but fasted fish had lower ventilation frequencies than fed fish. In fed fish, ventilation returned to control levels during hypoxia, while in fasted fish recovery only occurred after reoxygenation. Due to this, C. carpio managed, at least in part, to maintain aerobic metabolism during hypoxia: muscle and plasma lactate levels remained relatively stable although they tended to be higher in fed fish (despite higher ventilation rates). However, during recovery, compensatory responses differed greatly between both feeding regimes: plasma lactate in fed fish increased with a simultaneous breakdown of liver glycogen indicating increased energy use, while fasted fish seemed to economize energy and recycle decreasing plasma lactate levels into increasing liver glycogen levels. Protein was used under both feeding regimes during hypoxia and subsequent recovery: protein levels reduced mainly in liver for fed fish and in muscle for fasted fish. Overall, nutritional status had a greater impact on energy reserves than the lack of oxygen with a lower hepatosomatic index and lower glycogen stores in fasted fish. Fasted fish transiently increased Na+/K+-ATPase activity under hypoxia, but in general ionoregulatory balance proved to be only slightly disturbed, showing that sufficient energy was left for ion regulation.

The effect of temperature and body size on metabolic scope of activity in juvenile Atlantic cod Gadus morhua L.

Bjørn Tirsgaard, Jane W. Behrens, John F. Steffensen
Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology, Part A 179 (2015) 89–94

Changes in ambient temperature affect the physiology and metabolism and thus the distribution of fish. In this study we used intermittent flow respirometry to determine the effect of temperature (2, 5, 10, 15 and 20 °C) and wet body mass (BM) (~30–460 g) on standard metabolic rate (SMR, mg O2 h−1), maximum metabolic rate (MMR, mg O2 h−1) and metabolic scope (MS, mg O2 h−1) of juvenile Atlantic cod. SMR increased with BM irrespectively of temperature, resulting in an average scaling exponent of 0.87 (0.82–0.92). Q10 values were 1.8–2.1 at temperatures between 5 and 15 °C but higher (2.6–4.3) between 2 and 5 °C and lower (1.6–1.4) between 15 and 20 °C in 200 and 450 g cod. MMR increased with temperature in the smallest cod (50 g) but in the larger cod MMR plateaued between 10, 15 and 20 °C. This resulted in a negative correlation between the optimal temperature for MS (Topt) and BM, Topt being respectively 14.5, 11.8 and 10.9 °C in a 50, 200 and 450 g cod. Irrespective of BM cold water temperatures resulted in a reduction (30–35%) of MS whereas the reduction of MS at warm temperatures was only evident for larger fish (200 and 450 g), caused by plateauing of MMR at 10 °C and above. Warm temperatures thus seem favorable for smaller (50 g) juvenile cod, but not for larger conspecifics (200 and 450 g).

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Neonatal Pathophysiology

Neonatal Pathophysiology

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



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

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

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

Fetal Development

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

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

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

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

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



Inherited Metabolic Disorders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Organic acidemias: methylmalonic acidemia and propionic acidemia.

Urea cycle disorders: ornithine transcarbamylase deficiency and citrullinemia

Hemoglobinopathies – thalassemias, sickle cell disease

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

This list is by no means complete.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Diagnosis and Management of Hereditary Hemochromatosis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Neurological and Behavioral Disorders

Estrogen receptor signaling during vertebrate development

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

representations of the HPA axis

representations of the HPA axis

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

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

Fetal programming of schizophrenia: Select mechanisms

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

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

NMDA receptor dysfunction in autism spectrum disorders

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chemokines roles within the hippocampus

Chemokines roles within the hippocampus

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

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

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

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

Three Classes of Glutamate Receptors

Three Classes of Glutamate Receptors

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

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

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

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

Fig not shown.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Impact of bilirubin-induced neurologic dysfunction on neurodevelopmental outcomes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Transverse section of cerebellum and brainstem

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

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

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

Schematic of the bidirectional connectivity between the cerebellum and other

Schematic of the bidirectional connectivity between the cerebellum and other

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

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

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

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

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

Audiologic impairment associated with bilirubin-induced neurologic damage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bilirubin-induced neurologic dysfunction (BIND)

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

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

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

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

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

Sensitive time-windows for susceptibility in neurodevelopmental disorders

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

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

Fig (not shown)

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

Fig (not shown)

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

Outstanding questions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Cardiac output monitoring in newborns

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

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

Fick principle

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

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

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

Cardiovascular adaptation to extra uterine life

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

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

Fetal vascular structures that exist to direct blood flow

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

atrium through the septal wall into the left atrium bypassing lungs

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

inferior vena cava and right atrium

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

Maternal causes of congenital heart disease

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


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

Clinical monitoring of systemic hemodynamics in critically ill newborns

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

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

Key guidelines

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

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

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

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

Monitoring oxygen saturation and heart rate in the early neonatal period

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

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

Practice points

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

Using pulse oximetry assists clinicians:

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

Research directions

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

Peripheral haemodynamics in newborns: Best practice guidelines

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

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


NIRS with partial venous occlusion to measure venous oxygen saturation

NIRS with partial venous occlusion to measure venous oxygen saturation

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

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

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


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

The oxygen-dissociation curve

The oxygen-dissociation curve


The oxygen-dissociation curve

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

Peripheral oxygenation and management in the perinatal period

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

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

Fig (not shown)

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

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

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

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

Peripheral fractional oxygen extraction in babies

Peripheral fractional oxygen extraction in babies


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

Practice points

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Neonatal ventilation strategies and long-term respiratory outcomes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anemia, Apnea of Prematurity, and Blood Transfusions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Long-term pulmonary outcomes of patients with bronchopulmonary dysplasia

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

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

Neonatal ventilation strategies and long-term respiratory outcomes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pulmonary hypertension in bronchopulmonary dysplasia

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

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

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

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

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

Skeletal and Muscle

Skeletal Stem Cells in Space and Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Identification and Specification of the Mouse Skeletal Stem Cell

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

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

Bone mesenchymal development

Bone mesenchymal development

Bone mesenchymal development

The bone-remodeling cycle

The bone-remodeling cycle

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

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

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


Hematopoietic Stem Cell Arrival Triggers Dynamic Remodeling of the Perivascular Niche

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

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

Neonatal anemia

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

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

Management of anemia in the newborn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clinical and hematological presentation among Indian patients with common hemoglobin variants

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Common Hematologic Problems in the Newborn Nursery

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

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


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

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

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

Hemolytic conditions in the neonate

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

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

  c. ABO blood group: Anti-A, -B

2. Red blood cell (RBC) enzyme defects

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

  b. Pyruvate kinase deficiency

  c. Others

3. RBC membrane defects

  a. Hereditary spherocytosis

  b. Elliptocytosis

  c. Stomatocytosis

  d. Pyknocytosis

  e. Others

4. Hemoglobinopathies

  a. alpha-thalassemia

  b. gamma-thalassemia

Standard maternal antibody screeningAlloantibody                                 Blood Group

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

K, k, Kpa, Jsa                                  Kell

Fya, Fyb                                          Duffy

Jka, Jkb                                           Kidd

Xga                                                  Xg

Lea, Leb                                          Lewis

S, s, M, N                                        MNS

P1                                                    P

Lub                                                  Lutheran

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

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


Red Blood Cell Enzymopathies

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

Red Blood Cell Membrane Defects

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

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

Risk factors for bilirubin neurotoxicityIsoimmune hemolytic disease

G6PD deficiency




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


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




Metabolic disorders presenting as liver disease

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alpha1-antitrypsin deficiency

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

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

Citrin deficiency

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

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

HFE-associated hemochromatosis

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

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

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


The liver in haemochromatosis

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

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


Decoding the enigma of necrotizing enterocolitis in premature infants

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

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

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

Human gut microbiome

Human gut microbiome

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

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

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

NEC is a multifactorial disease

NEC is a multifactorial disease

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Current Issues in the Management of Necrotizing Enterocolitis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Role of nitric oxide in the pathogenesis of NEC

Role of nitric oxide in the pathogenesis of NEC

Role of nitric oxide in the pathogenesis of NEC.

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

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

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

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

Intestinal Microbiota Development in Preterm Neonates and Effect of Perinatal Antibiotics

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

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

Human gut microbiome

Human gut microbiome

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

Ischemia and necrotizing enterocolitis: where, when, and how

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

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

Schematic representation of the intestinal microcirculation

Schematic representation of the intestinal microcirculation

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

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

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

Necrotizing enterocolitis: An update

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

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

Immune Deficiencies

Primary immunodeficiencies: A rapidly evolving story

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

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

Combined Immunodeficiencies

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

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

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

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

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

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

TCR signaling

TCR signaling

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

  • Uncoordinated 119 deficiency: Idiopathic CD41 lymphopenia

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

Well-Defined Syndromes with Immunodeficiency

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

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

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

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

Predominantly Antibody Defects

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

early colitis

Defects Of Immune Dysregulation

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

Congenital Defects Of Phagocyte Number, Function, Or Both

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

Defects In Innate Immunity

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

Autoinflammatory Disorders

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


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

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

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

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

Primary immunodeficiencies

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

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



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Classification of Microbiota –

An Overview of Clinical Microbiology, Classification, and Antimicrobial Resistance

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

Classification of Microbiota

Introduction to Overview of Microbiology

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

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

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

Collection and handling of specimens

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

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

Laboratory growth characteristics

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

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

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

Principles of Diagnosis (Extracts)

By John A. Washington

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

Microbiologic Examination

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

techniques have been developed for rapid diagnosis

techniques have been developed for rapid diagnosis

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

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

agglutination test ch10f2

agglutination test ch10f2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Classification Principles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eugene W. Rypka, PHD

Optimal classification/Rypka < Optimal classification>


1 Rypka’s Method

1.1 Equations

1.2 Examples

2 Notes and References

Rypka’s Method

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Computational Example
Bounded Class Data

bounded class data

Bounded Class Dimensions

G = 28 – 28 elements – i = 0…G-1[1]

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

V = 5 – 5 valued logic – l = 0…V-1

Order of Elements

order of elements

Count multisets

count multisets

Squared multiset Counts

squared multiset counts

Separatory Values

separatory values


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


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

Rypka’s Method Edit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is Drug Resistance?

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

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

Credit: NIAID

DrugResistance difference between non-resistant bacteria and drug resistant bacteria

DrugResistance difference between non-resistant bacteria and drug resistant bacteria

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Six Epigenetic Faces of Streptococcus

Kevin Mayer

Medical illustration of Streptococcus pneumonia. [CDC]

Streptococcus pneumonia

Streptococcus pneumonia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Multidrug Efflux Pumps Described for Staphylococcus aureus

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

Dyes (e.g. ethidium bromide, rhodamine)

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

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

Dyes (e.g. ethidium bromide)

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

Dyes (e.g. acriflavine)

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

Trimethoprim, erythromycin, kanamycin, fusidic acid

QACs (e.g. tetraphenylphosphonium)

Detergents (e.g. sodium docecyl sulphate)

Dyes (e.g. ethidium bromide)


Plasmid-encoded Efflux Systems

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

Diamidines (e.g. pentamidine)

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

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

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

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

The efflux pump

Multidrug-resistance efflux pumps — not just for resistance

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

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

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