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author:("ntsci, S")
1.  Ghrelin system in alcohol-dependent subjects: role of plasma ghrelin levels in alcohol drinking and craving 
Addiction biology  2011;17(2):452-464.
Animal studies suggest that the gut-brain peptide ghrelin plays an important role in the neurobiology of alcohol dependence (AD). Human studies show an effect of alcohol on ghrelin levels and a correlation between ghrelin levels and alcohol craving in alcoholics.
This investigation consisted of two studies. Study 1 was a 12-week study with alcohol-dependent subjects, where plasma ghrelin determinations were assessed four times (T0-T3) and related to alcohol intake and craving [Penn Alcohol Craving Score (PACS) and Obsessive Compulsive Drinking Scale (OCDS)]. Serum growth hormone (GH) levels and assessment of the nutritional/metabolic status were also performed. Study 2 was a pilot case-control study to assess ghrelin gene polymorphisms (Arg51Gln and Leu72Met) in alcohol-dependent individuals. Study 1 showed no significant differences in ghrelin levels in the whole sample, while there was a statistical difference for ghrelin between non-abstinent and abstinent subjects. Baseline ghrelin levels were significantly and positively correlated with the PACS score at T1 and with all craving scores both at T2 and T3 (PACS, OCDS, obsessive and compulsive OCDS subscores). In Study 2, although there was a higher frequency of the Leu72Met ghrelin gene polymorphism in alcohol-dependent individuals, the distribution between healthy controls and alcohol dependent individuals was not statistically significant.
This investigation suggests that ghrelin is potentially able to affect alcohol-seeking behaviors, such as alcohol drinking and craving, representing a new potential neuropharmacological target for AD.
PMCID: PMC4974482  PMID: 21392177
ghrelin; alcohol dependence; alcohol drinking; craving
2.  Reducing Sibling Conflict in Maltreated Children Placed in Foster Homes 
Sibling aggression among maltreated children placed in foster homes is linked to other externalizing problems and placement disruption. The reduction of sibling conflict and aggression may be achieved via a multicomponent ecologically focused intervention for families in the foster care system. The focus of the study is to evaluate the feasibility and short-term effectiveness of a transtheoretical intervention model targeting sibling pairs and their foster parent that integrates family systems, social learning theory, and a conflict mediation perspective. In this pilot study, sibling pairs (N=22) and their foster parent were randomized into a three-component intervention (n=13) or a comparison (n=9) group. Promoting Sibling Bonds (PSB) is an 8-week prevention intervention targeting maltreated sibling pairs ages 5–11 years placed together in a foster home. The Siblings, Parent, and Joint components were delivered in a program package at the foster agency by a trained two-clinician team. Average attendance across program components was 73%. Outcomes in four areas were gathered at pre-and post-intervention: observed sibling interaction quality (positive and negative) including conflict during play, and foster parent reports of mediation strategies and sibling aggression in the foster home. At post-intervention, adjusting for baseline scores and child age, intervention pairs showed higher positive (p<.001) and negative (p<.05) interaction quality, and lower sibling conflict during play (p <.01) than comparison pairs. Foster parents in the intervention group reported a higher number of conflict mediation strategies than those in the comparison group (p <.001). Foster parents in the intervention group reported lower sibling physical aggression from the older toward the younger child than those in the comparison group (p <.05). Data suggest that the PSB intervention is a promising approach to reduce conflict and promote parental mediation which together may reduce sibling aggression in the foster home.
PMCID: PMC4779313  PMID: 24585072
reducing sibling conflict in foster homes
3.  Improvement of the Insecticidal Capacity of Two Purpureocillium Lilacinum Strains against Tribolium Confusum 
Insects  2015;6(1):206-223.
Entomopathogenic fungi can regulate insect populations. They have extracellular enzymes that degrade cuticle components, mainly hydrocarbons, used as an energy source. The increase in insecticidal activity of fungi in a medium supplemented with cuticular hydrocarbons was assayed and the hydrolytic enzyme profiles of two strains of Purpureocillium lilacinum were evaluated. A spore suspension of P. lilacinum was inoculated in Petri plates with different values (0.99–0.97–0.95) of water activity (Aw) using the substrates gelatin, starch and tween-20. Growth rate on the different substrates and the enzymatic activity index for proteases, amylases and lipases at different incubation times, pH and Aw, was evaluated. Moreover, the insecticidal efficiency of strains grown in media supplemented with n-hexadecane and n-octacosane was analyzed. LT50 was calculated against adults of Tribolium confusum and showed that mortality increased about 15% when the strains grew in amended culture medium. High amylolytic activity was detected, but proteases were the main enzymes produced. Optimal protease production was observed in a range of acid and alkaline pH and lower Aw. The greatest growth rate was obtained in presence of gelatin. Lipase and amylase production was detected in small amounts. Fungal growth in media with hydrocarbon mixtures increased the pathogenicity of the two strains of P. lilacinum, with the strain JQ926223 being more virulent. The information obtained is important for achieving both an increase in insecticidal capacity and an understanding of physiological adaptation of the fungus.
PMCID: PMC4553539  PMID: 26463076
entomopathogenic fungi; insects; enzymes; virulence
4.  STRATOS™ system for the repair of pectus excavatum 
Open techniques represent a valid repair option for severe asymmetric pectus excavatum in adults. The use of metal supports is recommended to reduce the risk of recurrence. A wide variety of metal supports have been proposed, with pre-, trans- or retrosternal fixation. A novel open technique using titanium bars fixed to the ribs with clips has been recently introduced (STRATOS™ system) for chest wall reconstruction, rib fracture fixation and chest wall malformation repair. We employed this technique in two adult patients with severe asymmetric pectus excavatum: after sternal mobilization, one bar is passed below the body of the sternum and secured with clips bilaterally to two ribs. In the first case, the results remained excellent 5 years after surgery. In the second case, the initial results were satisfying but the bar ruptured after 30 months: removal of the bars and clips was performed and a subsequent recurrence of the deformity occurred. The experiences reported in literature are still too limited to draw firm conclusions about the use of the STRATOS™ system in pectus excavatum repair, but it seems that the use of two bars may reduce the risk of rupture. At present, we are the only ones who reported long-term results.
PMCID: PMC3829507  PMID: 24000315
Pectus excavatum; Surgery; Chest wall
5.  Integrated FDG-PET/CT imaging is useful in the approach to carcinoid tumors of the lung 
Carcinoids enter the differential diagnosis of the solitary pulmonary nodule. Bronchial carcinoids have been traditionally considered as FDG-PET negative but recent studies have found an higher sensitivity of integrated FDG-PET/CT for the detection of these neoplasms. The purpose of this study was to investigate the value of integrated FDG-PET/CT for the evaluation of SPN suspected to be carcinoids.
All patients with pathologically proven bronchial carcinoids who had FDG-PET/CT scans between 2006 and 2012 have been retrospectively reviewed. PET/CT was performed with the same scanner and the same technique for all patients. The following data were retrieved: age, sex CT findings (side, location, size, shape, margins), SUVmax, type of operation, pathological findings (size and number of mitoses). Regarding PET findings, only SUVmax was considered, whereas the visual assessment was not undertaken. Carcinoids were defined as typical and atypical and as central and peripheral. The long-term follow-up was also recorded. The SUVmax was compared with the other clinical, radiological and pathological variables to find any significant difference or correlation.
Twenty-five patients were retrieved, 24 typical and one atypical carcinoid, 21 peripheral and 4 central lesions. The mean diameter on CT-scan was 25.3 mm and the clinical size correlated well with the pathological size. Sixty percent of the tumors were ovoid and 68% had smooth margins. The mean SUVmax was 3.6 (range 1.4-12.9). All the lesions were completely resected. The regression analysis showed a direct correlation between the SUVmax and the tumor size (p = 0.004). No further correlations were found between the SUVmax and the other variables. None of the patients had recurrent disease or died during the follow-up.
Our study showed that FDG-PET/CT might be a useful tool in the evaluation of SPNs suspected to be bronchial carcinoids. When a solitary pulmonary nodule shows an ovoid/round shape and smooth margins on the CT scan and demonstrates an FDG uptake higher than that of the normal lung and with a SUVmax value >1-1.5, a carcinoid should be suspected. If benign lesions can be presumably excluded, surgical resection or at least a biopsy of the lesion is recommended.
PMCID: PMC3879007  PMID: 24305515
Bronchial carcinoid; Positron emission tomography; Standardized uptake value
6.  Recipient CTLA-4*CT60-AA genotype is a prognostic factor for acute graft-versus-host disease in hematopoietic stem cell transplantation for thalassemia 
Human Immunology  2012;73(3-2):282-286.
Polymorphisms of the cytotoxic T-lymphocyte antigen-4 gene (CTLA-4) have been associated with autoimmune diseases and it has recently been reported that donor genotypes correlate with the outcome of allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation in leukemia patients. With the aim of confirming this finding in thalassemia patients, we investigated the influence of genotype distribution of 3 CTLA-4 gene polymorphisms in 72 thalassemia patients and their unrelated donors. A significant association was observed for recipient CT60-AA genotype and onset of grade II–IV (63.2% vs 24.5%; p = 0.001) and grade III–IV (36.4% vs 7.6%; p = 0.005) acute graft-versus-host disease (aGVHD). The same association was observed for the 88-base-pair allele of the CTLA-4 (AT)n polymorphism, which was determined to be in complete linkage disequilibrium with the CT60 A allele. Multinomial Cox regression demonstrated that this association was independent of CT60 donor genotypes or other risk factors (p = 0.016; hazard ratio = 2.8). Our data confirm that the genetic variability in CTLA-4 is an important prognostic factor for aGVHD and suggest that some of the risk factors for this complication are generated by recipient cells that persist after the myeloablative conditioning regimen.
PMCID: PMC3314940  PMID: 22245568
Allogeneic HSCT; Acute GVHD; CTLA-4; Thalassemia
7.  Investigating the Relationship between Sexual and Chemical Addictions by Comparing Executive Function in Pedophiles, Opiate Addicts and Healthy Controls 
Journal of psychiatric practice  2010;16(6):405-412.
Disorders of driven sexual behavior have been conceptualized as sexual addictions. In the following study, we compared 51 subjects with pedophilia, 53 subjects with opiate addiction, and 84 healthy control subjects on neuropsychological tests that tap executive functions. The test battery included the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test (WCST), Stroop Color-Word Test, the Matching Familiar Figures Test (MFFT), Porteus Mazes, Controlled Word Association (COWA), and Trailmaking Test. The groups differed on tests of cognitive flexibility and set switching (WCST), sustained attention (Stroop), and impulsivity (MFFT and Porteus Mazes). There were no differences on verbal fluency (COWA). The subjects with pedophilia differed significantly from those with opiate addiction on several tests, with longer latency to response on MFFT and fewer completed mazes but also fewer errors on Porteus Mazes. Thus, while both subjects with pedophilia and those with opiate addiction show executive dysfunction, the nature of that dysfunction may differ between the two groups; specifically, opiate addicted subjects may be more prone to cognitive impulsivity.
PMCID: PMC3083244  PMID: 21107145
sexual addiction; pedophilia; neuropsychology; behavioral addiction; opiate addiction; executive functioning; sexual disorders; neuropsychological testing
8.  Enriched sera protein profiling for detection of non-small cell lung cancer biomarkers 
Proteome Science  2011;9:55.
Non Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC) is the major cause of cancer related-death. Many patients receive diagnosis at advanced stage leading to a poor prognosis. At present, no satisfactory screening tests are available in clinical practice and the discovery and validation of new biomarkers is mandatory. Surface Enhanced Laser Desorption/Ionization Time-of-Flight Mass Spectrometry (SELDI-ToF-MS) is a recent high-throughput technique used to detect new tumour markers. In this study we performed SELDI-ToF-MS analysis on serum samples treated with the ProteoMiner™ kit, a combinatorial library of hexapeptide ligands coupled to beads, to reduce the wide dynamic range of protein concentration in the sample. Serum from 44 NSCLC patients and 19 healthy controls were analyzed with IMAC30-Cu and H50 ProteinChip Arrays.
Comparing SELDI-ToF-MS protein profiles of NSCLC patients and healthy controls, 28 protein peaks were found significantly different (p < 0.05), and were used as predictors to build decision classification trees. This statistical analysis selected 10 protein peaks in the low-mass range (2-24 kDa) and 6 in the high-mass range (40-80 kDa). The classification models for the low-mass range had a sensitivity and specificity of 70.45% (31/44) and 68.42% (13/19) for IMAC30-Cu, and 72.73% (32/44) and 73.68% (14/19) for H50 ProteinChip Arrays.
These preliminary results suggest that SELDI-ToF-MS protein profiling of serum samples pretreated with ProteoMiner™ can improve the discovery of protein peaks differentially expressed between NSCLC patients and healthy subjects, useful to build classification algorithms with high sensitivity and specificity. However, identification of the significantly different protein peaks needs further study in order to provide a better understanding of the biological nature of these potential biomarkers and their role in the underlying disease process.
PMCID: PMC3184051  PMID: 21929752
9.  Distribution of killer cell immunoglobulin-like receptors genes in the Italian Caucasian population 
Killer cell immunoglobulin-like receptors (KIRs) are a family of inhibitory and activatory receptors that are expressed by most natural killer (NK) cells. The KIR gene family is polymorphic: genomic diversity is achieved through differences in gene content and allelic polymorphism. The number of KIR loci has been reported to vary among individuals, resulting in different KIR haplotypes. In this study we report the genotypic structure of KIRs in 217 unrelated healthy Italian individuals from 22 immunogenetics laboratories, located in the northern, central and southern regions of Italy.
Two hundred and seventeen DNA samples were studied by a low resolution PCR-SSP kit designed to identify all KIR genes.
All 17 KIR genes were observed in the population with different frequencies than other Caucasian and non-Caucasian populations; framework genes KIR3DL3, KIR3DP1, KIR2DL4 and KIR3DL2 were present in all individuals. Sixty-five different profiles were found in this Italian population study. Haplotype A remains the most prevalent and genotype 1, with a frequency of 28.5%, is the most commonly observed in the Italian population.
The Italian Caucasian population shows polymorphism of the KIR gene family like other Caucasian and non-Caucasian populations. Although 64 genotypes have been observed, genotype 1 remains the most frequent as already observed in other populations. Such knowledge of the KIR gene distribution in populations is very useful in the study of associations with diseases and in selection of donors for haploidentical bone marrow transplantation.
PMCID: PMC1635427  PMID: 17069649
10.  Serum amyloid A protein concentration in bone marrow transplantation for beta thalassaemia. 
Journal of Clinical Pathology  1992;45(4):348-351.
AIMS: To investigate whether serum amyloid A protein (SAA) and C-reactive protein (CRP) concentrations could be used in the management of beta thalassaemic patients undergoing bone marrow transplantation (BMT). METHODS: Serum SAA and CRP concentrations were determined in paired samples from 66 patients with beta thalassaemia before and after BMT. Serum SAA concentrations were determined by an enzyme linked immunoassay (EIA); serum CRP concentrations were determined by a nephelometric assay. RESULTS: Serum SAA concentrations before transplantation were significantly higher in the group that subsequently rejected the transplant than the group without complications. SAA concentrations increased after BMT in acute graft versus host disease (GvHD) and rejection. No significant increase in SAA or CRP was found in chronic GvHD. Increases in serum in SAA and CRP concentrations were not related to concomitant infection episodes. CONCLUSIONS: The different acute phase response in acute GvHD and rejection compared with chronic GvHD suggests that different immunopathogenic mechanisms are responsible.
PMCID: PMC495278  PMID: 1577974
11.  Increased serum concentrations of tumour necrosis factor in beta thalassaemia: effect of bone marrow transplantation. 
Journal of Clinical Pathology  1992;45(1):61-65.
AIMS: Serum concentrations of tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF) were determined in beta thalassemic patients before and after bone marrow transplantation (BMT) to evaluate whether changes in TNF concentrations after BMT were related to immune mediated complications. METHODS: Serum TNF concentrations were determined by enzyme linked immunoassay (EIA) in paired samples from 71 patients with beta thalassemia before and after BMT. Serial samples from 13 patients were also studied for up to six months after BMT. Forty one normal healthy children matched for sex and age were studied as controls. RESULTS: beta thalassemic patients had high serum TNF concentrations before transplantation compared with controls. These were not related to sex, age, duration of disease, number of blood transfusions, transferrin concentrations or splenectomy. DQw1 positive patients showed significantly lower TNF concentrations than non-DQw1 cases. Patients with severe liver fibrosis had significantly higher TNF concentrations. No correlation was found between TNF values and BMT outcome before transplantation but TNF alpha values fell significantly after BMT. The decrease persisted only in patients with successful engraftment. In serial samples studied for up to six months after BMT, TNF values decreased but in four out of five patients with graft rejection and in all five with acute graft versus host disease (GVHD) sharp increases occurred at the time of clinical symptoms. No correlation was found between the degree of GVHD and serum TNF-alpha concentrations nor between TNF-alpha concentrations after BMT and the presence of bacterial, viral, and fungal infections. CONCLUSIONS: About 50% of beta thalassemic patients have increased serum TNF, and the changes after BMT are related to the occurrence of immune mediate complications. The persistence of low TNF concentrations after successful engraftment may be due to the preparative regimen and the lack of adverse immune reactions.
PMCID: PMC495819  PMID: 1740519

Results 1-11 (11)