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1.  Granulocyte colony-stimulating factor receptor signalling via Janus kinase 2/signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 in ovarian cancer 
British Journal of Cancer  2013;110(1):133-145.
Ovarian cancer remains a major cause of cancer mortality in women, with only limited understanding of disease aetiology at the molecular level. Granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF) is a key regulator of both normal and emergency haematopoiesis, and is used clinically to aid haematopoietic recovery following ablative therapies for a variety of solid tumours including ovarian cancer.
The expression of G-CSF and its receptor, G-CSFR, was examined in primary ovarian cancer samples and a panel of ovarian cancer cell lines, and the effects of G-CSF treatment on proliferation, migration and survival were determined.
G-CSFR was predominantly expressed in high-grade serous ovarian epithelial tumour samples and a subset of ovarian cancer cell lines. Stimulation of G-CSFR-expressing ovarian epithelial cancer cells with G-CSF led to increased migration and survival, including against chemotherapy-induced apoptosis. The effects of G-CSF were mediated by signalling via the downstream JAK2/STAT3 pathway.
This study suggests that G-CSF has the potential to impact on ovarian cancer pathogenesis, and that G-CSFR expression status should be considered in determining appropriate therapy.
PMCID: PMC3887286  PMID: 24220695
ovarian cancer; cytokine; cytokine receptor; JAK/STAT; G-CSF; G-CSFR; STAT3
2.  Identifying individual psychosocial and adherence support needs in patients with psoriasis: a multinational two-stage qualitative and quantitative study 
Psoriasis has a serious impact on patients’ lives. However, adherence to medications is often poor, potentially compounding the burden of disease. Identifying patients who need support with psychosocial problems, or issues with adherence, can be complex.
We aimed to develop statements that could assist the consultation process, identifying the relative importance of factors related to effective management of psoriasis for patients.
A two-stage study design was used to comprehensively identify, and assess validity of, statements describing psoriasis impact and management issues. Both components were conducted in Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States. Findings from patient observation and interviews were analysed for pattern strength, and were then used to inform the development of statements that were quantitatively assessed using a survey. The association of drivers towards agreement with ‘my psoriasis dictates how I lead my life’ was assessed using anova.
Fifty-six patients participated in the qualitative component, and 1,884 patients using prescription medications completed the survey. Two thematic categories were identified; disappointment with treatments, and confusion regarding psoriasis associated with a lack of direction. When assessed quantitatively, key statements associated with a strong burden of psoriasis on patients’ lives were related to isolation, social stigma, visible symptoms, impact on activities and feelings of hopelessness. A mixture of patient-, doctor- and treatment-related factors were among the most common reasons for non-adherence.
Questioning using the statements most associated with psychosocial impact and non-adherence could help identify patients with additional support needs, and assist in overcoming adherence issues.
PMCID: PMC4229026  PMID: 23663069
3.  Delayed presentation of late-onset cerebrospinal fluid rhinorrhoea following dopamine agonist therapy for giant prolactinoma 
Therapeutic shrinkage of prolactinomas with dopamine agonists achieves clinical benefit but can expose fistulae that have arisen as a result of bony erosion of the sella floor and anterior skull base by the invasive tumour, resulting in the potential development of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) rhinorrhoea, meningitis, and rarely pneumocephalus. Onset of symptoms is typically within 4 months of commencing therapy. The management is typically surgical repair via an endoscopic transnasal transsphenoidal approach. A 23-year-old man presented to the Emergency Department with acute left limb weakness and intermittent headaches. Visual fields were full to confrontation. Immediate computed tomography and subsequent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), demonstrated a 5 cm lobular/cystic mass invading the right cavernous sinus, displacing and compressing the midbrain, with destruction of the bony sella. He was referred to the regional pituitary multidisciplinary team (MDT). Serum prolactin was 159 455 mIU/l (7514.37 ng/ml) (normal ranges 100–410 mIU/l (4.72–19.34 ng/ml)). Cabergoline was commenced causing dramatic reduction in tumour size and resolution of neurological symptoms. Further dose titrations were required as the prolactin level plateaued and significant residual tumour remained. After 13 months of treatment, he developed continuous daily rhinorrhea, and on presenting to his general practitioner was referred to an otolaryngologist. When next seen in the routine regional pituitary clinic six-months later he was admitted for urgent surgical repair. Histology confirmed a prolactinoma with a low proliferation index of 2% (Ki-67 antibody). In view of partial cabergoline resistance he completed a course of conventional radiotherapy. Nine months after treatment the serum prolactin had fallen to 621 mIU/l, and 12 months after an MRI showed reduced tumour volume.
Learning points
CSF rhinorrhoea occurred 13 months after the initiation of cabergoline, suggesting a need for vigilance throughout therapy.Dedicated bony imaging should be reviewed early in the patient pathway to assess the potential risk of CSF rhinorrhoea after initiation of dopamine agonist therapy.There was a significant delay before this complication was brought to the attention of the regional pituitary MDT, with associated risk whilst left untreated. This demonstrates a need for patients and healthcare professionals to be educated about early recognition and management of this complication to facilitate timely and appropriate referral to the MDT for specialist advice and management. We changed our nurse-led patient education programme as a result of this case.An excellent therapeutic response was achieved with conventional radiotherapy after limited surgery having developed partial cabergoline resistance and CSF rhinorrhoea.
PMCID: PMC4235146  PMID: 25520847
4.  Subdivision of arthropod cap-n-collar expression domains is restricted to Mandibulata 
EvoDevo  2014;5:3.
The monophyly of Mandibulata - the division of arthropods uniting pancrustaceans and myriapods - is consistent with several morphological characters, such as the presence of sensory appendages called antennae and the eponymous biting appendage, the mandible. Functional studies have demonstrated that the patterning of the mandible requires the activity of the Hox gene Deformed and the transcription factor cap-n-collar (cnc) in at least two holometabolous insects: the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster and the beetle Tribolium castaneum. Expression patterns of cnc from two non-holometabolous insects and a millipede have suggested conservation of the labral and mandibular domains within Mandibulata. However, the activity of cnc is unknown in crustaceans and chelicerates, precluding understanding of a complete scenario for the evolution of patterning of this appendage within arthropods. To redress these lacunae, here we investigate the gene expression of the ortholog of cnc in Parhyale hawaiensis, a malacostracan crustacean, and two chelicerates: the harvestman Phalangium opilio, and the scorpion Centruroides sculpturatus.
In the crustacean P. hawaiensis, the segmental expression of Ph-cnc is the same as that reported previously in hexapods and myriapods, with two distinct head domains in the labrum and the mandibular segment. In contrast, Po-cnc and Cs-cnc expression is not enriched in the labrum of either chelicerate, but instead is expressed at comparable levels in all appendages. In further contrast to mandibulate orthologs, the expression domain of Po-cnc posterior to the labrum is not confined within the expression domain of Po-Dfd.
Expression data from two chelicerate outgroup taxa suggest that the signature two-domain head expression pattern of cnc evolved at the base of Mandibulata. The observation of the archetypal labral and mandibular segment domains in a crustacean exemplar supports the synapomorphic nature of mandibulate cnc expression. The broader expression of Po-cnc with respect to Po-Dfd in chelicerates further suggests that the regulation of cnc by Dfd was also acquired at the base of Mandibulata. To test this hypothesis, future studies examining panarthropod cnc evolution should investigate expression of the cnc ortholog in arthropod outgroups, such as Onychophora and Tardigrada.
PMCID: PMC3897911  PMID: 24405788
Amphipod; cap-n-collar; Centruroides; Deformed; Harvestman; Labrum; Mandible; Parhyale; Phalangium; Scorpion
5.  Detection of Botulinum Neurotoxin Serotype A, B, and F Proteolytic Activity in Complex Matrices with Picomolar to Femtomolar Sensitivity 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2012;78(21):7687-7697.
Rapid, high-throughput assays that detect and quantify botulinum neurotoxin (BoNT) activity in diverse matrices are required for environmental, clinical, pharmaceutical, and food testing. The current standard, the mouse bioassay, is sensitive but is low in throughput and precision. In this study, we present three biochemical assays for the detection and quantification of BoNT serotype A, B, and F proteolytic activities in complex matrices that offer picomolar to femtomolar sensitivity with small assay volumes and total assay times of less than 24 h. These assays consist of magnetic beads conjugated with BoNT serotype-specific antibodies that are used to purify BoNT from complex matrices before the quantification of bound BoNT proteolytic activity using the previously described BoTest reporter substrates. The matrices tested include human serum, whole milk, carrot juice, and baby food, as well as buffers containing common pharmaceutical excipients. The limits of detection were below 1 pM for BoNT/A and BoNT/F and below 10 pM for BoNT/B in most tested matrices using 200-μl samples and as low as 10 fM for BoNT/A with an increased sample volume. Together, these data describe rapid, robust, and high-throughput assays for BoNT detection that are compatible with a wide range of matrices.
PMCID: PMC3485704  PMID: 22923410
6.  Local search for the generalized tree alignment problem 
BMC Bioinformatics  2013;14:66.
A phylogeny postulates shared ancestry relationships among organisms in the form of a binary tree. Phylogenies attempt to answer an important question posed in biology: what are the ancestor-descendent relationships between organisms? At the core of every biological problem lies a phylogenetic component. The patterns that can be observed in nature are the product of complex interactions, constrained by the template that our ancestors provide. The problem of simultaneous tree and alignment estimation under Maximum Parsimony is known in combinatorial optimization as the Generalized Tree Alignment Problem (GTAP). The GTAP is the Steiner Tree Problem for the sequence edit distance. Like many biologically interesting problems, the GTAP is NP-Hard. Typically the Steiner Tree is presented under the Manhattan or the Hamming distances.
Experimentally, the accuracy of the GTAP has been subjected to evaluation. Results show that phylogenies selected using the GTAP from unaligned sequences are competitive with the best methods and algorithms available. Here, we implement and explore experimentally existing and new local search heuristics for the GTAP using simulated and real data.
The methods presented here improve by more than three orders of magnitude in execution time the best local search heuristics existing to date when applied to real data.
PMCID: PMC3637488  PMID: 23441880
Tree alignment; Tree search; Phylogeny; Sequence alignment; Direct optimization
7.  Low Circulating Protein C Levels Are Associated with Lower Leg Ulcers in Patients with Diabetes 
BioMed Research International  2013;2013:719570.
Activated protein C (APC) promotes angiogenesis and reepithelialisation and accelerates healing of diabetic ulcers. The aim of this study was to determine the relationship between the incidence of lower leg ulcers and plasma levels of APC's precursor, protein C (PC), in diabetic patients. Patients with diabetes who had a lower leg ulcer(s) for >6 months (n = 36) were compared with age-, type of diabetes-, and sex-matched subjects with diabetes but without an ulcer (n = 36, controls). Total PC was assessed using a routine PC colorimetric assay. There was a significantly (P < 0.001) lower level of plasma PC in patients with ulcers (103.3 ± 22.7, mean ± SD) compared with control (127.1 ± 34.0) subjects, when corrected for age and matched for gender and type of diabetes. Ulcer type (neuropathic, ischaemic, or mixed) was not a significant covariate for plasma PC levels (P = 0.35). There was no correlation between PC levels and gender, type of diabetes, HbA1c, or C-reactive protein in either group. In summary, decreased circulating PC levels are associated with, and may predispose to, lower leg ulceration in patients with diabetes.
PMCID: PMC3581257  PMID: 23484147
8.  The tree alignment problem 
BMC Bioinformatics  2012;13:293.
The inference of homologies among DNA sequences, that is, positions in multiple genomes that share a common evolutionary origin, is a crucial, yet difficult task facing biologists. Its computational counterpart is known as the multiple sequence alignment problem. There are various criteria and methods available to perform multiple sequence alignments, and among these, the minimization of the overall cost of the alignment on a phylogenetic tree is known in combinatorial optimization as the Tree Alignment Problem. This problem typically occurs as a subproblem of the Generalized Tree Alignment Problem, which looks for the tree with the lowest alignment cost among all possible trees. This is equivalent to the Maximum Parsimony problem when the input sequences are not aligned, that is, when phylogeny and alignments are simultaneously inferred.
For large data sets, a popular heuristic is Direct Optimization (DO). DO provides a good tradeoff between speed, scalability, and competitive scores, and is implemented in the computer program POY. All other (competitive) algorithms have greater time complexities compared to DO. Here, we introduce and present experiments a new algorithm Affine-DO to accommodate the indel (alignment gap) models commonly used in phylogenetic analysis of molecular sequence data. Affine-DO has the same time complexity as DO, but is correctly suited for the affine gap edit distance. We demonstrate its performance with more than 330,000 experimental tests. These experiments show that the solutions of Affine-DO are close to the lower bound inferred from a linear programming solution. Moreover, iterating over a solution produced using Affine-DO shows little improvement.
Our results show that Affine-DO is likely producing near-optimal solutions, with approximations within 10% for sequences with small divergence, and within 30% for random sequences, for which Affine-DO produced the worst solutions. The Affine-DO algorithm has the necessary scalability and optimality to be a significant improvement in the real-world phylogenetic analysis of sequence data.
PMCID: PMC3605350  PMID: 23140486
Tree alignment; Tree search; Phylogeny; Sequence alignment; Direct optimization
9.  Maximum Parsimony on Phylogenetic networks 
Phylogenetic networks are generalizations of phylogenetic trees, that are used to model evolutionary events in various contexts. Several different methods and criteria have been introduced for reconstructing phylogenetic trees. Maximum Parsimony is a character-based approach that infers a phylogenetic tree by minimizing the total number of evolutionary steps required to explain a given set of data assigned on the leaves. Exact solutions for optimizing parsimony scores on phylogenetic trees have been introduced in the past.
In this paper, we define the parsimony score on networks as the sum of the substitution costs along all the edges of the network; and show that certain well-known algorithms that calculate the optimum parsimony score on trees, such as Sankoff and Fitch algorithms extend naturally for networks, barring conflicting assignments at the reticulate vertices. We provide heuristics for finding the optimum parsimony scores on networks. Our algorithms can be applied for any cost matrix that may contain unequal substitution costs of transforming between different characters along different edges of the network. We analyzed this for experimental data on 10 leaves or fewer with at most 2 reticulations and found that for almost all networks, the bounds returned by the heuristics matched with the exhaustively determined optimum parsimony scores.
The parsimony score we define here does not directly reflect the cost of the best tree in the network that displays the evolution of the character. However, when searching for the most parsimonious network that describes a collection of characters, it becomes necessary to add additional cost considerations to prefer simpler structures, such as trees over networks. The parsimony score on a network that we describe here takes into account the substitution costs along the additional edges incident on each reticulate vertex, in addition to the substitution costs along the other edges which are common to all the branching patterns introduced by the reticulate vertices. Thus the score contains an in-built cost for the number of reticulate vertices in the network, and would provide a criterion that is comparable among all networks. Although the problem of finding the parsimony score on the network is believed to be computationally hard to solve, heuristics such as the ones described here would be beneficial in our efforts to find a most parsimonious network.
PMCID: PMC3377548  PMID: 22551229
10.  In Vitro Detection and Quantification of Botulinum Neurotoxin Type E Activity in Avian Blood▿ 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2011;77(21):7815-7822.
Botulinum neurotoxin serotype E (BoNT/E) outbreaks in the Great Lakes region cause large annual avian mortality events, with an estimated 17,000 bird deaths reported in 2007 alone. During an outbreak investigation, blood collected from bird carcasses is tested for the presence of BoNT/E using the mouse lethality assay. While sensitive, this method is labor-intensive and low throughput and can take up to 7 days to complete. We developed a rapid and sensitive in vitro assay, the BoTest Matrix E assay, that combines immunoprecipitation with high-affinity endopeptidase activity detection by Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET) to rapidly quantify BoNT/E activity in avian blood with detection limits comparable to those of the mouse lethality assay. On the basis of the analysis of archived blood samples (n = 87) collected from bird carcasses during avian mortality investigations, BoTest Matrix E detected picomolar quantities of BoNT/E following a 2-h incubation and femtomolar quantities of BoNT/E following extended incubation (24 h) with 100% diagnostic specificity and 91% diagnostic sensitivity.
PMCID: PMC3209138  PMID: 21908624
11.  A phase II trial of huperzine A in mild to moderate Alzheimer disease 
Neurology  2011;76(16):1389-1394.
Huperzine A is a natural cholinesterase inhibitor derived from the Chinese herb Huperzia serrata that may compare favorably in symptomatic efficacy to cholinesterase inhibitors currently in use for Alzheimer disease (AD).
We assessed the safety, tolerability, and efficacy of huperzine A in mild to moderate AD in a multicenter trial in which 210 individuals were randomized to receive placebo (n = 70) or huperzine A (200 μg BID [n = 70] or 400 μg BID [n = 70]), for at least 16 weeks, with 177 subjects completing the treatment phase. The primary analysis assessed the cognitive effects of huperzine A 200 μg BID (change in Alzheimer's Disease Assessment Scale–cognitive subscale [ADAS-Cog] at week 16 at 200 μg BID compared to placebo). Secondary analyses assessed the effect of huperzine A 400 μg BID, as well as effect on other outcomes including Mini-Mental State Examination, Alzheimer's Disease Cooperative Study–Clinical Global Impression of Change scale, Alzheimer's Disease Cooperative Study Activities of Daily Living scale, and Neuropsychiatric Inventory (NPI).
Huperzine A 200 μg BID did not influence change in ADAS-Cog at 16 weeks. In secondary analyses, huperzine A 400 μg BID showed a 2.27-point improvement in ADAS-Cog at 11 weeks vs 0.29-point decline in the placebo group (p = 0.001), and a 1.92-point improvement vs 0.34-point improvement in the placebo arm (p = 0.07) at week 16. Changes in clinical global impression of change, NPI, and activities of daily living were not significant at either dose.
The primary efficacy analysis did not show cognitive benefit with huperzine A 200 μg BID.
Classification of evidence:
This study provides Class III evidence that huperzine A 200 μg BID has no demonstrable cognitive effect in patients with mild to moderate AD.
PMCID: PMC3269774  PMID: 21502597
12.  Fibroblast Growth Factor 23 (FGF23) and Alpha-Klotho Stimulate Osteoblastic MC3T3.E1 Cell Proliferation and Inhibit Mineralization 
Calcified Tissue International  2011;89(2):140-150.
Elevated serum levels of the phosphate-regulating hormone fibroblast growth factor 23 (FGF23) are found in patients with phosphate wasting diseases and chronic kidney disease-mineral and bone disorder (CKD-MBD). These diseases are associated with rickets and renal osteodystrophy, respectively. FGF23 is secreted from osteoblastic cells and signals through FGFRs, membrane coreceptor alpha-Klotho (Klotho), and, possibly, a circulating form of Klotho. Despite the absence of detectable Klotho on osteoblastic cells, studies have suggested that forced FGF23 expression in osteoblasts inhibited mineralization. Thus, we examined the effects of exogenously applied FGF23 on osteoblastic MC3T3.E1 cell proliferation and differentiation, with and without soluble Klotho. MC3T3.E1 cells were cultured in osteoblast differentiation medium, supplemented with FGF23 (0.1–1,000 ng/mL), Klotho (50 ng/mL), the combination FGF23 + Klotho, and FGF2 (100 ng/mL) as a control. Neither FGF23 nor Klotho exposure affected proliferation of day 4 growth phase cells or mineralization of day 14 cultures. In contrast, FGF23 + Klotho resulted in inhibition of mineralization and osteoblast activity markers at day 14, and a slight, reproducible induction of proliferation. Inhibition of FGFR1, but not FGFR2 or FGFR3, completely restored FGF23 + Klotho-induced inhibition of alkaline phosphatase (ALP) activity at day 7. ALP activity was partially restored by the MAPK inhibitor U0126 but not inhibitors p38 and P13K. Thus, soluble Klotho enables FGF23 signaling in MC3T3.E1 cells, likely through FGFR 1(IIIc). Elevated FGF23 actions, in part, appear to parallel FGF2 with lower potency. In addition to affecting bone via indirect phosphate wasting pathways, supraphysiological FGF23 and soluble Klotho may directly impact bone in diseases with elevated FGF23 levels.
PMCID: PMC3135830  PMID: 21633782
Fibroblast growth factor 23; MC3T3.E1 cell; Osteoblast; Alpha-Klotho; Mineralization; Fibroblast growth factor receptor; MAPK; ERK1/2
13.  Assessing the root of bilaterian animals with scalable phylogenomic methods 
A clear picture of animal relationships is a prerequisite to understand how the morphological and ecological diversity of animals evolved over time. Among others, the placement of the acoelomorph flatworms, Acoela and Nemertodermatida, has fundamental implications for the origin and evolution of various animal organ systems. Their position, however, has been inconsistent in phylogenetic studies using one or several genes. Furthermore, Acoela has been among the least stable taxa in recent animal phylogenomic analyses, which simultaneously examine many genes from many species, while Nemertodermatida has not been sampled in any phylogenomic study. New sequence data are presented here from organisms targeted for their instability or lack of representation in prior analyses, and are analysed in combination with other publicly available data. We also designed new automated explicit methods for identifying and selecting common genes across different species, and developed highly optimized supercomputing tools to reconstruct relationships from gene sequences. The results of the work corroborate several recently established findings about animal relationships and provide new support for the placement of other groups. These new data and methods strongly uphold previous suggestions that Acoelomorpha is sister clade to all other bilaterian animals, find diminishing evidence for the placement of the enigmatic Xenoturbella within Deuterostomia, and place Cycliophora with Entoprocta and Ectoprocta. The work highlights the implications that these arrangements have for metazoan evolution and permits a clearer picture of ancestral morphologies and life histories in the deep past.
PMCID: PMC2817096  PMID: 19759036
phylogenomics; Acoelomorpha; Nemertodermatida; Cycliophora; Xenoturbella; Ctenophora
14.  c-Fos protein expression is increased in cholinergic neurons of the rodent basal forebrain during spontaneous and induced wakefulness 
Brain research bulletin  2009;80(6):382-388.
It has been proposed that cholinergic neurons of the basal forebrain (BF) may play a role in vigilance state control. Since not all vigilance states have been studied, we evaluated cholinergic neuronal activation levels across spontaneously occurring states of vigilance, as well as during sleep deprivation and recovery sleep following sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation was performed for two hours at the beginning of the light (inactive) period, by means of gentle sensory stimulation. In the rodent BF, we used immunohistochemical detection of the c-Fos protein as a marker for activation combined with labeling for choline acetyl-transferase (ChAT) as a marker for cholinergic neurons. We found c-Fos activation in BF cholinergic neurons was highest in the group undergoing sleep deprivation (12.9% of cholinergic neurons), while the spontaneous wakefulness group showed a significant increase (9.2%), compared to labeling in the spontaneous sleep group (1.8%) and sleep deprivation recovery group (0.8%). A subpopulation of cholinergic neurons expressed c-Fos during spontaneous wakefulness, when possible confounds of the sleep deprivation procedure were minimized (e.g., stress and sensory stimulation). Double-labeling in the sleep deprivation treatment group was significantly elevated in select subnuclei of the BF (medial septum/vertical limb of the diagonal band, horizontal limb of the diagonal band, and the magnocellular preoptic nucleus), when compared to spontaneous wakefulness. These findings support and provide additional confirming data of previous reports that cholinergic neurons of BF play a role in vigilance state regulation by promoting wakefulness.
PMCID: PMC2782706  PMID: 19716862
sleep; wake; EEG; rat; stress; acetylcholine
15.  Effects of inhaled fluticasone on angiogenesis and vascular endothelial growth factor in asthma 
Thorax  2006;62(4):314-319.
Subepithelial hypervascularity and angiogenesis in the airways are part of structural remodelling of the airway wall in asthma, but the effects of inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) on these have not been explored. Increased vascularity in asthma may contribute to a number of functional abnormalities. A study was undertaken to explore angiogenic modulation by ICS and its likely regulation via vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), its receptors and the angiopoietins.
A placebo‐controlled intervention study with ICS in asthma was performed, examining vascularity, VEGF, its receptors (VEGFR1 and VEGFR2), and angiopoietin‐1 (Ang1) to assess which of these factors were changed in the asthmatic airways after ICS treatment. Airway wall biopsy specimens, lavage fluid and cells were obtained from 35 patients with mild asthma randomised to receive ICS or placebo for 3 months, after which bronchoscopic examination and sample collection were repeated. Immunohistochemistry and image analysis were used to obtain quantitative measures of vessels, angiogenic sprouts, VEGF, VEGFR1, VEGFR2 and Ang1 staining in airway biopsy specimens. ELISA was used to assess VEGF concentrations in the lavage fluid.
Vessel, VEGF and sprout staining were decreased after 3 months of ICS treatment. VEGF levels remained unchanged. VEGF receptors and Ang1 staining were not reduced after treatment.
The findings of this study support an effect of ICS in downregulating angiogenic remodelling in the airways in asthma, associated with decreasing VEGF activity within the airway wall. The environment of the airways after treatment with ICS, with changes in the balance between VEGF, its receptors, Ang1 and sprouts, appears to be less angiogenic than in untreated asthma.
PMCID: PMC2092477  PMID: 17105777
16.  Cross talk of signals between EGFR and IL-6R through JAK2/STAT3 mediate epithelial–mesenchymal transition in ovarian carcinomas 
British Journal of Cancer  2008;100(1):134-144.
Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) is overexpressed in ovarian carcinomas, with direct or indirect activation of EGFR able to trigger tumour growth. We demonstrate significant activation of both signal transducer and activator of transcription (STAT)3 and its upstream activator Janus kinase (JAK)2, in high-grade ovarian carcinomas compared with normal ovaries and benign tumours. The association between STAT3 activation and migratory phenotype of ovarian cancer cells was investigated by EGF-induced epithelial–mesenchymal transition (EMT) in OVCA 433 and SKOV3 ovarian cancer cell lines. Ligand activation of EGFR induced a fibroblast-like morphology and migratory phenotype, consistent with the upregulation of mesenchyme-associated N-cadherin, vimentin and nuclear translocation of β-catenin. This occurred concomitantly with activation of the downstream JAK2/STAT3 pathway. Both cell lines expressed interleukin-6 receptor (IL-6R), and treatment with EGF within 1 h resulted in a several-fold enhancement of mRNA expression of IL-6. Consistent with that, EGF treatment of both OVCA 433 and SKOV3 cell lines resulted in enhanced IL-6 production in the serum-free medium. Exogenous addition of IL-6 to OVCA 433 cells stimulated STAT3 activation and enhanced migration. Blocking antibodies against IL-6R inhibited IL-6 production and EGF- and IL-6-induced migration. Specific inhibition of STAT3 activation by JAK2-specific inhibitor AG490 blocked STAT3 phosphorylation, cell motility, induction of N-cadherin and vimentin expression and IL6 production. These data suggest that the activated status of STAT3 in high-grade ovarian carcinomas may occur directly through activation of EGFR or IL-6R or indirectly through induction of IL-6R signalling. Such activation of STAT3 suggests a rationale for a combination of anti-STAT3 and EGFR/IL-6R therapy to suppress the peritoneal spread of ovarian cancer.
PMCID: PMC2634691  PMID: 19088723
ovarian carcinoma; epithelial–mesenchymal transition; migration; Janus kinase 2; signal transducer and activator of transcription 3
17.  Critical incident exposure in South African emergency services personnel: prevalence and associated mental health issues 
Emergency Medicine Journal : EMJ  2006;23(3):226-231.
To assess critical incident exposure among prehospital emergency services personnel in the developing world context of South Africa; and to assess associated mental health consequences.
We recruited a representative sample from emergency services in the Western Cape Province, South Africa, to participate in this cross sectional epidemiological study. Questionnaires covered critical incident exposure, general psychopathology, risky alcohol use, symptoms of post‐traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and psychological and physical aggression between co‐workers. Open ended questions addressed additional stressors.
Critical incident exposure and rates of general psychopathology were higher than in studies in the developed world. Exposure to critical incidents was associated with general psychopathology, symptoms of PTSD, and with aggression between co‐workers, but not with alcohol use. Ambulance, fire, and sea rescue services had lower general psychopathology scores than traffic police. The sea rescue service also scored lower than traffic police on PTSD and psychological aggression. The defence force had higher rates of exposure to physical assault, and in ambulance services, younger staff were more vulnerable to assault. Women had higher rates of general psychopathology and of exposure to psychological aggression. Other stressors identified included death notification, working conditions, and organisational problems.
Service organisations should be alert to the possibility that their personnel are experiencing work ‐related mental health and behavioural problems, and should provide appropriate support. Attention should also be given to organisational issues that may add to the stress of incidents. Workplace programmes should support vulnerable groups, and address death notification and appropriate expression of anger.
PMCID: PMC2464423  PMID: 16498167
prehospital care; emergency services; critical incidents; mental health; occupational health
18.  Pepsin like activity in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid is suggestive of gastric aspiration in lung allografts 
Thorax  2005;60(10):872-874.
Background: A biologically plausible link between gastro-oesophageal reflux (GOR), aspiration, and lung allograft dysfunction has been suggested, but there is no systematic evidence indicating the presence of gastric contents in the lung. We have tested the hypothesis that pepsin, as a marker of aspiration, is detectable in bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) fluid of allograft recipients who had not reported symptoms of GOR.
Methods: Standardised 3x60 ml surveillance BAL fluid samples from 13 chronologically sequential stable lung allograft recipients without chronic rejection (10 patients treated with a prophylactic proton pump inhibitor) were studied. Lavage supernatants were assayed by an ELISA based on a monospecific goat antibody for pepsin/pepsinogen. Pepsin levels were compared with those from four normal volunteer controls.
Results: Pepsin levels were measurable in all allograft recipients, in keeping with gastric aspiration (median 109 ng/ml (range 35–1375)). In the control group the pepsin levels were below the limit of detection. Treatment with a proton pump inhibitor was not correlated with pepsin levels. There was no correlation between BAL fluid neutrophils and pepsin levels.
Conclusion: These data demonstrate lung epithelial lining fluid concentrations of pepsin in lung allograft recipients which are much higher than blood reference levels, with no detectable pepsin in controls. This provides direct evidence of gastric aspiration, which is potentially injurious to the allograft.
PMCID: PMC1747219  PMID: 16055614
19.  Phenotype of airway epithelial cells suggests epithelial to mesenchymal cell transition in clinically stable lung transplant recipients 
Thorax  2005;60(10):865-871.
Background: Obliterative bronchiolitis in chronic rejection of lung allografts is characterised by airway epithelial damage and fibrosis. The process whereby normal epithelium is lost and replaced by fibroblastic scar tissue is poorly understood, but recent findings suggest that epithelial cells can become fibroblasts through epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT). It is hypothesised that EMT occurs in lung allografts and plays a potential role in airway remodelling.
Methods: Sixteen stable lung transplant recipients underwent bronchoscopy with bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL), endobronchial biopsies, and bronchial brushings. Biopsy sections were stained for the fibroblast marker S100A4. Brushings were cultured on collagen, stained with anti-S100A4, and examined for further EMT markers including matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) zymographic activity and epithelial invasion through collagen coated filters.
Results: A median 15% (0–48%) of the biopsy epithelium stained for S100A4 in stable lung transplant recipients and MMP-7 co-localisation was observed. In non-stimulated epithelial cultures from lung allografts, S100A4 staining was identified with MMP-2 and MMP-9 production and zymographic activity. MMP total protein and activity was increased following stimulation with transforming growth factor (TGF)-ß1. Non-stimulated transplant epithelial cells were invasive and penetration of collagen coated filters increased following TGF-ß1 stimulation.
Conclusions: This study provides evidence of EMT markers in lung allografts of patients without loss of lung function. The EMT process may represent a final common pathway following injury in more common diseases characterised by airway remodelling.
PMCID: PMC1747194  PMID: 15972366
20.  Bronchial epithelial cells cultured from clinically stable lung allograft patients promote the development of macrophages from monocytes rather than dendritic cells 
Thorax  2008;64(5):430-435.
It is understood that chronic allograft failure occurs as a result of alloimmune and non-alloimmune injury. Dendritic cells (DC) are thought to be crucial in regulating (allo)immune airway damage and interactions with epithelial cells are likely. Studies in human lung transplantation are limited, however, and the available literature on DC is inconsistent. This study focused on the ex vivo influence of primary bronchial epithelial cells derived from lung allografts on DC differentiation.
Epithelial cell conditioned media (ECCM) were added to monocytes differentiating into DC under the influence of interleukin-4 and granulocyte macrophage-colony stimulating factor. The resultant cells were compared with DC cultured without ECCM and with monocyte-derived macrophages. Expression of typical DC (eg, CD1a) and macrophage (eg, CD14) markers was assessed by flow cytometry. Phenotypical assessments were complemented by functional studies of mannose receptor-mediated phagocytosis (FITC-dextran uptake) and antigen-presenting capability (mixed lymphocyte reactions).
Cells exposed to ECCM expressed significantly lower levels of CD1a than unexposed DC. CD14 expression and phagocytic function were increased. ECCM cultured cells also expressed lower levels of T cell co-stimulatory molecules, secreted an anti-inflammatory cytokine profile and had significantly reduced antigen-presenting capability.
Using phenotypic and functional approaches, this study has shown that ECCM from lung allografts drives the production of macrophage-like cells from monocytes rather than DC. The data suggest that epithelial cells may restrain airway DC and potential alloimmunity. It is unclear whether the observed effect is specifically seen in lung transplant recipients or is a general property of bronchial epithelial cells. This may reflect a homeostatic inter-relationship between airway epithelial and DC populations relevant both to lung allografts and the lung more generally.
PMCID: PMC2669498  PMID: 19158119
21.  Sleep fragmentation elevates behavioral, electrographic and neurochemical measures of sleepiness 
Neuroscience  2007;146(4):1462-1473.
Sleep fragmentation, a feature of sleep apnea as well as other sleep and medical/psychiatric disorders, is thought to lead to excessive daytime sleepiness. A rodent model of sleep fragmentation was developed (termed sleep interruption, SI), where rats were awakened every 2 min by the movement of an automated treadmill for either 6 or 24 h of exposure. The sleep pattern of rats exposed to 24h of SI resembled sleep of the apneic patient in the following ways: sleep was fragmented (up to 30 awakening/h), total REM sleep time was greatly reduced, NREM sleep episode duration was reduced (from 2 min, 5 s baseline to 58 s during SI), whereas the total amount of NREM sleep time per 24h approached basal levels. Both 6 and 24 h of SI made rats more sleepy, as indicated by a reduced latency to fall asleep upon SI termination. Electrographic measures in the recovery sleep period following either 6 or 24 h of SI also indicated an elevation of homeostatic sleep drive; specifically, the average NREM episode duration increased (e.g., for 24 h SI, from 2 min, 5 s baseline to 3 min, 19 s following SI), as did the NREM delta power during recovery sleep. Basal forebrain (BF) levels of extracellular adenosine (AD) were also measured with microdialysis sample collection and HPLC detection, as previous work suggests that increasing concentrations of BF AD are related to sleepiness. BF AD levels were significantly elevated during SI, peaking at 220% of baseline during 30 h of SI exposure. These combined findings imply an elevation of the homeostatic sleep drive following either 6 or 24 h of SI, and BF AD levels appear to correlate more with sleepiness than with the cumulative amount of prior wakefulness, since total NREM sleep time declined only slightly. SI may be partially responsible for the symptom of daytime sleepiness observed in a number of clinical disorders, and this may be mediated by mechanisms involving BF AD.
PMCID: PMC2156190  PMID: 17442498
adenosine; sleep; EEG (electroencephalogram); rat; microdialysis; forebrain; homeostasis; apnea; delta; sleep latency
PMCID: PMC1765640  PMID: 14645460
23.  Report of two protocol planned interim analyses in a randomised multicentre phase III study comparing capecitabine with fluorouracil and oxaliplatin with cisplatin in patients with advanced oesophagogastric cancer receiving ECF 
British Journal of Cancer  2005;92(11):1976-1983.
The purpose of the study was to establish the optimal dose of capecitabine (X) to be used within a multicentre, randomised study evaluating the potential roles of oxaliplatin (O) and X in chemonaive patients (pts) with advanced oesophagogastric cancer. Two by two design was used, and pts were randomised to one of four regimens and stratified for extent of disease, performance status (PS) and centre. The treatment regimens are epirubicin, cisplatin, 5-fluorouracil (ECF), EOF, ECX or EOX. Doses: E 50 mg m−2, C 60 mg m−2 and O 130 mg m−2 i.v. 3 weekly; F 200 mg m−2 day−1 i.v. and X 500 mg m−2 b.i.d.−1 (escalated to 625 mg m−2 b.i.d.−1 after results of first interim analysis) p.o., continuously. First interim analysis was performed when 80 pts had been randomised. Dose-limiting fluoropyrimidine toxicities were stomatitis, palmar plantar erythema (PPE) and diarrhoea; 5.1% of X-treated pts experienced grade 3/4 toxicity. Protocol planned dose escalation of X to 625 mg m−2 b.i.d.−1 was instituted and a second interim analysis has been performed; results are presented in this paper. A total of 204 pts were randomised at the time of the protocol planned 2nd interim analysis. Grade 3/4 fluoropyrimidine-related toxicity was seen in 13.7% pts receiving F, 8.4% pts receiving X 500 mg m−2 b.i.d.−1 and 14.7% pts receiving X 625 mg m−2 b.i.d.−1. Combined complete and partial response rates were ECF 31% (95% CI 18.7–46.3), EOF 39% (95% CI 25.9–53.1), ECX 35% (95% CI 21.4–50.3), EOX 48% (95% CI 33.3–62.8). Grade 3/4 fluoropyrimidine toxicity affected 14.7% of pts treated with X 625 mg m−2 b.i.d.−1, which is similar to that observed with F, confirming this to be the optimal dose. The replacement of C by O and F by X does not appear to impair efficacy. The trial continues to total accrual of 1000 pts.
PMCID: PMC2361798  PMID: 15928658
24.  Preliminary findings of quorum signal molecules in clinically stable lung allograft recipients 
Thorax  2003;58(5):444-446.
Methods: Three 60 ml samples of bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) fluid were taken from nine stable lung transplant recipients 3–12 months after transplantation. Detection of AHLs was carried out on dichloromethane extracted supernatants using the bioluminescence based AHL reporter plasmid pSB1075. This responds to the presence of AHLs with long acyl chains (C10–C14), generating light. Synthetic AHLs were included as positive controls.
Results: Five of the nine BAL fluid supernatants exhibited AHL activity, suggesting the presence of AHLs with long N-acyl chains. There was no correlation between the levels of AHLs detected or their absence and BAL fluid microbiology or diagnosis before transplantation.
Conclusions: This is the first evidence for the presence of AHL quorum sensing signals in human lung allograft recipients, even in subjects with no rejection or apparent infection. Further longitudinal follow up of these preliminary findings is required to elucidate potential links with infection, rejection, and allograft deterioration.
PMCID: PMC1746678  PMID: 12728169
25.  Revision of BTS guidelines for treatment of asthma 
Thorax  2003;58(3):280.
PMCID: PMC1746599  PMID: 12612313

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