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1.  Circulating Endothelial Progenitor Cells Decrease in Infants with Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia and Increase after Inhaled Nitric Oxide 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e79060.
Impairment of endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) has been shown to contribute to the development of bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD). In the current study, the relationship between EPC changes of after birth and the development of BPD was investigated, and the effects of inhaled nitric oxide (iNO) on EPCs were evaluated.
Sixty infants with a gestational age of less than 32 weeks and a birth weight of less than 1500 g were studied. NO was administered to infants who were receiving mechanical ventilation or CPAP for at least 2 days between the ages of 7 and 21 days. EPC level was determined by flow cytometry at birth, 7, 21 and 28 days of age and 36 weeks’ postmenstrual age (PMA), before and after the iNO treatment. Plasma concentrations of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), stromal cell-derived factor-1 and granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor were determined via immunochemical assay.
Twenty-five neonates developed BPD, 35 neonates survived and did not develop BPD. EPC level was decreased on day 7 and 21 in infants who later developed BPD compared with infants that did not develop BPD. From birth to 21 days of age, BPD infants had a persistently lower VEGF concentration compared with non-BPD infants. No difference was found between the two groups at day 28 or 36 weeks PMA. In infants that later developed BPD, iNO raised the KDR+CD133+ and CD34+KDR+CD133+ EPC numbers along with increasing the level of plasma VEGF.
EPC level was reduced at 7 days of age in infants with BPD, and iNO increased the EPC number along with increasing the level of VEGF. Further studies are needed to elucidate the mechanism leading to the decrease of EPCs in infants with BPD and to investigate the role of iNO treatment in the prevention of BPD.
PMCID: PMC3823930  PMID: 24244420
2.  Experimental Modelling of the Consequences of Brief Late Gestation Asphyxia on Newborn Lamb Behaviour and Brain Structure 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e77377.
Brief but severe asphyxia in late gestation or at the time of birth may lead to neonatal hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy and is associated with long-term neurodevelopmental impairment. We undertook this study to examine the consequences of transient in utero asphyxia in late gestation fetal sheep, on the newborn lamb after birth. Surgery was undertaken at 125 days gestation for implantation of fetal catheters and placement of a silastic cuff around the umbilical cord. At 132 days gestation (0.89 term), the cuff was inflated to induce umbilical cord occlusion (UCO), or sham (control). Fetal arterial blood samples were collected for assessment of fetal wellbeing and the pregnancy continued until birth. At birth, behavioral milestones for newborn lambs were recorded over 24 h, after which the lambs were euthanased for brain collection and histopathology assessments. After birth, UCO lambs displayed significant latencies to (i) use all four legs, (ii) attain a standing position, (iii) find the udder, and (iv) successfully suckle - compared to control lambs. Brains of UCO lambs showed widespread pathologies including cell death, white matter disruption, intra-parenchymal hemorrhage and inflammation, which were not observed in full term control brains. UCO resulted in some preterm births, but comparison with age-matched preterm non-UCO control lambs showed that prematurity per se was not responsible for the behavioral delays and brain structural abnormalities resulting from the in utero asphyxia. These results demonstrate that a single, brief fetal asphyxic episode in late gestation results in significant grey and white matter disruption in the developing brain, and causes significant behavioral delay in newborn lambs. These data are consistent with clinical observations that antenatal asphyxia is causal in the development of neonatal encephalopathy and provide an experimental model to advance our understanding of neuroprotective therapies.
PMCID: PMC3819360  PMID: 24223120
3.  SP-B and SP-C Containing New Synthetic Surfactant for Treatment of Extremely Immature Lamb Lung 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(7):e39392.
Although superiority of synthetic surfactant over animal-driven surfactant has been known, there is no synthetic surfactant commercially available at present. Many trials have been made to develop synthetic surfactant comparable in function to animal-driven surfactant. The efficacy of treatment with a new synthetic surfactant (CHF5633) containing dipalmitoylphosphatidylcholine, phosphatidylglycerol, SP-B analog, and SP-C analog was evaluated using immature newborn lamb model and compared with animal lung tissue-based surfactant Survanta. Lambs were treated with a clinical dose of 200 mg/kg CHF5633, 100 mg/kg Survanta, or air after 15 min initial ventilation. All the lambs treated with air died of respiratory distress within 90 min of age. During a 5 h study period, Pco2 was maintained at 55 mmHg with 24 cmH2O peak inspiratory pressure for both groups. The preterm newborn lamb lung functions were dramatically improved by CHF5633 treatment. Slight, but significant superiority of CHF5633 over Survanta was demonstrated in tidal volume at 20 min and dynamic lung compliance at 20 and 300 min. The ultrastructure of CHF5633 was large with uniquely aggregated lipid particles. Increased uptake of CHF5633 by alveolar monocytes for catabolism was demonstrated by microphotograph, which might be associated with the higher treatment dose of CHF5633. The higher catabolism of CHF5633 was also suggested by the similar amount of surfactant lipid in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BALF) between CHF5633 and Survanta groups, despite the 2-fold higher treatment dose of CHF5633. Under the present ventilation protocol, lung inflammation was minimal for both groups, evaluated by inflammatory cell numbers in BALF and expression of IL-1β, IL-6, IL-8, and TNFα mRNA in the lung tissue. In conclusion, the new synthetic surfactant CHF5633 was effective in treating extremely immature newborn lambs with surfactant deficiency during the 5 h study period.
PMCID: PMC3396642  PMID: 22808033
4.  Chorioamnionitis and Subsequent Lung Function in Preterm Infants 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e81193.
To explore the relationship between prematurity, gender and chorioamnionitis as determinants of early life lung function in premature infants.
Placenta and membranes were collected from preterm deliveries (<37 weeks gestational age) and evaluated for histological chorioamnionitis (HCA). Patients were followed and lung function was performed in the first year of life by Raised Volume-Rapid Thoracic Compression Technique.
Ninety-five infants (43 males) born prematurely (median gestational age 34.2 weeks) were recruited. HCA was detected in 66 (69%) of the placentas, and of these 55(58%) were scored HCA Grade 1, and 11(12%) HCA Grade 2. Infants exposed to HCA Grade 1 and Grade 2, when compared to those not exposed, presented significantly lower gestational ages, higher prevalence of RDS, clinical early-onset sepsis, and the use of supplemental oxygen more than 28 days. Infants exposed to HCA also had significantly lower maximal flows. There was a significant negative trend for z-scores of lung function in relation to levels of HCA; infants had lower maximal expiratory flows with increasing level of HCA. (p = 0.012 for FEF50, p = 0.014 for FEF25–75 and p = 0.32 for FEV0.5). Two-way ANOVA adjusted for length and gestational age indicated a significant interaction between sex and HCA in determining expiratory flows (p<0.01 for FEF50, FEF25–75 and p<0.05 for FEV0.5). Post-hoc comparisons revealed that female preterm infants exposed to HCA Grade 1 and Grade 2 had significant lower lung function than those not exposed, and this effect was not observed among males.
Our findings show a sex-specific negative effect of prenatal inflammation on lung function of female preterm infants. This study confirms and expands knowledge upon the known association between chorioamnionitis and early life chronic lung disease.
PMCID: PMC3855222  PMID: 24339909
5.  Regulatory Roles of the PI3K/Akt Signaling Pathway in Rats with Severe Acute Pancreatitis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e81767.
The phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase(PI3K)/protein kinase B (Akt) pathway plays a key role in inflammation. However, the regulatory roles of PI3K/Akt in severe acute pancreatitis (SAP) have not been elucidated. The aim of this study was to investigate the impact of wortmannin, a PI3K/Akt inhibitor, on SAP rats through exposure to sodium taurocholate (STC) after 3 h and 6 h. The SAP group was found to have a significant increase in pancreas Akt expression, along with the activation of serum amylase, TNF-α, IL-1β, and IL-6, and pancreas histological aggravation. The administration of wortmannin in SAP rats reduced Akt expression, attenuated the level of serum amylase and inflammation factor, and alleviated the damage of pancreatic tissue. Furthermore, the administration of wortmannin led to an obvious reduction in NF-κB and p38MAPK expression in SAP rats. These findings showed that the PI3K/Akt inhibitor wortmannin decreases inflammatory cytokines in SAP rats and suggests its regulatory mechanisms may occur through the suppression on NF-κB and p38MAPK activity.
PMCID: PMC3842964  PMID: 24312352
6.  Increased Adiposity in Adults Born Preterm and Their Children 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e81840.
Preterm birth is associated with abnormalities in growth, body composition, and metabolism during childhood, but adult data are scarce and none exist for their offspring. We therefore aimed to examine body composition and cardiovascular risk factors in adults born preterm and their children.
A cohort of 52 adults (aged 35.7 years, 54% female, 31 born preterm) and their term-born children (n=61, aged 8.0 years, 54% female, 60% from a preterm parent) were studied. Auxology and body composition (whole-body dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry) were measured, and fasting blood samples taken for metabolic and hormonal assessments.
Adults born preterm had greater abdominal adiposity, displaying more truncal fat (p=0.006) and higher android to gynoid fat ratio (p=0.004). Although women born preterm and at term were of similar weight and BMI, men born preterm (n=8) were on average 20 kg heavier (p=0.010) and of greater BMI (34.2 vs 28.4 kg/m2; p=0.021) than men born at term (n=16). Adults born preterm also displayed a less favourable lipid profile, including lower HDL-C concentrations (p=0.007) and greater total cholesterol to HDL-C ratio (p=0.047). Children of parents born preterm tended to have more body fat than the children of parents born at term (21.3 vs 17.6%; p=0.055). Even after adjustment for mean parental BMI, children of parents born preterm had altered fat distribution, with more truncal fat (p=0.048) and greater android to gynoid fat ratio (p=0.009).
Adults born preterm, particularly men, have markedly increased fat mass and altered fat distribution. A similar increase in abdominal adiposity was observed in the term born offspring of parents born preterm, indicating that adverse outcomes associated with preterm birth may extend to the next generation.
PMCID: PMC3835734  PMID: 24278462
7.  Fish and Fish Oil Intake in Relation to Risk of Asthma: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e80048.
Although laboratory studies suggest that long-chain n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCn3PUFAs) may reduce risk of asthma, epidemiological data remain controversial and inconclusive. We quantitatively reviewed the epidemiological studies published through December 2012 in PubMed and EMBASE by using a fixed-effects or random-effects model. Eleven studies, comprised of 99,093 individuals (3,226 cases), were included in the final dataset. Of them, 7 studies examined associations between intake of fish or LCn3PUFA and risk of asthma: 4 studies in children (996 cases from 12,481 children) and 3 in adults (1,311 cases from 82,553 individuals). Two studies (69 cases from 276 infants) investigated LCn3PUFA levels in mothers’ milk, and two studies assessed maternal fish consumption (786 cases from 2,832 individuals) during lactation and/or plasma LCn3PUFA levels during pregnancy (64 cases from 951 infants) in relation to offspring’s asthma. The pooled relative risk of child asthma were 0.76 (95% CI, 0.61–0.94) for fish consumption and 0.71 (95% CI, 0.52–0.96) for LCn3PUFA intake. No statistically significant association was found in studies among adults. Epidemiological data to date indicate that fish or LCn3PUFA intake may be beneficial to prevent asthma in children. Further studies are needed to establish causal inference and to elucidate the potential mechanisms.
PMCID: PMC3827145  PMID: 24265794
8.  Sildenafil Citrate Increases Fetal Weight in a Mouse Model of Fetal Growth Restriction with a Normal Vascular Phenotype 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e77748.
Fetal growth restriction (FGR) is defined as the inability of a fetus to achieve its genetic growth potential and is associated with a significantly increased risk of morbidity and mortality. Clinically, FGR is diagnosed as a fetus falling below the 5th centile of customised growth charts. Sildenafil citrate (SC, Viagra™), a potent and selective phosphodiesterase-5 inhibitor, corrects ex vivo placental vascular dysfunction in FGR, demonstrating potential as a therapy for this condition. However, many FGR cases present without an abnormal vascular phenotype, as assessed by Doppler measures of uterine/umbilical artery blood flow velocity. Thus, we hypothesized that SC would not increase fetal growth in a mouse model of FGR, the placental-specific Igf2 knockout mouse, which has altered placental exchange capacity but normal placental blood flow. Fetal weights were increased (by 8%) in P0 mice following maternal SC treatment (0.4 mg/ml) via drinking water. There was also a trend towards increased placental weight in treated P0 mice (P = 0.056). Additionally, 75% of the P0 fetal weights were below the 5th centile, the criterion used to define human FGR, of the non-treated WT fetal weights; this was reduced to 51% when dams were treated with SC. Umbilical artery and vein blood flow velocity measures confirmed the lack of an abnormal vascular phenotype in the P0 mouse; and were unaffected by SC treatment. 14C-methylaminoisobutyric acid transfer (measured to assess effects on placental nutrient transporter activity) per g placenta was unaffected by SC, versus untreated, though total transfer was increased, commensurate with the trend towards larger placentas in this group. These data suggest that SC may improve fetal growth even in the absence of an abnormal placental blood flow, potentially affording use in multiple sub-populations of individuals presenting with FGR.
PMCID: PMC3813774  PMID: 24204949
9.  Quercetin Inhibits Left Ventricular Hypertrophy in Spontaneously Hypertensive Rats and Inhibits Angiotensin II-Induced H9C2 Cells Hypertrophy by Enhancing PPAR-γ Expression and Suppressing AP-1 Activity 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e72548.
Quercetin is the most abundant flavonoid in fruit and vegetables and is believed to attenuate cardiovascular disease. We hypothesized that quercetin inhibits cardiac hypertrophy by blocking AP-1 (c-fos, c-jun) and activating PPAR-γ signaling pathways.
Methodology/Principal Findings
The aim of this study was to identify the mechanism underlying quercetin-mediated attenuation of cardiac hypertrophy. Quercetin therapy reduced blood pressure and markedly reduced the ratio of left ventricular to body weight (LVW/BW) (P<0.05, vs. spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHRs)). In vitro, quercetin also significantly attenuated Ang II-induced H9C2 cells hypertrophy, as indicated by its concentration dependent inhibitory effects on [3H]leucine incorporation into H9C2 cells (64% reduction) and by the reduced hypertrophic surface area in H9C2 cells compared with the Ang II group (P<0.01, vs. Ang II group). Concurrently, we found that PPAR-γ activity was significantly increased in the quercetin-treated group both in vivo and in vitro when analyzed using immunofluorescent or immunohistochemical assays (P<0.05, vs. SHRs or P<0.01, vs. the Ang II group). Conversely, in vivo, AP-1 (c-fos, s-jun) activation was suppressed in the quercetin-treated group, as was the downstream hypertrophy gene, including mRNA levels of ANP and BNP (P<0.05, vs. SHRs). Additionally, both western blotting and real time-PCR demonstrated that PPAR-γ protein and mRNA were increased in the myocardium and AP-1 protein and mRNA were significantly decreased in the quercetin-treated group (P<0.05, vs. SHRs). Furthermore, western blotting and real time-PCR analyses also showed that transfection with PPAR-γ siRNA significantly increased AP-1 signaling and reversed the effects of quercetin inhibition on mRNA expression levels of genes such as ANP and BNP in hypertrophic H9C2 cells.
Our data indicate that quercetin may inhibit cardiac hypertrophy by enhancing PPAR-γ expression and by suppressing the AP-1 signaling pathway.
PMCID: PMC3769399  PMID: 24039778
10.  A Clinical Tool for Reducing Central Nervous System Depression among Neonates Exposed to Codeine through Breast Milk 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e70073.
Neonates are commonly exposed to maternal codeine through breast milk. Central Nervous System (CNS) depression has been reported in up to 24% of nurslings following codeine exposure. In 2009, we developed guidelines to improve the safety of codeine use during breastfeeding based on previously established pharmacogenetic and clinical risk factors. The primary objective of this study was to prospectively evaluate the effectiveness of these guidelines in ensuring neonatal safety.
Methods and Findings
Women taking codeine for pain following caesarean section were given safety guidelines, including advice to use the lowest codeine dose for no longer than four days and to switch to a non-opioid when possible. Mothers provided a saliva sample for analysis of genes involved in opioid disposition, metabolism and response. A total of 238 consenting women participated. Neonatal sedation was reported in 2.1% (5/238) of breastfeeding women taking codeine according to our safety guidelines. This rate was eight fold lower than that reported in previous prospective studies. Women reporting sedated infants were taking codeine for a significantly longer period of time (4.80±2.59 days vs. 2.52±1.58 days, p = 0.0018). While following the codeine safety guidelines, mothers were less likely to supplement with formula, reported lower rates of sedation in themselves and breastfed more frequently throughout the day when compared to previously reported rates. Genotyping analysis of cytochrome p450 2D6 (CYP2D6), uridine-diphosphate glucuronosyltransferase (UGT) 2B7, p-glycoprotein (ABCB1), the mu-opioid receptor (OPRM1) and catechol-o-demethyltransferase (COMT) did not predict codeine response in breastfeeding mother/infant pairs when following the safety guidelines.
The only cases of CNS depression occurred when the length of codeine use exceeded the guideline recommendations. Neonatal safety of codeine can be improved using evidence-based guidelines, even in those deemed by genetics to be at high risk for toxicity.
PMCID: PMC3726489  PMID: 23922910
11.  Plasminogen Activator Inhibitor-2 Polymorphism Associates with Recurrent Coronary Event Risk in Patients with High HDL and C-Reactive Protein Levels 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e68920.
The objective of this work was to investigate whether fibrinolysis plays a role in establishing recurrent coronary event risk in a previously identified group of postinfarction patients. This group of patients was defined as having concurrently high levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) and C-reactive protein (CRP) and was previously demonstrated to be at high-risk for recurrent coronary events. Potential risk associations of a genetic polymorphism of plasminogen activator inhibitor-2 (PAI-2) were probed as well as potential modulatory effects on such risk of a polymorphism of low-density lipoprotein receptor related protein (LRP-1), a scavenger receptor known to be involved in fibrinolysis in the context of cellular internalization of plasminogen activator/plansminogen activator inhibitor complexes. To this end, Cox multivariable modeling was performed as a function of genetic polymorphisms of PAI-2 (SERPINB, rs6095) and LRP-1 (LRP1, rs1800156) as well as a set of clinical parameters, blood biomarkers, and genetic polymorphisms previously demonstrated to be significantly and independently associated with risk in the study population including cholesteryl ester transfer protein (CETP, rs708272), p22phox (CYBA, rs4673), and thrombospondin-4 (THBS4, rs1866389). Risk association was demonstrated for the reference allele of the PAI-2 polymorphism (hazard ratio 0.41 per allele, 95% CI 0.20-0.84, p=0.014) along with continued significant risk associations for the p22phox and thrombospondin-4 polymorphisms. Additionally, further analysis revealed interaction of the LRP-1 and PAI-2 polymorphisms in generating differential risk that was illustrated using Kaplan-Meier survival analysis. We conclude from the study that fibrinolysis likely plays a role in establishing recurrent coronary risk in postinfarction patients with concurrently high levels of HDL-C and CRP as manifested by differential effects on risk by polymorphisms of several genes linked to key actions involved in the fibrinolytic process.
PMCID: PMC3706432  PMID: 23874812
12.  Harnessing the Medicaid Analytic eXtract (MAX) to Evaluate Medications in Pregnancy: Design Considerations 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e67405.
In the absence of clinical trial data, large post-marketing observational studies are essential to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of medications during pregnancy. We identified a cohort of pregnancies ending in live birth within the 2000–2007 Medicaid Analytic eXtract (MAX). Herein, we provide a blueprint to guide investigators who wish to create similar cohorts from healthcare utilization data and we describe the limitations in detail.
Among females ages 12–55, we identified pregnancies using delivery-related codes from healthcare utilization claims. We linked women with pregnancies to their offspring by state, Medicaid Case Number (family identifier) and delivery/birth dates. Then we removed inaccurate linkages and duplicate records and implemented cohort eligibility criteria (i.e., continuous and appropriate enrollment type, no private insurance, no restricted benefits) for claim information completeness.
From 13,460,273 deliveries and 22,408,810 child observations, 6,107,572 pregnancies ending in live birth were available after linkage, cleaning, and removal of duplicate records. The percentage of linked deliveries varied greatly by state, from 0 to 96%. The cohort size was reduced to 1,248,875 pregnancies after requiring maternal eligibility criteria throughout pregnancy and to 1,173,280 pregnancies after further applying infant eligibility criteria. Ninety-one percent of women were dispensed at least one medication during pregnancy.
Mother-infant linkage is feasible and yields a large pregnancy cohort, although the size decreases with increasing eligibility requirements. MAX is a useful resource for studying medications in pregnancy and a spectrum of maternal and infant outcomes within the indigent population of women and their infants enrolled in Medicaid. It may also be used to study maternal characteristics, the impact of Medicaid policy, and healthcare utilization during pregnancy. However, careful attention to the limitations of these data is necessary to reduce biases.
PMCID: PMC3693950  PMID: 23840692
13.  Postnatal Leptin Promotes Organ Maturation and Development in IUGR Piglets 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e64616.
Babies with intra-uterine growth restriction (IUGR) are at increased risk for experiencing negative neonatal outcomes due to their general developmental delay. The present study aimed to investigate the effects of a short postnatal leptin supply on the growth, structure, and functionality of several organs at weaning. IUGR piglets were injected from day 0 to day 5 with either 0.5 mg/kg/d leptin (IUGRLep) or saline (IUGRSal) and euthanized at day 21. Their organs were collected, weighed, and sampled for histological, biochemical, and immunohistochemical analyses. Leptin induced an increase in body weight and the relative weights of the liver, spleen, pancreas, kidneys, and small intestine without any changes in triglycerides, glucose and cholesterol levels. Notable structural and functional changes occurred in the ovaries, pancreas, and secondary lymphoid organs. The ovaries of IUGRLep piglets contained less oogonia but more oocytes enclosed in primordial and growing follicles than the ovaries of IUGRSal piglets, and FOXO3A staining grade was higher in the germ cells of IUGRLep piglets. Within the exocrine parenchyma of the pancreas, IUGRLep piglets presented a high rate of apoptotic cells associated with a higher trypsin activity. In the spleen and the Peyer’s patches, B lymphocyte follicles were much larger in IUGRLep piglets than in IUGRSal piglets. Moreover, IUGRLep piglets showed numerous CD79+cells in well-differentiated follicle structures, suggesting a more mature immune system. This study highlights a new role for leptin in general developmental processes and may provide new insight into IUGR pathology.
PMCID: PMC3669417  PMID: 23741353
14.  The Glutathione Synthesis Gene Gclm Modulates Amphiphilic Polymer-Coated CdSe/ZnS Quantum Dot–Induced Lung Inflammation in Mice 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e64165.
Quantum dots (QDs) are unique semi-conductor fluorescent nanoparticles with potential uses in a variety of biomedical applications. However, concerns exist regarding their potential toxicity, specifically their capacity to induce oxidative stress and inflammation. In this study we synthesized CdSe/ZnS core/shell QDs with a tri-n-octylphosphine oxide, poly(maleic anhydride-alt-1-tetradecene) (TOPO-PMAT) coating and assessed their effects on lung inflammation in mice. Previously published in vitro data demonstrated these TOPO-PMAT QDs cause oxidative stress resulting in increased expression of antioxidant proteins, including heme oxygenase, and the glutathione (GSH) synthesis enzyme glutamate cysteine ligase (GCL). We therefore investigated the effects of these QDs in vivo in mice deficient in GSH synthesis (Gclm +/− and Gclm −/− mice). When mice were exposed via nasal instillation to a TOPO-PMAT QD dose of 6 µg cadmium (Cd) equivalents/kg body weight, neutrophil counts in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BALF) increased in both Gclm wild-type (+/+) and Gclm heterozygous (+/−) mice, whereas Gclm null (−/−) mice exhibited no such increase. Levels of the pro-inflammatory cytokines KC and TNFα increased in BALF from Gclm +/+ and +/− mice, but not from Gclm −/− mice. Analysis of lung Cd levels suggested that QDs were cleared more readily from the lungs of Gclm −/− mice. There was no change in matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) activity in any of the mice. However, there was a decrease in whole lung myeloperoxidase (MPO) content in Gclm −/− mice, regardless of treatment, relative to untreated Gclm +/+ mice. We conclude that in mice TOPO-PMAT QDs have in vivo pro-inflammatory properties, and the inflammatory response is dependent on GSH synthesis status. Because there is a common polymorphism in humans that influences GCLM expression, these findings imply that humans with reduced GSH synthesis capabilities may be more susceptible to the pro-inflammatory effects of QDs.
PMCID: PMC3664581  PMID: 23724032
15.  Effects of Gestational Age at Birth on Cognitive Performance: A Function of Cognitive Workload Demands 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e65219.
Cognitive deficits have been inconsistently described for late or moderately preterm children but are consistently found in very preterm children. This study investigates the association between cognitive workload demands of tasks and cognitive performance in relation to gestational age at birth.
Data were collected as part of a prospective geographically defined whole-population study of neonatal at-risk children in Southern Bavaria. At 8;5 years, n = 1326 children (gestation range: 23–41 weeks) were assessed with the K-ABC and a Mathematics Test.
Cognitive scores of preterm children decreased as cognitive workload demands of tasks increased. The relationship between gestation and task workload was curvilinear and more pronounced the higher the cognitive workload: GA2 (quadratic term) on low cognitive workload: R2 = .02, p<0.001; moderate cognitive workload: R2 = .09, p<0.001; and high cognitive workload tasks: R2 = .14, p<0.001. Specifically, disproportionally lower scores were found for very (<32 weeks gestation) and moderately (32–33 weeks gestation) preterm children the higher the cognitive workload of the tasks. Early biological factors such as gestation and neonatal complications explained more of the variance in high (12.5%) compared with moderate (8.1%) and low cognitive workload tasks (1.7%).
The cognitive workload model may help to explain variations of findings on the relationship of gestational age with cognitive performance in the literature. The findings have implications for routine cognitive follow-up, educational intervention, and basic research into neuro-plasticity and brain reorganization after preterm birth.
PMCID: PMC3663809  PMID: 23717694
16.  Pulmonary Surfactant Preserves Viability of Alveolar Type II Cells Exposed to Polymyxin B In Vitro 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e62105.
Exogenous surfactant derived from animal lungs is applied for treatment of surfactant deficiency. By means of its rapid spreading properties, it could transport pharmaceutical agents to the terminal air spaces. The antimicrobial peptide Polymyxin B (PxB) is used as a topical antibiotic for inhalation therapy. Whereas it has been shown that PxB mixed with surfactant is not inhibiting surface activity while antimicrobiotic activity is preserved, little is known concerning the effects on synthesis of endogenous surfactant in alveolar type II cells (ATIIC).
To investigate ATIIC viability and surfactant-exocytosis depending on PxB and/or surfactant exposure.
ATIIC were isolated from rat lungs as previously described and were cultivated for 48 h. After incubation for a period of 1–5 h with either PxB (0.05 or 0.1 mg/ml), modified porcine surfactant (5 or 10 mg/ml) or mixtures of both, viability and exocytosis (spontanously and after stimulation) were determined by fluorescence staining of intracellular surfactant.
PxB 0.1 mg/ml, but not porcine surfactant or porcine surfactant plus PxB reduces ATIIC-viability. Only PxB alone, but not in combination with porcine surfactant, rapidly reduces fluorescence in ATIIC at maximum within 3 h, indicating stimulation of exocytosis. Subsequent ionomycin-stimulation does not further increase exocytosis of PxB incubated ATIIC. In presence of surfactant, stimulating effects of PxB and ionomycin on exocytosis are reduced.
PxB alone shows negative effects on ATIIC, which are counterbalanced in mixtures with surfactant. So far, our studies found no results discouraging the concept of a combined treatment with PxB and surfactant mixtures.
PMCID: PMC3631157  PMID: 23620808
17.  Smoking Ban and Small-For-Gestational Age Births in Ireland 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e57441.
Ireland introduced a comprehensive workplace smoke-free legislation in March, 2004. Smoking-related adverse birth outcomes have both health care and societal cost implications. The main aim of this study was to determine the impact of the Irish smoke-free legislation on small-for-gestationa- age (SGA) births.
Methods and Findings
We developed a population-based birthweight (BW) percentile curve based on a recent study to compute SGA (BW <5th percentile) and very SGA (vSGA - BW<3rd percentile) for each gestational week. Monthly births born between January 1999 and December 2008 were analyzed linking with monthly maternal smoking rates from a large referral maternity university hospital. We ran individual control and CUSUM charts, with bootstrap simulations, to pinpoint the breakpoint for the impact of ban implementation ( = April 2004). Monthly SGA rates (%) before and after April 2004 was considered pre and post ban period births, respectively. Autocorrelation was tested using Durbin Watson (DW) statistic. Mixed models using a random intercept and a fixed effect were employed using SAS (v 9.2). A total of 588,997 singleton live-births born between January 1999 and December 2008 were analyzed. vSGA and SGA monthly rates declined from an average of 4.7% to 4.3% and from 6.9% to 6.6% before and after April 2004, respectively. No auto-correlation was detected (DW = ∼2). Adjusted mixed models indicated a significant decline in both vSGA and SGA rates immediately after the ban [(−5.3%; 95% CI −5.43% to −5.17%, p<0.0001) and (−0.45%; 95% CI: −0.7% to −0.19%, p<0.0007)], respectively. Significant gradual effects continued post the ban periods for vSGA and SGA rates, namely, −0.6% (p<0.0001) and −0.02% (p<0.0001), respectively.
A significant reduction in small-for-gestational birth rates both immediately and sustained over the post-ban period, reinforces the mounting evidence of the positive health effect of a successful comprehensive smoke-free legislation in a vulnerable population group as pregnant women.
PMCID: PMC3608631  PMID: 23555561
18.  Multidisciplinary Team-Based Approach for Comprehensive Preoperative Pulmonary Rehabilitation Including Intensive Nutritional Support for Lung Cancer Patients 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e59566.
To decrease the risk of postoperative complication, improving general and pulmonary conditioning preoperatively should be considered essential for patients scheduled to undergo lung surgery.
The aim of this study is to develop a short-term beneficial program of preoperative pulmonary rehabilitation for lung cancer patients.
From June 2009, comprehensive preoperative pulmonary rehabilitation (CHPR) including intensive nutritional support was performed prospectively using a multidisciplinary team-based approach. Postoperative complication rate and the transitions of pulmonary function in CHPR were compared with historical data of conventional preoperative pulmonary rehabilitation (CVPR) conducted since June 2006. The study population was limited to patients who underwent standard lobectomy.
Postoperative complication rate in the CVPR (n = 29) and CHPR (n = 21) were 48.3% and 28.6% (p = 0.2428), respectively. Those in patients with Charlson Comorbidity Index scores ≥2 were 68.8% (n = 16) and 27.3% (n = 11), respectively (p = 0.0341) and those in patients with preoperative risk score in Estimation of Physiologic Ability and Surgical Stress scores >0.3 were 57.9% (n = 19) and 21.4% (n = 14), respectively (p = 0.0362). Vital capacities of pre- and post intervention before surgery in the CHPR group were 2.63±0.65 L and 2.75±0.63 L (p = 0.0043), respectively; however, their transition in the CVPR group was not statistically significant (p = 0.6815). Forced expiratory volumes in one second of pre- and post intervention before surgery in the CHPR group were 1.73±0.46 L and 1.87±0.46 L (p = 0.0012), respectively; however, their transition in the CVPR group was not statistically significant (p = 0.6424).
CHPR appeared to be a beneficial and effective short-term preoperative rehabilitation protocol, especially in patients with poor preoperative conditions.
PMCID: PMC3598743  PMID: 23555043
19.  The Value of Body Weight Measurement to Assess Dehydration in Children 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e55063.
Dehydration secondary to gastroenteritis is one of the most common reasons for office visits and hospital admissions. The indicator most commonly used to estimate dehydration status is acute weight loss. Post-illness weight gain is considered as the gold-standard to determine the true level of dehydration and is widely used to estimate weight loss in research. To determine the value of post-illness weight gain as a gold standard for acute dehydration, we conducted a prospective cohort study in which 293 children, aged 1 month to 2 years, with acute diarrhea were followed for 7 days during a 3-year period. The main outcome measures were an accurate pre-illness weight (if available within 8 days before the diarrhea), post-illness weight, and theoretical weight (predicted from the child’s individual growth chart). Post-illness weight was measured for 231 (79%) and both theoretical and post-illness weights were obtained for 111 (39%). Only 62 (21%) had an accurate pre-illness weight. The correlation between post-illness and theoretical weight was excellent (0.978), but bootstrapped linear regression analysis showed that post-illness weight underestimated theoretical weight by 0.48 kg (95% CI: 0.06–0.79, p<0.02). The mean difference in the fluid deficit calculated was 4.0% of body weight (95% CI: 3.2–4.7, p<0.0001). Theoretical weight overestimated accurate pre-illness weight by 0.21 kg (95% CI: 0.08–0.34, p = 0.002). Post-illness weight underestimated pre-illness weight by 0.19 kg (95% CI: 0.03–0.36, p = 0.02). The prevalence of 5% dehydration according to post-illness weight (21%) was significantly lower than the prevalence estimated by either theoretical weight (60%) or clinical assessment (66%, p<0.0001).These data suggest that post-illness weight is of little value as a gold standard to determine the true level of dehydration. The performance of dehydration signs or scales determined by using post-illness weight as a gold standard has to be reconsidered.
PMCID: PMC3558475  PMID: 23383058
20.  Determinants of Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide Transfer during Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation in an Experimental Model of Multiple Organ Dysfunction Syndrome 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e54954.
Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) has gained renewed interest in the treatment of respiratory failure since the advent of the modern polymethylpentene membranes. Limited information exists, however, on the performance of these membranes in terms of gas transfers during multiple organ failure (MOF). We investigated determinants of oxygen and carbon dioxide transfer as well as biochemical alterations after the circulation of blood through the circuit in a pig model under ECMO support before and after induction of MOF. A predefined sequence of blood and sweep flows was tested before and after the induction of MOF with fecal peritonitis and saline lavage lung injury. In the multivariate analysis, oxygen transfer had a positive association with blood flow (slope = 66, P<0.001) and a negative association with pre-membrane PaCO2 (slope = −0.96, P = 0.001) and SatO2 (slope = −1.7, P<0.001). Carbon dioxide transfer had a positive association with blood flow (slope = 17, P<0.001), gas flow (slope = 33, P<0.001), pre-membrane PaCO2 (slope = 1.2, P<0.001) and a negative association with the hemoglobin (slope = −3.478, P = 0.042). We found an increase in pH in the baseline from 7.50[7.46,7.54] to 7.60[7.55,7.65] (P<0.001), and during the MOF from 7.19[6.92,7.32] to 7.41[7.13,7.5] (P<0.001). Likewise, the PCO2 fell in the baseline from 35 [32,39] to 25 [22,27] mmHg (P<0.001), and during the MOF from 59 [47,91] to 34 [28,45] mmHg (P<0.001). In conclusion, both oxygen and carbon dioxide transfers were significantly determined by blood flow. Oxygen transfer was modulated by the pre-membrane SatO2 and CO2, while carbon dioxide transfer was affected by the gas flow, pre-membrane CO2 and hemoglobin.
PMCID: PMC3558498  PMID: 23383011
21.  DNA Sequence Variants in PPARGC1A, a Gene Encoding a Coactivator of the ω-3 LCPUFA Sensing PPAR-RXR Transcription Complex, Are Associated with NV AMD and AMD-Associated Loci in Genes of Complement and VEGF Signaling Pathways 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e53155.
Increased intake of ω-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFAs) and use of peroxisome proliferator activator receptor (PPAR)-activating drugs are associated with attenuation of pathologic retinal angiogenesis. ω-3 LCPUFAs are endogenous agonists of PPARs. We postulated that DNA sequence variation in PPAR gamma (PPARG) co-activator 1 alpha (PPARGC1A), a gene encoding a co-activator of the LCPUFA-sensing PPARG-retinoid X receptor (RXR) transcription complex, may influence neovascularization (NV) in age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
We applied exact testing methods to examine distributions of DNA sequence variants in PPARGC1A for association with NV AMD and interaction of AMD-associated loci in genes of complement, lipid metabolism, and VEGF signaling systems. Our sample contained 1858 people from 3 elderly cohorts of western European ancestry. We concurrently investigated retinal gene expression profiles in 17-day-old neonatal mice on a 2% LCPUFA feeding paradigm to identify LCPUFA-regulated genes both associated with pathologic retinal angiogenesis and known to interact with PPARs or PPARGC1A.
A DNA coding variant (rs3736265) and a 3'UTR-resident regulatory variant (rs3774923) in PPARGC1A were independently associated with NV AMD (exact P = 0.003, both SNPs). SNP-SNP interactions existed for NV AMD (P<0.005) with rs3736265 and a AMD-associated variant in complement factor B (CFB, rs512559). PPARGC1A influences activation of the AMD-associated complement component 3 (C3) promoter fragment and CFB influences activation and proteolysis of C3. We observed interaction (P≤0.003) of rs3736265 with a variant in vascular endothelial growth factor A (VEGFA, rs3025033), a key molecule in retinal angiogenesis. Another PPARGC1A coding variant (rs8192678) showed statistical interaction with a SNP in the VEGFA receptor fms-related tyrosine kinase 1 (FLT1, rs10507386; P≤0.003). C3 expression was down-regulated 2-fold in retinas of ω-3 LCPUFA-fed mice – these animals also showed 70% reduction in retinal NV (P≤0.001).
Ligands and co-activators of the ω-3 LCPUFA sensing PPAR-RXR axis may influence retinal angiogenesis in NV AMD via the complement and VEGF signaling systems. We have linked the co-activator of a lipid-sensing transcription factor (PPARG co-activator 1 alpha, PPARGC1A) to age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and AMD-associated genes.
PMCID: PMC3546058  PMID: 23335958
22.  Human Cytomegalovirus-Induces Cytokine Changes in the Placenta with Implications for Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e52899.
Human cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection of the developing fetus can result in adverse pregnancy outcomes including death in utero. Fetal injury results from direct viral cytopathic damage to the CMV-infected fetus, although evidence suggests CMV placental infection may indirectly cause injury to the fetus, possibly via immune dysregulation with placental dysfunction. This study investigated the effects of CMV infection on expression of the chemokine MCP-1 (CCL2) and cytokine TNF-α in placentae from naturally infected stillborn babies, and compared these changes with those found in placental villous explant histocultures acutely infected with CMV ex vivo. Tissue cytokine protein levels were assessed using quantitative immunohistochemistry. CMV-infected placentae from stillborn babies had significantly elevated MCP-1 and TNF-α levels compared with uninfected placentae (p = 0.001 and p = 0.007), which was not observed in placentae infected with other microorganisms (p = 0.62 and p = 0.71) (n = 7 per group). Modelling acute clinical infection using ex vivo placental explant histocultures showed infection with CMV laboratory strain AD169 (0.2 pfu/ml) caused significantly elevated expression of MCP-1 and TNF-α compared with uninfected explants (p = 0.0003 and p<0.0001) (n = 25 per group). Explant infection with wild-type Merlin at a tenfold lower multiplicity of infection (0.02 pfu/ml), caused a significant positive correlation between increased explant infection and upregulation of MCP-1 and TNF-α expression (p = 0.0001 and p = 0.017). Cytokine dysregulation has been associated with adverse outcomes of pregnancy, and can negatively affect placental development and function. These novel findings demonstrate CMV infection modulates the placental immune environment in vivo and in a multicellular ex vivo model, suggesting CMV-induced cytokine modulation as a potential initiator and/or exacerbator of placental and fetal injury.
PMCID: PMC3534118  PMID: 23300810
23.  Acute Effects of Aerosolized Iloprost in COPD Related Pulmonary Hypertension - A Randomized Controlled Crossover Trial 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e52248.
Inhaled iloprost potentially improves hemodynamics and gas exchange in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and secondary pulmonary hypertension (PH).
To evaluate acute effects of aerosolized iloprost in patients with COPD-associated PH.
A randomized, double blind, crossover study was conducted in 16 COPD patients with invasively confirmed PH in a single tertiary care center. Each patient received a single dose of 10 µg iloprost (low dose), 20 µg iloprost (high dose) and placebo during distinct study-visits. The primary end-point of the study was exercise capacity as assessed by the six minute walking distance.
Both iloprost doses failed to improve six-minute walking distance (p = 0.36). Low dose iloprost (estimated difference of the means −1.0%, p = 0.035) as well as high dose iloprost (−2.2%, p<0.001) significantly impaired oxygenation at rest. Peak oxygen consumption and carbon dioxide production differed significantly over the three study days (p = 0.002 and p = 0.003, accordingly). As compared to placebo, low dose iloprost was associated with reduced peak oxygen consumption (−76 ml/min, p = 0.002), elevated partial pressure of carbon dioxide (0.27 kPa, p = 0.040) and impaired ventilation during exercise (−3.0l/min, p<0.001).
Improvement of the exercise capacity after iloprost inhalation in patients with COPD-associated mild to moderate PH is very unlikely.
Trial Registration ISRCTN61661881
PMCID: PMC3531427  PMID: 23300624
24.  Metabolic Changes in Urine during and after Pregnancy in a Large, Multiethnic Population-Based Cohort Study of Gestational Diabetes 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e52399.
This study aims to identify novel markers for gestational diabetes (GDM) in the biochemical profile of maternal urine using NMR metabolomics. It also catalogs the general effects of pregnancy and delivery on the urine profile. Urine samples were collected at three time points (visit V1: gestational week 8–20; V2: week 28±2; V3∶10–16 weeks post partum) from participants in the STORK Groruddalen program, a prospective, multiethnic cohort study of 823 healthy, pregnant women in Oslo, Norway, and analyzed using 1H-NMR spectroscopy. Metabolites were identified and quantified where possible. PCA, PLS-DA and univariate statistics were applied and found substantial differences between the time points, dominated by a steady increase of urinary lactose concentrations, and an increase during pregnancy and subsequent dramatic reduction of several unidentified NMR signals between 0.5 and 1.1 ppm. Multivariate methods could not reliably identify GDM cases based on the WHO or graded criteria based on IADPSG definitions, indicating that the pattern of urinary metabolites above micromolar concentrations is not influenced strongly and consistently enough by the disease. However, univariate analysis suggests elevated mean citrate concentrations with increasing hyperglycemia. Multivariate classification with respect to ethnic background produced weak but statistically significant models. These results suggest that although NMR-based metabolomics can monitor changes in the urinary excretion profile of pregnant women, it may not be a prudent choice for the study of GDM.
PMCID: PMC3528643  PMID: 23285025
25.  Lower versus Higher Oxygen Concentration for Delivery Room Stabilisation of Preterm Neonates: Systematic Review 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e52033.
Emerging evidence suggests that initiating delivery room respiratory support or resuscitation for term infants using lower rather than higher concentrations of oxygen reduces mortality and the risk of serious morbidity. Uncertainty exists with regard to applicability of this strategy for preterm infants who have different underlying reasons for respiratory distress and risks for harm at birth than term infants.
We performed a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials to determine the effect on mortality and morbidity of using lower (21– 50%) versus higher (>50%) oxygen concentrations for delivery room transition support of preterm infants.
We identified six randomised controlled trials in which a total of 484 infants participated. Most participants were preterm infants born before 32 weeks’ gestation. One trial was quasi-randomised and in one trial allocation concealment was not described. Clinicians and investigators were aware of the interventions in all but one trial. Meta-analyses found a statistically significant reduction in the risk of death pooled risk ratio 0.65 (95% confidence interval 0.43, 0.98), but this effect disappeared when only the four trials with adequate allocation concealment were included [pooled risk ratio 1.0 (95% confidence interval 0.45, 2.24)]. None of the trials has evaluated any neuro-developmental outcomes.
The available trial data do not provide strong evidence that using lower versus higher oxygen concentrations for delivery room transition support for preterm infants confers important benefits or harms. Lack of allocation concealment and blinding of clinicians and assessors are the major sources of bias in the existing trials. Further, large, good-quality trials are needed to resolve on-going uncertainties and inform clinical practice.
PMCID: PMC3527365  PMID: 23284861

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