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1.  Incidences and Risk Factors of Organ Manifestations in the Early Course of Systemic Sclerosis: A Longitudinal EUSTAR Study 
PLoS ONE  2016;11(10):e0163894.
Systemic sclerosis (SSc) is a rare and clinically heterogeneous autoimmune disorder characterised by fibrosis and microvascular obliteration of the skin and internal organs. Organ involvement mostly manifests after a variable period of the onset of Raynaud's phenomenon (RP). We aimed to map the incidence and predictors of pulmonary, cardiac, gastrointestinal (GI) and renal involvement in the early course of SSc.
In the EUSTAR cohort, patients with early SSc were identified as those who had a visit within the first year after RP onset. Incident SSc organ manifestations and their risk factors were assessed using Kaplan-Meier methods and Cox regression analysis.
Of the 695 SSc patients who had a baseline visit within 1 year after RP onset, the incident non-RP manifestations (in order of frequency) were: skin sclerosis (75%) GI symptoms (71%), impaired diffusing capacity for monoxide<80% predicted (65%), DU (34%), cardiac involvement (32%), FVC<80% predicted (31%), increased PAPsys>40mmHg (14%), and renal crisis (3%). In the heart, incidence rates were highest for diastolic dysfunction, followed by conduction blocks and pericardial effusion. While the main baseline risk factor for a short timespan to develop FVC impairment was diffuse skin involvement, for PAPsys>40mmHg it was higher patient age. The main risk factors for incident cardiac manifestations were anti-topoisomerase autoantibody positivity and older age. Male sex, anti-RNA-polymerase-III positivity, and older age were risk factors associated with incident renal crisis.
In SSc patients presenting early after RP onset, approximately half of all incident organ manifestations occur within 2 years and have a simultaneous rather than a sequential onset. These findings have implications for the design of new diagnostic and therapeutic strategies aimed to ‘widen' the still very narrow ‘window of opportunity'. They may also enable physicians to counsel and manage patients presenting early in the course of SSc more accurately.
PMCID: PMC5051961  PMID: 27706206
2.  Twenty-two points to consider for clinical trials in systemic sclerosis, based on EULAR standards 
Rheumatology (Oxford, England)  2014;54(1):144-151.
Objective. SSc is clinically and aetiopathogenically heterogeneous. Consensus standards for more uniform trial design and selection of outcome measures are needed. The objective of this study was to develop evidence-based points to consider (PTCs) for future clinical trials in SSc.
Methods. Thirteen international SSc experts experienced in SSc clinical trial design were invited to participate. One researcher with experience in systematic literature review and three trainees were also included. A systematic review using PubMed and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials was conducted and PTCs when designing clinical trials in SSc were developed. As part of that development we conducted an Internet-based Delphi exercise regarding the main points to be made in the consensus statement. Consensus was defined as achieving a median score of ≥7 of 9.
Results. By consensus, the experts decided to develop PTCs for each individual organ system. The current document provides a unifying outline on PTCs regarding general trial design, inclusion/exclusion criteria and analysis. Consensus was achieved regarding all the main points of the PTCs.
Conclusion. Using European League Against Rheumatism suggestions for PTCs, a general outline for PTCs for controlled clinical trials in SSc was developed. Specific outlines for individual organ systems are to be published separately. This general outline should lead to more uniform and higher-quality trials and clearly delineate areas where further research is needed.
PMCID: PMC4269793  PMID: 25125594
systemic sclerosis; clinical trials; points to consider
3.  Systemic Sclerosis Classification Criteria: Developing methods for multi-criteria decision analysis with 1000Minds 
Journal of clinical epidemiology  2014;67(6):706-714.
Classification criteria for systemic sclerosis (SSc) are being developed. The objectives were to: develop an instrument for collating case-data and evaluate its sensibility; use forced-choice methods to reduce and weight criteria; and explore agreement between experts on the probability that cases were classified as SSc.
Study Design and Setting
A standardized instrument was tested for sensibility. The instrument was applied to 20 cases covering a range of probabilities that each had SSc. Experts rank-ordered cases from highest to lowest probability; reduced and weighted the criteria using forced-choice methods; and re-ranked the cases. Consistency in rankings was evaluated using intraclass correlation coefficients (ICC).
Experts endorsed clarity (83%), comprehensibility (100%), face and content validity (100%). Criteria were weighted (points): finger skin thickening (14–22), finger-tip lesions (9–21), friction rubs (21), finger flexion contractures (16), pulmonary fibrosis (14), SSc-related antibodies (15), Raynaud’s phenomenon (13), calcinosis (12), pulmonary hypertension (11), renal crisis (11), telangiectasia (10), abnormal nailfold capillaries (10), esophageal dilation (7) and puffy fingers (5). The ICC across experts was 0.73 (95%CI 0.58,0.86) and improved to 0.80 (95%CI 0.68,0.90).
Using a sensible instrument and forced-choice methods, the number of criteria were reduced by 39% (23 to 14) and weighted. Our methods reflect the rigors of measurement science, and serves as a template for developing classification criteria.
PMCID: PMC4134523  PMID: 24721558
Scleroderma; Systemic Sclerosis; Decision Analysis; Forced-Choice; Classification Criteria; Conjoint Analysis; Sensibility
4.  Value of systolic pulmonary arterial pressure as a prognostic factor of death in the systemic sclerosis EUSTAR population 
Rheumatology (Oxford, England)  2015;54(7):1262-1269.
Objective. The aim of this study was to assess the prognostic value of systolic pulmonary artery pressure (sPAP) estimated by echocardiography in the multinational European League Against Rheumatism Scleroderma Trial and Research (EUSTAR) cohort.
Methods. Data for patients with echocardiography documented between 1 January 2005 and 31 December 2011 were extracted from the EUSTAR database. Stepwise forward multivariable statistical Cox pulmonary hypertension analysis was used to examine the independent effect on survival of selected variables.
Results. Based on our selection criteria, 1476 patients were included in the analysis; 87% of patients were female, with a mean age of 56.3 years (s.d. 13.5) and 31% had diffuse SSc. The mean duration of follow-up was 2.0 years (s.d. 1.2, median 1.9). Taking index sPAP of <30 mmHg as reference, the hazard ratio (HR) for death was 1.67 (95% CI 0.92, 2.96) if the index sPAP was between 30 and 36 mmHg, 2.37 (95% CI 1.14, 4.93) for sPAP between 36 and 40 mmHg, 3.72 (95% CI 1.61, 8.60) for sPAP between 40 and 50 mmHg and 9.75 (95% CI 4.98, 19.09) if sPAP was >50 mmHg. In a multivariable Cox model, sPAP and the diffusing capacity for carbon monoxide (DLCO) were independently associated with the risk of death [HR 1.833 (95% CI 1.035, 3.247) and HR 0.973 (95% CI 0.955, 0.991), respectively]. sPAP was an independent risk factor for death with a HR of 3.02 (95% CI 1.91, 4.78) for sPAP ≥36 mmHg.
Conclusion. An estimated sPAP >36 mmHg at baseline echocardiography was significantly and independently associated with reduced survival, regardless of the presence of pulmonary hypertension based on right heart catheterization.
PMCID: PMC4473765  PMID: 25596413
systemic sclerosis; tricuspid regurgitant jet velocity; systolic pulmonary arterial pressure; pulmonary hypertension; survival
5.  Classification Criteria for Systemic Sclerosis: An ACR-EULAR Collaborative Initiative 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2013;65(11):2737-2747.
The 1980 classification criteria for systemic sclerosis (SSc) lack sensitivity in early SSc and limited cutaneous SSc. A joint ACR-EULAR committee was established to develop new classification criteria for SSc.
Using consensus methods, 23 candidate items were arranged in a multi-criteria additive point system with a threshold to classify cases as SSc. The classification system was reduced by clustering items, and simplifying weights. The system was tested by: a) determining specificity and sensitivity in SSc cases and controls with scleroderma-like disorders; b) validating against the combined view of a group of experts on a set of cases with or without SSc.
Skin thickening of the fingers extending proximal to the MCPs is sufficient to be classified as SSc, if that is not present, seven additive items apply with varying weights for each: skin thickening of the fingers, finger tip lesions, telangiectasia, abnormal nailfold capillaries, interstitial lung disease or pulmonary arterial hypertension, Raynaud's phenomenon, and SSc-related autoantibodies. Sensitivity and specificity in the validation sample were 0.91 and 0.92 for the new classification criteria and 0.75 and 0.72 for the 1980 ARA classification criteria. All selected cases were classified in accordance with consensus-based expert opinion. All cases classified as SSc by the 1980 ARA criteria were classified with the new criteria, and several additional cases were now considered to be SSc.
The ACR-EULAR classification criteria for SSc performed better than the 1980 ARA Criteria for SSc and should allow for more patients to be classified correctly as SSc.
PMCID: PMC3930146  PMID: 24122180
Systemic Sclerosis; Scleroderma; Classification Criteria; Conjoint Analysis; Multi Criteria Additive Point System; Validation; ACR-EULAR
6.  Time-dependent and somatically acquired mitochondrial DNA mutagenesis and respiratory chain dysfunction in a scleroderma model of lung fibrosis 
Scientific Reports  2014;4:5336.
Reactive oxygen species (ROS) have been implemented in the etiology of pulmonary fibrosis (PF) in systemic sclerosis. In the bleomycin model, we evaluated the role of acquired mutations in mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and respiratory chain defects as a trigger of ROS formation and fibrogenesis. Adult male Wistar rats received a single intratracheal instillation of bleomycin and their lungs were examined at different time points. Ashcroft scores, collagen and TGFβ1 levels documented a delayed onset of PF by day 14. In contrast, increased malon dialdehyde as a marker of ROS formation was detectable as early as 24 hours after bleomycin instillation and continued to increase. At day 7, lung tissue acquired significant amounts of mtDNA deletions, translating into a significant dysfunction of mtDNA-encoded, but not nucleus-encoded respiratory chain subunits. mtDNA deletions and markers of mtDNA-encoded respiratory chain dysfunction significantly correlated with pulmonary TGFβ1 concentrations and predicted PF in a multivariate model.
PMCID: PMC4061543  PMID: 24939573
7.  Enhanced neutrophil extracellular trap generation in rheumatoid arthritis: analysis of underlying signal transduction pathways and potential diagnostic utility 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2014;16(3):R122.
Neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs) have recently been implicated in a number of autoimmune conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis (RA). We examined the underlying signaling pathways triggering enhanced NETosis in RA and ascertained whether the products of NETosis had diagnostic implications or usefulness.
Neutrophils were isolated from RA patients with active disease and from controls. Spontaneous NET formation from RA and control neutrophils was assessed in vitro with microscopy and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) for NETosis-derived products. The analysis of the signal-transduction cascade included reactive oxygen species (ROS) production, myeloperoxidase (MPO), neutrophil elastase (NE), peptidyl arginine deiminase 4 (PAD4), and citrullinated histone 3 (citH3). NET formation was studied in response to serum and synovial fluid and immunoglobulin G (IgG) depleted and reconstituted serum. Serum was analyzed for NETosis-derived products, for which receiver operator characteristic (ROC) curves were calculated.
Neutrophils from RA cases exhibited increased spontaneous NET formation in vitro, associated with elevated ROS production, enhanced NE and MPO expression, nuclear translocation of PAD4, PAD4-mediated citrullination of H3, and altered nuclear morphology. NET formation in both anti-citrullinated peptide antibody (ACPA)-positive and -negative RA was abolished by IgG depletion, but restored only with ACPA-positive IgG. NETosis-derived products in RA serum demonstrated diagnostic potential, the ROC area under the curve for cell-free nucleosomes being >97%, with a sensitivity of 91% and a specificity of 92%. No significant difference was observed between ACPA-positive and -negative cases.
Signaling elements associated with the extrusion of NETs are significantly enhanced to promote NETosis in RA compared with healthy controls. NETosis depended on the presence of ACPA in ACPA-positive RA serum. The quantitation of NETosis-derived products, such as cell-free nucleosomes in serum, may be a useful complementary tool to discriminate between healthy controls and RA cases.
PMCID: PMC4229860  PMID: 24928093
8.  Increased mtDNA Levels Without Change in Mitochondrial Enzymes in Peripheral Blood Mononuclear Cells of Infants Born to HIV-Infected Mothers on Antiretroviral Therapy 
HIV clinical trials  2008;9(2):126-136.
The effects of gestational nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs) on mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) are controversial. The effects of mtDNA depletion on mitochondrial function have not been assessed.
In peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from infants born to HIV-infected women and infants born to HIV-1–uninfected women, mtDNA copy numbers were determined by quantitative PCR; nuclear (COXIV)- and mitochondrial (COXII)-encoded polypeptides of the oxidative phosphorylation enzyme cytochrome c-oxidase (COX or complex IV) were quantified by Western blot.
Overall, 86 infants born to HIV-infected women and 50 controls were studied. HIV-infected mothers had a median CD4 count of 506 cells/μL; 59% had HIV RNA ≤ 50 copies/mL. No infant had clinical evidence of mitochondrial disease. The birth weight was lower (p = .016) and the body length higher (p = .002) in the HIV-exposed newborns. Eighty-one HIV-infected women had received gestational NRTIs (median duration 162 days). Median mtDNA copies/PBMC in the HIV-exposed infants were 505 (range, 120–1365) vs. 213 (27–426) in controls (p < .001). COX II/IV ratios were similar in both groups. Although mtDNA levels correlated inversely with maternal lactate, mitochondrial indices did not correlate with maternal CD4+ count, HIV RNA, smoking, or alcohol consumption.
We found elevated mtDNA copy numbers in PBMC of infants born to HIV-infected women, the majority of whom received NRTI-based therapy, when compared to those born to healthy HIV-negative controls, but there was no difference in mtDNA-encoded respiratory chain protein. The clinical consequence of these findings is unknown and requires further investigations.
PMCID: PMC3895476  PMID: 18474497
mitochondrial DNA; mitochondrial enzymes; mitochondrial toxicity
9.  Methodological challenges in monitoring new treatments for rare diseases: lessons from the cryopyrin-associated periodic syndrome registry 
The Cryopyrin-Associated Periodic Syndromes (CAPS) are a group of rare hereditary autoinflammatory diseases and encompass Familial Cold Autoinflammatory Syndrome (FCAS), Muckle-Wells Syndrome (MWS), and Neonatal Onset Multisystem Inflammatory Disease (NOMID). Canakinumab is a monoclonal antibody directed against IL-1 beta and approved for CAPS patients but requires post-approval monitoring due to low and short exposures during the licensing process. Creative approaches to observational methodology are needed, harnessing novel registry strategies to ensure Health Care Provider reporting and patient monitoring.
A web-based registry was set up to collect information on long-term safety and effectiveness of canakinumab for CAPS.
Starting in November 2009, this registry enrolled 241 patients in 43 centers and 13 countries by December 31, 2012. One-third of the enrolled population was aged < 18; the overall population is evenly divided by gender. Enrolment is ongoing for children.
Innovative therapies in orphan diseases require post-approval structures to enable in depth understanding of safety and natural history of disease. The rarity and distribution of such diseases and unpredictability of treatment require innovative methods for enrolment and follow-up. Broad international practice-based recruitment and web-based data collection are practical.
PMCID: PMC3848430  PMID: 24016338
Cryopyrin-associated periodic syndrome; Registry; Epidemiology; Observational study
10.  Items for developing revised classification criteria in systemic sclerosis: results of a consensus exercise with the ACR/EULAR working committee for classification criteria in systemic sclerosis 
Arthritis care & research  2012;64(3):351-357.
Classification criteria for systemic sclerosis (SSc) are being updated.
To select a set of items potentially useful for the classification of SSc using consensus procedures including the Delphi and nominal group techniques (NGT).
Items were identified through two independent consensus exercises performed by the Scleroderma Clinical Trials Consortium (SCTC) and the EULAR Scleroderma Trials and Research Group (EUSTAR). The first-round items from both exercises were collated and redundancies were removed leaving 168 items. A 3-round Delphi exercise was performed using a 1–9 scale (1=completely inappropriate and 9=completely appropriate) and a consensus meeting using NGT. During the last Delphi, the items were ranked on a 1–10 scale.
Round 1: 106 experts rated the 168 items. Those with a median score <4 were removed, resulting in a list of 102 items. Round 2: The items were again rated for appropriateness and subjected to a consensus meeting using NGT by European and North American SSc experts (n=16), resulting in 23 items. Round 3: SSc experts (n=26) then individually scored each of the 23 items in a last Delphi round, using an appropriateness score (1–9) and ranking their 10 most appropriate items for classification of SSc. Presence of skin thickening, SSc-specific autoantibodies, abnormal nailfold capillary pattern and Raynaud’s phenomenon ranked highest in the final list that also included items indicating internal organ involvement.
The Delphi exercise and NGT resulted in a set of 23 items for classification of SSc which will be assessed for their discriminative properties in a prospective study.
PMCID: PMC3288452  PMID: 22052558
Delphi technique; nominal group technique; systemic sclerosis; scleroderma; classification; classification criteria
11.  Changes in Inflammation, Oxidative Stress, Mitochondrial DNA Content after Rosiglitazone in HIV Lipoatrophy 
We aim to evaluate the mechanisms of rosiglitazone-induced fat recovery in HIV+ patients with lipoatrophy on thymidine Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NRTI) sparing regimens.
Measures of limb fat (DXA), oxidative stress (F2 isoprostanes) and inflammation [High-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP), soluble Tumor Necrosis Factor Receptors (sTNFR)-I, sTNFR-II, and interleukin (IL)-6] were performed. Gluteal fat mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR)-γ RNA [expressed as PPAR-γ/Glyceraldehyde 6-Phosphate Dehydrogenase (GAPDH) RNA ratio] were measured by quantitative PCR.
71 patients on thymidine NRTI-sparing regimens were randomized to rosiglitazone vs. placebo for 48 weeks. Duration off thymidine NRTIs was similar between groups. From week 0–48, limb fat increased significantly (p=0.02) more in the rosiglitazone than in the placebo group. Within both groups, F2-isoprostanes, sTNFR-I and sTNFR-II increased significantly (p ≤ 0.003), hsCRP decreased significantly (≤ 0.02), and IL-6 did not change. No differences were seen between groups in any of the inflammation markers. Fat mtDNA (copies/cell) increased nonsignificantly: +41(p=0.08) and +29(p=0.38) within rosiglitazone and placebo group; respectively. PPAR-γ/GAPDH ratio did not change within or between groups.
Limb fat improvements seen after rosiglitazone were not associated with changes in mtDNA, oxidative or inflammation markers, or PPAR-γ expression. F2 isoprostanes and some of the inflammation markers worsened over time in these subjects on stable ART, regardless of the rosiglitazone assignment. Thus, lipoatrophy can be in part overcome by a separate pathway independent of mitochondrial DNA depletion, such as PPAR-γ.
PMCID: PMC3515063  PMID: 23227444
AntiRetroviral therapy; Fat loss; Lipoatrophy; Mitochondrial DNA; Oxidative stress; Rosiglitazone
12.  Muscle-fiber transdifferentiation in an experimental model of respiratory chain myopathy 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2012;14(5):R233.
Skeletal muscle fiber composition and muscle energetics are not static and change in muscle disease. This study was performed to determine whether a mitochondrial myopathy is associated with adjustments in skeletal muscle fiber-type composition.
Ten rats were treated with zidovudine, an antiretroviral nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor that induces a myopathy by interfering with mitochondrial functions. Soleus muscles were examined after 21 weeks of treatment. Ten untreated rats served as controls.
Zidovudine induced a myopathy with mitochondrial DNA depletion, abnormalities in mitochondrial ultrastructure, and reduced cytochrome c oxidase activity. Mitochondrial DNA was disproportionally more diminished in type I compared with type II fibers, whereas atrophy predominated in type II fibers. Compared with those of controls, zidovudine-exposed soleus muscles contained an increased proportion (256%) of type II fibers, whereas neonatal myosin heavy chains remained repressed, indicating fiber-type transformation in the absence of regeneration. Microarray gene-expression analysis confirmed enhanced fast-fiber isoforms, repressed slow-fiber transcripts, and reduced neonatal fiber transcripts in the mitochondrial myopathy. Respiratory chain transcripts were diminished, whereas the enzymes of glycolysis and glycogenolysis were enhanced, indicating a metabolic adjustment from oxidative to glycolytic capacities. A coordinated regulation was found of transcription factors known to orchestrate type II fiber formation (upregulation of MyoD, Six1, Six2, Eya1, and Sox6, and downregulation of myogenin and ERRγ).
The type I to type II fiber transformation in mitochondrial myopathy implicates mitochondrial function as a new regulator of skeletal muscle fiber type.
PMCID: PMC3580545  PMID: 23107834
13.  Impaired skeletal muscle microcirculation in systemic sclerosis 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2012;14(5):R209.
Muscle symptoms in systemic sclerosis (SSc) may originate from altered skeletal muscle microcirculation, which can be investigated by means of blood oxygenation level dependent (BOLD) magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
After ethics committee approval and written consent, 11 consecutive SSc patients (5 men, mean age 52.6 years, mean SSc disease duration 5.4 years) and 12 healthy volunteers (4 men, mean age 45.1 years) were included. Subjects with peripheral arterial occlusive disease were excluded. BOLD MRI was performed on calf muscles during cuff-induced ischemia and reactive hyperemia, using a 3-T whole-body scanner (Verio, Siemens, Erlangen, Germany) and fat-suppressed single-short multi-echo echo planar imaging (EPI) with four different effective echo times. Muscle BOLD signal time courses were obtained for gastrocnemius and soleus muscles: minimal hemoglobin oxygen saturation (T2*min) and maximal T2* values (T2*max), time to T2* peak (TTP), and slopes of oxygen normalization after T2* peaking.
The vast majority of SSc patients lacked skeletal muscle atrophy, weakness or serum creatine kinase elevation. Nevertheless, more intense oxygen desaturation during ischemia was observed in calf muscles of SSc patients (mean T2*min -15.0%), compared with controls (-9.1%, P = 0.02). SSc patients also had impaired oxygenation during hyperemia (median T2*max 9.2% vs. 20.1%, respectively, P = 0.007). The slope of muscle oxygen normalization was significantly less steep and prolonged (TTP) in SSc patients (P<0.001 for both). Similar differences were found at a separate analysis of gastrocnemius and soleus muscles, with most pronounced impairment in the gastrocnemius.
BOLD MRI demonstrates a significant impairment of skeletal muscle microcirculation in SSc.
PMCID: PMC3580521  PMID: 23036642
Systemic sclerosis; skeletal muscle; vasculopathy; magnetic resonance imaging
14.  Comparison of Dorsocervical With Abdominal Subcutaneous Adipose Tissue in Patients With and Without Antiretroviral Therapy–Associated Lipodystrophy 
Diabetes  2011;60(7):1894-1900.
Combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) is associated with lipodystrophy, i.e., loss of subcutaneous adipose tissue in the abdomen, limbs, and face and its accumulation intra-abdominally. No fat is lost dorsocervically and it can even accumulate in this region (buffalo hump). It is unknown how preserved dorsocervical fat differs from abdominal subcutaneous fat in HIV-1–infected cART-treated patients with (cART+LD+) and without (cART+LD−) lipodystrophy.
We used histology, microarray, PCR, and magnetic resonance imaging to compare dorsocervical and abdominal subcutaneous adipose tissue in cART+LD+ (n = 21) and cART+LD− (n = 11).
Albeit dorsocervical adipose tissue in cART+LD+ seems spared from lipoatrophy, its mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA; copies/cell) content was significantly lower (by 62%) than that of the corresponding tissue in cART+LD−. Expression of CD68 mRNA, a marker of macrophages, and numerous inflammatory genes in microarray were significantly lower in dorsocervical versus abdominal subcutaneous adipose tissue. Genes with the greatest difference in expression between the two depots were those involved in regulation of transcription and regionalization (homeobox genes), irrespective of lipodystrophy status. There was negligible mRNA expression of uncoupling protein 1, a gene characteristic of brown adipose tissue, in either depot.
Because mtDNA is depleted even in the nonatrophic dorsocervical adipose tissue, it is unlikely that the cause of lipoatrophy is loss of mtDNA. Dorsocervical adipose tissue is less inflamed than lipoatrophic adipose tissue. It does not resemble brown adipose tissue. The greatest difference in gene expression between dorsocervical and abdominal subcutaneous adipose tissue is in expression of homeobox genes.
PMCID: PMC3121420  PMID: 21602514
15.  Quality Assessment of Human Mitochondrial DNA Quantification: MITONAUTS, an International Multicentre Survey 
Mitochondrion  2011;11(3):520-527.
Mitochondrial DNA quantification by qPCR is used in the context of many diseases and toxicity studies but comparison of results between laboratories is challenging. Through two multigroup distributions of DNA samples from human cell lines, the MITONAUTS group anonymously compared mtDNA/nDNA quantification across nine laboratories involved in HIV research worldwide. Eight of the nine sites showed significant correlation between them (mean raw data R2=0.664; log10-transformed data R2=0.844). Although mtDNA/nDNA values were well correlated between sites, the inter-site variability on the absolute measurements remained high with a mean (range) coefficient of variation of 71 (37–212)%. Some variability appeared cell line-specific, probably due to chromosomal alterations or pseudogenes affecting the quantification of certain genes, while within cell line variability was likely due to differences in calibration of the standard curves. The use of two mtDNA and two single copy nDNA genes with highly specific primers to quantify each genome would help address copy number variants. Our results indicate that sample shipment must be done frozen and that absolute mtDNA/nDNA ratio values cannot readily be compared between laboratories, especially if assessing cultured cell mtDNA content. However, within laboratory and relative mtDNA/nDNA comparisons between laboratories should be reliable.
PMCID: PMC3075360  PMID: 21303702
Inter-laboratory variability; mtDNA content by qPCR
16.  Erectile dysfunction is frequent in systemic sclerosis and associated with severe disease: a study of the EULAR Scleroderma Trial and Research group 
Erectile dysfunction (ED) is common in men with systemic sclerosis (SSc) but the demographics, risk factors and treatment coverage for ED are not well known.
This study was carried out prospectively in the multinational EULAR Scleroderma Trial and Research database by amending the electronic data-entry system with the International Index of Erectile Function-5 and items related to ED risk factors and treatment. Centres participating in this EULAR Scleroderma Trial and Research substudy were asked to recruit patients consecutively.
Of the 130 men studied, only 23 (17.7%) had a normal International Index of Erectile Function-5 score. Thirty-eight per cent of all participants had severe ED (International Index of Erectile Function-5 score ≤ 7). Men with ED were significantly older than subjects without ED (54.8 years vs. 43.3 years, P < 0.001) and more frequently had simultaneous non-SSc-related risk factors such as alcohol consumption. In 82% of SSc patients, the onset of ED was after the manifestation of the first non-Raynaud's symptom (median delay 4.1 years). ED was associated with severe cutaneous, muscular or renal involvement of SSc, elevated pulmonary pressures and restrictive lung disease. ED was treated in only 27.8% of men. The most common treatment was sildenafil, whose efficacy is not established in ED of SSc patients.
Severe ED is a common and early problem in men with SSc. Physicians should address modifiable risk factors actively. More research into the pathophysiology, longitudinal development, treatment and psychosocial impact of ED is needed.
PMCID: PMC3392836  PMID: 22348608
17.  Uridine supplementation in the treatment of HIV lipoatrophy: Results of ACTG 5229 
AIDS (London, England)  2010;24(16):2507-2515.
Lipoatrophy is prevalent on thymidine NRTIs (tNRTI). A pilot trial showed that uridine (NucleomaxX®) increased limb fat.
A5229 was a multicenter trial in which HIV-infected individuals with lipoatrophy on tNRTI-regimens were randomized to NucleomaxX or placebo. Primary endpoint was change in limb fat from baseline to week-48. The study was powered to detect 400-gram difference between arms at week-48. A stratified Wilcoxon rank-sum test was used to assess between-arm differences.
The 165 subjects were 91% male, 62% white; median age 49 years, CD4 506 cells/mm3, and limb fat 3037 grams; 81% had HIV-1 RNA ≤50 copies/mL; 76% were on AZT. Baseline characteristics were similar between groups. Only 59% completed 48-weeks of treatment, however only 3 subjects (1 on uridine) discontinued due to toxicity (diarrhea). In intent-to-treat, there was no difference for changes in limb fat between treatments at week-24 or week-48. On as-treated analysis, uridine resulted in an increase in %limb fat vs. placebo (3.4% vs. −0.8%, p=0.01) at week-24 but not at week-48 (1.8% vs.3.8%, p=0.93). Similar results were seen when limiting the analysis to subjects with ≥80% adherence. The results were not related to severity of lipoatrophy or type of tNRTI. No changes were found in facial-anthropometrics, fasting lipids, trunk-fat, CD4, or HIV-RNA.
We found a modest transient improvement in limb fat after 24 weeks of uridine. The lack of sustained efficacy at week-48 was not due to changes in adherence or reduction in sample size. Uridine was safe and did not impair virologic control.
PMCID: PMC2956768  PMID: 20827170
18.  Enhanced Uridine Bioavailability Following Administration of a Triacetyluridine-Rich Nutritional Supplement 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(2):e14709.
Uridine is a therapy for hereditary orotic aciduria and is being investigated in other disorders caused by mitochondrial dysfunction, including toxicities resulting from treatment with nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors in HIV. Historically, the use of uridine as a therapeutic agent has been limited by poor bioavailability. A food supplement containing nucleosides, NucleomaxX®, has been reported to raise plasma uridine to supraphysiologic levels.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Single- and multi-dose PK studies following NucleomaxX® were compared to single-dose PK studies of equimolar doses of pure uridine in healthy human volunteers. Product analysis documented that more than 90% of the nucleoside component of NucleomaxX® is in the form of triacetyluridine (TAU). Single and repeated dosing with NucleomaxX® resulted in peak plasma uridine concentrations 1–2 hours later of 150.9±39.3 µM and 161.4±31.5 µM, respectively, levels known to ameliorate mitochondrial toxicity in vitro. Cmax and AUC were four-fold higher after a single dose of NucleomaxX® than after uridine. No adverse effects of either treatment were observed.
NucleomaxX®, containing predominantly TAU, has significantly greater bioavailability than pure uridine in human subjects and may be useful in the management of mitochondrial toxicity.
PMCID: PMC3040752  PMID: 21379380
19.  Long-Lived Plasma Cells and Memory B Cells Produce Pathogenic Anti-GAD65 Autoantibodies in Stiff Person Syndrome 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(5):e10838.
Stiff person syndrome (SPS) is a rare, neurological disorder characterized by sudden cramps and spasms. High titers of enzyme-inhibiting IgG autoantibodies against the 65 kD isoform of glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD65) are a hallmark of SPS, implicating an autoimmune component in the pathology of the syndrome. Studying the B cell compartment and the anti-GAD65 B cell response in two monozygotic twins suffering from SPS, who were treated with the B cell-depleting monoclonal anti-CD20 antibody rituximab, we found that the humoral autoimmune response in SPS is composed of a rituximab-sensitive part that is rapidly cleared after treatment, and a rituximab-resistant component, which persists and acts as a reservoir for autoantibodies inhibiting GAD65 enzyme activity. Our data show that these potentially pathogenic anti-GAD65 autoantibodies are secreted by long-lived plasma cells, which may either be persistent or develop from rituximab-resistant memory B lymphocytes. Both subsets represent only a fraction of anti-GAD65 autoantibody secreting cells. Therefore, the identification and targeting of this compartment is a key factor for successful treatment planning of SPS and of similar autoimmune diseases.
PMCID: PMC2877104  PMID: 20520773
20.  Mitochondrial DNA Depletion in Rat Liver Induced by Fosalvudine Tidoxil, a Novel Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitor Prodrug▿  
Fosalvudine tidoxil is a prodrug derived from the nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor 3-deoxy-3-fluorothymidine (FLT; alovudine). FLT effectively inhibits resistant human immunodeficiency virus type 1, but its clinical development was stopped due to bone marrow and liver toxicity. In this study, we examined the long-term in vivo effects of fosalvudine tidoxil on the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) contents in rats. Sprague-Dawley rats received fosalvudine tidoxil (15, 40, or 100 mg/kg of body weight/day) by oral gavage during a period of 8 weeks. Didanosine (100 mg/kg/day) was used as a positive control for mitochondrial toxicity. mtDNA levels in liver, gastrocnemius muscle, sciatic nerve, and inguinal fat pad tissues were quantified by real-time PCR. In hepatic mitochondria, fosalvudine tidoxil induced significant mtDNA depletion. At doses of 15, 40, and 100 mg/kg, the mean hepatic mtDNA values were 62, 64, and 47% of control values, respectively. Rats exposed to 100 mg/kg of fosalvudine tidoxil, unlike all other groups, had slightly elevated levels of glutamate pyruvate transaminase in sera. Didanosine induced a loss of mtDNA (to 48% of the control level) similar to that induced by fosalvudine tidoxil. mtDNA levels in skeletal, neural, and adipose tissues in the negative control and treatment groups were similar. Our results suggest that fosalvudine tidoxil induces mitochondrial hepatotoxicity and that this effect warrants scrutiny in clinical trials.
PMCID: PMC2704664  PMID: 19433557
21.  More about masitinib 
A dose-escalating phase II trial studied masitinib, an oral tyrosine kinase inhibitor, in 43 patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Masitinib induced American College of Rheumatology (ACR)20, ACR50 and ACR70 responses in 54%, 26% and 8% of patients, respectively. A placebo group was not included. Thirty-seven per cent of the patients withdrew before the 12-week end-point was reached, primarily because of adverse events. These findings are the first on the efficacy of tyrosine kinase inhibition in a sizeable population. Future work should focus on delineating the tyrosine kinase that is most important in maintaining rheumatoid activity and address potential long-term toxicities such as gonadal insufficiency, teratogenicity and cardiotoxicity.
PMCID: PMC2745773  PMID: 19664170
22.  Multisegmental spondylitis due to Tropheryma whipplei: Case report 
We report a patient who presented with inflammatory back pain due to multisegmental spondylitis. Following a vertebral biopsy which failed to detect an infectious organism, the patient was treated with etanercept, a tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α inhibitor, for suspected undifferentiated spondyloarthritis. The back pain worsened and the spondylitic lesions increased. Only in a vertebral rebiopsy with polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplification of Tropheryma whipplei, the causative agent of Whipple's disease was identified. Tropheryma whipplei should be considered as a cause of spondylitis even with multisegmental involvement and in the absence of gastrointestinal symptoms. In this clinical setting, routine PCR for Tropheryma whipplei from vertebral biopsies is recommended.
PMCID: PMC2697142  PMID: 19493331
23.  Immunomodulatory properties of mesenchymal stem cells: a review based on an interdisciplinary meeting held at the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology Division, London, UK, 31 October 2005 
Multipotent mesenchymal stromal cells isolated from bone marrow and other sites are currently being studied to determine their potential role in the pathogenesis and/or management of autoimmune diseases. In vitro studies have shown that they exhibit a dose-dependent antiproliferative effect on T and B lymphocytes, dendritic cells, natural killer cells and various B cell tumour lines – an effect that is both cell contact and soluble factor dependent. Animal models of autoimmune disease treated with multipotent mesenchymal stromal cells have mostly exhibited a positive clinical response, as have a limited number of patients suffering from acute graft versus host disease. This review summarizes the findings of a 1-day meeting devoted to the subject with the aim of coordinating efforts.
PMCID: PMC1860056  PMID: 17284303
24.  Evolution of radiographic joint damage in rituximab-treated versus TNF-treated rheumatoid arthritis cases with inadequate response to TNF antagonists 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2012;71(10):1680-1685.
Observational studies have suggested that patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) who experience inadequate response to anti-tumour necrosis factor (anti-TNF) agents respond more favourably to rituximab (RTX) than to an alternative anti-TNF agent. However, the relative effectiveness of these agents on long-term outcomes, particularly in radiographic damage, remains unclear.
To compare the effectiveness of RTX against anti-TNF agents in preventing joint damage in patients with RA who have experienced inadequate response to at least one prior anti-TNF agent.
This is a prospective cohort study within the Swiss registry of patients with RA who discontinued at least one anti-TNF agent and subsequently received either RTX or an alternative anti-TNF agent. The primary outcome, progression of radiographic joint erosions (Ratingen erosion score)over time, and the secondary outcome, functional disability (Health Assessment Questionnaire Disability Index), were analysed using regression models for longitudinal data and adjusted for potential confounders.
Of the 371 patients included, 104 received RTX and 267 received an alternative anti-TNF agent. During the 2.6-year median follow-up period, the rates of Ratingen erosion score progression were similar between patients taking RTX and patients taking an alternative anti-TNF agent (p=0.67). The evolution of the Health Assessment Questionnaire score was statistically significantly better in the RTX group (p=0.016), but the magnitude of the effect was probably not clinically relevant.
This observational study suggests that RTX is as effective as an alternative anti-TNF agent in preventing erosions in patients with RA who have previously experienced inadequate response to anti-TNF agents.
PMCID: PMC3500530  PMID: 22419773

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