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1.  Effect of B-type natriuretic peptide-guided treatment of chronic heart failure on total mortality and hospitalization: an individual patient meta-analysis 
European Heart Journal  2014;35(23):1559-1567.
Natriuretic peptide-guided (NP-guided) treatment of heart failure has been tested against standard clinically guided care in multiple studies, but findings have been limited by study size. We sought to perform an individual patient data meta-analysis to evaluate the effect of NP-guided treatment of heart failure on all-cause mortality.
Methods and results
Eligible randomized clinical trials were identified from searches of Medline and EMBASE databases and the Cochrane Clinical Trials Register. The primary pre-specified outcome, all-cause mortality was tested using a Cox proportional hazards regression model that included study of origin, age (<75 or ≥75 years), and left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF, ≤45 or >45%) as covariates. Secondary endpoints included heart failure or cardiovascular hospitalization. Of 11 eligible studies, 9 provided individual patient data and 2 aggregate data. For the primary endpoint individual data from 2000 patients were included, 994 randomized to clinically guided care and 1006 to NP-guided care. All-cause mortality was significantly reduced by NP-guided treatment [hazard ratio = 0.62 (0.45–0.86); P = 0.004] with no heterogeneity between studies or interaction with LVEF. The survival benefit from NP-guided therapy was seen in younger (<75 years) patients [0.62 (0.45–0.85); P = 0.004] but not older (≥75 years) patients [0.98 (0.75–1.27); P = 0.96]. Hospitalization due to heart failure [0.80 (0.67–0.94); P = 0.009] or cardiovascular disease [0.82 (0.67–0.99); P = 0.048] was significantly lower in NP-guided patients with no heterogeneity between studies and no interaction with age or LVEF.
Natriuretic peptide-guided treatment of heart failure reduces all-cause mortality in patients aged <75 years and overall reduces heart failure and cardiovascular hospitalization.
PMCID: PMC4057643  PMID: 24603309
Natriuretic peptides; B-type Natriuretic peptide; Heart failure
2.  Betaine and Trimethylamine-N-Oxide as Predictors of Cardiovascular Outcomes Show Different Patterns in Diabetes Mellitus: An Observational Study 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(12):e114969.
Betaine is a major osmolyte, also important in methyl group metabolism. Concentrations of betaine, its metabolite dimethylglycine and analog trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO) in blood are cardiovascular risk markers. Diabetes disturbs betaine: does diabetes alter associations between betaine-related measures and cardiovascular risk?
Plasma samples were collected from 475 subjects four months after discharge following an acute coronary admission. Death (n = 81), secondary acute MI (n = 87), admission for heart failure (n = 85), unstable angina (n = 72) and all cardiovascular events (n = 283) were recorded (median follow-up: 1804 days).
High and low metabolite concentrations were defined as top or bottom quintile of the total cohort. In subjects with diabetes (n = 79), high plasma betaine was associated with increased frequencies of events; significantly for heart failure, hazard ratio 3.1 (1.2–8.2) and all cardiovascular events, HR 2.8 (1.4–5.5). In subjects without diabetes (n = 396), low plasma betaine was associated with events; significantly for secondary myocardial infarction, HR 2.1 (1.2–3.6), unstable angina, HR 2.3 (1.3–4.0), and all cardiovascular events, HR 1.4 (1.0–1.9). In diabetes, high TMAO was a marker of all outcomes, HR 2.7 (1.1–7.1) for death, 4.0 (1.6–9.8) for myocardial infarction, 4.6 (2.0–10.7) for heart failure, 9.1 (2.8–29.7) for unstable angina and 2.0 (1.1–3.6) for all cardiovascular events. In subjects without diabetes TMAO was only significant for death, HR 2.7 (1.6–4.8) and heart failure, HR 1.9 (1.1–3.4). Adding the estimated glomerular filtration rate to Cox regression models tended to increase the apparent risks associated with low betaine.
Elevated plasma betaine concentration is a marker of cardiovascular risk in diabetes; conversely low plasma betaine concentrations indicate increased risk in the absence of diabetes. We speculate that the difference reflects control of osmolyte retention in tissues. Elevated plasma TMAO is a strong risk marker in diabetes.
PMCID: PMC4262445  PMID: 25493436
3.  A pilot study to evaluate the efficacy of adding a structured home visiting intervention to improve outcomes for high-risk families attending the Incredible Years Parent Programme: study protocol for a randomised controlled trial 
Trials  2014;15:66.
Antisocial behaviour and adult criminality often have their origins in childhood and are best addressed early in the child’s life using evidence-based treatments such as the ‘Incredible Years Parent Programme’. However, families with additional risk factors who are at highest risk for poor outcomes do not always make sufficient change while attending such programmes. Additional support to address barriers and improve implementation of positive parenting strategies while these families attend the Incredible Years Programme may improve overall outcomes.
The study aims to evaluate the efficacy of adding a structured home visiting intervention (Home Parent Support) to improve outcomes in families most at risk of poor treatment response from the Incredible Years intervention. This study will inform the design of a larger prospective randomised controlled trial.
A pilot single-blind, parallel, superiority, randomised controlled trial. Randomisation will be undertaken using a computer-generated sequence in a 1:1 ratio to the two treatments arranged in permuted blocks with stratification by age, sex, and ethnicity. One hundred and twenty six participants enrolled in the Incredible Years Parent Programme who meet the high-risk criteria will be randomly allocated to receive either Incredible Years Parent Programme and Home Parent Support, or the Incredible Years Parent Programme alone. The Home Parent Support is a 10-session structured home visiting intervention provided by a trained therapist, alongside the usual Incredible Years Parent Programme, to enhance the adoption of key parenting skills. The primary outcome is the change in child behaviour from baseline to post-intervention in parent reported Eyberg Child Behavior Inventory Problem Scale.
This is the first formal evaluation of adding Home Parent Support alongside Incredible Years Parent Programme for families with risk factors who typically have poorer treatment outcomes. We anticipate that the intervention will help vulnerable families stay engaged, strengthen the adoption of effective parenting strategies, and improve outcomes for both the children and families.
Trial registration
Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ACTRN12612000878875.
PMCID: PMC3938816  PMID: 24568271
Conduct problems; Early childhood; Home coaching; Incredible Years Specialist Service; Randomised controlled trial
4.  High Intensity Interval Training in a Real World Setting: A Randomized Controlled Feasibility Study in Overweight Inactive Adults, Measuring Change in Maximal Oxygen Uptake 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e83256.
In research clinic settings, overweight adults undertaking HIIT (high intensity interval training) improve their fitness as effectively as those undertaking conventional walking programs but can do so within a shorter time spent exercising. We undertook a randomized controlled feasibility (pilot) study aimed at extending HIIT into a real world setting by recruiting overweight/obese, inactive adults into a group based activity program, held in a community park.
Participants were allocated into one of three groups. The two interventions, aerobic interval training and maximal volitional interval training, were compared with an active control group undertaking walking based exercise. Supervised group sessions (36 per intervention) were held outdoors. Cardiorespiratory fitness was measured using VO2max (maximal oxygen uptake, results expressed in ml/min/kg), before and after the 12 week interventions.
On ITT (intention to treat) analyses, baseline (N = 49) and exit (N = 39) O2 was 25.3±4.5 and 25.3±3.9, respectively. Participant allocation and baseline/exit VO2max by group was as follows: Aerobic interval training N =  16, 24.2±4.8/25.6±4.8; maximal volitional interval training N = 16, 25.0±2.8/25.2±3.4; walking N = 17, 26.5±5.3/25.2±3.6. The post intervention change in VO2max was +1.01 in the aerobic interval training, −0.06 in the maximal volitional interval training and −1.03 in the walking subgroups. The aerobic interval training subgroup increased VO2max compared to walking (p = 0.03). The actual (observed, rather than prescribed) time spent exercising (minutes per week, ITT analysis) was 74 for aerobic interval training, 45 for maximal volitional interval training and 116 for walking (p =  0.001). On descriptive analysis, the walking subgroup had the fewest adverse events.
In contrast to earlier studies, the improvement in cardiorespiratory fitness in a cohort of overweight/obese participants undertaking aerobic interval training in a real world setting was modest. The most likely reason for this finding relates to reduced adherence to the exercise program, when moving beyond the research clinic setting.
Trial Registration ACTRN12610000295044
PMCID: PMC3890270  PMID: 24454698
5.  Improved performance of urinary biomarkers of acute kidney injury in the critically ill by stratification for injury duration and baseline renal function 
Kidney international  2011;79(10):10.1038/ki.2010.555.
To better understand the diagnostic and predictive performance of urinary biomarkers of kidney injury, we evaluated γ-glutamyltranspeptidase (GGT), alkaline phosphatase (AP), neutrophil-gelatinase-associated lipocalin (NGAL), cystatin C (CysC), kidney injury molecule-1 (KIM-1), and interleukin-18 (IL-18) in a prospective observational study of 529 patients in 2 general intensive care units (ICUs). Comparisons were made using the area under the receiver operator characteristic curve (AUC) for diagnosis or prediction of acute kidney injury (AKI), dialysis, or death, and reassessed after patient stratification by baseline renal function (estimated glomerular filtration rate, eGFR) and time after renal insult. On ICU entry, no biomarker had an AUC above 0.7 in the diagnosis or prediction of AKI. Several biomarkers (NGAL, CysC, and IL-18) predicted dialysis (AUC over 0.7), and all except KIM-1 predicted death at 7 days (AUC between 0.61 and 0.69). Performance was improved by stratification for eGFR or time or both. With eGFR <60ml/min, CysC and KIM-1 had AUCs of 0.69 and 0.73, respectively, within 6 h of injury, and between 12 and 36 h, CysC (0.88), NGAL (0.85), and IL-18 (0.94) had utility. With eGFR >60 ml/min, GGT (0.73), CysC (0.68), and NGAL (0.68) had the highest AUCs within 6h of injury, and between 6 and 12 h, all AUCs except AP were between 0.68 and 0.78. Beyond 12 h, NGAL (0.71) and KIM-1 (0.66) performed best. Thus, the duration of injury and baseline renal function should be considered in evaluating biomarker performance to diagnose AKI.
PMCID: PMC3884688  PMID: 21307838
acute kidney injury; clinical trail; diagnosis; glomerular filtration rate
6.  Four hour creatinine clearance is better than plasma creatinine for monitoring renal function in critically ill patients 
Critical Care  2012;16(3):R107.
Acute kidney injury (AKI) diagnosis is based on an increase in plasma creatinine, which is a slowly changing surrogate of decreased glomerular filtration rate. We investigated whether serial creatinine clearance, a direct measure of the glomerular filtration rate, provided more timely and accurate information on renal function than serial plasma creatinine in critically ill patients.
Serial plasma creatinine and 4-hour creatinine clearance were measured 12-hourly for 24 hours and then daily in 484 patients. AKI was defined either as > 50% increase in plasma creatinine from baseline, or > 33.3% decrease in creatinine clearance. The diagnostic and predictive performance of the two AKI definitions were compared.
Creatinine clearance decrease diagnosed AKI in 24% of those not diagnosed by plasma creatinine increase on entry. These patients entered the ICU sooner after insult than those diagnosed with AKI by plasma creatinine elevation (P = 0.0041). Mortality and dialysis requirement increased with the change in creatinine clearance-acute kidney injury severity class (P = 0.0021). Amongst patients with plasma creatinine < 1.24 mg/dl on entry, creatinine clearance improved the prediction of AKI considerably (Net Reclassification Improvement 83%, Integrated Discrimination Improvement 0.29). On-entry, creatinine clearance associated with AKI severity and duration (P < 0.0001) predicted dialysis need (area under the curve: 0.75) and death (0.61). A > 33.3% decrease in creatinine clearance over the first 12 hours was associated with a 2.0-fold increased relative risk of dialysis or death.
Repeated 4-hour creatinine clearance measurements in critically ill patients allow earlier detection of AKI, as well as progression and recovery compared to plasma creatinine.
Trial Registration
Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ACTRN012606000032550.
PMCID: PMC3580664  PMID: 22713519
7.  Betaine and Secondary Events in an Acute Coronary Syndrome Cohort 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e37883.
Betaine insufficiency is associated with unfavourable vascular risk profiles in metabolic syndrome patients. We investigated associations between betaine insufficiency and secondary events in acute coronary syndrome patients.
Plasma (531) and urine (415) samples were collected four months after discharge following an acute coronary event. Death (34), secondary acute myocardial infarction (MI) (70) and hospital admission for heart failure (45) events were recorded over a median follow-up of 832 days.
Principal Findings
The highest and lowest quintiles of urinary betaine excretion associated with risk of heart failure (p = 0.0046, p = 0.013 compared with middle 60%) but not with subsequent acute MI. The lowest quintile of plasma betaine was associated with subsequent acute MI (p = 0.014), and the top quintile plasma betaine with heart failure (p = 0.043), especially in patients with diabetes (p<0.001). Top quintile plasma concentrations of dimethylglycine (betaine metabolite) and top quintile plasma homocysteine both associated with all three outcomes, acute MI (p = 0.004, <0.001), heart failure (p = 0.027, p<0.001) and survival (p<0.001, p<0.001). High homocysteine was associated with high or low betaine excretion in >60% of these subjects (p = 0.017). Median NT-proBNP concentrations were lowest in the middle quintile of plasma betaine concentration (p = 0.002).
Betaine insufficiency indicates increased risk of secondary heart failure and acute MI. Its association with elevated homocysteine may partly explain the disappointing results of folate supplementation. In some patients, especially with diabetes, elevated plasma betaine also indicates increased risk.
PMCID: PMC3359285  PMID: 22649561
8.  The Contrasting Relationships between Betaine and Homocysteine in Two Clinical Cohorts are Associated with Plasma Lipids and Drug Treatments 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(3):e32460.
Urinary betaine excretion positively correlated with plasma homocysteine in outpatients attending a lipid disorders clinic (lipid clinic study). We aimed to confirm this in subjects with established vascular disease.
The correlation between betaine excretion and homocysteine was compared in samples collected from subjects 4 months after hospitalization for an acute coronary episode (ACS study, 415 urine samples) and from 158 sequential patients visiting a lipid disorders clinic.
Principal findings
In contrast to the lipid clinic study, betaine excretion and plasma homocysteine did not correlate in the total ACS cohort. Differences between the patient groups included age, non-HDL cholesterol and medication. In ACS subjects with below median betaine excretion, excretion correlated (using log transformed data) negatively with plasma homocysteine (r = −0.17, p = 0.019, n = 199), with no correlation in the corresponding subset of the lipid clinic subjects. In ACS subjects with above median betaine excretion a positive trend (r = +0.10) between betaine excretion and homocysteine was not significant; the corresponding correlation in lipid clinic subjects was r = +0.42 (p = 0.0001). In ACS subjects, correlations were stronger when plasma non-HDL cholesterol and betaine excretion were above the median, r = +0.20 (p = 0.045); in subjects above median non-HDL cholesterol and below median betaine excretion, r = −0.26 (p = 0.012). ACS subjects taking diuretics or proton pump inhibitors had stronger correlations, negative with lower betaine excretion and positive with higher betaine excretion.
Betaine excretion correlates with homocysteine in subjects with elevated blood lipids.
PMCID: PMC3292573  PMID: 22396767
9.  Bipolar Disorder and the TCI: Higher Self-Transcendence in Bipolar Disorder Compared to Major Depression 
Personality traits are potential endophenotypes for genetic studies of psychiatric disorders. One personality theory which demonstrates strong heritability is Cloninger's psychobiological model measured using the temperament and character inventory (TCI). 277 individuals who completed the TCI questionnaire as part of the South Island Bipolar Study were also interviewed to assess for lifetime psychiatric diagnoses. Four groups were compared, bipolar disorder (BP), type 1 and 2, MDD (major depressive disorder), and nonaffected relatives of a proband with BP. With correction for mood state, total harm avoidance (HA) was higher than unaffected in both MDD and BP groups, but the mood disorder groups did not differ from each other. However, BP1 individuals had higher self-transcendence (ST) than those with MDD and unaffected relatives. HA may reflect a trait marker of mood disorders whereas high ST may be specific to BP. As ST is heritable, genes that affect ST may be of relevance for vulnerability to BP.
PMCID: PMC3140026  PMID: 21789279
10.  Monitoring of heart failure: comparison of left atrial pressure with intrathoracic impedance and natriuretic peptide measurements in an experimental model of ovine heart failure 
Monitoring of HF (heart failure) with intracardiac pressure, intrathoracic impedance and/or natriuretic peptide levels has been advocated. We aimed to investigate possible differences in the response patterns of each of these monitoring modalities during HF decompensation that may have an impact on the potential for early therapeutic intervention. Six sheep were implanted with a LAP (left atrial pressure) sensor and a CRT-D (cardiac resynchronization therapy defibrillator) capable of monitoring impedance along six lead configuration vectors. An estimate of ALAP (LAP from admittance) was determined by linear regression. HF was induced by rapid ventricular pacing at 180 and 220 bpm (beats/min) for a week each, followed by a third week with daily pacing suspensions for increasing durations (1–5 h). Incremental pacing induced progressively severe HF reflected in increases in LAP (5.9 ± 0.4 to 24.5 ± 1.6 mmHg) and plasma atrial (20 ± 3 to 197 ± 36 pmol/l) and B-type natriuretic peptide (3.7 ± 0.7 to 32.7 ± 5.4 pmol/l) (all P<0.001) levels. All impedance vectors decreased in proportion to HF severity (all P<0.001), with the LVring (left ventricular)-case vector correlating best with LAP (r2=0.63, P<0.001). Natriuretic peptides closely paralleled rapid acute changes in LAP during alterations in pacing (P<0.001), whereas impedance changes were delayed relative to LAP. ALAP exhibited good agreement with LAP. In summary, impedance measured with an LV lead correlates significantly with changes in LAP, but exhibits a delayed response to acute alterations. Natriuretic peptides respond rapidly to acute LAP changes. Direct LAP, impedance and natriuretic peptide measurements all show promise as early indicators of worsening HF. ALAP provides an estimate of LAP that may be clinically useful.
PMCID: PMC2990201  PMID: 20846122
haemodynamics; heart failure; implantable monitor; intrathoracic impedance; left atrial pressure; natriuretic peptide; ANP, atrial natriuretic peptide; BNP, B-type natriuretic peptide; bpm, beats/min; CRT-D, cardiac resynchronization therapy defibrillator; HF, heart failure; ICU, intensive care unit; LAP, left atrial pressure; ALAP, LAP from admittance; LV, left ventricular; LVEDV, LV end-diastolic volume; MR, mitral valve regurgitation; PAM™, Patient Advisor Module; RA, right atrial; RV, right ventricular; Z, intrathoracic impedance
11.  Urinary cystatin C is diagnostic of acute kidney injury and sepsis, and predicts mortality in the intensive care unit 
Critical Care  2010;14(3):R85.
To evaluate the utility of urinary cystatin C (uCysC) as a diagnostic marker of acute kidney injury (AKI) and sepsis, and predictor of mortality in critically ill patients.
This was a two-center, prospective AKI observational study and post hoc sepsis subgroup analysis of 444 general intensive care unit (ICU) patients. uCysC and plasma creatinine were measured at entry to the ICU. AKI was defined as a 50% or 0.3-mg/dL increase in plasma creatinine above baseline. Sepsis was defined clinically. Mortality data were collected up to 30 days. The diagnostic and predictive performances of uCysC were assessed from the area under the receiver operator characteristic curve (AUC) and the odds ratio (OR). Multivariate logistic regression was used to adjust for covariates.
Eighty-one (18%) patients had sepsis, 198 (45%) had AKI, and 64 (14%) died within 30 days. AUCs for diagnosis by using uCysC were as follows: sepsis, 0.80, (95% confidence interval (CI), 0.74 to 0.87); AKI, 0.70 (CI, 0.64 to 0.75); and death within 30 days, 0.64 (CI, 0.56 to 0.72). After adjustment for covariates, uCysC remained independently associated with sepsis, AKI, and mortality with odds ratios (CI) of 3.43 (2.46 to 4.78), 1.49 (1.14 to 1.95), and 1.60 (1.16 to 2.21), respectively. Concentrations of uCysC were significantly higher in the presence of sepsis (P < 0.0001) or AKI (P < 0.0001). No interaction was found between sepsis and AKI on the uCysC concentrations (P = 0.53).
Urinary cystatin C was independently associated with AKI, sepsis, and death within 30 days.
Trial registration
Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ACTRN012606000032550.
PMCID: PMC2911717  PMID: 20459852
12.  Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D is not related to cardiac natriuretic peptide in nulliparous and lactating women 
Vitamin D deficiency is associated with heightened risk of cardiovascular disease. Potential mechanisms include involvement of vitamin D in regulation of renin-angiotensin system and manufacture and secretion of cardiac natriuretic peptides. Our aim was to document relationships between 25 hydroxyvitamin [25(OH)D] and N-terminal pro B-type natriuretic peptide (NT-proBNP) and plasma renin activity (PRA) levels and to document the effect of vitamin D administration on NT-proBNP and PRA levels in vitamin D deficient subjects.
Serum 25(OH)D, parathyroid hormone (PTH), plasma or serum NT-proBNP and PRA levels were measured at baseline in nulliparous and lactating women and after 2 months of oral vitamin D2 (2,000 IU/day or 60,000 IU/month) supplementation to lactating women.
Baseline levels of 25(OH)D were low (<50 nmol/L) in most women whereas PRA and NT-proBNP levels were within the normal range. There were no significant correlations between baseline 25(OH)D or PTH with NT-proBNP and PRA. Vitamin D administration over a 2-month period in lactating women was associated with a decline in NT-proBNP (by 9.1 ± 2.0 pmol/L; p < 0.001) and PRA (by 0.32 ± 0.17 nmol/L/hr; p = 0.064). However, there were no significant correlations between the changes from baseline in 25(OH)D and either NT-proBNP (r = -0.04, p = 0.8) or PRA (r = -0.04, p = 0.8).
We found no significant correlations between 25(OH)D or PTH with NT-proBNP and PRA in vitamin D deficient women. Further information is required to clarify the effects of vitamin D administration on cardiac structure and function.
PMCID: PMC2646736  PMID: 19178708
13.  The effect of ambient air pollution on respiratory health of school children: a panel study 
Environmental Health  2008;7:16.
Adverse respiratory effects of particulate air pollution have been identified by epidemiological studies. We aimed to examine the health effects of ambient particulate air pollution from wood burning on school-age students in Christchurch, New Zealand, and to explore the utility of urine and exhaled breath condensate biomarkers of exposure in this population.
A panel study of 93 male students (26 with asthma) living in the boarding house of a metropolitan school was undertaken in the winter of 2004. Indoor and outdoor pollution data was continuously monitored. Longitudinal assessment of lung function (FEV1 and peak flow) and symptoms were undertaken, with event studies of high pollution on biomarkers of exposure (urinary 1-hydroxypyrene) and effect (exhaled breath condensate (EBC) pH and hydrogen peroxide concentration).
Peak levels of air pollution were associated with small but statistically significant effects on lung function in the asthmatic students, but not healthy students. No significant effect of pollution could be seen either on airway inflammation and oxidative stress either in healthy students or students with asthma. Minor increases in respiratory symptoms were associated with high pollution exposure. Urinary 1-hydroxypyrene levels were raised in association with pollution events by comparison with low pollution control days.
There is no significant effect of ambient wood-smoke particulate air pollution on lung function of healthy school-aged students, but a small effect on respiratory symptoms. Asthmatic students show small effects of peak pollution levels on lung function. Urinary 1-hydroxypyrene shows potential as a biomarker of exposure to wood smoke in this population; however measurement of EBC pH and hydrogen peroxide appears not to be useful for assessment of population health effects of air pollution.
Some of the data presented in this paper has previously been published in Kingham and co-workers Atmospheric Environment, 2006 Jan; 40: 338–347 (details of pollution exposure), and Cavanagh and co-workers Sci Total Environ. 2007 Mar 1;374(1):51-9 (urine hydroxypyrene data).
PMCID: PMC2427023  PMID: 18479529

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