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1.  Effectiveness of a cognitive behavioral intervention in patients with medically unexplained symptoms: cluster randomized trial 
BMC Family Practice  2012;13:35.
Medically unexplained symptoms are an important mental health problem in primary care and generate a high cost in health services.
Cognitive behavioral therapy and psychodynamic therapy have proven effective in these patients. However, there are few studies on the effectiveness of psychosocial interventions by primary health care. The project aims to determine whether a cognitive-behavioral group intervention in patients with medically unexplained symptoms, is more effective than routine clinical practice to improve the quality of life measured by the SF-12 questionary at 12 month.
This study involves a community based cluster randomized trial in primary healthcare centres in Madrid (Spain). The number of patients required is 242 (121 in each arm), all between 18 and 65 of age with medically unexplained symptoms that had seeked medical attention in primary care at least 10 times during the previous year. The main outcome variable is the quality of life measured by the SF-12 questionnaire on Mental Healthcare. Secondary outcome variables include number of consultations, number of drug (prescriptions) and number of days of sick leave together with other prognosis and descriptive variables. Main effectiveness will be analyzed by comparing the percentage of patients that improve at least 4 points on the SF-12 questionnaire between intervention and control groups at 12 months. All statistical tests will be performed with intention to treat. Logistic regression with random effects will be used to adjust for prognostic factors. Confounding factors or factors that might alter the effect recorded will be taken into account in this analysis.
This study aims to provide more insight to address medically unexplained symptoms, highly prevalent in primary care, from a quantitative methodology. It involves intervention group conducted by previously trained nursing staff to diminish the progression to the chronicity of the symptoms, improve quality of life, and reduce frequency of medical consultations.
Trial registration
The trial was registered with, number NCT01484223 [].
PMCID: PMC3515424  PMID: 22551252
3.  Incomplete Reversibility of Estimated Glomerular Filtration Rate Decline Following Tenofovir Disoproxil Fumarate Exposure 
Jose, Sophie | Hamzah, Lisa | Campbell, Lucy J. | Hill, Teresa | Fisher, Martin | Leen, Clifford | Gilson, Richard | Walsh, John | Nelson, Mark | Hay, Phillip | Johnson, Margaret | Chadwick, David | Nitsch, Dorothea | Jones, Rachael | Sabin, Caroline A. | Post, Frank A. | Ainsworth, Jonathan | Anderson, Jane | Babiker, Abdel | Chadwick, David | Delpech, Valerie | Dunn, David | Fisher, Martin | Gazzard, Brian | Gilson, Richard | Gompels, Mark | Hay, Phillip | Hill, Teresa | Johnson, Margaret | Kegg, Stephen | Leen, Clifford | Nelson, Mark | Orkin, Chloe | Palfreeman, Adrian | Phillips, Andrew | Pillay, Deenan | Post, Frank | Sabin, Caroline | Sachikonye, Memory | Schwenk, Achim | Walsh, John | Hill, Teresa | Huntington, Susie | Josie, Sophie | Phillips, Andrew | Sabin, Caroline | Thornton, Alicia | Dunn, David | Glabay, Adam | Orkin, C. | Garrett, N. | Lynch, J. | Hand, J. | de Souza, C. | Fisher, M. | Perry, N. | Tilbury, S. | Churchill, D. | Gazzard, B. | Nelson, M. | Waxman, M. | Asboe, D. | Mandalia, S. | Delpech, V. | Anderson, J. | Munshi, S. | Korat, H. | Poulton, M. | Taylor, C. | Gleisner, Z. | Campbell, L. | Babiker, Abdel | Dunn, David | Glabay, Adam | Gilson, R. | Brima, N. | Williams, I. | Schwenk, A. | Ainsworth, J. | Wood, C. | Miller, S. | Johnson, M. | Youle, M. | Lampe, F. | Smith, C. | Grabowska, H. | Chaloner, C. | Puradiredja, D. | Walsh, J. | Weber, J. | Ramzan, F. | Mackie, N. | Winston, A. | Leen, C. | Wilson, A. | Gompels, M. | Allan, S. | Palfreeman, A. | Moore, A. | Chadwick, D. | Wakeman, K. | Kegg, Stephen | Main, Paul | Mitchell,  | Hunter,  | Sachikonye, Memory | Hay, Phillip | Dhillon, Mandip
The Journal of Infectious Diseases  2014;210(3):363-373.
Background. Tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (TDF) has been linked to renal impairment, but the extent to which this impairment is reversible is unclear. We aimed to investigate the reversibility of renal decline during TDF therapy.
Methods. Cox proportional hazards models assessed factors associated with discontinuing TDF in those with an exposure duration of >6 months. In those who discontinued TDF therapy, linear piecewise regression models estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) slopes before initiation of, during, and after discontinuation of TDF therapy. Factors associated with not achieving eGFR recovery 6 months after discontinuing TDF were assessed using multivariable logistic regression.
Results. We observed declines in the eGFR during TDF exposure (mean slopes, −15.7 mL/minute/1.73 m2/year [95% confidence interval {CI}, −20.5 to −10.9] during the first 3 months and −3.1 mL/minute/1.73 m2/year [95% CI, −4.6 to −1.7] thereafter) and evidence of eGFR increases following discontinuation of TDF therapy (mean slopes, 12.5 mL/minute/1.73 m2/year [95% CI, 8.9–16.1] during the first 3 months and 0.8 mL/minute/1.73 m2/year [95% CI, .1–1.5] thereafter). Following TDF discontinuation, 38.6% of patients with a decline in the eGFR did not experience recovery. A higher eGFR at baseline, a lower eGFR after discontinuation of TDF therapy, and more-prolonged exposure to TDF were associated with an increased risk of incomplete recovery 6 months after discontinuation of TDF therapy.
Conclusions. This study shows that a decline in the eGFR during TDF therapy was not fully reversible in one third of patients and suggests that prolonged TDF exposure at a low eGFR should be avoided.
PMCID: PMC4091582  PMID: 24585896
tenofovir; highly active antiretroviral therapy; eGFR; eGFR slopes; renal function; kidney
4.  A functional ABCA1 gene variant is associated with low HDL-cholesterol levels and shows evidence of positive selection in Native Americans 
Human Molecular Genetics  2010;19(14):2877-2885.
It has been suggested that the higher susceptibility of Hispanics to metabolic disease is related to their Native American heritage. A frequent cholesterol transporter ABCA1 (ATP-binding cassette transporter A1) gene variant (R230C, rs9282541) apparently exclusive to Native American individuals was associated with low high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) levels, obesity and type 2 diabetes in Mexican Mestizos. We performed a more extensive analysis of this variant in 4405 Native Americans and 863 individuals from other ethnic groups to investigate genetic evidence of positive selection, to assess its functional effect in vitro and to explore associations with HDL-C levels and other metabolic traits. The C230 allele was found in 29 of 36 Native American groups, but not in European, Asian or African individuals. C230 was observed on a single haplotype, and C230-bearing chromosomes showed longer relative haplotype extension compared with other haplotypes in the Americas. Additionally, single-nucleotide polymorphism data from the Human Genome Diversity Panel Native American populations were enriched in significant integrated haplotype score values in the region upstream of the ABCA1 gene. Cells expressing the C230 allele showed a 27% cholesterol efflux reduction (P< 0.001), confirming this variant has a functional effect in vitro. Moreover, the C230 allele was associated with lower HDL-C levels (P = 1.77 × 10−11) and with higher body mass index (P = 0.0001) in the combined analysis of Native American populations. This is the first report of a common functional variant exclusive to Native American and descent populations, which is a major determinant of HDL-C levels and may have contributed to the adaptive evolution of Native American populations.
PMCID: PMC2893805  PMID: 20418488
5.  Curcumin Inhibits Gastric Inflammation Induced by Helicobacter Pylori Infection in a Mouse Model 
Nutrients  2015;7(1):306-320.
Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection triggers a sequence of gastric alterations starting with an inflammation of the gastric mucosa that, in some cases, evolves to gastric cancer. Efficient vaccination has not been achieved, thus it is essential to find alternative therapies, particularly in the nutritional field. The current study evaluated whether curcumin could attenuate inflammation of the gastric mucosa due to H. pylori infection. Twenty-eight C57BL/6 mice, were inoculated with the H. pylori SS1 strain; ten non-infected mice were used as controls. H. pylori infection in live mice was followed-up using a modified 13C-Urea Breath Test (13C-UBT) and quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Histologically confirmed, gastritis was observed in 42% of infected non-treated mice at both 6 and 18 weeks post-infection. These mice showed an up-regulation of the expression of inflammatory cytokines and chemokines, as well as of toll-like receptors (TLRs) and MyD88, at both time points. Treatment with curcumin decreased the expression of all these mediators. No inflammation was observed by histology in this group. Curcumin treatment exerted a significant anti-inflammatory effect in H. pylori-infected mucosa, pointing to the promising role of a nutritional approach in the prevention of H. pylori induced deleterious inflammation while the eradication or prevention of colonization by effective vaccine is not available.
PMCID: PMC4303841  PMID: 25569625
H. pylori; curcumin; nutritional approach; secondary prevention; mouse model
6.  Shoc2/Sur8 Protein Regulates Neurite Outgrowth 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(12):e114837.
The Shoc2 protein has been implicated in the positive regulation of the Ras-ERK pathway by increasing the functional binding interaction between Ras and Raf, leading to increased ERK activity. Here we found that Shoc2 overexpression induced sustained ERK phosphorylation, notably in the case of EGF stimulation, and Shoc2 knockdown inhibited ERK activation. We demonstrate that ectopic overexpression of human Shoc2 in PC12 cells significantly promotes neurite extension in the presence of EGF, a stimulus that induces proliferation rather than differentiation in these cells. Finally, Shoc2 depletion reduces both NGF-induced neurite outgrowth and ERK activation in PC12 cells. Our data indicate that Shoc2 is essential to modulate the Ras-ERK signaling outcome in cell differentiation processes involved in neurite outgrowth.
PMCID: PMC4267731  PMID: 25514808
7.  miR-29b induces SOCS-1 expression by promoter demethylation and negatively regulates migration of multiple myeloma and endothelial cells 
Cell Cycle  2013;12(23):3650-3662.
Epigenetic silencing of tumor suppressor genes frequently occurs and may account for their inactivation in cancer cells. We previously demonstrated that miR-29b is a tumor suppressor microRNA (miRNA) that targets de novo DNA methyltransferases and reduces the global DNA methylation of multiple myeloma (MM) cells. Here, we provide evidence that epigenetic activity of miR-29b leads to promoter demethylation of suppressor of cytokine signaling-1 (SOCS-1), a hypermethylated tumor suppressor gene. Enforced expression of synthetic miR-29b mimics in MM cell lines resulted in SOCS-1 gene promoter demethylation, as assessed by Sequenom MassARRAY EpiTYPER analysis, and SOCS-1 protein upregulation. miR-29b-induced SOCS-1 demethylation was associated with reduced STAT3 phosphorylation and impaired NFκB activity. Downregulation of VEGF-A and IL-8 mRNAs could be detected in MM cells transfected with miR-29b mimics as well as in endothelial (HUVEC) or stromal (HS-5) cells treated with conditioned medium from miR-29b-transfected MM cells. Notably, enforced expression of miR-29b mimics increased adhesion of MM cells to HS-5 and reduced migration of both MM and HUVEC cells. These findings suggest that miR-29b is a negative regulator of either MM or endothelial cell migration. Finally, the proteasome inhibitor bortezomib, which induces the expression of miR-29b, decreased global DNA methylation by a miR-29b-dependent mechanism and induced SOCS-1 promoter demethylation and protein upregulation. In conclusion, our data indicate that miR-29b is endowed with epigenetic activity and mediates previously unknown functions of bortezomib in MM cells.
PMCID: PMC3903716  PMID: 24091729
miR-29b; epi-miRNA; microRNA; multiple myeloma; methylation
8.  Neurological complications of breast cancer: study protocol of a prospective cohort study 
BMJ Open  2014;4(10):e006301.
The improvement in breast cancer survival rates, along with the expected overdiagnosis and overtreatment associated with breast cancer screening, requires a comprehensive assessment of its burden. Neurological complications can have a devastating impact on these patients; neuropathic pain and chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy are among the most frequently reported. This project aims to understand the burden of neurological complications of breast cancer treatment in Northern Portugal, and their role as mediator of the impact of the treatment in different dimensions of the patients’ quality of life.
Methods and analysis
A prospective cohort study was designed to include 500 patients with breast cancer, to be followed for 3 years. The patients were recruited at the Portuguese Oncology Institute of Porto and evaluations were planned at different stages: pretreatment, after surgery, after chemotherapy (whenever applicable) and at 1 and 3 years after enrolment. Patients diagnosed with neuropathic pain or chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (subcohorts), were also evaluated at the moment of confirmation of clinical diagnosis of the neurological complication and 6 months later. In each of the follow-up periods, a neurological examination has been performed by a neurologist. Data were collected on sociodemographic and clinical characteristics, quality of life, sleep quality, and anxiety and depression. Between January and December 2012, we recruited and conducted the baseline evaluation of 506 participants. The end of the follow-up period is scheduled for December 2015.
Ethics and dissemination
The study protocol was approved by the Ethics Committee of the Portuguese Oncology Institute of Porto and all patients provided written informed consent. All study procedures were developed in order to assure data protection and confidentiality. Results from this project will be disseminated in international peer-reviewed journals and presented in relevant conferences.
PMCID: PMC4212178  PMID: 25351600
9.  Association of RET Genetic Polymorphisms and Haplotypes with Papillary Thyroid Carcinoma in the Portuguese Population: A Case-Control Study 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(10):e109822.
Thyroid cancer has a multifactorial aetiology resulting from the interaction of genetic and environmental factors. Several low penetrance susceptibility genes have been identified but their effects often vary between different populations. Somatic point mutations and translocations of the REarranged during Transfection (RET) proto-oncogene are frequently found in thyroid cancer. The aim of this case-control study was to determine the effect of four well known RET single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) on the risk for differentiated thyroid carcinoma. A total of 545 Portuguese patients and 543 controls were genotyped by PCR and restriction enzyme analysis, for the following SNPs: G691S (exon 11, rs1799939 G/A), L769L (exon 13, rs1800861 T/G), S836S (exon 14, rs1800862 C/T), and S904S (exon 15, rs1800863 C/G). The minor allele of S836S was overrepresented in patients with papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC) when compared to controls (OR 1.57; 95% CI 1.05–2.35; p = 0.026). The GGTC haplotype was also overrepresented in PTC (OR 2.51; 95% CI 1.07–5.91; p = 0.029). No associations were found in follicular thyroid carcinoma (FTC). Multivariate logistic regression analysis showed no differences regarding gender, age at diagnosis, lymph node or distant metastasis. However, a near significant overrepresentation of the minor alleles of G691S and S904S was found in patients with tumours greater than 10 mm of diameter at diagnosis. These data suggest that the RET S836S polymorphism in exon 14 and the GGTC haplotype are risk factors for PTC, but not FTC, and that the G691S/S904S polymorphisms might be associated with tumour behaviour.
PMCID: PMC4201446  PMID: 25330015
10.  Mesenchymal stromal cells reset the scatter factor system and cytokine network in experimental kidney transplantation 
BMC Immunology  2014;15(1):44.
In former studies we showed in a rat model of renal transplantation that Mesenchymal Stromal Cells (MSC) prevent acute rejection in an independent way of their endowing in the graft. In this study we investigated whether MSC operate by resetting cytokine network and Scatter Factor systems, i.e. Hepatocyte Growth Factor (HGF), Macrophage Stimulating Protein (MSP) and their receptors Met and RON, respectively.
MSC were injected into the renal artery soon after reperfusion. Controls were grafted untreated and normal rats. Rats were sacrificed 7 days after grafting. Serum and renal tissue levels of IFN-γ, IL-1, IL-2, IL-4, IL-6, IL-10, MSP/RON, HGF/Met systems, Treg lymphocytes were investigated.
In grafted untreated rats IFN-γ increased in serum and renal tissue and IL-6 rose in serum. MSC prevented both the phenomena, increased IL-10 serum levels and Treg number in the graft. Furthermore MSC increased serum and tissue HGF levels, Met tubular expression and prevented the suppression of tubular MSP/RON expression.
Our results demonstrate that MSC modify cytokine network to a tolerogenic setting, they suppress Th1 cells, inactivate monocytes/macrophage, recruit Tregs. In addition, MSC sustain the expression of the Scatter Factor systems expression, i.e. systems that are committed to defend survival and stimulate regeneration of tubular cells.
PMCID: PMC4193986  PMID: 25277788
Mesenchymal stromal cells; Acute kidney rejection; Experimental model; Hepatocyte growth factor; Macrophage stimulating protein; Scatter factors
11.  The Hippo transducer TAZ as a biomarker of pathological complete response in HER2-positive breast cancer patients treated with trastuzumab-based neoadjuvant therapy 
Oncotarget  2014;5(20):9619-9625.
Activation of the Hippo transducer TAZ is emerging as a novel oncogenic route in breast cancer and it has been associated with breast cancer stem cells. Additionally, TAZ expression has been linked with HER-2 positivity. We investigated the association between TAZ expression and pathological complete response in HER2-positive breast cancer patients treated with trastuzumab-based neoadjuvant therapy. TAZ was assessed in diagnostic core biopsies by immunohistochemistry. To categorize samples with low TAZ and samples with high TAZ we generated a score by combining staining intensity and cellular localization. The pathological complete response rate was 78.6% in patients with low TAZ tumors and 57.6% in patients with high TAZ tumors (p=0.082). In HER2-enriched tumors there was no significant association between TAZ and pathological complete response, whereas in the luminal B subtype the pathological complete response rate was 82.4% in tumors with low TAZ and 44.4% in tumors with high TAZ (p=0.035). This association remained statistically significant when restricting our analysis to triple-positive tumors with expression of both estrogen receptor and progesterone receptor ≥ 50% (p=0.035). Results from this exploratory study suggest that the TAZ score efficiently predicts pathological complete response in Luminal B, HER2-positive breast cancer patients who received neoadjuvant chemotherapy and trastuzumab.
PMCID: PMC4259424  PMID: 25294813
Hippo pathway; TAZ; HER2-positive breast cancer; neoadjuvant therapy; pathological complete response
12.  Seasonal and pandemic influenza H1N1 viruses induce differential expression of SOCS-1 and RIG-I genes and cytokine/chemokine production in macrophages 
Cytokine  2013;62(1):151-159.
Infection with pandemic (pdm) A/H1N1 virus induces high levels of pro-inflammatory mediators in blood and lungs of experimental animals and humans.
To compare the involvement of seasonal A/PR/8/34 and pdm A/H1N1 virus strains in the regulation of inflammatory responses, we analyzed the changes in the whole-genome expression induced by these strains in macrophages and A549 epithelial cells. We also focused on the functional implications (cytokine production) of the differential induction of suppressors of cytokine signaling (SOCS)-1, SOCS-3, retinoid-inducible gene (RIG)-I and interferon receptor 1 (IFNAR1) genes by these viral strains in early stages of the infection.
We identified 130 genes differentially expressed by pdm A/H1N1 and A/PR/8/34 infections in macrophages. mRNA levels of SOCS-1 and RIG-I were up-regulated in macrophages infected with the A/PR/8/34 but not with pdm A/H1N1 virus. mRNA levels of SOCS-3 and IFNAR1 induced by A/PR/8/34 and pdm A/H1N1 strains in macrophages, as well as in A549 cells were similar. We found higher levels of IL-6, TNF-α, IL-10, CCL3, CCL5, CCL4 and CXCL8 (p<0.05) in supernatants from cultures of macrophages infected with the pdm A/H1N1 virus compared to those infected with the A/PR/8/34 strain, coincident with the lack of SOCS-1 and RIG-I expression. In contrast, levels of INF-α were higher in cultures of macrophages 48 h after infection with the A/PR/8/34 strain than with the pdm A/H1N1 virus.
These findings suggest that factors inherent to the pdm A/H1N1 viral strain may increase the production of inflammatory mediators by inhibiting SOCS-1 and modifying the expression of antiviral immunity-related genes, including RIG-I, in human macrophages.
PMCID: PMC4148900  PMID: 23434273
SOCS-1; A/H1N1; Influenza; Cytokines; Inflammation
13.  Draft Genome Sequences of the Onion Center Rot Pathogen Pantoea ananatis PA4 and Maize Brown Stalk Rot Pathogen P. ananatis BD442 
Genome Announcements  2014;2(4):e00750-14.
Pantoea ananatis is an emerging phytopathogen that infects a broad spectrum of plant hosts. Here, we present the genomes of two South African isolates, P. ananatis PA4, which causes center rot of onion, and BD442, isolated from brown stalk rot of maize.
PMCID: PMC4125770  PMID: 25103759
14.  High Resolution Melting Analysis: A Rapid and Accurate Method to Detect CALR Mutations 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(7):e103511.
The recent discovery of CALR mutations in essential thrombocythemia (ET) and primary myelofibrosis (PMF) patients without JAK2/MPL mutations has emerged as a relevant finding for the molecular diagnosis of these myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPN). We tested the feasibility of high-resolution melting (HRM) as a screening method for rapid detection of CALR mutations.
CALR was studied in wild-type JAK2/MPL patients including 34 ET, 21 persistent thrombocytosis suggestive of MPN and 98 suspected secondary thrombocytosis. CALR mutation analysis was performed through HRM and Sanger sequencing. We compared clinical features of CALR-mutated versus 45 JAK2/MPL-mutated subjects in ET.
Nineteen samples showed distinct HRM patterns from wild-type. Of them, 18 were mutations and one a polymorphism as confirmed by direct sequencing. CALR mutations were present in 44% of ET (15/34), 14% of persistent thrombocytosis suggestive of MPN (3/21) and none of the secondary thrombocytosis (0/98). Of the 18 mutants, 9 were 52 bp deletions, 8 were 5 bp insertions and other was a complex mutation with insertion/deletion. No mutations were found after sequencing analysis of 45 samples displaying wild-type HRM curves. HRM technique was reproducible, no false positive or negative were detected and the limit of detection was of 3%.
This study establishes a sensitive, reliable and rapid HRM method to screen for the presence of CALR mutations.
PMCID: PMC4113452  PMID: 25068507
15.  HLA-restricted NY-ESO-1 peptide immunotherapy for metastatic castration resistant prostate cancer 
Investigational new drugs  2013;32(2):235-242.
Given the immunogenicity of NYESO-1 peptides in prostate cancer, a phase I clinical trial was designed to evaluate HLA class-I and class-II restricted NYESO-1 peptides in metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer (mCRPC).
Patients with progressive mCRPC, Zubrod Performance Status ≤2, PSA ≥10 ng/ml who had appropriate HLA class I (A2) and class II haplotypes (DR4, DP4) were eligible. Three groups with 3 patients each received the vaccine subcutaneously every 2 weeks for 6 doses. Group 1 received a peptide presented by an HLA class I haplotype (HLA-A2), Group 2 with a peptide presented by HLA class II haplotype (DR4, DP4), and Group 3 with peptides presented by both Class I and II haplotypes. Androgen-deprivation was continued. Owing to a myocardial infarction, the protocol was amended to omit the use of GMCSF.
Fourteen patients were evaluable for toxicities and 9 received all 6 doses and were evaluable for efficacy. One death from myocardial infarction following GM-CSF occurred in a patient with generalized myalgias. After omitting GM-CSF, no grade >2 toxicities were observed. Among 9 patients evaluable for efficacy, the median PSA doubling time pre-therapy and during therapy were 3.1 and 4.92 months, respectively. NY-ESO-1 specific T-cell response observed by ELISPOT appeared more frequent in docetaxel-naïve patients (4 of 4) than docetaxel-pretreated patients (2 of 5).
In men with mCRPC, individualized HLA class-I and/or class-II restricted NY-ESO-1 peptides were tolerable, appeared to slow PSA doubling time and yielded antigen-specific T-cell responses more often in chemonaïve patients.
PMCID: PMC4100683  PMID: 23609828
NY-ESO-1; Castration-resistant prostate cancer; Peptide; Immunotherapy; HLA-restricted; Cancer vaccines
16.  Splitting or Lumping? A Conservation Dilemma Exemplified by the Critically Endangered Dama Gazelle (Nanger dama) 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(6):e98693.
Managers of threatened species often face the dilemma of whether to keep populations separate to conserve local adaptations and minimize the risk of outbreeding, or whether to manage populations jointly to reduce loss of genetic diversity and minimise inbreeding. In this study we examine genetic relatedness and diversity in three of the five last remaining wild populations of dama gazelle and a number of captive populations, using mtDNA control region and cytochrome b data. Despite the sampled populations belonging to the three putative subspecies, which are delineated according to phenotypes and geographical location, we find limited evidence for phylogeographical structure within the data and no genetic support for the putative subspecies. In the light of these data we discuss the relevance of inbreeding depression, outbreeding depression, adaptive variation, genetic drift, and phenotypic variation to the conservation of the dama gazelle and make some recommendations for its future conservation management. The genetic data suggest that the best conservation approach is to view the dama gazelle as a single species without subspecific divisions.
PMCID: PMC4067283  PMID: 24956104
17.  A comprehensive assessment of the transcriptome of cork oak (Quercus suber) through EST sequencing 
BMC Genomics  2014;15(1):371.
Cork oak (Quercus suber) is one of the rare trees with the ability to produce cork, a material widely used to make wine bottle stoppers, flooring and insulation materials, among many other uses. The molecular mechanisms of cork formation are still poorly understood, in great part due to the difficulty in studying a species with a long life-cycle and for which there is scarce molecular/genomic information. Cork oak forests are of great ecological importance and represent a major economic and social resource in Southern Europe and Northern Africa. However, global warming is threatening the cork oak forests by imposing thermal, hydric and many types of novel biotic stresses. Despite the economic and social value of the Q. suber species, few genomic resources have been developed, useful for biotechnological applications and improved forest management.
We generated in excess of 7 million sequence reads, by pyrosequencing 21 normalized cDNA libraries derived from multiple Q. suber tissues and organs, developmental stages and physiological conditions. We deployed a stringent sequence processing and assembly pipeline that resulted in the identification of ~159,000 unigenes. These were annotated according to their similarity to known plant genes, to known Interpro domains, GO classes and E.C. numbers. The phylogenetic extent of this ESTs set was investigated, and we found that cork oak revealed a significant new gene space that is not covered by other model species or EST sequencing projects. The raw data, as well as the full annotated assembly, are now available to the community in a dedicated web portal at
This genomic resource represents the first trancriptome study in a cork producing species. It can be explored to develop new tools and approaches to understand stress responses and developmental processes in forest trees, as well as the molecular cascades underlying cork differentiation and disease response.
PMCID: PMC4070548  PMID: 24885229
20.  Coenzyme Q10 supplementation improves metabolic parameters, liver function and mitochondrial respiration in rats with high doses of atorvastatin and a cholesterol-rich diet 
The aim of this study was to evaluate the actions of coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) on rats with a cholesterol-rich diet (HD) and high doses of atorvastatin (ATV, 0.2, 0.56 or 1.42 mg/day).
Two experiments were done, the first one without coenzyme Q10 supplementation. On the second experiment all groups received coenzyme Q10 0.57 mg/day as supplement. After a 6-week treatment animals were sacrificed, blood and liver were analyzed and liver mitochondria were isolated and its oxygen consumption was evaluated in state 3 (phosphorylating state) and state 4 (resting state) in order to calculate the respiratory control (RC).
HD increased serum and hepatic cholesterol levels in rats with or without CoQ10. ATV reduced these values but CoQ10 improved even more serum and liver cholesterol. Triacylglycerols (TAG) were also lower in blood and liver of rats with ATV + CoQ10. HDL-C decreased in HD rats. Treatment with ATV maintained HDL-C levels. However, these values were lower in HD + CoQ10 compared to control diet (CD) + CoQ10. RC was lessened in liver mitochondria of HD. The administration of ATV increased RC. All groups supplemented with CoQ10 showed an increment in RC. In conclusion, the combined administration of ATV and CoQ10 improved biochemical parameters, liver function and mitochondrial respiration in hypercholesterolemic rats.
Our results suggest a potential beneficial effect of CoQ10 supplementation in hypercholesterolemic rats that also receive atorvastatin. This beneficial effect of CoQ10 must be combined with statin treatment in patient with high levels of cholesterol.
PMCID: PMC3907908  PMID: 24460631
Coenzyme Q10; Atorvastatin; Hypercholesterolemia
21.  Suction catheter guided insertion of ProSeal laryngeal mask airway: Experience by untrained physicians 
Indian Journal of Anaesthesia  2014;58(1):25-29.
The use of suction catheter (SC) has been shown to improve success rate during ProSeal laryngeal mask airway (PLMA) insertion in expert users.
The aim of this study was to compare insertion of PLMA performed by untrained physicians using a SC or the digital technique (DT) in anaesthetised non-paralysed patients.
In this prospective randomised double-blind study, conducted in the operating setting, 254 patients (American Society of Anaesthesiologists I-II, aged 18-65 years), undergoing minor surgery were enrolled. Exclusion criteria were body mass index >35 kg/m2, laryngeal or oesophageal varices, risk of aspiration or difficult face mask ventilation either referred or suspected (Langeron's criteria ≥2) and modified Mallampati classification score >2. Participants were randomly allocated to one of the two groups in which PLMA was inserted using DT (DT-group) or SC (SC-group).
Statistical Analysis:
Chi-square test with Yates’ correction, Mann-Whitney U-test or Student's t-test were carried-out as appropriate.
The final insertion success rate was greater in SC-groupcompared with DT-group 90.1% (n = 109) versus 74.4% (n = 99) respectively (P = 0.002). Mean airway leak pressure was higher in SC-group compared to DT-group (23.7 ± 3.9 vs. 21.4 ± 3.2 respectively; (P = 0.001). There were no differences in insertion time, post-operative airway morbidity and complications.
The findings of this study suggest that SC-technique improves the success rate of PLMA insertion by untrained physicians.
PMCID: PMC3968646  PMID: 24700895
Digital technique; ProSeal laryngeal mask airway; suction catheter technique; untrained physicians
22.  Contribution of Common Genetic Variation to the Risk of Type 2 Diabetes in the Mexican Mestizo Population 
Diabetes  2012;61(12):3314-3321.
Several studies have identified nearly 40 different type 2 diabetes susceptibility loci, mainly in European populations, but few of them have been evaluated in the Mexican population. The aim of this study was to examine the extent to which 24 common genetic variants previously associated with type 2 diabetes are associated in Mexican Mestizos. Twenty-four single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in or near genes (KCNJ11, PPARG, TCF7L2, SLC30A8, HHEX, CDKN2A/2B, CDKAL1, IGF2BP2, ARHGEF11, JAZF1, CDC123/CAMK1D, FTO, TSPAN8/LGR5, KCNQ1, THADA, ADAMTS9, NOTCH2, NXPH1, RORA, UBQLNL, and RALGPS2) were genotyped in Mexican Mestizos. A case-control association study comprising 1,027 type 2 diabetic individuals and 990 control individuals was conducted. To account for population stratification, a panel of 104 ancestry-informative markers was analyzed. Association to type 2 diabetes was found for rs13266634 (SLC30A8), rs7923837 (HHEX), rs10811661 (CDKN2A/2B), rs4402960 (IGF2BP2), rs12779790 (CDC123/CAMK1D), and rs2237892 (KCNQ1). In addition, rs7754840 (CDKAL1) was associated in the nonobese type 2 diabetic subgroup, and for rs7903146 (TCF7L2), association was observed for early-onset type 2 diabetes. Lack of association for the rest of the variants may have resulted from insufficient power to detect smaller allele effects.
PMCID: PMC3501881  PMID: 22923468
23.  Ruminant Rhombencephalitis-Associated Listeria monocytogenes Strains Constitute a Genetically Homogeneous Group Related to Human Outbreak Strains 
Listeriosis is a disease that causes significant economic losses at the farm level because of high morbidity and mortality in ruminants. This study was performed to investigate the role of ruminants in the epidemiology of listeriosis in northern Italy and the possible association of animal-adapted strains of Listeria monocytogenes with strains associated with human disease. Twenty ruminant rhombencephalitis isolates previously confirmed as L. monocytogenes by bacteriology and PCR were characterized by serotyping, pulsed-field gel electrophoresis, multi-virulence-locus sequence typing (MVLST), and multiplex single nucleotide polymorphism (mSNP) typing for the detection of epidemic clones. Subtyping results were subsequently compared with those obtained from human, food, and environmental isolates of L. monocytogenes, including 311 isolates from the University of Turin, Grugliasco, Italy, and 165 isolates representing major human listeriosis outbreaks worldwide, in addition to other unrelated isolates. Both mSNP typing and MVLST showed that 60% of the isolates analyzed belonged to epidemic clone I (ECI), which has been epidemiologically linked to several human outbreaks of listeriosis. In particular, the 1981 Canada outbreak was linked to the use of sheep manure and the 1985 California outbreak was linked to the use of raw cow's milk. In our study, ECI isolates were collected from different ruminant species on geographically and temporally distinct occasions for the last 13 years. Our results support the hypothesis that ruminants represent possible natural reservoirs of L. monocytogenes strains capable of causing epidemics of listeriosis in humans.
PMCID: PMC3623162  PMID: 23455337
24.  Natural History of Malignant Bone Disease in Gastric Cancer: Final Results of a Multicenter Bone Metastasis Survey 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e74402.
Bone metastasis represents an increasing clinical problem in advanced gastric cancer (GC) as disease-related survival improves. In literature, few data on the natural history of bone disease in GC are available.
Patients and Methods
Data on clinicopathology, skeletal outcomes, skeletal-related events (SREs), and bone-directed therapies for 208 deceased GC patients with evidence of bone metastasis were statistically analyzed.
Median time to bone metastasis was 8 months (CI 95%, 6.125–9.875 months) considering all included patients. Median number of SREs/patient was one. Less than half of the patients (31%) experienced at least one and only 4 and 2% experienced at least two and three events, respectively. Median times to first and second SRE were 2 and 4 months, respectively. Median survival was 6 months after bone metastasis diagnosis and 3 months after first SRE. Median survival in patients who did not experience SREs was 5 months. Among patients who received zoledronic acid before the first SRE, the median time to appearance of first SRE was significantly prolonged compared to control (7 months vs 4 months for control; P: 0.0005).
To our knowledge, this retrospective analysis is the largest multicenter study to demonstrate that bone metastases from GC are not so rare, are commonly aggressive and result in relatively early onset of SREs in the majority of patients. Indeed, our large study, which included 90 patients treated with ZOL, showed, for the first time in literature, a significant extension of time to first SRE and increase in the median survival time after diagnosis of bone metastasis. Taken together, these data may support the beneficial effects of ZOL in GC patients.
PMCID: PMC3810275  PMID: 24204569
25.  Divergent Views of Hope Influencing Communications Between Parents and Hospital Providers 
Qualitative health research  2012;22(9):1232-1246.
This study evaluates parents’ and health care providers’ (HCPs) descriptions of hope following counseling of parents at risk of delivering an extremely premature infant. Data came from a longitudinal multiple case study investigation that examined the decision-making and support needs of 40 families and their providers. Semi-structured interviews were conducted before and after delivery. Divergent viewpoints of hope were found between parents and many HCPs and were subsequently coded using content analysis. Parents relied on hope as an emotional motivator, whereas most HCPs described parents’ notions of hope as out of touch with reality. Parents perceived that such divergent beliefs about the role of hope negatively shaped communicative interactions and reduced trust with some of their providers. A deeper understanding of how varying views of hope might shape communications will uncover future research questions and lead to theory-based interventions aimed at improving the process of discussing difficult news with parents.
PMCID: PMC3572714  PMID: 22745363
communication; medical; content analysis; culture/cultural competence; decision making; disability/disabled persons; end-of-life-issues; infants; high-risk; parenting; pregnancy; high-risk; relationships; health care

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