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Background and Purpose
This review discusses recent research on the genetic, molecular, cellular, and developmental mechanisms underlying the etiology of vascular malformations of the brain (VMBs), including cerebral cavernous malformation (CCM), sporadic brain arteriovenous malformation (AVM), and the AVMs of hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia (HHT).
Summary of Review
The identification of gene mutations and genetic risk factors associated with CCM, HHT, and sporadic AVM has enabled the development of animal models for these diseases and provided new insights into their etiology. All of the genes associated with VMBs to date have known or plausible roles in angiogenesis and vascular remodeling. Recent work suggests that the angiogenic process most severely disrupted by VMB gene mutation is that of vascular stabilization, the process whereby vascular endothelial cells form capillary tubes, strengthen their intercellular junctions, and recruit smooth muscle cells to the vessel wall. In addition, there is now good evidence that in some cases CCM lesion formation involves a genetic two-hit mechanism, in which a germline mutation in one copy of a CCM gene is followed by a somatic mutation in the other copy. There is also increasing evidence that environmental second hits can produce lesions when there is a mutation to a single allele of a VMB gene.
Recent findings begin to explain how mutations in VMB genes render vessels vulnerable to rupture when challenged with other inauspicious genetic or environmental factors, and have suggested candidate therapeutics. Understanding of the cellular mechanisms of VMB formation and progression in humans has lagged behind that in animal models. New knowledge of lesion biology will spur new translational work. Several well-established clinical and genetic database efforts are already in place, and further progress will be facilitated by collaborative expansion and standardization of these.
PMCID: PMC2810509  PMID: 19834013
vascular malformations; arteriovenous malformation; cerebral hemorrhage; angiogenesis, physiologic; genetics
2.  Accelerating drug discovery for Alzheimer's disease: best practices for preclinical animal studies 
Animal models have contributed significantly to our understanding of the underlying biological mechanisms of Alzheimer's disease (AD). As a result, over 300 interventions have been investigated and reported to mitigate pathological phenotypes or improve behavior in AD animal models or both. To date, however, very few of these findings have resulted in target validation in humans or successful translation to disease-modifying therapies. Challenges in translating preclinical studies to clinical trials include the inability of animal models to recapitulate the human disease, variations in breeding and colony maintenance, lack of standards in design, conduct and analysis of animal trials, and publication bias due to under-reporting of negative results in the scientific literature. The quality of animal model research on novel therapeutics can be improved by bringing the rigor of human clinical trials to animal studies. Research communities in several disease areas have developed recommendations for the conduct and reporting of preclinical studies in order to increase their validity, reproducibility, and predictive value. To address these issues in the AD community, the Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation partnered with Charles River Discovery Services (Morrisville, NC, USA) and Cerebricon Ltd. (Kuopio, Finland) to convene an expert advisory panel of academic, industry, and government scientists to make recommendations on best practices for animal studies testing investigational AD therapies. The panel produced recommendations regarding the measurement, analysis, and reporting of relevant AD targets, th choice of animal model, quality control measures for breeding and colony maintenance, and preclinical animal study design. Major considerations to incorporate into preclinical study design include a priori hypotheses, pharmacokinetics-pharmacodynamics studies prior to proof-of-concept testing, biomarker measurements, sample size determination, and power analysis. The panel also recommended distinguishing between pilot 'exploratory' animal studies and more extensive 'therapeutic' studies to guide interpretation. Finally, the panel proposed infrastructure and resource development, such as the establishment of a public data repository in which both positive animal studies and negative ones could be reported. By promoting best practices, these recommendations can improve the methodological quality and predictive value of AD animal studies and make the translation to human clinical trials more efficient and reliable.
PMCID: PMC3218805  PMID: 21943025
3.  Curing epilepsy: Progress and future directions 
Epilepsy & behavior : E&B  2009;14(3):438.
During the past decade, substantial progress has been made in delineating clinical features of the epilepsies and the basic mechanisms responsible for these disorders. Eleven human epilepsy genes have been identified and many more are now known from animal models. Candidate targets for cures are now based upon newly identified cellular and molecular mechanisms that underlie epileptogenesis. However, epilepsy is increasingly recognized as a group of heterogeneous syndromes characterized by other conditions that co-exist with seizures. Cognitive, emotional and behavioral co-morbidities are common and offer fruitful areas for study. These advances in understanding mechanisms are being matched by the rapid development of new diagnostic methods and therapeutic approaches. This article reviews these areas of progress and suggests specific goals that once accomplished promise to lead to cures for epilepsy.
PMCID: PMC2822433  PMID: 19341977
Genetics; Epileptogenesis; Co-morbidities; Therapeutics

Results 1-3 (3)