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1.  Bone status of children born from mothers with autoimmune diseases treated during pregnancy with prednisone and/or low molecular weight heparin 
To evaluate bone status in children born from mothers followed for autoimmune diseases and treated during pregnancy with low molecular weight heparin (LMVH) and/or prednisone.
History, physical examination, laboratory tests and phalangeal ultrasonography were performed. Demographic, clinical, and laboratory data were entered into a customized database, and results were analyzed with SPSS software. In children whose mothers were treated with LMWH, we retrieved dried blood spots taken for newborn screening, and analyzed the presence of heparin with tandem mass spectrometry.
We enrolled 27 females and 14 males born from 31 mothers with SLE or connective tissue diseases. These women were continuously treated during pregnancy with LMWH (n = 10), prednisone (n = 16), or both (n = 15). Bone ultrasound revealed low values (≤3 centile for age) in ten patients. In a multistep regression analysis, age at examination resulted the single predictor of low ultrasound values (p < 0.004). Tandem mass spectroscopy failed to determine traces of heparin in newborn blood.
Children born from mothers with autoimmune diseases are at risk to develop reduced bone mass. The administration of LMWH and of prednisone seems to be safe with regard to children’s bone health.
PMCID: PMC4219046  PMID: 25371656
Osteoporosis; Autoimmune diseases; Heparin; Pregnancy; Corticosteroids
2.  Sudden unexpected fatal encephalopathy in adults with OTC gene mutations-Clues for early diagnosis and timely treatment 
X-linked Ornithine Transcarbamylase deficiency (OTCD) is often unrecognized in adults, as clinical manifestations are non-specific, often episodic and unmasked by precipitants, and laboratory findings can be normal outside the acute phase. It may thus be associated with significant mortality if not promptly recognized and treated. The aim of this study was to provide clues for recognition of OTCD in adults and analyze the environmental factors that, interacting with OTC gene mutations, might have triggered acute clinical manifestations.
We carried out a clinical, biochemical and molecular study on five unrelated adult patients (one female and four males) with late onset OTCD, who presented to the Emergency Department (ED) with initial fatal encephalopathy. The molecular study consisted of OTC gene sequencing in the probands and family members and in silico characterization of the newly detected mutations.
We identified two new, c.119G>T (p.Arg40Leu) and c.314G>A (p.Gly105Glu), and three known OTC mutations. Both new mutations were predicted to cause a structural destabilization, correlating with late onset OTCD. We also identified, among the family members, 8 heterozygous females and 2 hemizygous asymptomatic males. Patients' histories revealed potential environmental triggering factors, including steroid treatment, chemotherapy, diet changes and hormone therapy for in vitro fertilization.
This report raises awareness of the ED medical staff in considering OTCD in the differential diagnosis of sudden neurological and behavioural disorders associated with hyperammonemia at any age and in both genders. It also widens the knowledge about combined effect of genetic and environmental factors in determining the phenotypic expression of OTCD.
PMCID: PMC4304088  PMID: 25026867
Urea Cycle Disorders (UCD); Ornithine transcarbamylase deficiency (OTCD); Late onset OTCD; OTC gene mutations; Hyperammonemic encephalopathy; Environmental triggering factors for hyperammonemia
3.  Medium-Chain Acyl-CoA Deficiency: Outlines from Newborn Screening, In Silico Predictions, and Molecular Studies 
The Scientific World Journal  2013;2013:625824.
Medium-chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase deficiency (MCADD) is a disorder of fatty acid oxidation characterized by hypoglycemic crisis under fasting or during stress conditions, leading to lethargy, seizures, brain damage, or even death. Biochemical acylcarnitines data obtained through newborn screening by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) were confirmed by molecular analysis of the medium-chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase (ACADM) gene. Out of 324.000 newborns screened, we identified 14 MCADD patients, in whom, by molecular analysis, we found a new nonsense c.823G>T (p.Gly275∗) and two new missense mutations: c.253G>C (p.Gly85Arg) and c.356T>A (p.Val119Asp). Bioinformatics predictions based on both phylogenetic conservation and functional/structural software were used to characterize the new identified variants. Our findings confirm the rising incidence of MCADD whose existence is increasingly recognized due to the efficacy of an expanded newborn screening panel by LC-MS/MS making possible early specific therapies that can prevent possible crises in at-risk infants. We noticed that the “common” p.Lys329Glu mutation only accounted for 32% of the defective alleles, while, in clinically diagnosed patients, this mutation accounted for 90% of defective alleles. Unclassified variants (UVs or VUSs) are especially critical when considering screening programs. The functional and pathogenic characterization of genetic variants presented here is required to predict their medical consequences in newborns.
PMCID: PMC3833120  PMID: 24294134
4.  Pharmacological modulation of blood-brain barrier increases permeability of doxorubicin into the rat brain 
Our group recently demonstrated in a rat model that pretreatment with morphine facilitates doxorubicin delivery to the brain in the absence of signs of increased acute systemic toxicity. Morphine and other drugs such as dexamethasone or ondansetron seem to inhibit MDR proteins localized on blood-brain barrier, neurons and glial cells increasing the access of doxorubicin to the brain by efflux transporters competition. We explored the feasibility of active modification of the blood-brain barrier protection, by using morphine dexamethasone or ondansetron pretreatment, to allow doxorubicin accumulation into the brain in a rodent model. Rats were pretreated with morphine (10 mg/kg, i.p.), dexamethasone (2 mg/kg, i.p.) or ondansetron (2 mg/kg, i.p.) before injection of doxorubicin (12 mg/kg, i.p.). Quantitative analysis of doxorubicin was performed by mass spectrometry. Acute hearth and kidney damage was analyzed by measuring doxorubicin accumulation, LDH activity and malondialdehyde plasma levels. The concentration of doxorubicin was significantly higher in all brain areas of rats pretreated with morphine (P < 0.001) or ondansetron (P < 0.05) than in control tissues. The concentration of doxorubicin was significantly higher in cerebral hemispheres and brainstem (P < 0.05) but not in cerebellum of rats pretreated with dexamethasone than in control tissues. Pretreatment with any of these drugs did not increase LDH activity or lipid peroxidation compared to controls. Our data suggest that morphine, dexamethasone or ondansetron pretreatment is able to allow doxorubicin penetration inside the brain by modulating the BBB. This effect is not associated with acute cardiac or renal toxicity. This finding might provide the rationale for clinical applications in the treatment of refractory brain tumors and pave the way to novel applications of active but currently inapplicable chemotherapeutic drugs.
PMCID: PMC3744021  PMID: 23977451
Doxorubicin; morphine; dexamethasone; ondansetron; blood-brain barrier; rodent model; MDR transporters; mass spectrometry
5.  A TRPA1 antagonist reverts oxaliplatin-induced neuropathic pain 
Scientific Reports  2013;3:2005.
Neuropathic pain (NeP) is generally considered an intractable problem, which becomes compelling in clinical practice when caused by highly effective chemotherapeutics, such as in the treatment of cancer with oxaliplatin (OXA) and related drugs. In the present work we describe a structurally new compound, ADM_09, which proved to effectively revert OXA-induced NeP in vivo in rats without eliciting the commonly observed negative side-effects. ADM_09 does not modify normal behavior in rats, does not show any toxicity toward astrocyte cell cultures, nor any significant cardiotoxicity. Patch-clamp recordings demonstrated that ADM_09 is an effective antagonist of the nociceptive sensor channel TRPA1, which persistently blocks mouse as well as human variants of TRPA1. A dual-binding mode of action has been proposed for ADM_09, in which a synergic combination of calcium-mediated binding of the carnosine residue and disulphide-bridge-forming of the lipoic acid residue accounts for the observed persistent blocking activity toward the TRPA1 channel.
PMCID: PMC3684817  PMID: 23774285
6.  Safety and efficacy of topiramate in neonates with hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy treated with hypothermia (NeoNATI) 
BMC Pediatrics  2012;12:144.
Despite progresses in neonatal care, the mortality and the incidence of neuro-motor disability after perinatal asphyxia have failed to show substantial improvements. In countries with a high level of perinatal care, the incidence of asphyxia responsible for moderate or severe encephalopathy is still 2–3 per 1000 term newborns. Recent trials have demonstrated that moderate hypothermia, started within 6 hours after birth and protracted for 72 hours, can significantly improve survival and reduce neurologic impairment in neonates with hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy. It is not currently known whether neuroprotective drugs can further improve the beneficial effects of hypothermia. Topiramate has been proven to reduce brain injury in animal models of neonatal hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy. However, the association of mild hypothermia and topiramate treatment has never been studied in human newborns. The objective of this research project is to evaluate, through a multicenter randomized controlled trial, whether the efficacy of moderate hypothermia can be increased by concomitant topiramate treatment.
Term newborns (gestational age ≥ 36 weeks and birth weight ≥ 1800 g) with precocious metabolic, clinical and electroencephalographic (EEG) signs of hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy will be randomized, according to their EEG pattern, to receive topiramate added to standard treatment with moderate hypothermia or standard treatment alone. Topiramate will be administered at 10 mg/kg once a day for the first 3 days of life. Topiramate concentrations will be measured on serial dried blood spots. 64 participants will be recruited in the study. To evaluate the safety of topiramate administration, cardiac and respiratory parameters will be continuously monitored. Blood samplings will be performed to check renal, liver and metabolic balance. To evaluate the efficacy of topiramate, the neurologic outcome of enrolled newborns will be evaluated by serial neurologic and neuroradiologic examinations. Visual function will be evaluated by means of behavioural standardized tests.
This pilot study will explore the possible therapeutic role of topiramate in combination with moderate hypothermia. Any favourable results of this research might open new perspectives about the reduction of cerebral damage in asphyxiated newborns.
Trial registration
Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN62175998; Identifier NCT01241019; EudraCT Number 2010-018627-25
PMCID: PMC3478965  PMID: 22950861
Neonatal hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy; Therapeutic hypothermia; Topiramate
7.  3-Hydroxyacyl-Coenzyme A Dehydrogenase Deficiency: Identification of a New Mutation Causing Hyperinsulinemic Hypoketotic Hypoglycemia, Altered Organic Acids and Acylcarnitines Concentrations 
JIMD Reports  2011;2:71-77.
The human HADH gene encodes the short-chain-L-3-hydroxyacyl-CoA dehydrogenase, the enzyme which catalyzes the third step of the β-oxidation of the fatty acids in the mitochondrial matrix. Loss-of-function mutations in the HADH gene lead to short-chain-L-3-hydroxyacyl-CoA dehydrogenase deficiency, an autosomal recessive genetic defect of unknown prevalence with a wide spectrum of phenotypic variability. As in other metabolic diseases, the diagnostic relevance of the biochemical evaluations, plasma acylcarnitines, and urinary organic acids, are crucially dependent on the clinical conditions of the patient during specimen collection.
This paper describes the eighth patient carrying a HADH gene mutation, a new homozygous deletion c.565delG leading to an early stop codon (p.V116Wfs124X), in an infant with hyperinsulininemic hypoglycemia, displaying abnormal patterns of plasma acylcarnitines and urinary organic acids. We conclude that, when the residual catalytic activity of the mutated enzyme is seriously reduced, the biochemical hallmarks of the disease, namely plasma 3-hydroxybutyrylcarnitine and urinary 3-hydroxyglutaric acid, are invariably present.
PMCID: PMC3509842  PMID: 23430856
8.  Newborn Screening for Tyrosinemia Type I: Further Evidence that Succinylacetone Determination on Blood Spot Is Essential 
JIMD Reports  2011;1:107-109.
Tyrosinemia type I is a genetic disorder characterized by accumulation in the blood and urine of the toxic metabolite succinylacetone (SUAC), not detectable in healthy samples. In many countries, newborns are screened for tyrosinemia type I using tyrosine as a primary marker. Unfortunately, tyrosine accumulation may take longer to occur and it may be not obvious when specimens are collected, in the first few days of life, as for newborn screening. In 2008, we reported changes to simultaneously measure acylcarnitines, amino acids, and SUAC during expanded newborn screening. We established the usefulness of this method after identifying a first asymptomatic newborn affected by tyrosinemia type I. Now we report a second infant with positive SUAC screening result (14.1 μmol/L, n.v. < 2) and normal tyrosine concentration (74 μmol/L; n.v. < 250). We also performed molecular analysis of FAH gene in both patients after diagnosis at newborn screening. They had consanguineous parents and were both homozygous for two known disease-causing mutations of the FAH gene. The outcome of patients detected in the MS/MS screening is significantly favorable. We also report our results of newborn screening for tyrosinemia type I before and after inclusion of SUAC as a primary marker for this disease.
PMCID: PMC3509819  PMID: 23430836
Newborn screening; Succynilacetone; Tyrosinemia type I
9.  New developments in the treatment of hyperammonemia: emerging use of carglumic acid 
Hyperammonemia is a true neonatal emergency with high toxicity for the central nervous system and developmental delay. The causes of neonatal hyperammonemia are genetic defects of urea cycle enzymes, organic acidemias, lysinuric protein intolerance, hyperammonemia–hyperornithinemia– homocitrullinemia syndrome, transient hyperammonemia of the newborn, and congenital hyperinsulinism with hyperammonemia. In some of these conditions the high blood ammonia levels are due to the reduction of N-acetylglutamate, an essential cofactor necessary for the function of the urea cycle, or to the reduction of carbamoyl-phosphate synthase-I activity. In these cases, N-carbamylglutamate (carglumic acid) can be administered together with the conventional therapy. Carglumic acid is an analog of N-acetylglutamate that has a direct action on carbamoyl-phosphate synthase-I. Its effects are reactivation of the urea cycle and reduction of plasma ammonia levels. As a consequence it improves the traditional treatment, avoiding the need of hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis. In this review we evaluate the possible field of application of carglumic acid and its effectiveness and safety.
PMCID: PMC3056327  PMID: 21403788
hyperammonemia; N-carbamylglutamate; carglumic acid; urea cycle disorder; metabolic disorders

Results 1-9 (9)