The remarkable achievements in human genetics over the years have been due to technological advances in gene mapping and in statistical methods that relate genetic variants to disease. Nearly every Mendelian genetic disorder has now been mapped to a specific gene or set of genes, but these discoveries have been limited to high-risk, variant alleles that segregate in rare families. With a working draft of the human genome now in hand, the availability of high-throughput genotyping, a plethora of genetic markers, and the development of new analytical methods, scientists are now turning their attention to common complex disorders such as diabetes, obesity, hypertension, and Alzheimer disease. In this issue, the JCI provides readers with a series dedicated to complex genetic disorders, offering a view of genetic medicine in the 21st century.
Over the last decade, an abundance of evidence has emerged demonstrating a close link between metabolism and immunity. It is now clear that obesity is associated with a state of chronic low-level inflammation. In this article, we discuss the molecular and cellular underpinnings of obesity-induced inflammation and the signaling pathways at the intersection of metabolism and inflammation that contribute to diabetes. We also consider mechanisms through which the inflammatory response may be initiated and discuss the reasons for the inflammatory response in obesity. We put forth for consideration some hypotheses regarding important unanswered questions in the field and suggest a model for the integration of inflammatory and metabolic pathways in metabolic disease.
Kathryn E. Wellen, Gökhan S. Hotamisligil
For approximately 80 years following Alzheimer’s description of the disease that bears his name, a gulf divided researchers who believed that extracellular deposits of the amyloid β (Aβ) peptide were pathogenic from those who believed that the deposits were secondary detritus. Since 1990, the discoveries of missense mutations in the Aβ peptide precursor (APP) and the APP-cleaving enzyme presenilin 1 (PS1) have enabled much progress in understanding the molecular, cellular, and tissue pathology of the aggregates that accumulate in the interstices of the brains of patients with autosomal dominant familial Alzheimer disease (AD). Clarification of the molecular basis of common forms of AD has been more elusive. The central questions in common AD focus on whether cerebral and cerebrovascular Aβ accumulation is (a) a final neurotoxic pathway, common to all forms of AD; (b) a toxic by-product of an independent primary metabolic lesion that, by itself, is also neurotoxic; or (c) an inert by-product of an independent primary neurotoxic reaction. Antiamyloid medications are entering clinical trials so that researchers can evaluate whether abolition of cerebral amyloidosis can mitigate, treat, or prevent the dementia associated with common forms of AD. Successful development of antiamyloid medications is critical for elucidating the role of Aβ in common AD.
Melanoma is a cancer of the neural crest–derived cells that provide pigmentation to skin and other tissues. Over the past 4 decades, the incidence of melanoma has increased more rapidly than that of any other malignancy in the United States. No current treatments substantially enhance patient survival once metastasis has occurred. This review focuses on recent insights into melanoma genetics and new therapeutic approaches being developed based on these advances.
Yakov Chudnovsky, Paul A. Khavari, Amy E. Adams
Cutaneous T cell lymphomas (CTCLs) are a heterogenous group of lymphoproliferative disorders caused by clonally derived, skin-invasive T cells. Mycosis fungoides (MF) and Sézary syndrome (SS) are the most common types of CTCLs and are characterized by malignant CD4+/CLA+/CCR4+ T cells that also lack the usual T cell surface markers CD7 and/or CD26. As MF/SS advances, the clonal dominance of the malignant cells results in the expression of predominantly Th2 cytokines, progressive immune dysregulation in patients, and further tumor cell growth. This review summarizes recent insights into the pathogenesis and immunobiology of MF/SS and how these have shaped current therapeutic approaches, in particular the growing emphasis on enhancement of host antitumor immune responses as the key to successful therapy.
Ellen J. Kim, Stephen Hess, Stephen K. Richardson, Sara Newton, Louise C. Showe, Bernice M. Benoit, Ravi Ubriani, Carmela C. Vittorio, Jacqueline M. Junkins-Hopkins, Maria Wysocka, Alain H. Rook
Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) is defined as glucose intolerance of various degrees that is first detected during pregnancy. GDM is detected through the screening of pregnant women for clinical risk factors and, among at-risk women, testing for abnormal glucose tolerance that is usually, but not invariably, mild and asymptomatic. GDM appears to result from the same broad spectrum of physiological and genetic abnormalities that characterize diabetes outside of pregnancy. Indeed, women with GDM are at high risk for having or developing diabetes when they are not pregnant. Thus, GDM provides a unique opportunity to study the early pathogenesis of diabetes and to develop interventions to prevent the disease.
Thomas A. Buchanan, Anny H. Xiang
In response to acute and chronic stresses, the heart frequently undergoes a remodeling process that is accompanied by myocyte hypertrophy, impaired contractility, and pump failure, often culminating in sudden death. The existence of redundant signaling pathways that trigger heart failure poses challenges for therapeutic intervention. Cardiac remodeling is associated with the activation of a pathological gene program that weakens cardiac performance. Thus, targeting the disease process at the level of gene expression represents a potentially powerful therapeutic approach. In this review, we describe strategies for normalizing gene expression in the failing heart with small molecules that control signal transduction pathways directed at transcription factors and associated chromatin-modifying enzymes.
Timothy A. McKinsey, Eric N. Olson
Structural and functional alterations in the Ca2+ regulatory proteins present in the sarcoplasmic reticulum have recently been shown to be strongly involved in the pathogenesis of heart failure. Chronic activation of the sympathetic nervous system or of the renin-angiotensin system induces abnormalities in both the function and structure of these proteins. We review here the considerable body of evidence that has accumulated to support the notion that such abnormalities contribute to a defectiveness of contractile performance and hence to the progression of heart failure.
Masafumi Yano, Yasuhiro Ikeda, Masunori Matsuzaki
In broad terms, there are 3 types of cardiac hypertrophy: normal growth, growth induced by physical conditioning (i.e., physiologic hypertrophy), and growth induced by pathologic stimuli. Recent evidence suggests that normal and exercise-induced cardiac growth are regulated in large part by the growth hormone/IGF axis via signaling through the PI3K/Akt pathway. In contrast, pathological or reactive cardiac growth is triggered by autocrine and paracrine neurohormonal factors released during biomechanical stress that signal through the Gq/phospholipase C pathway, leading to an increase in cytosolic calcium and activation of PKC. Here we review recent developments in the area of these cardiotrophic kinases, highlighting the utility of animal models that are helping to identify molecular targets in the human condition.
Gerald W. Dorn II, Thomas Force
In humans, the biological limitations to cardiac regenerative growth create both a clinical imperative — to offset cell death in acute ischemic injury and chronic heart failure — and a clinical opportunity; that is, for using cells, genes, and proteins to rescue cardiac muscle cell number or in other ways promote more efficacious cardiac repair. Recent experimental studies and early-phase clinical trials lend credence to the visionary goal of enhancing cardiac repair as an achievable therapeutic target.
Stefanie Dimmeler, Andreas M. Zeiher, Michael D. Schneider
Factors that render patients with cardiovascular disease at high risk for heart failure remain incompletely defined. Recent insights into molecular genetic causes of myocardial diseases have highlighted the importance of single-gene defects in the pathogenesis of heart failure. Through analyses of the mechanisms by which a mutation selectively perturbs one component of cardiac physiology and triggers cell and molecular responses, studies of human gene mutations provide a window into the complex processes of cardiac remodeling and heart failure. Knowledge gleaned from these studies shows promise for defining novel therapeutic targets for genetic and acquired causes of heart failure.
Hiroyuki Morita, Jonathan Seidman, Christine E. Seidman
The mitochondrion serves a critical role as a platform for energy transduction, signaling, and cell death pathways relevant to common diseases of the myocardium such as heart failure. This review focuses on the molecular regulatory events and downstream effector pathways involved in mitochondrial energy metabolic derangements known to occur during the development of heart failure.
Janice M. Huss, Daniel P. Kelly
A constant supply of oxygen is indispensable for cardiac viability and function. However, the role of oxygen and oxygen-associated processes in the heart is complex, and they and can be either beneficial or contribute to cardiac dysfunction and death. As oxygen is a major determinant of cardiac gene expression, and a critical participant in the formation of ROS and numerous other cellular processes, consideration of its role in the heart is essential in understanding the pathogenesis of cardiac dysfunction.
Frank J. Giordano
There is growing evidence that the altered production and/or spatiotemporal distribution of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species creates oxidative and/or nitrosative stresses in the failing heart and vascular tree, which contribute to the abnormal cardiac and vascular phenotypes that characterize the failing cardiovascular system. These derangements at the integrated system level can be interpreted at the cellular and molecular levels in terms of adverse effects on signaling elements in the heart, vasculature, and blood that subserve cardiac and vascular homeostasis.
Joshua M. Hare, Jonathan S. Stamler
The prognosis of heart failure is worse than that of most cancers, but new therapeutic interventions using stem and other cell-based therapies are succeeding in the fight against it, and old drugs, with new twists, are making a comeback. Genetically engineered animal models are driving insights into the molecular mechanisms that cause hearts to fail, accelerating drug discoveries, and inspiring cell-based therapeutic interventions for both acquired and inheritable cardiac diseases.
Ivor J. Benjamin, Michael D. Schneider
Recently, low — but abnormal — rates of cardiomyocyte apoptosis have been observed in failing human hearts. Genetic and pharmacological studies suggest that this cell death is causally linked to heart failure in rodent models. Herein, we review these data and discuss potential therapeutic implications.
Roger S.-Y. Foo, Kartik Mani, Richard N. Kitsis
Paget disease of bone (PD) is characterized by excessive bone resorption in focal areas followed by abundant new bone formation, with eventual replacement of the normal bone marrow by vascular and fibrous tissue. The etiology of PD is not well understood, but one PD-linked gene and several other susceptibility loci have been identified, and paramyxoviral gene products have been detected in pagetic osteoclasts. In this review, the pathophysiology of PD and evidence for both a genetic and a viral etiology for PD will be discussed.
G. David Roodman, Jolene J. Windle
Liver fibrosis is the excessive accumulation of extracellular matrix proteins including collagen that occurs in most types of chronic liver diseases. Advanced liver fibrosis results in cirrhosis, liver failure, and portal hypertension and often requires liver transplantation. Our knowledge of the cellular and molecular mechanisms of liver fibrosis has greatly advanced. Activated hepatic stellate cells, portal fibroblasts, and myofibroblasts of bone marrow origin have been identified as major collagen-producing cells in the injured liver. These cells are activated by fibrogenic cytokines such as TGF-β1, angiotensin II, and leptin. Reversibility of advanced liver fibrosis in patients has been recently documented, which has stimulated researchers to develop antifibrotic drugs. Emerging antifibrotic therapies are aimed at inhibiting the accumulation of fibrogenic cells and/or preventing the deposition of extracellular matrix proteins. Although many therapeutic interventions are effective in experimental models of liver fibrosis, their efficacy and safety in humans is unknown. This review summarizes recent progress in the study of the pathogenesis and diagnosis of liver fibrosis and discusses current antifibrotic strategies.
Ramón Bataller, David A. Brenner
Type 1 diabetes is the result of an autoimmune attack against the insulin-producing β cells of the endocrine pancreas. Current treatment for patients with type 1 diabetes typically involves a rigorous and invasive regimen of testing blood glucose levels many times a day along with subcutaneous injections of recombinant DNA–derived insulin. Islet transplantation, even with its substantially improved outcome in recent years, is still not indicated for pediatric patients. However, in light of the fact that some regenerative capabilities of the endocrine pancreas have been documented and recent research has shown that human ES cell lines can be derived in vitro, this review discusses whether it is practical or even possible to combine these lines of research to more effectively treat young diabetic patients.
T and B lymphocytes, as well as endothelial cells, express distinctive profiles of G protein–coupled receptors for sphingosine 1–phosphate, which is a major regulator of T cell development, B and T cell recirculation, tissue homing patterns, and chemotactic responses to chemokines. The capacity of drugs that act on type 1 sphingosine 1–phosphate receptors to suppress organ graft rejection in humans and autoimmunity in animal models without apparent impairment of host defenses against infections suggests that this system is a promising target for new forms of immunotherapy.
Edward J. Goetzl, Hugh Rosen
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