Frontiers of Medicine

ISSN 2095-0217

ISSN 2095-0225(Online)

CN 11-5983/R

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Single-cell RNA-seq data analysis on the receptor ACE2 expression reveals the potential risk of different human organs vulnerable to 2019-nCoV infection
Xin Zou, Ke Chen, Jiawei Zou, Peiyi Han, Jie Hao, Zeguang Han
Front. Med.    2020, 14 (2): 185-192.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-020-0754-0
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It has been known that, the novel coronavirus, 2019-nCoV, which is considered similar to SARS-CoV, invades human cells via the receptor angiotensin converting enzyme II (ACE2). Moreover, lung cells that have ACE2 expression may be the main target cells during 2019-nCoV infection. However, some patients also exhibit non-respiratory symptoms, such as kidney failure, implying that 2019-nCoV could also invade other organs. To construct a risk map of different human organs, we analyzed the single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) datasets derived from major human physiological systems, including the respiratory, cardiovascular, digestive, and urinary systems. Through scRNA-seq data analyses, we identified the organs at risk, such as lung, heart, esophagus, kidney, bladder, and ileum, and located specific cell types (i.e., type II alveolar cells (AT2), myocardial cells, proximal tubule cells of the kidney, ileum and esophagus epithelial cells, and bladder urothelial cells), which are vulnerable to 2019-nCoV infection. Based on the findings, we constructed a risk map indicating the vulnerability of different organs to 2019-nCoV infection. This study may provide potential clues for further investigation of the pathogenesis and route of 2019-nCoV infection.

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Histone variants: critical determinants in tumour heterogeneity
Tao Wang, Florent Chuffart, Ekaterina Bourova-Flin, Jin Wang, Jianqing Mi, Sophie Rousseaux, Saadi Khochbin
Front. Med.    2019, 13 (3): 289-297.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-018-0667-3
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Malignant cell transformation could be considered as a series of cell reprogramming events driven by oncogenic transcription factors and upstream signalling pathways. Chromatin plasticity and dynamics are critical determinants in the control of cell reprograming. An increase in chromatin dynamics could therefore constitute an essential step in driving oncogenesis and in generating tumour cell heterogeneity, which is indispensable for the selection of aggressive properties, including the ability of cells to disseminate and acquire resistance to treatments. Histone supply and dosage, as well as histone variants, are the best-known regulators of chromatin dynamics. By facilitating cell reprogramming, histone under-dosage and histone variants should also be crucial in cell transformation and tumour metastasis. Here we summarize and discuss our knowledge of the role of histone supply and histone variants in chromatin dynamics and their ability to enhance oncogenic cell reprogramming and tumour heterogeneity.

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Platelet membrane-based and tumor-associated platelet- targeted drug delivery systems for cancer therapy
Yinlong Zhang, Guangna Liu, Jingyan Wei, Guangjun Nie
Front. Med.    2018, 12 (6): 667-677.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-017-0583-y
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Platelets have long been known to play critical roles in hemostasis by clumping and clotting blood vessel injuries. Recent experimental evidence strongly indicates that platelets can also interact with tumor cells by direct binding or secreting cytokines. For example, platelets have been shown to protect circulating cancer cells in blood circulation and to promote tumor metastasis. In-depth understanding of the role of platelets in cancer progression and metastasis provides promising approaches for platelet biomimetic drug delivery systems and functional platelet-targeting strategies for effective cancer treatment. This review highlights recent progresses in platelet membrane-based drug delivery and unique strategies that target tumor-associated platelets for cancer therapy. The paper also discusses future development opportunities and challenges encountered for clinical translation.

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Mechanistic and therapeutic advances in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease by targeting the gut microbiota
Ruiting Han, Junli Ma, Houkai Li
Front. Med.    2018, 12 (6): 645-657.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-018-0645-9
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Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is one of the most common metabolic diseases currently in the context of obesity worldwide, which contains a spectrum of chronic liver diseases, including hepatic steatosis, non-alcoholic steatohepatitis and hepatic carcinoma. In addition to the classical “Two-hit” theory, NAFLD has been recognized as a typical gut microbiota-related disease because of the intricate role of gut microbiota in maintaining human health and disease formation. Moreover, gut microbiota is even regarded as a “metabolic organ” that play complementary roles to that of liver in many aspects. The mechanisms underlying gut microbiota-mediated development of NAFLD include modulation of host energy metabolism, insulin sensitivity, and bile acid and choline metabolism. As a result, gut microbiota have been emerging as a novel therapeutic target for NAFLD by manipulating it in various ways, including probiotics, prebiotics, synbiotics, antibiotics, fecal microbiota transplantation, and herbal components. In this review, we summarized the most recent advances in gut microbiota-mediated mechanisms, as well as gut microbiota-targeted therapies on NAFLD.

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RNA m6A modification and its function in diseases
Jiyu Tong, Richard A. Flavell, Hua-Bing Li
Front. Med.    2018, 12 (4): 481-489.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-018-0654-8
Abstract   HTML   PDF (215KB)

N6-methyladenosine (m6A) is the most common post-transcriptional RNA modification throughout the transcriptome, affecting fundamental aspects of RNA metabolism. m6A modification could be installed by m6A “writers” composed of core catalytic components (METTL3/METTL14/WTAP) and newly defined regulators and removed by m6A “erasers” (FTO and ALKBH5). The function of m6A is executed by m6A “readers” that bind to m6A directly (YTH domain-containing proteins, eIF3 and IGF2BPs) or indirectly (HNRNPA2B1). In the past few years, advances in m6A modulators (“writers,” “erasers,” and “readers”) have remarkably renewed our understanding of the function and regulation of m6A in different cells under normal or disease conditions. However, the mechanism and the regulatory network of m6A are still largely unknown. Moreover, investigations of the m6A physiological roles in human diseases are limited. In this review, we summarize the recent advances in m6A research and highlight the functional relevance and importance of m6A modification in in vitro cell lines, in physiological contexts, and in cancers.

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Epidemic obesity in children and adolescents: risk factors and prevention
Eun Young Lee, Kun-Ho Yoon
Front. Med.    2018, 12 (6): 658-666.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-018-0640-1
Abstract   HTML   PDF (156KB)

The prevalence of obesity among children and adolescents (aged 2–18 years) has increased rapidly, with more than 100 million affected in 2015. Moreover, the epidemic of obesity in this population has been an important public health problem in developed and developing countries for the following reasons. Childhood and adolescent obesity tracks adulthood obesity and has been implicated in many chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease. Furthermore, childhood and adolescent obesity is linked to adulthood mortality and premature death. Although an imbalance between caloric intake and physical activity is a principal cause of childhood and adolescent obesity, environmental factors are exclusively important for development of obesity among children and adolescents. In addition to genetic and biological factors, socioenvironmental factors, including family, school, community, and national policies, can play a crucial role. The complexity of risk factors for developing obesity among children and adolescents leads to difficulty in treatment for this population. Many interventional trials for childhood and adolescent obesity have been proven ineffective. Therefore, early identification and prevention is the key to control the global epidemic of obesity. Given that the proportion of overweight children and adolescents is far greater than that of obesity, an effective prevention strategy is to focus on overweight youth, who are at high risk for developing obesity. Multifaceted, comprehensive strategies involving behavioral, psychological, and environmental risk factors must also be developed to prevent obesity among children and adolescents.

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Complex interplay between tumor microenvironment and cancer therapy
Minhong Shen, Yibin Kang
Front. Med.    2018, 12 (4): 426-439.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-018-0663-7
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Tumor microenvironment (TME) is comprised of cellular and non-cellular components that exist within and around the tumor mass. The TME is highly dynamic and its importance in different stages of cancer progression has been well recognized. A growing body of evidence suggests that TME also plays pivotal roles in cancer treatment responses. TME is significantly remodeled upon cancer therapies, and such change either enhances the responses or induces drug resistance. Given the importance of TME in tumor progression and therapy resistance, strategies that remodel TME to improve therapeutic responses are under developing. In this review, we provide an overview of the essential components in TME and the remodeling of TME in response to anti-cancer treatments. We also summarize the strategies that aim to enhance therapeutic efficacy by modulating TME.

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Challenges of NK cell-based immunotherapy in the new era
Fang Fang, Weihua Xiao, Zhigang Tian
Front. Med.    2018, 12 (4): 440-450.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-018-0653-9
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Natural killer cells (NKs) have a great potential for cancer immunotherapy because they can rapidly and directly kill transformed cells in the absence of antigen presensitization. Various cellular sources, including peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs), stem cells, and NK cell lines, have been used for producing NK cells. In particular, NK cells that expanded from allogeneic PBMCs exhibit better efficacy than those that did not. However, considering the safety, activities, and reliability of the cell products, researchers must develop an optimal protocol for producing NK cells from PBMCs in the manufacture setting and clinical therapeutic regimen. In this review, the challenges on NK cell-based therapeutic approaches and clinical outcomes are discussed.

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Intracellular and extracellular TGF-β signaling in cancer: some recent topics
Kohei Miyazono, Yoko Katsuno, Daizo Koinuma, Shogo Ehata, Masato Morikawa
Front. Med.    2018, 12 (4): 387-411.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-018-0646-8
Abstract   HTML   PDF (643KB)

Transforming growth factor (TGF)-β regulates a wide variety of cellular responses, including cell growth arrest, apoptosis, cell differentiation, motility, invasion, extracellular matrix production, tissue fibrosis, angiogenesis, and immune function. Although tumor-suppressive roles of TGF-β have been extensively studied and well-characterized in many cancers, especially at early stages, accumulating evidence has revealed the critical roles of TGF-β as a pro-tumorigenic factor in various types of cancer. This review will focus on recent findings regarding epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) induced by TGF-β, in relation to crosstalk with some other signaling pathways, and the roles of TGF-β in lung and pancreatic cancers, in which TGF-β has been shown to be involved in cancer progression. Recent findings also strongly suggested that targeting TGF-β signaling using specific inhibitors may be useful for the treatment of some cancers. TGF-β plays a pivotal role in the differentiation and function of regulatory T cells (Tregs). TGF-β is produced as latent high molecular weight complexes, and the latent TGF-β complex expressed on the surface of Tregs contains glycoprotein A repetitions predominant (GARP, also known as leucine-rich repeat containing 32 or LRRC32). Inhibition of the TGF-β activities through regulation of the latent TGF-β complex activation will be discussed.

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Venetoclax and low-dose cytarabine induced complete remission in a patient with high-risk acute myeloid leukemia: a case report
Bingshan Liu, Roshni Narurkar, Madhura Hanmantgad, Wahib Zafar, Yongping Song, Delong Liu
Front. Med.    2018, 12 (5): 593-599.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-018-0635-y
Abstract   HTML   PDF (122KB)

Conventional combination therapies have not resulted in considerable progress in the treatment of acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Elderly patients with AML and poor risk factors have grave prognosis. Midostaurin has been recently approved for the treatment of FLT-3-mutated AML. Venetoclax, a BCL-2 inhibitor, has been approved for the treatment of relapsed and/or refractory chronic lymphoid leukemia. Clinical trials on applying venetoclax in combination with cytarabine and other agents to treat various hematological malignancies are currently underway. Here, we present a case of a male patient with poor performance status and who developed AML following allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplant for high-risk myelodysplasia. The patient with high risk AML achieved complete response to the combined treatment regimen of low-dose cytarabine and venetoclax. Furthermore, we reviewed current clinical trials on the use of venetoclax for hematological malignancies.

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Oxidative stress in granulosa cells contributes to poor oocyte quality and IVF-ET outcomes in women with polycystic ovary syndrome
Qiaohong Lai, Wenpei Xiang, Qing Li, Hanwang Zhang, Yufeng Li, Guijin Zhu, Chengliang Xiong, Lei Jin
Front. Med.    2018, 12 (5): 518-524.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-017-0575-y
Abstract   HTML   PDF (187KB)

The increased levels of intracellular reactive oxygen species (ROS) in granulosa cells (GCs) may affect the pregnancy results in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). In this study, we compared thein vitro fertilization and embryo transfer (IVF-ET) results of 22 patients with PCOS and 25 patients with tubal factor infertility and detected the ROS levels in the GCs of these two groups. Results showed that the PCOS group had significantly larger follicles on the administration day for human chorionic gonadotropin than the tubal factor group (P<0.05); however, the number of retrieved oocytes was not significantly different between the two groups (P>0.05). PCOS group had slightly lower fertilization, cleavage, grade I/II embryo, clinical pregnancy, and implantation rates and higher miscarriage rate than the tubal factor group (P>0.05). We further found a significantly higher ROS level of GCs in the PCOS group than in the tubal factor group (P<0.05). The increased ROS levels in GCs caused GC apoptosis, whereas NADPH oxidase 2 (NOX2) specific inhibitors (diphenyleneiodonium and apocynin) significantly reduced the ROS production in the PCOS group. In conclusion, the increased ROS expression levels in PCOS GCs greatly induced cell apoptosis, which further affected the oocyte quality and reduced the positive IVF-ET pregnancy results of women with PCOS. NADPH oxidase pathway may be involved in the mechanism of ROS production in GCs of women with PCOS.

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Physiological effects of weightlessness: countermeasure system development for a long-term Chinese manned spaceflight
Linjie Wang, Zhili Li, Cheng Tan, Shujuan Liu, Jianfeng Zhang, Siyang He, Peng Zou, Weibo Liu, Yinghui Li
Front. Med.    2019, 13 (2): 202-212.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-017-0587-7
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The Chinese space station will be built around 2020. As a national space laboratory, it will offer unique opportunities for studying the physiological effects of weightlessness and the efficacy of the countermeasures against such effects. In this paper, we described the development of countermeasure systems in the Chinese space program. To emphasize the need of the Chinese space program to implement its own program for developing countermeasures, we reviewed the literature on the negative physiological effects of weightlessness, the challenges of completing missions, the development of countermeasure devices, the establishment of countermeasure programs, and the efficacy of the countermeasure techniques in American and Russian manned spaceflights. In addition, a brief overview was provided on the Chinese research and development on countermeasures to discuss the current status and goals of the development of countermeasures against physiological problems associated with weightlessness.

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Back to the spring of 2020: facts and hope of COVID-19 outbreak
Guangbiao Zhou, Saijuan Chen, Zhu Chen
Front. Med.    2020, 14 (2): 113-116.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-020-0758-9
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Epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition in cancer: complexity and opportunities
Yun Zhang, Robert A. Weinberg
Front. Med.    2018, 12 (4): 361-373.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-018-0656-6
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The cell-biological program termed the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) plays an important role in both development and cancer progression. Depending on the contextual signals and intracellular gene circuits of a particular cell, this program can drive fully epithelial cells to enter into a series of phenotypic states arrayed along the epithelial-mesenchymal phenotypic axis. These cell states display distinctive cellular characteristics, including stemness, invasiveness, drug-resistance and the ability to form metastases at distant organs, and thereby contribute to cancer metastasis and relapse. Currently we still lack a coherent overview of the molecular and biochemical mechanisms inducing cells to enter various states along the epithelial-mesenchymal phenotypic spectrum. An improved understanding of the dynamic and plastic nature of the EMT program has the potential to yield novel therapies targeting this cellular program that may aid in the management of high-grade malignancies.

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Bile acids and their effects on diabetes
Cynthia Rajani, Wei Jia
Front. Med.    2018, 12 (6): 608-623.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-018-0644-x
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Diabetes is a widespread, rapidly increasing metabolic disease that is driven by hyperglycemia. Early glycemic control is of primary importance to avoid vascular complications including development of retinal disorders leading to blindness, end-stage renal disease, and accelerated atherosclerosis with a higher risk of myocardial infarction, stroke and limb amputations. Even after hyperglycemia has been brought under control, “metabolic memory,” a cluster of irreversible metabolic changes that allow diabetes to progress, may persist depending on the duration of hyperglycemia. Manipulation of bile acid (BA) receptors and the BA pool have been shown to be useful in establishing glycemic control in diabetes due to their ability to regulate energy metabolism by binding and activating nuclear transcription factors such as farnesoid X receptor (FXR) in liver and intestine as well as the G-protein coupled receptor, TGR5, in enteroendocrine cells and pancreatic β-cells. The downstream targets of BA activated FXR, FGF15/21, are also important for glucose/insulin homeostasis. In this review we will discuss the effect of BAs on glucose and lipid metabolism and explore recent research on establishing glycemic control in diabetes through the manipulation of BAs and their receptors in the liver, intestine and pancreas, alteration of the enterohepatic circulation, bariatric surgery and alignment of circadian rhythms.

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BRD4 interacts with PML/RARα in acute promyelocytic leukemia
Qun Luo, Wanglong Deng, Haiwei Wang, Huiyong Fan, Ji Zhang
Front. Med.    2018, 12 (6): 726-734.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-017-0604-x
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Bromodomain-containing 4 (BRD4) has been considered as an important requirement for disease maintenance and an attractive therapeutic target for cancer therapy. This protein can be targeted by JQ1, a selective small-molecule inhibitor. However, few studies have investigated whether BRD4 influenced acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL), and whether BRD4 had interaction with promyelocytic leukemia-retinoic acid receptor α (PML/RARα) fusion protein to some extent. Results from cell viability assay, cell cycle analysis, and Annexin-V/PI analysis indicated that JQ1 inhibited the growth of NB4 cells, an APL-derived cell line, and induced NB4 cell cycle arrest at G1 and apoptosis. Then, we used co-immunoprecipitation (co-IP) assay and immunoblot to demonstrate the endogenous interaction of BRD4 and PML/RARα in NB4 cells. Moreover, downregulation of PML/RARα at the mRNA and protein levels was observed upon JQ1 treatment. Furthermore, results from the RT-qPCR, ChIP-qPCR, and re-ChIP-qPCR assays showed that BRD4 and PML/RARα co-existed on the same regulatory regions of their target genes. Hence, we showed a new discovery of the interaction of BRD4 and PML/RARα, as well as the decline of PML/RARα expression, under JQ1 treatment.

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Clinical characterization and diagnosis of cystic fibrosis through exome sequencing in Chinese infants with Bartter-syndrome-like hypokalemia alkalosis
Liru Qiu, Fengjie Yang, Yonghua He, Huiqing Yuan, Jianhua Zhou
Front. Med.    2018, 12 (5): 550-558.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-017-0567-y
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Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a fatal autosomal-recessive disease caused by mutations in the CF transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) gene. CF is characterized by recurrent pulmonary infection with obstructive pulmonary disease. CF is common in the Caucasian population but is rare in the Chinese population. The symptoms of early-stage CF are often untypical and may sometimes manifest as Bartter syndrome (BS)-like hypokalemic alkalosis. Therefore, the ability of doctors to differentiate CF from BS-like hypokalemic alkalosis in Chinese infants is a great challenge in the timely and accurate diagnosis of CF. In China, sporadic CF has not been diagnosed in children younger than three years of age to date. Three infants, who were initially admitted to our hospital over the period of June 2013 to September 2014 with BS-like hypokalemic alkalosis, were diagnosed with CF through exome sequencing and sweat chloride measurement. The compound heterozygous mutations of the CFTR gene were detected in two infants, and a homozygous missense mutation was found in one infant. Among the six identified mutations, two are novel point mutations (c.1526G>C and c.3062C>T) that are possibly pathogenic. The three infants are the youngest Chinese patients to have been diagnosed with sporadic CF at a very early stage. Follow-up examination showed that all of the cases remained symptom-free after early intervention, indicating the potential benefit of very early diagnosis and timely intervention in children with CF. Our results demonstrate the necessity of distinguishing CF from BS in Chinese infants with hypokalemic alkalosis and the significant diagnostic value of powerful exome sequencing for rare genetic diseases. Furthermore, our findings expand the CFTR mutation spectrum associated with CF.

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Role of chemerin/CMKLR1 in the maintenance of early pregnancy
Xuezhou Yang, Junning Yao, Qipeng Wei, Jinhai Ye, Xiaofang Yin, Xiaozhen Quan, Yanli Lan, Hui Xing
Front. Med.    2018, 12 (5): 525-532.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-017-0577-9
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Chemerin is a cytokine that attracts much attention in the reproductive process. This study aimed to explore the effects of chemerin and its receptor chemokine-like receptor 1 (CMKLR1) on the maintenance of early pregnancy. The expression levels of chemerin and CMKLR1 in the decidua tissues of 20 early normal pregnant women and 20 early spontaneous abortion women were examined by Western blot and real-time polymerase chain reaction analyses. CMKLR1 receptor antagonist (α-NETA) was then intrauterinely injected into normal pregnant mice model to assess its effect on the outcome of pregnancy and the phosphorylation rate of ERK1/2 in decidua tissues. We found that the expression level of chemerin in women who had experienced early spontaneous abortion was lower than in those who had experienced normal early pregnancy (P<0.01); conversely, CMKLR1 expression was higher in the former than in the latter (P<0.01). In a pregnant-mouse model, the embryo resorption rate of α-NETA group was higher than that in the negative control group (61.5% vs. 10.8%) (P<0.001). Compared with the control group, ERK1/2 phosphorylation in decidua tissues decreased in the α-NETA-treated group (P<0.01). These results suggested that the inhibition of the chemerin/CMKLR1 signaling pathway can lead to the abortion of mouse embryos, and that chemerin/CMKLR1 may play an important role in the maintenance of early pregnancy possibly by regulating ERK1/2 phosphorylation.

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Current advances for bone regeneration based on tissue engineering strategies
Rui Shi, Yuelong Huang, Chi Ma, Chengai Wu, Wei Tian
Front. Med.    2019, 13 (2): 160-188.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-018-0629-9
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Bone tissue engineering (BTE) is a rapidly developing strategy for repairing critical-sized bone defects to address the unmet need for bone augmentation and skeletal repair. Effective therapies for bone regeneration primarily require the coordinated combination of innovative scaffolds, seed cells, and biological factors. However, current techniques in bone tissue engineering have not yet reached valid translation into clinical applications because of several limitations, such as weaker osteogenic differentiation, inadequate vascularization of scaffolds, and inefficient growth factor delivery. Therefore, further standardized protocols and innovative measures are required to overcome these shortcomings and facilitate the clinical application of these techniques to enhance bone regeneration. Given the deficiency of comprehensive studies in the development in BTE, our review systematically introduces the new types of biomimetic and bifunctional scaffolds. We describe the cell sources, biology of seed cells, growth factors, vascular development, and the interactions of relevant molecules. Furthermore, we discuss the challenges and perspectives that may propel the direction of future clinical delivery in bone regeneration.

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Genome editing for the treatment of tumorigenic viral infections and virus-related carcinomas
Lan Yu, Xun Tian, Chun Gao, Ping Wu, Liming Wang, Bei Feng, Xiaomin Li, Hui Wang, Ding Ma, Zheng Hu
Front. Med.    2018, 12 (5): 497-508.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-017-0572-1
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Viral infections cause at least 10%–15% of all human carcinomas. Over the last century, the elucidation of viral oncogenic roles in many cancer types has provided fundamental knowledge on carcinogenetic mechanisms and established a basis for the early intervention of virus-related cancers. Meanwhile, rapidly evolving genome-editing techniques targeting viral DNA/RNA have emerged as novel therapeutic strategies for treating virus-related carcinogenesis and have begun showing promising results. This review discusses the recent advances of genome-editing tools for treating tumorigenic viruses and their corresponding cancers, the challenges that must be overcome before clinically applying such genome-editing technologies, and more importantly, the potential solutions to these challenges.

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Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19): a clinical update
Min Zhou, Xinxin Zhang, Jieming Qu
Front. Med.    2020, 14 (2): 126-135.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-020-0767-8
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Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) has posed a significant threat to global health. It caused a total of 80 868 confirmed cases and 3101 deaths in Chinese mainland until March 8, 2020. This novel virus spread mainly through respiratory droplets and close contact. As disease progressed, a series of complications tend to develop, especially in critically ill patients. Pathological findings showed representative features of acute respiratory distress syndrome and involvement of multiple organs. Apart from supportive care, no specific treatment has been established for COVID-19. The efficacy of some promising antivirals, convalescent plasma transfusion, and tocilizumab needs to be investigated by ongoing clinical trials.

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Cluster analysis for syndromes of real-world coronary heart disease with angina pectoris
Yufeng Zhao, Xueyun Yu, Xinyu Cao, Lin Luo, Liyun He, Shusong Mao, Li Ma, Peijing Rong, Yuxue Zhao, Guozheng Li, Baoyan Liu
Front. Med.    2018, 12 (5): 566-571.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-017-0556-1
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Syndromes of coronary heart disease with angina pectoris were analyzed to provide guidance for clinical practice and to improve accuracy of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) diagnoses and efficacy of TCM treatment. A total of 860 cases with coronary heart disease with angina pectoris were selected from TCM Clinical Research Information Sharing System for TCM clinics and research. Syndromes were automatically extracted with the cluster method and were analyzed to provide objective evidence for clinical studies. Final syndrome classifications were recognized and confirmed by clinical experts. Popular syndromes included Qi and blood deficiency, blood stasis and obstruction collaterals, liver depression and spleen deficiency, and Qi stagnation and blood stasis. Syndromes Qi and blood deficiency and blood stasis and obstruction collaterals accounted for 28.61% of total syndromes, whereas liver depression and spleen deficiency and Qi stagnation and blood stasis accounted for 26.44%. The main syndrome elements comprised Qi deficiency, blood deficiency, blood stasis, and Qi stagnation.

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Cholera: an overview with reference to the Yemen epidemic
Ali A. Rabaan
Front. Med.    2019, 13 (2): 213-228.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-018-0631-2
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Cholera is a secretory diarrhoeal disease caused by infection with Vibrio cholerae, primarily the V. cholerae O1 El Tor biotype. There are approximately 2.9 million cases in 69 endemic countries annually, resulting in 95 000 deaths. Cholera is associated with poor infrastructure and lack of access to sanitation and clean drinking water. The current cholera epidemic in Yemen, linked to spread of V. cholerae O1 (Ogawa serotype), is associated with the ongoing war. This has devastated infrastructure and health services. The World Health Organization had estimated that 172 286 suspected cases arose between 27th April and 19th June 2017, including 1170 deaths. While there are three oral cholera vaccines prequalified by the World Health Organization, there are issues surrounding vaccination campaigns in conflict situations, exacerbated by external factors such as a global vaccine shortage. Major movements of people complicates surveillance and administration of double doses of vaccines. Cholera therapy mainly depends on rehydration, with use of antibiotics in more severe infections. Concerns have arisen about the rise of antibiotic resistance in cholera, due to mobile genetic elements. In this review, we give an overview of cholera epidemiology, virulence, antibiotic resistance, therapy and vaccines, in the light of the ongoing epidemic in Yemen.

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Activation of phagocytosis by immune checkpoint blockade
Chia-Wei Li, Yun-Ju Lai, Jennifer L. Hsu, Mien-Chie Hung
Front. Med.    2018, 12 (4): 473-480.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-018-0657-5
Abstract   HTML   PDF (157KB)

Inhibition of macrophage-mediated phagocytosis has emerged as an essential mechanism for tumor immune evasion. One mechanism inhibiting the innate response is the presence of the macrophage inhibitory molecule, signal regulatory protein-α (SIRPα), on tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs) and its cognate ligand cluster of differentiation 47 (CD47) on tumor cells in the tumor microenvironment. On the basis of a recently discovered programmed death protein 1 (PD-1) in TAMs, we discuss the potential inhibitory receptors that possess new functions beyond T cell exhaustion in this review. As more and more immune receptors are found to be expressed on TAMs, the corresponding therapies may also stimulate macrophages for phagocytosis and thereby provide extra anti-tumor benefits in cancer therapy. Therefore, identification of biomarkers and combinatorial therapeutic strategies, have the potential to improve the efficacy and safety profiles of current immunotherapies.

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Mesenchymal stem cells and immune disorders: from basic science to clinical transition
Shihua Wang, Rongjia Zhu, Hongling Li, Jing Li, Qin Han, Robert Chunhua Zhao
Front. Med.    2019, 13 (2): 138-151.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-018-0627-y
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As a promising candidate seed cell type in regenerative medicine, mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) have attracted considerable attention. The unique capacity of MSCs to exert a regulatory effect on immunity in an autologous/allergenic manner makes them an attractive therapeutic cell type for immune disorders. In this review, we discussed the current knowledge of and advances in MSCs, including its basic biological properties, i.e., multilineage differentiation, secretome, and immunomodulation. Specifically, on the basis of our previous work, we proposed three new concepts of MSCs, i.e., “subtotipotent stem cell” hypothesis, MSC system, and “Yin and Yang” balance of MSC regulation, which may bring new insights into our understanding of MSCs. Furthermore, we analyzed data from the Clinical Trials database (http://clinicaltrials.gov) on registered clinical trials using MSCs to treat a variety of immune diseases, such as graft-versus-host disease, systemic lupus erythematosus, and multiple sclerosis. In addition, we highlighted MSC clinical trials in China and discussed the challenges and future directions in the field of MSC clinical application.

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Alteration of heat shock protein 20 expression in preeclamptic patients and its effect in vascular and coagulation function
Fanfan Li, Mengzhou He, Meitao Yang, Yao Fan, Yun Chen, Xi Xia, Yin Xie, Dongrui Deng
Front. Med.    2018, 12 (5): 542-549.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-017-0576-x
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Preeclampsia (PE) is a pregnancy-specific, multi-system disorder and the leading cause of maternal and perinatal morbidity and mortality in obstetrics worldwide. Excessive vasoconstriction and dysregulated coagulation function are closely associated with PE. Heat shock protein 20 (HSP20) is ubiquitously expressed under normal physiological conditions and has important roles in vascular dilatation and suppression of platelet aggregation. However, the role of HSP20 in the pathogenesis of PE remains unclear. In this study, we collected chorionic plate resistance arteries (CPAs) and serum from 118 healthy pregnant women and 80 women with PE and detected the levels of HSP20 and its phosphorylated form. Both HSP20 and phosphorylated HSP20 were downregulated in CPAs from women with PE. Comparison of the vasodilative ability of CPAs from the two groups showed impaired relaxation responses to acetyl choline in preeclamptic vessels. In addition to the reduced HSP20 in serum from women with PE, the platelet distribution width and mean platelet volume were also decreased, and the activated partial thromboplastin time and thromboplastin time were elevated. With regard to the vital roles of HSP20 in mediating vasorelaxation and coagulation function, the decreased HSP20 might contribute to the pathogenesis of PE.

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The MYC transcription factor network: balancing metabolism, proliferation and oncogenesis
Patrick A. Carroll, Brian W. Freie, Haritha Mathsyaraja, Robert N. Eisenman
Front. Med.    2018, 12 (4): 412-425.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-018-0650-z
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Transcription factor networks have evolved in order to control, coordinate, and separate, the functions of distinct network modules spatially and temporally. In this review we focus on the MYC network (also known as the MAX-MLX Network), a highly conserved super-family of related basic-helix-loop-helix-zipper (bHLHZ) proteins that functions to integrate extracellular and intracellular signals and modulate global gene expression. Importantly the MYC network has been shown to be deeply involved in a broad spectrum of human and other animal cancers. Here we summarize molecular and biological properties of the network modules with emphasis on functional interactions among network members. We suggest that these network interactions serve to modulate growth and metabolism at the transcriptional level in order to balance nutrient demand with supply, to maintain growth homeostasis, and to influence cell fate. Moreover, oncogenic activation of MYC and/or loss of a MYC antagonist, results in an imbalance in the activity of the network as a whole, leading to tumor initiation, progression and maintenance.

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Mutation profiling of 16 candidate genes in de novo acute myeloid leukemia patients
Yang Zhang, Fang Wang, Xue Chen, Wenjing Liu, Jiancheng Fang, Mingyu Wang, Wen Teng, Panxiang Cao, Hongxing Liu
Front. Med.    2019, 13 (2): 229-237.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-018-0616-1
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This retrospective analysis aimed to investigate the mutation profile of 16 common mutated genes in de novo acute myeloid leukemia (AML) patients. A total of 259 patients who were diagnosed of de novo AML were enrolled in this study. Mutation profiling of 16 candidate genes were performed in bone marrow samples by using Sanger sequencing. We identified at least 1 mutation in 199 of the 259 samples (76.8%), and 2 or more mutations in 31.7% of samples. FLT3-ITD was the most common mutated gene (16.2%, 42/259), followed by CEBPA (15.1%, 39/259), NRAS (14.7%, 38/259), and NPM1 (13.5%, 35/259). Concurrence was observed in 97.1% of the NPM1 mutated cases and in 29.6% of the double mutated CEBPA cases. Distinct patterns of co-occurrence were observed for different hotspot mutations within the IDH2 gene: R140 mutations were associated with NPM1 and/or FLT3-ITD mutations, whereas R172 mutations co-occurred with DNMT3A mutations only. Concurrence was also observed in 86.6% of epigenetic regulation genes, most of which co-occurred with NPM1 mutations. The results showed certain rules in the mutation profiling and concurrence of AML patients, which was related to the function classification of genes. Defining the mutation spectrum and mutation pattern of AML will contribute to the comprehensive assessment of patients and identification of new therapeutic targets.

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Interplay between diet and genetic susceptibility in obesity and related traits
Tiange Wang, Min Xu, Yufang Bi, Guang Ning
Front. Med.    2018, 12 (6): 601-607.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-018-0648-6
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The incidence of obesity has been rapidly increasing, and this condition has become a major public health threat. A substantial shift in environmental factors and lifestyle, such as unhealthy diet, is among the major driving forces of the global obesity pandemic. Longitudinal studies and randomized intervention trials have shown that genetic susceptibility to obesity may interact with dietary factors in relation to the body mass index and risk of obesity. This review summarized data from recent longitudinal studies and intervention studies on variations and diets and discussed the challenges and future prospects related to this area and public health implications.

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DNA methylation-based subclassification of psoriasis in the Chinese Han population
Fusheng Zhou, Changbing Shen, Yi-Hsiang Hsu, Jing Gao, Jinfa Dou, Randy Ko, Xiaodong Zheng, Liangdan Sun, Yong Cui, Xuejun Zhang
Front. Med.    2018, 12 (6): 717-725.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-017-0588-6
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Psoriasis (Ps) is an inflammatory skin disease caused by genetic and environmental factors. Previous studies on DNA methylation (DNAm) found genetic markers that are closely associated with Ps, and evidence has shown that DNAm mediates genetic risk in Ps. In this study, Consensus Clustering was used to analyze DNAm data, and 114 Ps patients were divided into three subclassifications. Investigation of the clinical characteristics and copy number variations (CNVs) of DEFB4, IL22, and LCE3C in the three subclassifications revealed no significant differences in gender ratio and in Ps area and severity index (PASI) score. The proportion of late-onset (≥40 years) Ps patients was significantly higher in type I than in types II and III (P = 0.035). Type III contained the smallest proportion of smokers and the largest proportion of non-smoking Ps patients (P = 0.086). The CNVs of DEFB4 and LCE3C showed no significant differences but the CNV of IL22 significantly differed among the three subclassifications (P = 0.044). This study is the first to profile Ps subclassifications based on DNAm data in the Chinese Han population. These results are useful in the treatment and management of Ps from the molecular and genetic perspectives.

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