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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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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2019 novel coronavirus outbreak: a quiz or final exam?
Jiuyang Xu, Yijun Chen, Hao Chen, Bin Cao
Front. Med.    2020, 14 (2): 225-228.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-020-0753-1
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The 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is an emerging pathogen and is threatening the global health. Strikingly, more than 28 000 cases and 550 deaths have been reported within two months from disease emergence. Armed with experience from previous epidemics in the last two decades, clinicians, scientists, officials, and citizens in China are all contributing to the prevention of further 2019-nCoV transmission. Efficient preliminary work has enabled us to understand the basic characteristics of 2019-nCoV, but there are still many unanswered questions. It is too early now to judge our performance in this outbreak. Continuous and strengthened efforts should be made not only during the epidemic, but also afterwards in order to prepare for any incoming challenges.

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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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Advances in COVID-19: the virus, the pathogenesis, and evidence-based control and therapeutic strategies
Guangbiao Zhou, Saijuan Chen, Zhu Chen
Front. Med.    2020, 14 (2): 117-125.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-020-0773-x
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Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in early December 2019, 81 174 confirmed cases and 3242 deaths have been reported in China as of March 19, 2020. The Chinese people and government have contributed huge efforts to combat this disease, resulting in significant improvement of the situation, with 58 new cases (34 were imported cases) and 11 new deaths reported on March 19, 2020. However, as of March 19, 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to develop in 167 countries/territories outside of China, and 128 665 confirmed cases and 5536 deaths have been reported, with 16 498 new cases and 817 new deaths occurring in last 24 hours. Therefore, the world should work together to fight against this pandemic. Here, we review the recent advances in COVID-19, including the insights in the virus, the responses of the host cells, the cytokine release syndrome, and the therapeutic approaches to inhibit the virus and alleviate the cytokine storm. By sharing knowledge and deepening our understanding of the virus and the disease pathogenesis, we believe that the community can efficiently develop effective vaccines and drugs, and the mankind will eventually win this battle against this pandemic.

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Protecting healthcare personnel from 2019-nCoV infection risks: lessons and suggestions
Zhiruo Zhang, Shelan Liu, Mi Xiang, Shijian Li, Dahai Zhao, Chaolin Huang, Saijuan Chen
Front. Med.    2020, 14 (2): 229-231.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-020-0765-x
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The outbreak of a novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19, caused by the 2019-nCoV infection) in December 2019 is one of the most severe public health emergencies since the founding of People’s Republic of China in 1949. Healthcare personnel (HCP) nationwide are facing heavy workloads and high risk of infection, especially those who care for patients in Hubei Province. Sadly, as of February 20, 2020, over two thousand COVID-19 cases are confirmed among HCP from 476 hospitals nationwide, with nearly 90% of them from Hubei Province. Based on literature search and interviews with some HCP working at Wuhan, capital city of Hubei, we have summarized some of the effective measures taken to reduce infection among HCP, and also made suggestions for improving occupational safety during an infectious disease outbreak. The experience and lessons learned should be a valuable asset for international health community to contain the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic around the world.

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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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Combination of western medicine and Chinese traditional patent medicine in treating a family case of COVID-19
Li Ni, Ling Zhou, Min Zhou, Jianping Zhao, Dao Wen Wang
Front. Med.    2020, 14 (2): 210-214.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-020-0757-x
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In December 2019, an outbreak of novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) occurred in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. By February 14, 2020, it has led to 66 492 confirmed patients in China and high mortality up to ~2.96% (1123/37 914) in Wuhan. Here we report the first family case of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) confirmed in Wuhan and treated using the combination of western medicine and Chinese traditional patent medicine Shuanghuanglian oral liquid (SHL). This report describes the identification, diagnosis, clinical course, and management of three cases from a family, suggests the expected therapeutic effects of SHL on COVID-19, and warrants further clinical trials.

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Clinical characteristics of 19 neonates born to mothers with COVID-19
Wei Liu, Jing Wang, Wenbin Li, Zhaoxian Zhou, Siying Liu, Zhihui Rong
Front. Med.    2020, 14 (2): 193-198.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-020-0772-y
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The aim of this study was to investigate the clinical characteristics of neonates born to SARS-CoV-2 infected mothers and increase the current knowledge on the perinatal consequences of COVID-19. Nineteen neonates were admitted to Tongji Hospital from January 31 to February 29, 2020. Their mothers were clinically diagnosed or laboratory-confirmed with COVID-19. We prospectively collected and analyzed data of mothers and infants. There are 19 neonates included in the research. Among them, 10 mothers were confirmed COVID-19 by positive SARS-CoV-2 RT-PCR in throat swab, and 9 mothers were clinically diagnosed with COVID-19. Delivery occurred in an isolation room and neonates were immediately separated from the mothers and isolated for at least 14 days. No fetal distress was found. Gestational age of the neonates was 38.6±1.5 weeks, and average birth weight was 3293±425 g. SARS-CoV-2 RT-PCR in throat swab, urine, and feces of all neonates were negative. SARS-CoV-2 RT-PCR in breast milk and amniotic fluid was negative too. None of the neonates developed clinical, radiologic, hematologic, or biochemical evidence of COVID-19. No vertical transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and no perinatal complications in the third trimester were found in our study. The delivery should occur in isolation and neonates should be separated from the infected mothers and care givers.

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Combination of biomaterial transplantation and genetic enhancement of intrinsic growth capacities to promote CNS axon regeneration after spinal cord injury
Bin Yu, Xiaosong Gu
Front. Med.    2019, 13 (2): 131-137.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-018-0642-z
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The inhibitory environment that surrounds the lesion site and the lack of intrinsic regenerative capacity of the adult mammalian central nervous system (CNS) impede the regrowth of injured axons and thereby the reestablishment of neural circuits required for functional recovery after spinal cord injuries (SCI). To circumvent these barriers, biomaterial scaffolds are applied to bridge the lesion gaps for the regrowing axons to follow, and, often by combining stem cell transplantation, to enable the local environment in the growth-supportive direction. Manipulations, such as the modulation of PTEN/mTOR pathways, can also enhance intrinsic CNS axon regrowth after injury. Given the complex pathophysiology of SCI, combining biomaterial scaffolds and genetic manipulation may provide synergistic effects and promote maximal axonal regrowth. Future directions will primarily focus on the translatability of these approaches and promote therapeutic avenues toward the functional rehabilitation of patients with SCIs.

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High-affinity T cell receptors redirect cytokine-activated T cells (CAT) to kill cancer cells
Synat Kang, Yanyan Li, Yifeng Bao, Yi Li
Front. Med.    2019, 13 (1): 69-82.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-018-0677-1
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Cytokine-activated T cells (CATs) can be easily expanded and are widely applied to cancer immunotherapy. However, the good efficacy of CATs is rarely reported in clinical applications because CATs have no or very low antigen specificity. The low-efficacy problem can be resolved using T cell antigen receptor-engineered CAT (TCR-CAT). Herein, we demonstrate that NY-ESO-1157–165 HLA-A*02:01-specific high-affinity TCR (HAT)-transduced CATs can specifically kill cancer cells with good efficacy. With low micromolar range dissociation equilibrium constants, HAT-transduced CATs showed good specificity with no off-target killing. Furthermore, the high-affinity TCR-CATs delivered significantly better activation and cytotoxicity than the equivalent TCR-engineered T cells (TCR-Ts) in terms of interferon-g and granzyme B production and in vitro cancer cell killing ability. TCR-CAT may be a very good alternative to the expensive TCR-T, which is considered an effective personalized cyto-immunotherapy.

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Characterization of hidden rules linking symptoms and selection of acupoint using an artificial neural network model
Won-Mo Jung, In-Soo Park, Ye-Seul Lee, Chang-Eop Kim, Hyangsook Lee, Dae-Hyun Hahm, Hi-Joon Park, Bo-Hyoung Jang, Younbyoung Chae
Front. Med.    2019, 13 (1): 112-120.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-017-0582-z
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Comprehension of the medical diagnoses of doctors and treatment of diseases is important to understand the underlying principle in selecting appropriate acupoints. The pattern recognition process that pertains to symptoms and diseases and informs acupuncture treatment in a clinical setting was explored. A total of 232 clinical records were collected using a Charting Language program. The relationship between symptom information and selected acupoints was trained using an artificial neural network (ANN). A total of 11 hidden nodes with the highest average precision score were selected through a tenfold cross-validation. Our ANN model could predict the selected acupoints based on symptom and disease information with an average precision score of 0.865 (precision, 0.911; recall, 0.811). This model is a useful tool for diagnostic classification or pattern recognition and for the prediction and modeling of acupuncture treatment based on clinical data obtained in a real-world setting. The relationship between symptoms and selected acupoints could be systematically characterized through knowledge discovery processes, such as pattern identification.

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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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China’s local governments are combating COVID-19 with unprecedented responses ---- from a Wenzhou governance perspective
Fanghua Gong, Yong Xiong, Jian Xiao, Li Lin, Xiaodong Liu, Dezhong Wang, Xiaokun Li
Front. Med.    2020, 14 (2): 220-224.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-020-0755-z
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The COVID-19 caused by a novel strain of coronavirus has been spreading rapidly since its occurrence in December 2019. It is highly communicable through human-to-human transmission. China has been making unprecedented efforts in treating the confirmed cases, identifying and isolating their close contacts and suspected cases to control the source of infection and cut the route of transmission. China’s devotion in handling this epidemic has effectively and efficiently curbed communication domestically and across the border. Representative measures adopted by Wenzhou, the worst hit city out of Hubei Province, are examined to elucidate those massive undertakings with the aim of enhancing international understanding and building global rapport in fighting this evolving epidemic situation.

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Genetic and clinical markers for predicting treatment responsiveness in rheumatoid arthritis
Xin Wu, Xiaobao Sheng, Rong Sheng, Hongjuan Lu, Huji Xu
Front. Med.    2019, 13 (4): 411-419.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-018-0659-3
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Although many drugs and therapeutic strategies have been developed for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) treatment, numerous patients with RA fail to respond to currently available agents. In this review, we provide an overview of the complexity of this autoimmune disease by showing the rapidly increasing number of genes associated with RA. We then systematically review various factors that have a predictive value (predictors) for the response to different drugs in RA treatment, especially recent advances. These predictors include but are certainly not limited to genetic variations, clinical factors, and demographic factors. However, no clinical application is currently available. This review also describes the challenges in treating patients with RA and the need for personalized medicine. At the end of this review, we discuss possible strategies to enhance the prediction of drug responsiveness in patients with RA.

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Changes in public trust in physicians: empirical evidence from China
Dahai Zhao, Zhiruo Zhang
Front. Med.    2019, 13 (4): 504-510.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-018-0666-4
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Studies examining the trends in public trust in physicians have provided a considerable amount of valuable policy implications for policymakers compared with cross-sectional studies on this topic in many countries. This study investigated changes in public trust in physicians in China based on two cross-sectional national surveys conducted in 2011 and 2016 and identified the determinants of these changes. The results indicated 83.4% of respondents in 2011 reported trust or strong trust in physicians in China, which decreased to 64.2% by 2016. The results of ordinal logistic regression demonstrated that public trust in physicians in China had decreased significantly from 2011 to 2016 (P<0.001) after adjusting for other independent variables. Self-reported health status, self-rated happiness, and self-identified social class were all associated positively with public trust in physicians in China. The results also confirmed that decreasing public satisfaction with the most recent treatment experience was the major determinant of decreasing public trust in physicians in China. The findings of this study suggest that decreasing public trust in physicians deserves considerable attention from national policymakers and that improving satisfaction with treatment experiences would be the most effective strategy for enhancing public trust in physicians in China.

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COVID-19 containment: China provides important lessons for global response
Shuxian Zhang, Zezhou Wang, Ruijie Chang, Huwen Wang, Chen Xu, Xiaoyue Yu, Lhakpa Tsamlag, Yinqiao Dong, Hui Wang, Yong Cai
Front. Med.    2020, 14 (2): 215-219.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-020-0766-9
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The world must act fast to contain wider international spread of the epidemic of COVID-19 now. The unprecedented public health efforts in China have contained the spread of this new virus. Measures taken in China are currently proven to reduce human-to-human transmission successfully. We summarized the effective intervention and prevention measures in the fields of public health response, clinical management, and research development in China, which may provide vital lessons for the global response. It is really important to take collaborative actions now to save more lives from the pandemic of COVID-19.

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PD-1/PD-L1 blockade in cervical cancer: current studies and perspectives
Yumeng Wang, Guiling Li
Front. Med.    2019, 13 (4): 438-450.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-018-0674-4
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Cervical cancer (CC) is the fourth most commonly diagnosed female malignancy and a leading cause of cancer-related mortality worldwide, especially in developing countries. Despite the use of advanced screening and preventive vaccines, more than half of all CC cases are diagnosed at advanced stages, when therapeutic options are extremely limited and side effects are severe. Given these circumstances, new and effective treatments are needed. In recent years, exciting progress has been made in immunotherapies, including the rapid development of immune checkpoint inhibitors. Checkpoint blockades targeting the PD-1/PD-L1 axis have achieved effective clinical responses with acceptable toxicity by suppressing tumor progression and improving survival in several tumor types. In this review, we summarize recent advances in our understanding of the PD-1/PD-L1 signaling pathway, including the expression patterns of PD-1/PD-L1 and potential PD-1/PD-L1-related therapeutic strategies for CC.

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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
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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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Altered intestinal microbiota associated with colorectal cancer
Hong Zhang, Ying Chang, Qingqing Zheng, Rong Zhang, Cheng Hu, Weiping Jia
Front. Med.    2019, 13 (4): 461-470.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-019-0695-7
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The gut microbiota plays an important role in the development and progression of colorectal cancer (CRC). To learn more about the dysbiosis of carcinogenesis, we assessed alterations in gut microbiota in patients with CRC. A total of 23 subjects were enrolled in this study: 9 had CRC (CRC group) and 14 had normal colons (normal group). The microbiome of the mucosal--luminal interface of each subject was sampled and analyzed using 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing. We also used Phylogenetic Investigation of Communities by Reconstruction of Unobserved States (PICRUSt) to predict microbial functional profiles. The microbial composition of the mucosal lumen differed between the groups, and the presence of specific bacteria may serve as a potential biomarker for colorectal carcinogenesis. We identified a significant reduction in Eubacterium, which is a butyrate-producing genera of bacteria, and a significant increase in Devosia in the gut microbiota of CRC patients. Different levels of gut microflora in healthy and CRC samples were identified. The observed abundance of bacterial species belonging to Eubacterium and Devosia may serve as a promising biomarker for the early detection of CRC.

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Prospects of immunotherapy for cancer
Zhinan Chen
Front. Med.    2019, 13 (1): 1-2.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-019-0691-y
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Rdh13 deficiency weakens carbon tetrachloride-induced liver injury by regulating Spot14 and Cyp2e1 expression levels
Xiaofang Cui, Benting Ma, Yan Wang, Yan Chen, Chunling Shen, Ying Kuang, Jian Fei, Lungen Lu, Zhugang Wang
Front. Med.    2019, 13 (1): 104-111.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-017-0568-x
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Mitochondrion-localized retinol dehydrogenase 13 (Rdh13) is a short-chain dehydrogenase/reductase involved in vitamin A metabolism in both humans and mice. We previously generated Rdh13 knockout mice and showed that Rdh13 deficiency causes severe acute retinal light damage. In this study, considering that Rdh13 is highly expressed in mouse liver, we further evaluated the potential effect of Rdh13 on liver injury induced by carbon tetrachloride (CCl4). Although Rdh13 deficiency showed no significant effect on liver histology and physiological functions under regular culture, the Rdh13−/− mice displayed an attenuated response to CCl4-induced liver injury. Their livers also exhibited less histological changes and contained lower levels of liver-related metabolism enzymes compared with the livers of wild-type (WT) mice. Furthermore, the Rdh13−/− mice had Rdh13 deficiency and thus their liver cells were protected from apoptosis, and the quantity of their proliferative cells became lower than that in WT after CCl4 exposure. The ablation of Rdh13 gene decreased the expression levels of thyroid hormone-inducible nuclear protein 14 (Spot14) and cytochrome P450 (Cyp2e1) in the liver, especially after CCl4 treatment for 48 h. These data suggested that the alleviated liver damage induced by CCl4 in Rdh13−/− mice was caused by Cyp2e1 enzymes, which promoted reductive CCl4 metabolism by altering the status of thyroxine metabolism. This result further implicated Rdh13 as a potential drug target in preventing chemically induced liver injury.

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Screening responsive or resistant biomarkers of immune checkpoint inhibitors based on online databases
Zhen Xiang, Yingyan Yu
Front. Med.    2019, 13 (1): 24-31.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-019-0679-7
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Immune checkpoint inhibitors are a promising strategy in the treatment of cancer, especially advanced types. However, not all patients are responsive to immune checkpoint inhibitors. The response rate depends on the immune microenvironment, tumor mutational burden (TMB), expression level of immune checkpoint proteins, and molecular subtypes of cancers. Along with the Cancer Genome Project, various open access databases, including The Cancer Genome Atlas and Gene Expression Omnibus, provide large volumes of data, which allow researchers to explore responsive or resistant biomarkers of immune checkpoint inhibitors. In this review, we introduced some methodologies on database selection, biomarker screening, current progress of immune checkpoint blockade in solid tumor treatment, possible mechanisms of drug resistance, strategies of overcoming resistance, and indications for immune checkpoint inhibitor therapy.

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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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Presence of multiple abnormal immunologic markers is an independent prognostic factor of diffuse large B-cell lymphoma
Yiwen Cao, Zhenhua Liu, Wen Wu, Ying Qian, Qin Shi, Rong Shen, Binshen Ouyang, Pengpeng Xu, Shu Cheng, Jin Ye, Yiming Lu, Chaofu Wang, Chengde Yang, Li Wang, Weili Zhao
Front. Med.    2019, 13 (1): 94-103.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-019-0680-1
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Autoimmune diseases (ADs) increase the risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and contribute to poor prognosis of patients. However, the association between immunologic markers and clinical outcome has rarely been investigated. This study aims to analyze the prognostic value of pretreatment immunologic markers in newly diagnosed patients with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL). We retrospectively reviewed the data on 502 patients with DLBCL treated in our institution from January 2013 to March 2018. Survival functions were estimated using Kaplan–Meier method and Cox regression model. The 3-year progression free survival (PFS) and overall survival (OS) rates were 70.2% and 80.9%, respectively, and the complete remission (CR) rate was 78.1%. Among the patients, those with multiple (≥3) abnormal immunologic markers had significantly shorter 3-year PFS (52.7% vs. 77.3%, P<0.001) and OS (68.5% vs. 85.8%, P=0.001) than those without multiple abnormal immunologic markers. Multivariate analysis revealed that the presence of multiple abnormal immunologic markers and the elevated serum levels of lactate dehydrogenase were the independent adverse prognostic factors for PFS (P=0.008, P<0.001) and OS (P=0.003, P<0.001). Meanwhile, advanced Ann Arbor stage was an independent adverse prognostic factor for PFS (P=0.001) and age>60 years for OS (P=0.014). In conclusion, the immunologic status was closely related to lymphoma progression, and this study provides new insights into the risk stratification of patients with DLBCL.

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Immunotherapy-based combination strategies for treatment of gastrointestinal cancers: current status and future prospects
Chenfei Zhou, Jun Zhang
Front. Med.    2019, 13 (1): 12-23.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-019-0685-9
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Strategies in comprehensive therapy for gastrointestinal (GI) cancer have been optimized in the last decades to improve patients’ outcomes. However, treatment options remain limited for late-stage or refractory diseases. The efficacy of immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) for treatment of refractory GI cancer has been confirmed by randomized clinical trials. In 2017, pembrolizumab was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration as the first agent for treatment of metastatic solid tumors with mismatch repair deficiency, especially for colorectal cancer. Given the different mechanisms, oncologists have focused on determining whether ICIs-based combination strategies could achieve higher efficacy than conventional therapy alone in late-stage or even front-line treatment of GI cancer. This review discusses the current status of combining immune checkpoint inhibitors with molecular targeted therapy, chemotherapy, or radiotherapy in GI cancer in terms of mechanisms, safety, and efficacy to provide basis for future research.

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Everyone has a donor: contribution of the Chinese experience to global practice of haploidentical hematopoietic stem cell transplantation
Meng Lv, Yingjun Chang, Xiaojun Huang
Front. Med.    2019, 13 (1): 45-56.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-017-0595-7
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Human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-matched donors for hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) have long been scarce in China. Haploidentical (haplo) donors are available for the vast majority of patients, but toxicity has limited this approach. Three new approaches for haplo-HSCT originated from Italy, China, and USA in 1990 and have been developed to world-renowned system up to now. The Chinese approach have been greatly improved by implementing new individualized conditioning regimens, donor selection based on non-HLA systems, risk-directed strategies for graft-versus-host disease and relapse, and infection management. Haplo-HSCT has exhibited similar efficacy to HLA-matched HSCT and has gradually become the predominant donor source and the first alternative donor choice for allo-HSCT in China. Registry-based analyses and multicenter studies adhering to international standards facilitated the transformation of the unique Chinese experience into an inspiration for the refinement of global practice. This review will focus on how the new era in which “everyone has a donor” will become a reality in China.

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Homoharringtonine is a safe and effective substitute for anthracyclines in children younger than 2 years old with acute myeloid leukemia
Xiaoxiao Chen, Yanjing Tang, Jing Chen, Ru Chen, Longjun Gu, Huiliang Xue, Ci Pan, Jingyan Tang, Shuhong Shen
Front. Med.    2019, 13 (3): 378-387.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-018-0658-4
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Homoharringtonine (HHT), a plant alkaloid from Cephalotaxus harringtonia, exhibits a unique anticancer mechanism and has been widely used in China to treat patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) since the 1970s. Trial SCMC-AML-2009 presented herein was a randomized clinical study designed based on our previous findings that pediatric AML patients younger than two years old may benefit from HHT-containing chemotherapy regimens. Patients randomized to arm A were treated with a standard chemotherapy regimen comprising mainly of anthracyclines and cytarabine (Ara-C), whereas patients in arm B were treated with HHT-containing regimens in which anthracyclines in all but the initial induction therapy were replaced by HHT. From February 2009 to November 2015, 59 patients less than 2 years old with de novo AML (other than acute promyelocytic leukemia) were recruited. A total of 42 patients achieved a morphologic complete remission (CR) after the first course, with similar rates in both arms (70.6% vs.72.0%). At the end of the follow-up period, 40 patients remained in CR and 5 patients underwent hematopoietic stem cell transplantation in CR, which could not be considered as events but censors. The 5-year event-free survival (EFS) was 60.2%±9.6% for arm A and 88.0%±6.5% for arm B (P=0.024). Patients in arm B experienced shorter durations of leukopenia, neutropenia, and thrombocytopenia and had a lower risk of infection during consolidation chemotherapy with high-dosage Ara-C. Consequently, the homoharringtonine-based regimen achieved excellent EFS and alleviated hematologic toxicity for children aged younger than 2 years with de novo AML compared with the anthracycline-based regimen.

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Chimeric antigen receptor T cell targeting EGFRvIII for metastatic lung cancer therapy
Zhao Zhang, Jun Jiang, Xiaodong Wu, Mengyao Zhang, Dan Luo, Renyu Zhang, Shiyou Li, Youwen He, Huijie Bian, Zhinan Chen
Front. Med.    2019, 13 (1): 57-68.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-019-0683-y
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Lung cancer is the most common incident cancer and the leading cause of cancer death. In recent years, the development of tumor immunotherapy especially chimeric antigen receptor T (CAR-T) cell has shown a promising future. Epidermal growth factor receptor variant III (EGFRvIII) is a tumor-specific mutation expressed in various types of tumors and has been detected in non-small cell lung cancer with a mutation rate of 10%. Thus, EGFRvIII is a potential antigen for targeted lung cancer therapy. In this study, CAR vectors were constructed and transfected into virus-packaging cells. Then, activated T cells were infected with retrovirus harvested from stable virus-producing single clone cell lines. CAR expression on the surfaces of the T cells was detected by flow cytometry and Western blot. The function of CAR-T targeting EGFRvIII was then evaluated. The EGFRvIII-CAR vector was successfully constructed and confirmed by DNA sequencing. A stable virus-producing cell line was produced from a single clone by limited dilution. The culture conditions for the cell line, including cell density, temperature, and culture medium were optimized. After infection with retrovirus, CAR was expressed on more than 90% of the T cells. The proliferation of CAR-T cells were induced by cytokine and specific antigen in vitro. More importantly, EGFRvIII-CART specifically and efficiently recognized and killed A549-EGFRvIII cells with an effector/target ratio of 10:1 by expressing and releasing cytokines, including perforin, granzyme B, IFN-g, and TNF-α. The in vivo study indicated that the metastasis of A549-EGFRvIII cells in mice were inhibited by EGFRvIII-CART cells, and the survival of the mice was significantly prolonged with no serious side effects. EGFRvIII-CART showed significantly efficient antitumor activity against lung cancer cells expressing EGFRvIII in vivo and in vitro. Therefore, CAR-T targeting EGFRvIII is a potential therapeutic strategy in preventing recurrence and metastasis of lung cancer after surgery.

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Monitoring checkpoint inhibitors: predictive biomarkers in immunotherapy
Min Zhang, Jingwen Yang, Wenjing Hua, Zhong Li, Zenghui Xu, Qijun Qian
Front. Med.    2019, 13 (1): 32-44.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-018-0678-0
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Immunotherapy has become the fourth cancer therapy after surgery, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy. In particular, immune checkpoint inhibitors are proved to be unprecedentedly in increasing the overall survival rates of patients with refractory cancers, such as advanced melanoma, non-small cell lung cancer, and renal cell carcinoma. However, inhibitor therapies are only effective in a small proportion of patients with problems, such as side effects and high costs. Therefore, doctors urgently need reliable predictive biomarkers for checkpoint inhibitor therapies to choose the optimal therapies. Here, we review the biomarkers that can serve as potential predictors of the outcomes of immune checkpoint inhibitor treatment, including tumor-specific profiles and tumor microenvironment evaluation and other factors.

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