Frontiers of Medicine

ISSN 2095-0217

ISSN 2095-0225(Online)

CN 11-5983/R

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Durability of neutralizing antibodies and T-cell response post SARS-CoV-2 infection
Yun Tan, Feng Liu, Xiaoguang Xu, Yun Ling, Weijin Huang, Zhaoqin Zhu, Mingquan Guo, Yixiao Lin, Ziyu Fu, Dongguo Liang, Tengfei Zhang, Jian Fan, Miao Xu, Hongzhou Lu, Saijuan Chen
Front. Med.    2020, 14 (6): 746-751.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-020-0822-5
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The ongoing pandemic of coronavirus disease 19 (COVID-19) is caused by a newly discovered β coronavirus named severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). How long the adaptive immunity triggered by SARS-CoV-2 can last is of critical clinical relevance in assessing the probability of second infection and efficacy of vaccination. Here we examined, using ELISA, the IgG antibodies in serum specimens collected from 17 COVID-19 patients at 6–7 months after diagnosis and the results were compared to those from cases investigated 2 weeks to 2 months post-infection. All samples were positive for IgGs against the S- and N-proteins of SARS-CoV-2. Notably, 14 samples available at 6–7 months post-infection all showed significant neutralizing activities in a pseudovirus assay, with no difference in blocking the cell-entry of the 614D and 614G variants of SARS-CoV-2. Furthermore, in 10 blood samples from cases at 6–7 months post-infection used for memory T-cell tests, we found that interferon γ-producing CD4+ and CD8+ cells were increased upon SARS-CoV-2 antigen stimulation. Together, these results indicate that durable anti-SARS-CoV-2 immunity is common in convalescent population, and vaccines developed from 614D variant may offer protection from the currently predominant 614D variant of SARS-CoV-2.

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Progress in systemic therapy for triple-negative breast cancer
Hongnan Mo, Binghe Xu
Front. Med.    2021, 15 (1): 1-10.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-020-0741-5
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Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is the most aggressive subtype of breast cancer with a heterogeneous genetic profile. Chemotherapy exhibits substantial activity in a small subset of these patients. Drug resistance is inevitable. Major progress has been made in the genetic analysis of TNBC to identify novel targets and increase the precision of therapeutic intervention. Such progress has translated into major advances in treatment strategies, including modified chemotherapy approaches, immune checkpoint inhibitors, and targeted therapeutic drugs. All of these strategies have been evaluated in clinical trials. Nevertheless, patient selection remains a considerable challenge in clinical practice.

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Degradation of SARS-CoV-2 receptor ACE2 by the E3 ubiquitin ligase Skp2 in lung epithelial cells
Guizhen Wang, Qun Zhao, Hui Zhang, Fan Liang, Chen Zhang, Jun Wang, Zhenyin Chen, Ran Wu, Hong Yu, Beibei Sun, Hua Guo, Ruie Feng, Kaifeng Xu, Guangbiao Zhou
Front. Med.    2021, 15 (2): 252-263.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-021-0837-6
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An unexpected observation among the COVID-19 pandemic is that smokers constituted only 1.4%−18.5% of hospitalized adults, calling for an urgent investigation to determine the role of smoking in SARS-CoV-2 infection. Here, we show that cigarette smoke extract (CSE) and carcinogen benzo(a)pyrene (BaP) increase ACE2 mRNA but trigger ACE2 protein catabolism. BaP induces an aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR)-dependent upregulation of the ubiquitin E3 ligase Skp2 for ACE2 ubiquitination. ACE2 in lung tissues of non-smokers is higher than in smokers, consistent with the findings that tobacco carcinogens downregulate ACE2 in mice. Tobacco carcinogens inhibit SARS-CoV-2 spike protein pseudovirions infection of the cells. Given that tobacco smoke accounts for 8 million deaths including 2.1 million cancer deaths annually and Skp2 is an oncoprotein, tobacco use should not be recommended and cessation plan should be prepared for smokers in COVID-19 pandemic.

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Fludarabine and intravenous busulfan conditioning with post-transplantation cyclophosphamide for allogeneic peripheral stem cell transplantation for adult patients with lymphoid malignancies: a prospective single-arm phase II study
Ling Wang, Lining Wang, Xing Fan, Wei Tang, Jiong Hu
Front. Med.    2021, 15 (1): 108-115.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-019-0730-8
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Post-transplantation cyclophosphamide (PT-Cy) alone or in combination with other immunosuppressive drugs has emerged as a promising strategy in the setting of allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation. Improved survival rate was reported in lymphoid malignancies following PT-Cy strategy compared with myeloid disease in non-myeloablative bone marrow transplant setting. Thus, we aimed to evaluate the safety and efficacy of PT-Cy combined with cyclosporine as graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) prophylaxis after myeloablative conditioning and T cell-replete peripheral stem cell transplantation in lymphoid malignancies. This single-arm phase II clinical trial (NCT01435447) involving 31 adult patients was conducted from January 2013 to June 2018. The donor-type neutrophil engraftment rate was 100%, and the overall incidence of grade II to IV and grade III to IV acute GVHD was 39% and 24%, respectively. The cumulative incidence rates of chronic GVHD (35%), including moderate to severe forms (10%), were reduced compared with those of the historical group (P=0.03 and P=0.04, respectively). With a median follow-up of 18 months, the estimated 2-year overall and event-free survival was 64.8% (95% confidence interval: 47.8%–86.7%) and 58.4% (95% CI: 41.9%–81.7%), respectively. The 2-year cumulative incidence rate of relapse was 19.5% (95% CI: 9.0%–35.8%), whereas the non-relapse mortality rate was 21.8% (95% CI: 11.3%–38.1%). These results demonstrated the feasibility of PT-Cy as GVHD prophylaxis in this clinical setting. This strategy could significantly reduce the incidence of chronic GVHD and its moderate to severe forms but not of acute GVHD and results in similar survival outcomes compared with the historical group. A prospective study with additional patients is warranted to confirm the role of PT-Cy in lymphoid malignancy.

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Metabolism and immunity in breast cancer
Deyu Zhang, Xiaojie Xu, Qinong Ye
Front. Med.    2021, 15 (2): 178-207.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-020-0793-6
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Breast cancer is one of the most common malignancies that seriously threaten women’s health. In the process of the malignant transformation of breast cancer, metabolic reprogramming and immune evasion represent the two main fascinating characteristics of cancer and facilitate cancer cell proliferation. Breast cancer cells generate energy through increased glucose metabolism. Lipid metabolism contributes to biological signal pathways and forms cell membranes except energy generation. Amino acids act as basic protein units and metabolic regulators in supporting cell growth. For tumor-associated immunity, poor immunogenicity and heightened immunosuppression cause breast cancer cells to evade the host’s immune system. For the past few years, the complex mechanisms of metabolic reprogramming and immune evasion are deeply investigated, and the genes involved in these processes are used as clinical therapeutic targets for breast cancer. Here, we review the recent findings related to abnormal metabolism and immune characteristics, regulatory mechanisms, their links, and relevant therapeutic strategies.

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Human microbiome and prostate cancer development: current insights into the prevention and treatment
Solmaz Ohadian Moghadam, Seyed Ali Momeni
Front. Med.    2021, 15 (1): 11-32.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-019-0731-7
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The huge communities of microorganisms that symbiotically colonize humans are recognized as significant players in health and disease. The human microbiome may influence prostate cancer development. To date, several studies have focused on the effect of prostate infections as well as the composition of the human microbiome in relation to prostate cancer risk. Current studies suggest that the microbiota of men with prostate cancer significantly differs from that of healthy men, demonstrating that certain bacteria could be associated with cancer development as well as altered responses to treatment. In healthy individuals, the microbiome plays a crucial role in the maintenance of homeostasis of body metabolism. Dysbiosis may contribute to the emergence of health problems, including malignancy through affecting systemic immune responses and creating systemic inflammation, and changing serum hormone levels. In this review, we discuss recent data about how the microbes colonizing different parts of the human body including urinary tract, gastrointestinal tract, oral cavity, and skin might affect the risk of developing prostate cancer. Furthermore, we discuss strategies to target the microbiome for risk assessment, prevention, and treatment of prostate cancer.

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Serum uric acid and risk of incident diabetes in middle-aged and elderly Chinese adults: prospective cohort study
Di Cheng, Chunyan Hu, Rui Du, Hongyan Qi, Lin Lin, Xueyan Wu, Lina Ma, Kui Peng, Mian Li, Min Xu, Yu Xu, Yufang Bi, Weiqing Wang, Yuhong Chen, Jieli Lu
Front. Med.    2020, 14 (6): 802-810.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-019-0723-7
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The association between serum uric acid and the risk of incident diabetes in Chinese adults remains unknown. This study aimed to investigate this association in a community-dwelling population aged≥40 years in Shanghai, China. Oral glucose tole3rance test was conducted during baseline and follow-up visits. Relative risk regression was utilized to examine the associations between baseline gender-specific serum uric acid levels and incident diabetes risk. A total of 613 (10.3%) incident diabetes cases were identified during the follow-up visit after 4.5 years. Fasting plasma glucose, postload glucose, and glycated hemoglobin A1c during the follow-up visit progressively increased across the sex-specific quartiles of serum uric acid (all Ps<0.05). The incidence rate of diabetes increased across the quartiles of serum uric acid (7.43%, 8.77%, 11.47%, and 13.43%). Multivariate adjusted regression analysis revealed that individuals in the highest quartile had 1.36-fold increased risk of diabetes compared with those in the lowest quartile of serum uric acid (odds ratio (95% confidence interval) = 1.36 (1.06−1.73)). Stratified analysis indicated that the association was only observed in women. Accordingly, serum uric acid was associated with the increased risk of incident diabetes among middle-aged and elderly Chinese women.

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Analysis of antibiotic usage for viral community-acquired pneumonia in adults
Rongmeng Jiang, Bing Han, Chang Dou, Fei Zhou, Bin Cao, Xingwang Li
Front. Med.    2021, 15 (1): 139-143.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-019-0736-2
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The rationale for the antibiotic treatment of viral community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) in adults was analyzed to develop a clinical reference standard for this condition. Clinical data from 166 patients diagnosed with viral pneumonia across 14 hospitals in Beijing from November 2010 to December 2017 were collected. The indications for medications were evaluated, and the rationale for the use of antibiotics was analyzed. A total of 163 (98.3%) patients with viral pneumonia were treated with antibiotics. A combination of C-reactive protein (CRP) and procalcitonin (PCT) was used as markers to analyze the possible indications for antibiotic use. With threshold levels set at 0.25 µg/L for PCT and 20 mg/L for CRP, the rate of unreasonable use of antibiotics was 55.2%. By contrast, at a CRP level threshold of 60 mg/L, the rate of antibiotic misuse was 77.3%. A total of 39 of the 163 (23.9%) patients did not meet the guidelines for drug selection for viral CAP in adults. The unreasonable use of antibacterial drugs for the treatment of viral CAP in adults is a serious concern. Clinicians must reduce the unnecessary use of antibiotics.

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Clinical manifestations and pathogen characteristics in children admitted for suspected COVID-19
Xiaofang Cai, Hanlan Jiang, Simin Zhang, Shengying Xia, Wenhui Du, Yaoling Ma, Tao Yu, Wenbin Li
Front. Med.    2020, 14 (6): 776-785.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-020-0820-7
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Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), which is caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2), has spread around the world. However, approaches to distinguish COVID-19 from pneumonia caused by other pathogens have not yet been reported. We retrospectively analyzed the clinical data of 97 children with probable COVID-19. A total of 13 (13.4%) patients were confirmed positive for SARS-CoV-2 infection by nucleic acid RT-PCR testing, and 41 (42.3%) patients were found to be infected with other pathogens. Notably, no pathogen was detected in 43 (44.3%) patients. Among all patients, 25 (25.8%) had familial cluster exposure history, and 52 (53.6%) had one or more coexisting conditions. Fifteen (15.5%) patients were admitted or transferred to the PICU. In the 11 confirmed COVID-19 cases, 5 (45.5%) and 7 (63.6%) were positive for IgM and IgG against SARS-CoV-2, respectively. In 22 patients with suspected COVID-19, 1 (4.5%) was positive for IgG but negative for IgM. The most frequently detected pathogen was Mycoplasma pneumonia (29, 29.9%). One patient with confirmed COVID-19 died. Our results strongly indicated that the detection of asymptomatic COVID-19 or coexisting conditions must be strengthened in pediatric patients. These cases may be difficult to diagnose as COVID-19 unless etiologic analysis is conducted. A serologic test can be a useful adjunctive diagnostic tool in cases where SARS-CoV-2 infection is highly suspected but the nucleic acid test is negative.

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Chinese herbal medicine reduces mortality in patients with severe and critical coronavirus disease 2019: a retrospective cohort study
Guohua Chen, Wen Su, Jiayao Yang, Dan Luo, Ping Xia, Wen Jia, Xiuyang Li, Chuan Wang, Suping Lang, Qingbin Meng, Ying Zhang, Yuhe Ke, An Fan, Shuo Yang, Yujiao Zheng, Xuepeng Fan, Jie Qiao, Fengmei Lian, Li Wei, Xiaolin Tong
Front. Med.    2020, 14 (6): 752-759.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-020-0813-6
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This study aimed to evaluate the efficacy of Chinese herbal medicine (CHM) in patients with severe/critical coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). In this retrospective study, data were collected from 662 patients with severe/critical COVID-19 who were admitted to a designated hospital to treat patients with severe COVID-19 in Wuhan before March 20, 2020. All patients were divided into an exposed group (CHM users) and a control group (non-users). After propensity score matching in a 1:1 ratio, 156 CHM users were matched by propensity score to 156 non-users. No significant differences in seven baseline clinical variables were found between the two groups of patients. All-cause mortality was reported in 13 CHM users who died and 36 non-users who died. After multivariate adjustment, the mortality risk of CHM users was reduced by 82.2% (odds ratio 0.178, 95% CI 0.076–0.418; P<0.001) compared with the non-users. Secondly, age (odds ratio 1.053, 95% CI 1.023–1.084; P<0.001) and the proportion of severe/critical patients (odds ratio 0.063, 95% CI 0.028–0.143; P<0.001) were the risk factors of mortality. These results show that the use of CHM may reduce the mortality of patients with severe/critical COVID-19.

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Clinical features and the traditional Chinese medicine therapeutic characteristics of 293 COVID-19 inpatient cases
Zixin Shu, Yana Zhou, Kai Chang, Jifen Liu, Xiaojun Min, Qing Zhang, Jing Sun, Yajuan Xiong, Qunsheng Zou, Qiguang Zheng, Jinghui Ji, Josiah Poon, Baoyan Liu, Xuezhong Zhou, Xiaodong Li
Front. Med.    2020, 14 (6): 760-775.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-020-0803-8
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Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is now pandemic worldwide and has heavily overloaded hospitals in Wuhan City, China during the time between late January and February. We reported the clinical features and therapeutic characteristics of moderate COVID-19 cases in Wuhan that were treated via the integration of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and Western medicine. We collected electronic medical record (EMR) data, which included the full clinical profiles of patients, from a designated TCM hospital in Wuhan. The structured data of symptoms and drugs from admission notes were obtained through an information extraction process. Other key clinical entities were also confirmed and normalized to obtain information on the diagnosis, clinical treatments, laboratory tests, and outcomes of the patients. A total of 293 COVID-19 inpatient cases, including 207 moderate and 86 (29.3%) severe cases, were included in our research. Among these cases, 238 were discharged, 31 were transferred, and 24 (all severe cases) died in the hospital. Our COVID-19 cases involved elderly patients with advanced ages (57 years on average) and high comorbidity rates (61%). Our results reconfirmed several well-recognized risk factors, such as age, gender (male), and comorbidities, as well as provided novel laboratory indications (e.g., cholesterol) and TCM-specific phenotype markers (e.g., dull tongue) that were relevant to COVID-19 infections and prognosis. In addition to antiviral/antibiotics and standard supportive therapies, TCM herbal prescriptions incorporating 290 distinct herbs were used in 273 (93%) cases. The cases that received TCM treatment had lower death rates than those that did not receive TCM treatment (17/273= 6.2% vs. 7/20= 35%, P = 0.0004 for all cases; 17/77= 22% vs. 7/9= 77.7%, P = 0.002 for severe cases). The TCM herbal prescriptions used for the treatment of COVID-19 infections mainly consisted of Pericarpium Citri Reticulatae, Radix Scutellariae, Rhizoma Pinellia, and their combinations, which reflected the practical TCM principles (e.g., clearing heat and dampening phlegm). Lastly, 59% of the patients received treatment, including antiviral, antibiotics, and Chinese patent medicine, before admission. This situation might have some effects on symptoms, such as fever and dry cough. By using EMR data, we described the clinical features and therapeutic characteristics of 293 COVID-19 cases treated via the integration of TCM herbal prescriptions and Western medicine. Clinical manifestations and treatments before admission and in the hospital were investigated. Our results preliminarily showed the potential effectiveness of TCM herbal prescriptions and their regularities in COVID-19 treatment.

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Programming CAR T cells to enhance anti-tumor efficacy through remodeling of the immune system
Xiaohui Wang, Zhiqiang Wu, Wei Qiu, Ping Chen, Xiang Xu, Weidong Han
Front. Med.    2020, 14 (6): 726-745.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-020-0746-0
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Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells have been indicated effective in treating B cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia and non-Hodgkin lymphoma and have shown encouraging results in preclinical and clinical studies. However, CAR T cells have achieved minimal success against solid malignancies because of the additional obstacles of their insufficient migration into tumors and poor amplification and persistence, in addition to antigen-negative relapse and an immunosuppressive microenvironment. Various preclinical studies are exploring strategies to overcome the above challenges. Mobilization of endogenous immune cells is also necessary for CAR T cells to obtain their optimal therapeutic effect given the importance of the innate immune responses in the elimination of malignant tumors. In this review, we focus on the recent advances in the engineering of CAR T cell therapies to restore the immune response in solid malignancies, especially with CAR T cells acting as cellular carriers to deliver immunomodulators to tumors to mobilize the endogenous immune response. We also explored the sensitizing effects of conventional treatment approaches, such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy, on CAR T cell therapy. Finally, we discuss the combination of CAR T cells with biomaterials or oncolytic viruses to enhance the anti-tumor outcomes of CAR T cell therapies in solid tumors.

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Applications of atomic force microscopy in immunology
Jiping Li, Yuying Liu, Yidong Yuan, Bo Huang
Front. Med.    2021, 15 (1): 43-52.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-020-0769-6
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Cellular mechanics, a major regulating factor of cellular architecture and biological functions, responds to intrinsic stresses and extrinsic forces exerted by other cells and the extracellular matrix in the microenvironment. Cellular mechanics also acts as a fundamental mediator in complicated immune responses, such as cell migration, immune cell activation, and pathogen clearance. The principle of atomic force microscopy (AFM) and its three running modes are introduced for the mechanical characterization of living cells. The peak force tapping mode provides the most delicate and desirable virtues to collect high-resolution images of morphology and force curves. For a concrete description of AFM capabilities, three AFM applications are discussed. These applications include the dynamic progress of a neutrophil-extracellular-trap release by neutrophils, the immunological functions of macrophages, and the membrane pore formation mediated by perforin, streptolysin O, gasdermin D, or membrane attack complex.

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Precision medicine in acute lymphoblastic leukemia
Ching-Hon Pui
Front. Med.    2020, 14 (6): 689-700.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-020-0759-8
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The cure rate of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) has exceeded 90% in some contemporary clinical trials. However, the dose intensity of conventional chemotherapy has been pushed to its limit. Further improvement in outcome will need to rely more heavily on molecular therapeutic as well as immuno- and cellular-therapy approaches together with precise risk stratification. Children with ETV6-RUNX1 or hyperdiploid>50 ALL who achieve negative minimal residual disease during early remission induction are suitable candidates for reduction in treatment. Patients with Philadelphia chromosome (Ph)-positive or Ph-like ALL with ABL-class fusion should be treated with dasatinib. BH3 profiling and other preclinical methods have identified several high-risk subtypes, such as hypodiplod, early T-cell precursor, immature T-cell, KMT2A-rearranged, Ph-positive and TCF-HLF-positive ALL, that may respond to BCL-2 inhibitor venetoclax. There are other fusions or mutations that may serve as putative targets, but effective targeted therapy has yet to be established. For other high-risk patients or poor early treatment responders who do not have targetable genetic lesions, current approaches that offer hope include blinatumomab, inotuzumab and CAR-T cell therapy for B-ALL, and daratumumab and nelarabine for T-ALL. With the expanding therapeutic armamentarium, we should start focus on rational combinations of targeted therapy with non-overlapping toxicities.

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H. sinensis mycelium inhibits epithelial--mesenchymal transition by inactivating the midkine pathway in pulmonary fibrosis
Li Lu, Haiyan Zhu, Hailin Wang, Huaping Liang, Yayi Hou, Huan Dou
Front. Med.    2021, 15 (2): 313-329.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-020-0737-1
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The medical fungus Hirsutella sinensis has been used as a Chinese folk health supplement because of its immunomodulatory properties. Our previous studies established the antifibrotic action of Hirsutella sinensis mycelium (HSM) in the lung. The epithelial–mesenchymal transition (EMT) is involved in the pathogenesis of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. The present study investigates the role of HSM in mediating EMT during the development of pulmonary fibrosis. HSM significantly inhibits bleomycin (BLM)-induced pulmonary fibrosis by blocking the EMT. In addition, the expression levels of midkine are increased in the lungs of the BLM-induced group. Further analysis of the results indicates that the mRNA level of midkine correlated positively with EMT. HSM markedly abrogates the transforming growth factor β-induced EMT-like phenotype and behavior in vitro. The activation of midkine related signaling pathway is ameliorated following HSM treatment, whereas this extract also caused an effective attenuation of the induction of EMT (caused by midkine overexpression) in vitro. Results further confirm that oral medication of HSM disrupted the midkine pathway in vivo. Overall, findings suggest that the midkine pathway and the regulation of the EMT may be considered novel candidate therapeutic targets for the antifibrotic effects caused by HSM.

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Emerging molecular subtypes and therapeutic targets in B-cell precursor acute lymphoblastic leukemia
Jianfeng Li, Yuting Dai, Liang Wu, Ming Zhang, Wen Ouyang, Jinyan Huang, Saijuan Chen
Front. Med.    2021, 15 (3): 347-371.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-020-0821-6
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B-cell precursor acute lymphoblastic leukemia (BCP-ALL) is characterized by genetic alterations with high heterogeneity. Precise subtypes with distinct genomic and/or gene expression patterns have been recently revealed using high-throughput sequencing technology. Most of these profiles are associated with recurrent non-overlapping rearrangements or hotspot point mutations that are analogous to the established subtypes, such as DUX4 rearrangements, MEF2D rearrangements, ZNF384/ZNF362 rearrangements, NUTM1 rearrangements, BCL2/MYC and/or BCL6 rearrangements, ETV6-RUNX1-like gene expression, PAX5alt (diverse PAX5 alterations, including rearrangements, intragenic amplifications, or mutations), and hotspot mutations PAX5 (p.Pro80Arg) with biallelic PAX5 alterations, IKZF1 (p.Asn159Tyr), and ZEB2 (p.His1038Arg). These molecular subtypes could be classified by gene expression patterns with RNA-seq technology. Refined molecular classification greatly improved the treatment strategy. Multiagent therapy regimens, including target inhibitors (e.g., imatinib), immunomodulators, monoclonal antibodies, and chimeric antigen receptor T-cell (CAR-T) therapy, are transforming the clinical practice from chemotherapy drugs to personalized medicine in the field of risk-directed disease management. We provide an update on our knowledge of emerging molecular subtypes and therapeutic targets in BCP-ALL.

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Comprehensive functional annotation of susceptibility variants identifies genetic heterogeneity between lung adenocarcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma
Na Qin, Yuancheng Li, Cheng Wang, Meng Zhu, Juncheng Dai, Tongtong Hong, Demetrius Albanes, Stephen Lam, Adonina Tardon, Chu Chen, Gary Goodman, Stig E. Bojesen, Maria Teresa Landi, Mattias Johansson, Angela Risch, H-Erich Wichmann, Heike Bickeboller, Gadi Rennert, Susanne Arnold, Paul Brennan, John K. Field, Sanjay Shete, Loic Le Marchand, Olle Melander, Hans Brunnstrom, Geoffrey Liu, Rayjean J. Hung, Angeline Andrew, Lambertus A. Kiemeney, Shan Zienolddiny, Kjell Grankvist, Mikael Johansson, Neil Caporaso, Penella Woll, Philip Lazarus, Matthew B. Schabath, Melinda C. Aldrich, Victoria L. Stevens, Guangfu Jin, David C. Christiani, Zhibin Hu, Christopher I. Amos, Hongxia Ma, Hongbing Shen
Front. Med.    2021, 15 (2): 275-291.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-020-0779-4
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Although genome-wide association studies have identified more than eighty genetic variants associated with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) risk, biological mechanisms of these variants remain largely unknown. By integrating a large-scale genotype data of 15 581 lung adenocarcinoma (AD) cases, 8350 squamous cell carcinoma (SqCC) cases, and 27 355 controls, as well as multiple transcriptome and epigenomic databases, we conducted histology-specific meta-analyses and functional annotations of both reported and novel susceptibility variants. We identified 3064 credible risk variants for NSCLC, which were overrepresented in enhancer-like and promoter-like histone modification peaks as well as DNase I hypersensitive sites. Transcription factor enrichment analysis revealed that USF1 was AD-specific while CREB1 was SqCC-specific. Functional annotation and gene-based analysis implicated 894 target genes, including 274 specifics for AD and 123 for SqCC, which were overrepresented in somatic driver genes (ER=1.95, P=0.005). Pathway enrichment analysis and Gene-Set Enrichment Analysis revealed that AD genes were primarily involved in immune-related pathways, while SqCC genes were homologous recombination deficiency related. Our results illustrate the molecular basis of both well-studied and new susceptibility loci of NSCLC, providing not only novel insights into the genetic heterogeneity between AD and SqCC but also a set of plausible gene targets for post-GWAS functional experiments.

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The “Traditional Chinese medicine regulating liver regeneration” treatment plan for reducing mortality of patients with hepatitis B-related liver failure based on real-world clinical data
Ling Dai, Xiang Gao, Zhihua Ye, Hanmin Li, Xin Yao, Dingbo Lu, Na Wu
Front. Med.    2021, 15 (3): 495-505.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-020-0790-9
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On the basis of real-world clinical data, the study aimed to explore the effect and mechanisms of the treatment plan of “traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) regulating liver regeneration.” A total of 457 patients with HBV-related liver failure were retrospectively collected. The patients were divided into three groups: the modern medicine control group (MMC group), patients treated with routine medical treatment; the control group combining traditional Chinese and Western medicine (CTW), patients treated with routine medical treatment plus the common TCM formula; and the treatment group of “TCM regulating liver regeneration” (RLR), patients treated with both routine medical treatment and the special TCM formula of RLR. After 8 weeks of treatment, the mortality of patients in the RLR group (12.31%) was significantly lower than those in the MMC (50%) and CTW (29.11%) groups. Total bilirubin level significantly decreased and albumin increased in the RLR group when compared with the MMC and CTW groups (P<0.05). In addition, there were significant differences in the expression of several cytokines related to liver regeneration in the RLR group compared with the MMC group. RLR treatment can decrease jaundice, improve liver function, and significantly reduce the mortality in patients with HBV-related liver failure. The mechanism may be related to the role of RLR treatment in influencing cytokines related to liver regeneration.

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Long non-coding RNA SAP30-2:1 is downregulated in congenital heart disease and regulates cell proliferation by targeting HAND2
Jing Ma, Shiyu Chen, Lili Hao, Wei Sheng, Weicheng Chen, Xiaojing Ma, Bowen Zhang, Duan Ma, Guoying Huang
Front. Med.    2021, 15 (1): 91-100.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-020-0778-5
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Congenital heart disease (CHD) is the most common birth defect worldwide. Long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) have been implicated in many diseases. However, their involvement in CHD is not well understood. This study aimed to investigate the role of dysregulated lncRNAs in CHD. We used Gene Expression Omnibus data mining, bioinformatics analysis, and analysis of clinical tissue samples and observed that the novel lncRNA SAP30-2:1 with unknown function was significantly downregulated in damaged cardiac tissues from patients with CHD. Knockdown of lncRNA SAP30-2:1 inhibited the proliferation of human embryonic kidney and AC16 cells and decreased the expression of heart and neural crest derivatives expressed 2 (HAND2). Moreover, lncRNA SAP30-2:1 was associated with HAND2 by RNA immunoprecipitation. Overall, these results suggest that lncRNA SAP30-2:1 may be involved in heart development through affecting cell proliferation via targeting HAND2 and may thus represent a novel therapeutic target for CHD.

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Prognostic value of fasting glucose on the risk of heart failure and left ventricular systolic dysfunction in non-diabetic patients with ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction
Hui Wang, Yang Zhang, Zhujun Shen, Ligang Fang, Zhenyu Liu, Shuyang Zhang
Front. Med.    2021, 15 (1): 70-78.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-020-0749-x
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Recent studies have shown that acute blood glucose elevation in patients with ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) suggests a poor prognosis. To investigate the effect of fasting blood glucose (FBG) on the risk of heart failure (HF) and left ventricular systolic dysfunction (LVSD) in non-diabetic patients undergoing primary percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) for acute STEMI, we retrospectively recruited consecutive non-diabetic patients who underwent primary PCI for STEMI in our hospital from February 2003 to March 2015. The patients were divided into two groups according to the FBG level. A total of 623 patients were recruited with an age of 61.3±12.9 years, of whom 514 (82.5%) were male. The HF risk (odds ratio 3.401, 95% confidence interval (CI) 2.144–5.395, P <0.001) was significantly increased in patients with elevated FBG than those with normal FBG. Elevated FBG was also independently related to LVSD (β 1.513, 95%CI 1.282–1.785, P <0.001) in a multiple logistics regression analysis. In conclusion, elevated FBG was independently associated with 30-day HF and LVSD risk in non-diabetic patients undergoing primary PCI for STEMI.

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Bavachin enhances NLRP3 inflammasome activation induced by ATP or nigericin and causes idiosyncratic hepatotoxicity
Nan Qin, Guang Xu, Yan Wang, Xiaoyan Zhan, Yuan Gao, Zhilei Wang, Shubin Fu, Wei Shi, Xiaorong Hou, Chunyu Wang, Ruisheng Li, Yan Liu, Jiabo Wang, Haiping Zhao, Xiaohe Xiao, Zhaofang Bai
Front. Med.    2021, 15 (4): 594-607.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-020-0809-2
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Psoraleae Fructus (PF) is a well-known traditional herbal medicine in China, and it is widely used for osteoporosis, vitiligo, and other diseases in clinical settings. However, liver injury caused by PF and its preparations has been frequently reported in recent years. Our previous studies have demonstrated that PF could cause idiosyncratic drug-induced liver injury (IDILI), but the mechanism underlying its hepatotoxicity remains unclear. This paper reports that bavachin isolated from PF enhances the specific stimuli-induced activation of the NLRP3 inflammasome and leads to hepatotoxicity. Bavachin boosts the secretion of IL-1β and caspase-1 caused by ATP or nigericin but not those induced by poly(I:C), monosodium urate crystal, or intracellular lipopolysaccharide. Bavachin does not affect AIM2 or NLRC4 inflammasome activation. Mechanistically, bavachin specifically increases the production of nigericin-induced mitochondrial reactive oxygen species among the most important upstream events in the activation of the NLRP3 inflammasome. Bavachin increases the levels of aspartate transaminase and alanine aminotransferase in serum and hepatocyte injury accompanied by the secretion of IL-1β via a mouse model of lipopolysaccharide-mediated susceptibility to IDILI. These results suggest that bavachin specifically enhances the ATP- or nigericin-induced activation of the NLRP3 inflammasome. Bavachin also potentially contributes to PF-induced idiosyncratic hepatotoxicity. Moreover, bavachin and PF should be evaded among patients with diseases linked to the ATP- or nigericin-mediated activation of the NLRP3 inflammasome, which may be a dangerous factor for liver injury.

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Bioactive hyaluronic acid fragments inhibit lipopolysaccharide- induced inflammatory responses via the Toll-like receptor 4 signaling pathway
Na You, Sasa Chu, Binggang Cai, Youfang Gao, Mizhou Hui, Jin Zhu, Maorong Wang
Front. Med.    2021, 15 (2): 292-301.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-020-0806-5
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The high- and the low-molecular weight hyaluronic acids (HMW-HA and LMW-HA, respectively) showed different biological activities in inflammation. However, the role of LMW-HA in inflammatory response is controversial. In this study, we aimed to investigate the effect of bioactive hyaluronan (B-HA) on lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced inflammatory responses in human macrophages and mice. B-HA was produced from HA treated with glycosylated recombinant human hyaluronidase PH20. Human THP-1 cells were induced to differentiate into macrophages. THP-1-derived macrophages were treated with B-HA, LPS, or B-HA+LPS. The mRNA expression and the production of inflammatory cytokines were determined using quantitative real-time PCR and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. The phosphorylation levels of proteins in the nuclear factor-kB (NF-kB), mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK), and IRF-3 signaling pathways were measured using Western blot. The in vivo efficacy of B-HA was assessed in a mouse model of LPS-induced inflammation. Results showed that B-HA inhibited the expression of TNF-α, IL-6, IL-1, and IFN-β, and enhanced the expression of the anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-10 in LPS-induced inflammatory responses in THP-1-derived macrophages and in vivo. B-HA significantly suppressed the phosphorylation of the TLR4 signaling pathway proteins p65, IKKα/β, IkBα, JNK1/2, ERK1/2, p38, and IRF-3. In conclusion, our results demonstrated that the B-HA attenuated the LPS-stimulated inflammatory response by inhibiting the activation of the TLR4 signaling pathway. B-HA could be a potential anti-inflammatory drug in the treatment of inflammatory disease.

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A giant step forward: chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy for lymphoma
Houli Zhao, Yiyun Wang, Elaine Tan Su Yin, Kui Zhao, Yongxian Hu, He Huang
Front. Med.    2020, 14 (6): 711-725.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-020-0808-3
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The combination of the immunotherapy (i.e., the use of monoclonal antibodies) and the conventional chemotherapy increases the long-term survival of patients with lymphoma. However, for patients with relapsed or treatment-resistant lymphoma, a novel treatment approach is urgently needed. Chimeric antigen receptor T (CAR-T) cells were introduced as a treatment for these patients. Based on recent clinical data, approximately 50% of patients with relapsed or refractory B-cell lymphoma achieved complete remission after receiving the CD19 CAR-T cell therapy. Moreover, clinical data revealed that some patients remained in remission for more than two years after the CAR-T cell therapy. Other than the CD19-targeted CAR-T, the novel target antigens, such as CD20, CD22, CD30, and CD37, which were greatly expressed on lymphoma cells, were studied under preclinical and clinical evaluations for use in the treatment of lymphoma. Nonetheless, the CAR-T therapy was usually associated with potentially lethal adverse effects, such as the cytokine release syndrome and the neurotoxicity. Therefore, optimizing the structure of CAR, creating new drugs, and combining CAR-T cell therapy with stem cell transplantation are potential solutions to increase the effectiveness of treatment and reduce the toxicity in patients with lymphoma after the CAR-T cell therapy.

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Prohibitin regulates mTOR pathway via interaction with FKBP8
Jiahui Zhang, Yanan Yin, Jiahui Wang, Jingjing Zhang, Hua Liu, Weiwei Feng, Wen Yang, Bruce Zetter, Yingjie Xu
Front. Med.    2021, 15 (3): 448-459.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-020-0805-6
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The ability of tumor cells to sustain continuous proliferation is one of the major characteristics of cancer. The activation of oncogenes and the mutation or inactivation of tumor suppressor genes ensure the rapid proliferation of tumor cells. The PI3K--Akt--mTOR axis is one of the most frequently modified signaling pathways whose activation sustains cancer growth. Unsurprisingly, it is also one of the most commonly attempted targets for cancer therapy. FK506 binding protein 8 (FKBP8) is an intrinsic inhibitor of mTOR kinase that also exerts an anti-apoptotic function. We aimed to explain these contradictory aspects of FKBP8 in cancer by identifying a “switch” type regulator. We identified through immunoprecipitation--mass spectrometry-based proteomic analysis that the mitochondrial protein prohibitin 1 (PHB1) specifically interacts with FKBP8. Furthermore, the downregulation of PHB1 inhibited the proliferation of ovarian cancer cells and the mTOR signaling pathway, whereas the FKBP8 level in the mitochondria was substantially reduced. Moreover, concomitant with these changes, the interaction between FKBP8 and mTOR substantially increased in the absence of PHB1. Collectively, our finding highlights PHB1 as a potential regulator of FKBP8 because of its subcellular localization and mTOR regulating role.

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Low-carbohydrate diets lead to greater weight loss and better glucose homeostasis than exercise: a randomized clinical trial
Lingli Cai, Jun Yin, Xiaojing Ma, Yifei Mo, Cheng Li, Wei Lu, Yuqian Bao, Jian Zhou, Weiping Jia
Front. Med.    2021, 15 (3): 460-471.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-021-0861-6
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Lifestyle interventions, including dietary adjustments and exercise, are important for obesity management. This study enrolled adults with overweight or obesity to explore whether either low-carbohydrate diet (LCD) or exercise is more effective in metabolism improvement. Forty-five eligible subjects were randomly divided into an LCD group (n=22) and an exercise group (EX, n=23). The subjects either adopted LCD (carbohydrate intake<50 g/day) or performed moderate-to-vigorous exercise (≥30 min/day) for 3 weeks. After the interventions, LCD led to a larger weight loss than EX (−3.56±0.37 kg vs. −1.24±0.39 kg, P<0.001), as well as a larger reduction in fat mass (−2.10±0.18 kg vs. −1.25±0.24 kg, P=0.007) and waist circumference (−5.25±0.52 cm vs. −3.45±0.38 cm, P=0.008). Both interventions reduced visceral and subcutaneous fat and improved liver steatosis and insulin resistance. Triglycerides decreased in both two groups, whereas low-density lipoprotein cholesterol increased in the LCD group but decreased in the EX group. Various glycemic parameters, including serum glycated albumin, mean sensor glucose, coefficient of variability (CV), and largest amplitude of glycemic excursions, substantially declined in the LCD group. Only CV slightly decreased after exercise. This pilot study suggested that the effects of LCD and exercise are similar in alleviating liver steatosis and insulin resistance. Compared with exercise, LCD might be more efficient for weight loss and glucose homeostasis in people with obesity.

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Astragaloside IV suppresses post-ischemic natural killer cell infiltration and activation in the brain: involvement of histone deacetylase inhibition
Baokai Dou, Shichun Li, Luyao Wei, Lixin Wang, Shiguo Zhu, Zhengtao Wang, Zunji Ke, Kaixian Chen, Zhifei Wang
Front. Med.    2021, 15 (1): 79-90.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-020-0783-8
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Natural killer (NK) cells, a type of cytotoxic lymphocytes, can infiltrate into ischemic brain and exacerbate neuronal cell death. Astragaloside IV (ASIV) is the major bioactive ingredient of Astragalus membranaceus, a Chinese herbal medicine, and possesses potent immunomodulatory and neuroprotective properties. This study investigated the effects of ASIV on post-ischemic brain infiltration and activation of NK cells. ASIV reduced brain infarction and alleviated functional deficits in MCAO rats, and these beneficial effects persisted for at least 7 days. Abundant NK cells infiltrated into the ischemic hemisphere on day 1 after brain ischemia, and this infiltration was suppressed by ASIV. Strikingly, ASIV reversed NK cell deficiency in the spleen and blood after brain ischemia. ASIV inhibited astrocyte-derived CCL2 upregulation and reduced CCR2+ NK cell levels in the ischemic brain. Meanwhile, ASIV attenuated NK cell activating receptor NKG2D levels and reduced interferon-γ production. ASIV restored acetylation of histone H3 and the p65 subunit of nuclear factor-κB in the ischemic brain, suggesting inhibition of histone deacetylase (HDAC). Simultaneously, ASIV prevented p65 nuclear translocation. The effects of ASIV on reducing CCL2 production, restoring acetylated p65 levels and preventing p65 nuclear translocation were mimicked by valproate, an HDAC inhibitor, in astrocytes subjected to oxygen-glucose deprivation. Our findings suggest that ASIV inhibits post-ischemic NK cell brain infiltration and activation and reverses NK cell deficiency in the periphery, which together contribute to the beneficial effects of ASIV against brain ischemia. Furthermore, ASIV’s effects on suppressing NK cell brain infiltration and activation may involve HDAC inhibition.

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Different sites of extranodal involvement may affect the survival of patients with relapsed or refractory non-Hodgkin lymphoma after chimeric antigen receptor T cell therapy
Lili Zhou, Ping Li, Shiguang Ye, Xiaochen Tang, Junbang Wang, Jie Liu, Aibin Liang
Front. Med.    2020, 14 (6): 786-791.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-020-0751-3
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Factors associated with complete and durable remissions after anti-CD19 chimeric antigen receptor T (CAR-T) cell immunotherapy for relapsed or refractory non-Hodgkin lymphoma (r/r NHL) have not been well characterized. In this study, we found that the different sites of extranodal involvement may affect response, overall survival (OS), and progression-free survival (PFS) in patients with r/r NHL treated with anti-CD19 CAR-T cells. In a cohort of 32 treated patients, 12 (37.5%) and 8 (25%) patients exhibited soft tissue lymphoma and bone marrow (BM) infiltrations, respectively, and 13 (41%) patients exhibited infiltration at other sites. The factors that may affect prognosis were identified through multivariable analysis. As an independent risk factor, soft tissue infiltration was the only factor significantly correlated with adverse prognosis (P<0.05), whereas other factors did not reach statistical significance. Furthermore, the site of extranodal tumor infiltration significantly and negatively affected OS and PFS in patients with r/r NHL treated with anti-CD19 CAR-T cell therapy. PFS and OS in patients with BM involvement were not significantly different from those of patients with lymph node involvement alone. Thus, anti-CD19 CAR-T cell therapy may improve the prognosis of patients with BM infiltration.

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Screening for main components associated with the idiosyncratic hepatotoxicity of a tonic herb, Polygonum multiflorum
Chunyu Li, Ming Niu, Zhaofang Bai, Congen Zhang, Yanling Zhao, Ruiyu Li, Can Tu, Huifang Li, Jing Jing, Yakun Meng, Zhijie Ma, Wuwen Feng, Jinfa Tang, Yun Zhu, Jinjie Li, Xiaoya Shang, Zhengsheng Zou, Xiaohe Xiao, Jiabo Wang
Front. Med.    2021, 15 (2): 330-332.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-020-0819-0
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Effects of vitrification and cryostorage duration on single-cell RNA-Seq profiling of vitrified-thawed human metaphase II oocytes
Ying Huo, Peng Yuan, Qingyuan Qin, Zhiqiang Yan, Liying Yan, Ping Liu, Rong Li, Jie Yan, Jie Qiao
Front. Med.    2021, 15 (1): 144-154.   https://doi.org/10.1007/s11684-020-0792-7
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Oocyte cryopreservation is widely used for clinical and social reasons. Previous studies have demonstrated that conventional slow-freezing cryopreservation procedures, but not storage time, can alter the gene expression profiles of frozen oocytes. Whether vitrification procedures and the related frozen storage durations have any effects on the transcriptomes of human metaphase II oocytes remain unknown. Four women (30–32 years old) who had undergone IVF treatment were recruited for this study. RNA-Seq profiles of 3 fresh oocytes and 13 surviving vitrified-thawed oocytes (3, 3, 4, and 3 oocytes were cryostored for 1, 2, 3, and 12 months) were analyzed at a single-cell resolution. A total of 1987 genes were differentially expressed in the 13 vitrified-thawed oocytes. However, no differentially expressed genes were found between any two groups among the 1-, 2-, 3-, and 12-month storage groups. Further analysis revealed that the aberrant genes in the vitrified oocytes were closely related to oogenesis and development. Our findings indicated that the effects of vitrification on the transcriptomes of mature human oocytes are induced by the procedure itself, suggesting that long-term cryostorage of human oocytes is safe.

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