Oct 2019, Volume 13 Issue 5

Cover illustration

  • Bone protective effect of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) formula Guan-Jie-Kang (GJK) on arthritis. GJK significantly relieved arthritis symptoms in experimental arthritic rats by modulating metabolic and the calcium signaling pathways. (Courtesy of Drs. Ying Xie and Liang Liu. See pages 564-574 by Hudan Pan et al. for more information.

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    Xiaokun Li

    Members of the fibroblast growth factor (FGF) family play pleiotropic roles in cellular and metabolic homeostasis. During evolution, the ancestor FGF expands into multiple members by acquiring divergent structural elements that enable functional divergence and specification. Heparan sulfate-binding FGFs, which play critical roles in embryonic development and adult tissue remodeling homeostasis, adapt to an autocrine/paracrine mode of action to promote cell proliferation and population growth. By contrast, FGF19, 21, and 23 coevolve through losing binding affinity for extracellular matrix heparan sulfate while acquiring affinity for transmembrane α-Klotho (KL) or β-KL as a coreceptor, thereby adapting to an endocrine mode of action to drive interorgan crosstalk that regulates a broad spectrum of metabolic homeostasis. FGF19 metabolic axis from the ileum to liver negatively controls diurnal bile acid biosynthesis. FGF21 metabolic axes play multifaceted roles in controlling the homeostasis of lipid, glucose, and energy metabolism. FGF23 axes from the bone to kidney and parathyroid regulate metabolic homeostasis of phosphate, calcium, vitamin D, and parathyroid hormone that are important for bone health and systemic mineral balance. The significant divergence in structural elements and multiple functional specifications of FGF19, 21, and 23 in cellular and organismal metabolism instead of cell proliferation and growth sufficiently necessitate a new unified and specific term for these three endocrine FGFs. Thus, the term “FGF Metabolic Axis,” which distinguishes the unique pathways and functions of endocrine FGFs from other autocrine/paracrine mitogenic FGFs, is coined.

    Xiaolin Fan, Yanzhen Xiong, Yuan Wang

    Glioblastoma (GBM) is the most common and lethal primary neoplasm in the central nervous system. Despite intensive treatment, the prognosis for patients with GBM remains poor, with a median survival of 14--16 months. 90% of GBMs are primary GBMs that are full-blown at diagnosis without evidences of a pre-existing less-malignant precursor lesion. Therefore, identification of the cell(s) of origin for GBM---the normal cell or cell type that acquires the initial GBM-promoting genetic hit(s)---is the key to the understanding of the disease etiology and the development of novel therapies. Neural stem cells and oligodendrocyte precursor cells are the two major candidates for the cell(s) of origin for GBM. Latest data from human samples have reignited the longstanding debate over which cells are the clinically more relevant origin for GBMs. By critically analyzing evidences for or against the candidacy of each cell type, we highlight the most recent progress and debate in the field, explore the clinical implications, and propose future directions toward early diagnosis and preventive treatment of GBMs.

    Xin Qin, Ping Zhang

    Given the rapid development in precision medicine, tremendous efforts have been devoted to discovering new biomarkers for disease diagnosis and treatment. Esophageal cancer-related gene-4 (ECRG4), which is initially known as a new candidate tumor suppressor gene, is emerging as a sentinel molecule for gauging tissue homeostasis. ECRG4 is unique in its cytokine-like functional pattern and epigenetically-regulated gene expression pattern. The gene can be released from the cell membrane upon activation and detected in liquid biopsy, thus offering considerable potential in precision medicine. This review provides an updated summary on the biology of ECRG4, with emphasis on its important roles in cancer diagnosis and therapy. The future perspectives of ECRG4 as a potential molecular marker in precision medicine are also discussed in detail.

    Tianyuan Li, Renbing Jia, Xianqun Fan

    Orbital venous malformation (OVM) is a congenital vascular disease. As a common type of vascular malformation in the orbit, OVM may result in vision deterioration and cosmetic defect. Classification of orbital vascular malformations, especially OVMs, is carried out on the basis of different categories, such as angiogenesis, hemodynamics, and locations. Management of OVM is complicated and challenging. Treatment approaches include sclerotherapy, laser therapy, embolization, surgical resection, and radiotherapy. A satisfactory outcome can be achieved only by selecting the appropriate treatment according to lesion characteristics and following the sequential multi-method treatment strategy. This article summarizes the current classification and treatment advances in OVM.

    Dan Luo, Zhengyun Zuo, Hongyan Zhao, Yong Tan, Cheng Xiao

    Tripterygium wilfordii Hook F (TwHF) and its extracts have long been used for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, autoimmune diseases, and kidney disease due to their anti-inflammatory, immunoregulatory, and other pharmacological effects. However, the clinical immunoregulatory effects of TwHF and its extracts remain unclear, so we reviewed their effects for use in clinical practice. This review provides a comprehensive summary of the recent literature on the immunoregulatory effects of TwHF and its extracts in clinical studies. TwHF and its extracts affect the proliferation and activation of T and B cells; ratio of T cell subsets; inflammatory response of monocytes, macrophages, and immunoglobulins; and secretion of many cytokines. Together, these effects dictate immune function in a variety of diseases. TwHF and its extracts can be used alone or in combination with existing therapies against many immune disorders through immunomodulation.

    Hudan Pan, Yanfang Zheng, Zhongqiu Liu, Zhongwen Yuan, Rutong Ren, Hua Zhou, Ying Xie, Liang Liu

    Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) formulas have attracted increasing attention worldwide in the past few years for treating complex disease including rheumatoid arthritis. However, their mechanisms are complex and remain unclear. Guan-Jie-Kang (GJK), a prescription modified from “Wu Tou Decoction,” was found to significantly relieve arthritis symptoms in rats with adjuvant-induced arthritis after 30-day treatment, especially in the 24 g/kg/day group. By analyzing 1749 targets related to 358 compounds in the five herbs of GJK, we identified the possible anti-arthritis pathways of GJK, including the calcium signaling and metabolic pathways. Bone damage levels were assessed by micro-computed tomography, and greater bone protective effect was observed with GJK treatment than with methotrexate. Receptor activator of nuclear factor κB ligand (RANKL)–RANK signaling, which is related to calcium signaling, was significantly regulated by GJK. Moreover, a target metabolomics assay of serum was conducted; 17 metabolic biomarkers showed significant correlations with treatment. An integrated pathway analysis revealed that pyruvate metabolism, purine metabolism, and glycolysis metabolism were significantly associated with the effects of GJK in arthritis treatment. Thus, this study establishes a new omics analytical method integrated with bioinformatics analysis for elucidating the multi-pathway mechanisms of TCM.

    Hui Xue, Dike Tao, Yuteng Weng, Qiqi Fan, Shuang Zhou, Ruilin Zhang, Han Zhang, Rui Yue, Xiaogang Wang, Zuolin Wang, Yao Sun

    Fractures are frequently occurring diseases that endanger human health. Crucial to fracture healing is cartilage formation, which provides a bone-regeneration environment. Cartilage consists of both chondrocytes and extracellular matrix (ECM). The ECM of cartilage includes collagens and various types of proteoglycans (PGs), which play important roles in maintaining primary stability in fracture healing. The PG form of dentin matrix protein 1 (DMP1-PG) is involved in maintaining the health of articular cartilage and bone. Our previous data have shown that DMP1-PG is richly expressed in the cartilaginous calluses of fracture sites. However, the possible significant role of DMP1-PG in chondrogenesis and fracture healing is unknown. To further detect the potential role of DMP1-PG in fracture repair, we established a mouse fracture model by using a glycosylation site mutant DMP1 mouse (S89G-DMP1 mouse). Upon inspection, fewer cartilaginous calluses and down-regulated expression levels of chondrogenesis genes were observed in the fracture sites of S89G-DMP1 mice. Given the deficiency of DMP1-PG, the impaired IL-6/JAK/STAT signaling pathway was observed to affect the chondrogenesis of fracture healing. Overall, these results suggest that DMP1-PG is an indispensable proteoglycan in chondrogenesis during fracture healing.

    Haolin Sun, Chun Liu, Shunlun Chen, Yanjie Bai, Huilin Yang, Chunde Li, Lei Yang

    Bone cement-augmented pedicle screw system demonstrates great efficacy in spinal disease treatments. However, the intrinsic drawbacks associated with clinically used polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA) cement demands for new bone cement formulations. On the basis of our previous studies, a novel injectable and biodegradable calcium phosphate-based nanocomposite (CPN) for the augmentation of pedicle screw fixation was systematically evaluated for its surgical feasibility and biomechanical performance by simulated and animal osteoporotic bone models, and the results were compared with those of clinical PMMA cement. ASTM-standard solid foam and open-cell foam models and decalcified sheep vertebra models were employed to evaluate the augmentation effects of CPN on bone tissue and on the cement-injected cannulated pedicle screws (CICPs) placed in osteoporotic bone. Surgical factors in CICPs application, such as injection force, tapping technique, screw diameter, and pedicle screw loosening scenarios, were studied in comparison with those in PMMA. When directly injected to the solid foam model, CPN revealed an identical augmentation effect to that of PMMA, as shown by the similar compressive strengths (0.73±0.04 MPa for CPN group vs. 0.79±0.02 MPa for PMMA group). The average injection force of CPN at approximately 40–50 N was higher than that of PMMA at approximately 20 N. Although both values are acceptable to surgeons, CPN revealed a more consistent injection force pattern than did PMMA. The dispersing and anti-pullout ability of CPN were not affected by the surgical factors of tapping technique and screw diameter. The axial pullout strength of CPN evaluated by the decalcified sheep vertebra model revealed a similar augmentation level as that of PMMA (1351.6±324.2 N for CPN vs. 1459.7±304.4 N for PMMA). The promising results of CPN clearly suggest its potential for replacing PMMA in CICPs augmentation application and the benefits of further study and development for clinical uses.

    Xiao He, Chentao Jin, Mindi Ma, Rui Zhou, Shuang Wu, Haoying Huang, Yuting Li, Qiaozhen Chen, Mingrong Zhang, Hong Zhang, Mei Tian

    Panic disorder (PD) is an acute paroxysmal anxiety disorder with poorly understood pathophysiology. The dorsal periaqueductal gray (dPAG) is involved in the genesis of PD. However, the downstream neurofunctional changes of the dPAG during panic attacks have yet to be evaluated in vivo. In this study, optogenetic stimulation to the dPAG was performed to induce panic-like behaviors, and in vivo positron emission tomography (PET) imaging with 18F-flurodeoxyglucose (18F-FDG) was conducted to evaluate neurofunctional changes before and after the optogenetic stimulation. Compared with the baseline, post-optogenetic stimulation PET imaging demonstrated that the glucose metabolism significantly increased (P<0.001) in dPAG, the cuneiform nucleus, the cerebellar lobule, the cingulate cortex, the alveus of the hippocampus, the primary visual cortex, the septohypothalamic nucleus, and the retrosplenial granular cortex but significantly decreased (P<0.001) in the basal ganglia, the frontal cortex, the forceps minor corpus callosum, the primary somatosensory cortex, the primary motor cortex, the secondary visual cortex, and the dorsal lateral geniculate nucleus. Taken together, these data indicated that in vivo PET imaging can successfully detect downstream neurofunctional changes involved in the panic attacks after optogenetic stimulation to the dPAG.

    Hongli Chen, Fangxia Wang, Pengyu Zhang, Yilin Zhang, Yinxia Chen, Xiaohu Fan, Xingmei Cao, Jie Liu, Yun Yang, Baiyan Wang, Bo Lei, Liufang Gu, Ju Bai, Lili Wei, Ruili Zhang, Qiuchuan Zhuang, Wanggang Zhang, Wanhong Zhao, Aili He

    Chimeric antigen receptor T (CAR-T) cell therapy is a novel cellular immunotherapy that is widely used to treat hematological malignancies, including acute leukemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma. Despite its remarkable clinical effects, this therapy has side effects that cannot be underestimated. Cytokine release syndrome (CRS) is one of the most clinically important and potentially life-threatening toxicities. This syndrome is a systemic immune storm that involves the mass cytokines releasing by activated immune cells. This phenomenon causes multisystem damages and sometimes even death. In this study, we reported the management of a patient with recurrent and refractory multiple myeloma and three patients with acute lymphocytic leukemia who suffered CRS during CAR-T treatment. The early application of tocilizumab, an anti-IL-6 receptor antibody, according to toxicity grading and clinical manifestation is recommended especially for patients who suffer continuous hyperpyrexia, hypotensive shock, acute respiratory failure, and whose CRS toxicities deteriorated rapidly. Moreover, low doses of dexamethasone (5–10 mg/day) were used for refractory CRS not responding to tocilizumab. The effective management of the toxicities associated with CRS will bring additional survival opportunities and improve the quality of life for patients with cancer.

    Hanyu Zhu, Bo Fu, Yong Wang, Jing Gao, Qiuxia Han, Wenjia Geng, Xiaoli Yang, Guangyan Cai, Xiangmei Chen, Dong Zhang

    This study aimed to compare clinical features between membranous nephropathy (MN) and nonmembranous nephropathy (non-MN), to explore the clinically differential diagnosis of these two types, and to establish a diagnostic model of MN. After renal biopsy was obtained, 798 patients were divided into two groups based on their examination results: primary MN group (n = 248) and non-MN group (n = 550). Their data were statistically analyzed. Logistic regression analysis indicated that anti-PLA2R antibodies, IgG, and Cr were independently correlated with MN, and these three parameters were then used to establish the MN diagnostic model. A receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve confirmed that our diagnostic model could distinguish between patients with and without MN, and their corresponding sensitivity, specificity, and AUC were 79.9%, 89.4%, and 0.917, respectively. The cutoff value for this combination in MN diagnosis was 0.34. The established diagnostic model that combined multiple factors shows a potential for broad clinical applications in differentiating primary MN from other kidney diseases and provides reliable evidence supporting the feasibility of noninvasive diagnosis of kidney diseases.