Author Interviews, Brigham & Women's - Harvard, Infections, Multiple Sclerosis, Science / 15.01.2022 Interview with: Kassandra L. Munger Sc.D. Senior Research Scientist Alberto Ascherio MD Dr.P.H. Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health What is the background for this study? Response: An infectious cause of MS has been hypothesized for decades. Research over the past 20 years conducted by our group and others has strongly suggested a role for EBV infection including that EBV-negative individuals have a near zero risk of developing MS, having a history of infectious mononucleosis (caused by EBV infection) increases the risk of MS 2-fold, and healthy individuals have higher risks of MS with higher antibody levels against EBV antigens.  Ideally, to prove causality a randomized clinical controlled trial would be conducted; however, this not a feasible approach in this case. Given that nearly 95% of the adult population is infected with EBV and MS is a rare disease, we utilized the Department of Defense Serum Repository which stores over 60 million serum samples from over 10 million US Military active duty personnel. From this large resource, we were able to identify a cohort who were EBV negative when they joined the military and we followed them for whether they had a primary infection with EBV and then for who developed MS. (more…)
Author Interviews, Brigham & Women's - Harvard, Circadian Rhythm, Diabetes, Occupational Health, Science, Weight Research / 06.12.2021 Interview with: Sarah L. Chellappa, MD PhD Medical Chronobiology Program Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders Departments of Medicine and Neurology Brigham and Women’s Hospital Division of Sleep Medicine, Harvard Medical School Boston, MA Department of Nuclear Medicine Faculty of Medicine and University Hospital Cologne University of Cologne, Cologne, Germany. Frank A.J.L. Scheer, M.Sc., Ph.D. Professor of Medicine. Medical Chronobiology Program Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders Departments of Medicine and Neurology Brigham and Women’s Hospital Division of Sleep Medicine, Harvard Medical School Boston, MA What is the background for this study? Would you explain the difference between the central circadian ‘clock’ and endogenous circadian glucose rhythms?  Response: Night work increases diabetes risk. This increased risk is not fully explained by differences in lifestyle, family history, and/or socioeconomic status, thus other mechanisms are likely involved. Laboratory studies in humans have shown glucose intolerance in both non-shift workers and shift workers exposed to simulated night work. Animal experimental data suggests that this may be in part due to a misalignment between central and peripheral rhythms. Central circadian rhythms (e.g., body temperature) are primarily modulated by the central circadian “clock”, which is located in the brain’s suprachiasmatic nucleus and is responsible for synchronizing our physiology and behavior with the 24-hour cycle. Peripheral rhythms, including endogenous circadian glucose rhythms, are likely modulated by peripheral “clocks” across the body that play an integral role in modulating the circadian expression of physiology, including metabolic functions. These central and peripheral clocks share a common molecular mechanism underlying their circadian rhythm generating capacity, including transcription-translation feedback loops of circadian “clock” genes.  (more…)
Anesthesiology, Author Interviews, COVID -19 Coronavirus, Science, UCSF / 10.11.2021 Interview with: Art Wallace, M.D., Ph.D. Professor Emeritus, Anesthesia School of Medicine, UCSF Chief of the Anesthesia Service Veterans Affairs Medical Center in San Francisco What is the background for this study? Response: I have spent the last 30 years working on perioperative risk reduction, developing medications and approaches to risk reduction. Part of this work utilized epidemiologic analysis of medication patterns of use to test if they are associated with reductions in morbidity and mortality. This work analyzed data in the VA Corporate Data Warehouse (CDW) which provides access to the VA, best in the world electronic health care record system, VISTA.  With the COVID-19 pandemic I realized that the analytic techniques we had utilized for perioperative cardiac risk reduction could be used to search for medications to reduce the risks for acute COVID-19 infection. We identified four classes of medications that reduced the risk of death in acute COVID-19 infection. We then turned our attention to medications to reduce the incidence, severity, and duration of long-term sequelae of COVID-19 infection also known as Long COVID or COVID Long Hauler Syndrome. One of the questions that people were asking was what was the effect of vaccination on Long COVID? We began that work by looking at the effect of vaccination on COVID infections and found the dramatic decrease in efficacy of vaccines with the spread of the Delta Variant. We published this work to notify the public and public health community of the decreased efficacy of the vaccines in the face of the Delta variant and reiterate the need for secondary public health prevention measures such as masks, social distancing, vaccination, and boosters. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cancer Research, Gastrointestinal Disease, Science / 13.08.2021 Interview with: Dr Lizhe Zhuang PhD Dr Karol Nowicki-Osuch PhD Dr. Rebecca C. Fitzgerald MD Medical Research Council Cancer Unit, Hutchison/Medical Research Council Research Centre, University of Cambridge, Cambridge UK What is the background for this study? Barrett’s oesophagus affects about one out of 100 people in the UK and is thought to be a precancerous lesion of a more deadline cancer, oesophageal adenocarcinoma. Barrett’s is a condition where the squamous cells in the lower part of oesophagus are replaced by a special type of columnar cells, which look like intestine, a far distant organ, raising a question where are these columnar cells come from. Many theories have been proposed in the past decades and no agreement was reached, and many conclusions were based on mouse models which do not recap the human condition. We therefore collected fresh samples of human tissues that correspond to all the possible theories and assessed them all together using state of the art technologies.  (more…)
Author Interviews, Genetic Research, Ophthalmology, Science / 12.03.2021 Interview with: eye-eyecolor-geneticsDr Pirro Hysi Senior Lecturer in Ophthalmology Kings College London What is the background for this study? Response: - Iris (eye) color is an important human trait. It is one of the main features that makes our faces unique and recognizable. Iris color is similar to other pigmentatio traits, like hair and skin color, in that it is determined by the concentration and relative ratios of the melanin pigment. Pigmentation traits are roughly determined by several of the same genes regulating pigmentation, but many other genes seem to selectively determine pigmentation in any of these tissues. (more…)
Author Interviews, Biomarkers, Cancer Research, Science / 18.02.2021 Interview with: Muhammed Murtaza M.B.B.S. (M.D.), Ph.D. Translational Genomics Research Institute Phoenix, AZ What is the background for this study? Response: Liquid biopsies and cell-free DNA analysis using blood samples have transformed cancer diagnostics in recent years. We started this project wondering whether cell-free DNA in urine is a viable alternative to blood, since urine could be collected completed non-invasively. Our very first experiment showed the lengths of DNA fragments in urine very similar across healthy individuals, leading us to wonder whether urine was actually as randomly degraded as we had previously thought. (more…)
Author Interviews, COVID -19 Coronavirus, Environmental Risks, Science / 11.12.2020 Interview with: Asimanshu Das, Ph.D. student Brown University School of Engineering What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Driving in a car with  ride-share or car-pool is a widely prevalent social interaction. The study aimed to address the airflows inside cars in various window open/closed configurations using computer simulations, and also looking into the possibility of movement of aerosol-type of particles from one occupant to other. The main findings are that opening windows provides a likely benefit to reduce the potentially pathogenic aerosols inside the cabin. Generally, more windows the better, but at the least it would be advisable to have one rear side window and one frontside window open. (more…)
Author Interviews, Dermatology, Immunotherapy, Science / 27.02.2020 Interview with: Brian S. Kim, MD, MTR, FAAD Associate Professor of Medicine (Dermatology) Co-Director, Center for the Study of Itch and Sensory Disorders Division of Dermatology, Department of Medicine Washington University School of Medicine St. Louis, MO 63110 What is the background for this study? Response: It has been known well for decades that a specific part of your immune system called the “type 2 immune response” is overactive in atopic disease. Indeed, that is what new drugs like dupilumab block so effectively and thus revolutionized the treatment of atopic disorders just in the last few years. In fact, our lab focuses predominantly on this part of the immune system. However, increasingly it is becoming recognized that the immune system is not just about whether it is “on or off” but rather a balance like yin and yang. Along these lines, we noticed that a cell that could theoretically counterbalance atopic inflammation was significantly deficient in many patients with eczema. This cell is the natural killer (NK) cell. (more…)
Author Interviews, Endocrinology, Gender Differences, Genetic Research, Science / 22.02.2020 Interview with: Lawrence C. Layman, M.D. Robert B. Greenblatt, M.D., Distinguished Chair in Endocrinology Professor & Chief Section of Reproductive Endocrinology, Infertility, & Genetics Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology Director, REI Fellowship Program Co-Director, MD/PhD Program Department of Neuroscience & Regenerative Medicine Department of Physiology Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University What is the background for this study? Response: I have taken care of many transgender patients over the past 20 years. We think there is a biological basis for transgender identity rather than choice. Animal models suggest that exposure to estrogen or testosterone at a critical time during development will render an animal of either sex to behave as male with aggressive behavior and they will mount females. If this pathway is blocked, then the end result is more receptive, female sexual behavior. We thought that variants in genes involved in metabolizing these hormones in the brain could play some role in transgender identity. Because the cost of sequencing all genes was similar to the cost of looking for changes in just these genes, we performed whole exome sequencing (sequencing the protein coding regions of genes) on about 30 transgender patients. (more…)
Author Interviews, Heart Disease, Science / 31.01.2020 Interview with: Steven R. Houser, PhD, FAHA Senior Associate Dean, Research Vera J. Goodfriend Endowed Chair, Cardiovascular Research Chair and Professor, Physiology Director, Cardiovascular Research Center (CVRC) Professor, Medicine Deborah M EatonDeborah M Eaton  Doctorate Student / Research Assistant Temple University What is the background for this study? Response: Heart failure (HF) with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF) accounts for approximately 50% of cases of HF and to date clinical trials with HFpEF patients have failed to produce positive outcomes. Part of this is likely due to the lack of HFpEF animal models for preclinical testing. Our lab addressed this gap in knowledge by developing an animal model that mimics critical features of the human HFpEF phenotype. We performed an in-depth cardiopulmonary characterization highlighting that the model has characteristics of human disease. We then tested the effects of a pan-HDAC inhibitor, vorinostat/SAHA, in collaboration with Dr. Timothy McKinsey, who is an expert in HDAC inhibitors and recently published work1 that laid the foundation for this study.  (more…)
Author Interviews, Brigham & Women's - Harvard, Dermatology, Science / 05.01.2020 Interview with: Dr. D. Branch Moody, MD Principal Investigator Associate Physician, Brigham and Women's Hospital Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School What is the background for this study? Is the CD1a molecule found on the skin's Langerhans cells? Response: With increasing industrialization worldwide, people apply cosmetics and other consumer products to the skin, leading to contact dermatitis, which is becoming increasingly common. Immunologists know that T cells participate in dermatitis reactions. However, T cells usually recognize and respond to antigens that are peptides rather than the non-peptide antigens that cause contact dermatitis. (more…)
Author Interviews, Herpes Viruses, Science, University of Pennsylvania, Vaccine Studies / 23.09.2019 Interview with: Harvey M. Friedman, MD Professor of Medicine/Infectious Diseases University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, PA 19104-6073 What is the background for this study? Response:  Mice and guinea pigs are the animal models used to evaluate candidate vaccines for preventing genital herpes. My lab has been working on such a vaccine. Our candidate vaccine contains 3 immunogens. One immunogen is a protein on the virus that is required for the virus to enter cells (viruses need to enter cells to replicate). The other two immunogens are proteins on the virus that help the virus escape immune attack. Our intent is to produce antibodies to these 3 proteins by immunization and that the antibodies will bind to the proteins on the virus and block the protein functions. The virus then will not be able to enter cells and will not be able to use its evasion strategies to avoid the immune responses generated by the vaccine. Our vaccine aimed at preventing immune evasion is novel as a component of a genital herpes vaccine.  (more…)
Author Interviews, Brain Injury, Exercise - Fitness, Nature, Science / 11.08.2019 Interview with: Adnan Hirad, PhD MD Candidate, Medical Scientist Training Program University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry What is the background for this study? Response: Concussion is defined based on the manifestation of observable signs and symptoms (e.g., dizziness, difficulty with concentration, loss of consciousness, inter alia). A non-concussive head injury is when someone hits their head but does not exhibit the signs and symptoms of concussion -- IE concussion is defined by observable signs, and sub-concussive is defined as sustaining  head impacts similar (in magnitude and mechanism) to those sustained with concussion without observable signs and/or symptoms. These hits are a problem not only in football, but also with IED/bomb blasts experienced during war and potentially rugby.  (more…)
Author Interviews, Dermatology, Science, Surgical Research, Technology / 19.05.2019 Interview with: Haishan Zeng, PhDDistinguished ScientistImaging Unit - Integrative Oncology DepartmentBC Cancer Research CentreProfessor of Dermatology, Pathology, and Physics, University of British ColumbiaVancouver, BC, Canada Haishan Zeng, PhD Distinguished Scientist Imaging Unit - Integrative Oncology Department BC Cancer Research Centre Professor of Dermatology, Pathology, and Physics, University of British Columbia Vancouver, BC, Canada What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: We developed a fast multiphoton microscope system that enables clinical imaging of the skin at the level of cellular resolution. With this system, we can see microstructures inside of the skin without cutting into it. We subsequently conceived the idea of directly treating the microstructures that are responsible for disease. We increased the laser power to generate intense localized heat to destroy the targeted structure. In this study, we demonstrated the feasibility of this new treatment by targeting and closing single blood vessels using our new microscope.  (more…)
Author Interviews, General Medicine, Heart Disease, Science, Weight Research / 04.02.2019 Interview with: Vitor Engrácia Valenti, PhD Professor São Paulo State University Marília What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?  Response: Autonomic modulation and cardiorespiratory variables are influenced by numerous factors. Abdominal fat tissue is a relevant variables related to metabolic and cardiovascular disorders, including diabetes mellitus, dyslipidemia and hypertension, which are associated to increased risk of morbidity and mortality. We evaluated cardiorespiratory variables and autonomic nervous system before and during recovery from exercise in healthy physically active men divided according to with waist-stature ratio (WSR): G1 – between 0.40 and 0.449 (N = 19), and G2 – between 0.45 and 0.49. This metholodigcal procedure is able to provide important information regarding the risk for developing cardiovascular disease in the future. Our main findings indicated that healthy physically active men with waist-stature ratio values close to the risk limit (between 0.449 and 0.5) presented slower return of autonomic and cardiorespiratory variables to baseline values after moderate exercise. It suggests that this group present an elevated probability of developing cardiovascular disease in the future compared to the groups with lower values of waist-stature ratio. (more…)
Alzheimer's - Dementia, Author Interviews, Science, Sleep Disorders / 13.01.2019 Interview with: Brendan P. Lucey, MD, MSCI Assistant Professor of Neurology Director, Sleep Medicine Section Washington University School of Medicine Saint Louis, Missouri 63110 What is the background for this study? Response: Alzheimer’s disease and sleep are currently thought to have a two-way or bidirectional relationship. First, sleep disturbances may increase the risk of developing AD. Second, changes in sleep-wake activity may be due to Alzheimer’s disease pathology and our paper was primarily focused on this aspect of the relationship.    If sleep changes were a marker for AD changes in the brain, then this would be very helpful in future clinical trials and possibly screening in the clinic. (more…)
Author Interviews, OBGYNE, Science / 05.12.2018 Interview with: "38 week fetus" by Zappys Technology Solutions is licensed under CC BY 2.0Kimberley Whitehead Neuroscience, Physiology & Pharmacology University College London What is the background for this study? Response: Fetuses move a lot! Very similar movement patterns are seen in both pre-term and full-term newborn infants, but their function is unclear. In animals such as rats, spontaneous movement and consequent feedback from the environment during the early developmental period trigger specific patterns of electrical activity in the brain that are necessary for proper brain mapping. (more…)
Allergies, Asthma, Author Interviews, Pediatrics, Science / 16.11.2018 Interview with: "Dogs and Kids Mix Well" by Tony Alter is licensed under CC BY 2.0Catarina Almqvist Malmros MD, PhD Professor | Consultant Pediatrician Dept of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics | Karolinska Institutet Lung and Allergy Unit | Astrid Lindgren Children’s Hospital Stockholm, Sweden What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: We have previously shown an association between growing up with dogs and a lower risk of childhood asthma (doi: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2015.3219) but it has been unknown whether this link is modified by characteristics of the dog. Sex of the dog may have an effect on expressed allergens, and uncastrated male dogs release more of a certain allergen than castrated male dogs and female dogs. Some breeds are also described as ‘hypoallergenic’, but there is no scientific evidence whether they are more suitable for people with allergies. We examined how variables such as sex, breed, number of dogs or size of dog are associated with the risk of asthma and allergy among children with a dog in their home during the first year of life. We included all Swedish children born between January 2001 and December 2004 whose parents had a registered dog in a dog-owner register and linked the data to the Swedish population- and health data registers. Main findings are that children raised with only female dogs at home had a 16 per cent lower risk of asthma than those with male dogs, and that children living with two or more dogs had a 21 per cent lower risk of asthma than those with only one dog. Importantly, families with parental asthma or allergies had ‘hypoallergenic’ breeds more often than children whose parents did not have asthma or allergies; 11.7% compared to 7.6 . Exposure to these breeds was associated with a 27 per cent higher risk of allergy and no decreased risk of asthma.  (more…)
Author Interviews, Cancer Research, Gastrointestinal Disease, Microbiome, Science / 27.09.2018 Interview with: Joao Xavier PhD Associate Faculty Member | Computational & Systems Biology Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center New York, NY 10065 What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Our team at Memorial Sloan Kettering has been investigating the intestinal microbiota of patients receiving bone marrow transplantations for more than eight years now. We have found through several studies that these patients lose important healthy bacteria from their microbiota, and that these losses are mostly caused by the antibiotics given as prophylaxis or to treat infections. We also found that the drastic changes in the microbiota composition, especially the intestinal dominations by bacteria such as Enterococcus, increase the risk of transplant-related complications and lowered patient survival. We aimed to determine the feasibility of autologous microbiota transplant (auto-FMT) as a way to reconstitute lost bacteria. This randomized study found that indeed auto-FMT could reconstitute important microbial groups to patients.  (more…)
Author Interviews, Cancer Research, Dermatology, Science / 01.09.2018 Interview with: Dr Andrew South, PhD, Associate Professor in the department of Dermatology and Cutaneous Biology at Jefferson (Philadelphia University + Thomas Jefferson University) What is the background for this study? Would you briefly explain what is meant by Butterfly Syndrome or recessive dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa? Response: Epidermolysis Bullosa, or EB, is a group of genetic diseases caused by mutations in genes which play a role in maintaining skin integrity. An EB patients’ skin can be very fragile which has been likened to butterfly wings, which are also very fragile. Skin blisters are common in EB patients and in some cases large wounds can result from the slightest mechanical trauma, hence the term Butterfly Syndrome. Skin cancer is a major complication of patients with the recessive dystrophic subtype of EB, known as recessive dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa or RDEB, and these cancers, called squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), are very aggressive. SCC is the leading cause of death in patients with RDEB. SCC also arise very early, affecting RDEB patients in their 20’s and 30’s. Our study used genetic analysis of cancers collected from patients to try and determine what causes the cancer at such an early age and what causes these cancers to be so fatal. Skin SCC arising in the general population as a result of sun exposure are generally benign and occur much later in life, regular skin SCC patients are predominantly over the age of 60, therefore something must be different about RDEB SCC.  (more…)
Author Interviews, Cost of Health Care, End of Life Care, Medicare, Science / 06.07.2018 Interview with: Amy Finkelstein PhD John & Jennie S. MacDonald Professor of Economics MIT Department of Economics National Bureau of Economic Research Cambridge MA 02139 What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Although only 5% of Medicare beneficiaries die in a given year, they account for almost 25% of Medciare spending. This fact about high end of life spending has been constantly used to refer to inefficiency of the US healthcare system. A natural observation is that the fact is retrospective, and it motivated us to explore a prospective analog, which would take as an input the probability of someone dying in a given year rather than her realized outcome. We therefore used machine learning techniques to predict death, and somewhat to our surprise we found that at least using standardized and detailed claims-level data, predicting death is difficult, and there are only a tiny fraction of Medicare beneficiaries for whom we can predict death (within a year) with near certainty. Those who end up dying are obviously sicker, and our study finds that up to half of the higher spending on those who die could be attributed to the fact that those who die are sicker and sick individuals are associated with higher spending.   (more…)
Author Interviews, Inflammation, Science / 14.06.2018 Interview with: “Basophil” by GreenFlames09 is licensed under CC BY 2.0Jagadeesh BAYRY, DVM, PhD, HDR Scientist CRCN/Associate Professor-INSERM Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (INSERM) Unité 1138 Centre de Recherche des Cordeliers PARIS , FRANCE What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Basophils are rare granulocytes that are important for the protection against helminth parasites. In addition, basophils mediate T helper 2 responses, support B cell differentiation, and thus establish a vital link between innate and adaptive immunity. Although rare in number, basophils are implicated in various pathological conditions due to the fact that they undergo rapid activation in response to a wide range of stimuli they receive. These stimuli induce the release of diverse immune mediators including cytokines and mediators of hypersensitivity reactions histamine and leukotriene. Basophils are well known for their pathogenic role in allergic diseases. Recent data also advocate basophils in the pathogenesis of autoimmune and other inflammatory diseases. Therefore, considering the impact of dysregulated functions of basophils on the immune response in various diseases, we deliberated that it is essential to understand the regulatory mechanisms by which basophils are kept in check. Among immunoregulatory cells, CD4+CD25+FoxP3+ regulatory T cells (Tregs) have been widely studied for their role in immune tolerance and in the maintenance of immune homeostasis. Tregs modulate autoimmune and inflammatory responses by exerting direct suppressive effects on various immune cells including dendritic cells, T cells, macrophages, monocytes, B cells, neutrophils, natural killer cells, and mast cells. In view of emerging reports on the role of basophils in various pathological conditions, we investigated if Tregs are able to control the activation and functions of basophils. In contrast to the central dogma on Tregs as immunosuppressors, we discovered that human basophils are refractory to Treg-mediated suppression. On the contrary, we found that Tregs stimulate resting basophils to induce the expression of activation markers CD69, CD203c, and CD13, and release cytokines IL-4, IL-8, and IL-13. Treg-induced activation of basophils involves IL-3 and STAT5 but was not contact-dependent. These results provide evidence of direct positive effects that human Tregs have on basophil activation and reveal a previously unrecognized feature of this cell subset well known for immunosuppressive functions.  (more…)
Author Interviews, Brain Injury, Environmental Risks, Science, UCSF / 22.05.2018 Interview with: “Space Shuttle Model” by terren in Virginia is licensed under CC BY 2.0Susanna Rosi, PhD Director of Neurocognitive Research Brain and Spinal Injury Center Professor in the departments of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science and of Neurological Surgery UCSF What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: NASA and private space companies like SpaceX plan to send humans to the red planet within the next 15 years — but among the major challenges facing future crewed space missions is how to protect astronauts from the dangerous cosmic radiation of deep space. In this study we identified the first potential treatment for the brain damage caused by exposure to cosmic rays — a treatment can be given after exposure and that prevents memory impairment in mice exposed to simulated space radiation. (more…)
Author Interviews, Infections, Science, Vaccine Studies / 05.04.2018 Interview with: Matthieu Domenech de Cellès PhD Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA. Biostatistics, Biomathematics, Pharmacoepidemiology, and Infectious Diseases Unit Institut Pasteur, Inserm, University of Versailles St-Quentin-en-Yvelines, Versailles, France. What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?   Response: Our main motivation was to elucidate an apparent paradox: Why has the US experienced a resurgence of pertussis (whooping cough) since the mid-1970s, despite persistently high vaccine coverage? A variety of hypotheses have been proposed to explain this resurgence, but most attention has focused on the potential shortcomings of the new generation of pertussis vaccines (called acellular pertussis vaccines). However, there remains considerable uncertainty about the degree and the mechanisms of protection conferred by pertussis vaccines. Via a collaboration with the local department of public health, we used detailed surveillance data in the state of Massachusetts to test a number of hypotheses about pertussis vaccines. We found that, although pertussis vaccines are imperfect (in the sense that they do not provide lifelong, 100% protection to 100% of children vaccinated), they are still highly efficacious. Specifically, we estimated that vaccine protection wanes over time, but slowly, with about 85% of children still protected 10 years after vaccination. Despite this high vaccine efficacy, we showed that the resurgence of pertussis was, in fact, to be expected. What happens is that the introduction of routine vaccination leads to an overall reduction in transmission, not only in vaccinated children but also in the population at large. Accordingly, those who escaped vaccination as children (as a consequence of incomplete vaccine coverage or imperfect vaccine protection) increasingly age having also avoided natural infection. As a result, the number of individuals susceptible to contract pertussis gradually increases. Because such people are the “fuel” of epidemics, this sets the stage for pertussis’ resurgence, with increasing incidence among older individuals. This overall effect is called the “end-of-honeymoon” and means that resurgence is therefore a predictable consequence of incomplete vaccination with efficacious, but imperfect, vaccines. Importantly, these results show that recent trends do not necessarily reflect recent changes in the epidemiology of pertussis. Rather, they may be interpreted as a legacy of past immunization practices, with long-to-manifest effects. This is a significant shift of perspective about pertussis epidemiology.  (more…)
Author Interviews, Breast Cancer, Brigham & Women's - Harvard, Science, Weight Research / 22.03.2018 Interview with: Dai Fukumura, M.D., Ph.D Associate Professor, Radiation Oncology Harvard Medical School Deputy Director, Edwin L. Steele Laboratory, Radiation Oncology, Massachusetts General Hospital Boston, MA      Dr. Joao Incio PhD Post-Doc, Edwin L. Steele Laboratory           Dr. Rakesh K. Jain PhD Andrew Werk Cook Professor of Tumor Biology and director of the Edwin L. Steele Laboratories for Tumor Biology Rradiation oncology department Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. What is the background for this study?   Response: Based on promising data from preclinical studies and subsequent increase in progression-free survival in patients, anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) therapy received accelerated approval for metastatic breast cancer. However, this approval was withdrawn in the United States based on the lack of overall survival benefit in several subsequent phase III studies in metastatic and adjuvant settings. Potential mechanisms of resistance to anti-VEGF therapy include the upregulation of alternative angiogenic and pro-inflammatory factors. Production of some of these factors has been shown to increase in obesity specifically in hypoxic adipose tissues including the breast. Given that up to 70% of breast cancer (BC) patients in the United States are overweight or obese, we addressed one simple but important question in this study: Is obesity contributing to anti-VEGF treatment resistance in breast cancer? (more…)
Author Interviews, Diabetes, Microbiome, Nutrition, Science / 13.03.2018 Interview with: Liping Zhao PhD, Professor Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology School of Environmental and Biological Sciences Rutgers University-New Brunswick NJ What is the background for this study? Response: Microbes in the human gut (collectively known as the gut microbiota) provide many functions that are important for human health. A notable example is that some gut bacteria are able to ferment non-digestible carbohydrates in our diet, e.g. dietary fibers, to produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). These SCFAs nourish our gut epithelial cells, reduce inflammation, and play a role in appetite control. Deficiency of SCFAs has been associated with many diseases including type 2 diabetes. Many gut bacteria have the genes (and therefore the capacity) to produce SCFAs from carbohydrate fermentation. However, we know little about how these bacteria, as individual strains and as a group, actually respond to an increased supply of carbohydrates. This is key to improve clinical efficacy of dietary fiber interventions to improve human health. (more…)
Author Interviews, Brigham & Women's - Harvard, Pediatrics, Psychological Science, Science / 26.11.2017 Interview with: Shari Liu Dept Psychology Harvard University Cambridge, MA 02138 What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Every day, we look out into the social world and see more than pixels changing across our retinas, or bodies moving in space. We see people brimming with desires, governed by their beliefs about the world and concerned about the costs of their actions and the potential rewards those actions may bring. Reasoning about these mental variables, while observing only people’s overt behaviors, is at the heart of commonsense psychology. (more…)
Author Interviews, Chemotherapy, Lung Cancer, Science / 24.07.2017 Interview with: Prof. Gerhard Hamilton Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology Medical University of Vienna What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) is a highly aggressive tumor (15 % of all lung cancers) mainly of patients with high tobacco consumption which shows an extremely poor survival (< 5% 2-year survival rate). Unfortunately the low survival rates of advanced SCLC cases has not improved significantly during the last decades, with platinum drugs/etoposide and topotecan employed for first- and second-line chemotherapy, respectively. All kinds of new chemotherapeutics, targeted drugs and immunotherapies either failed or resulted in prolongation of survival of several months at best. SCLC responds well to first-line therapy but relapses within a short time as chemoradioresistant tumor. The failure of hundreds of registered studies seem to be linked to the lack of knowledge of the mechanism of resistance of SCLCs and proper ways to reverse the refractoriness. Small cell lung cancer is distinguished by excessive numbers of circulating tumor cells (CTCs) in advanced stages. CTCs contain the founder of metastasis and seem to constitute a highly chemoresistant cell population. Thus, we ware able to establish a panel of permanent CTC lines in vitro for the first time (8 SCLC lines so far from blood samples). Although CTCs were considered to be chemoresistant we detected that they are chemosensitive in vitro in form of single cell suspensions. However, all CTC lines developed spontaneously into large multicellular aggregates, termed tumorospheres, which grow up to 1-2 mm in size and exhibit high chemoradioresistance due to limited drug perfusion as well as content of quiescent and hypoxic cells. Resistance to irradiation seems to be caused by lack of oxygen, such limiting the generation of oxygen radicals. High resistance mediated by the occurrence of tumorospheres easily explains the failure of a large number of drugs - if one is not able to achieve a sufficient concentration of a drug in cancer cells and the cells are quiescent, the respective compounds will not be able to destroy the target cells, regardless of their chemical nature. (more…)
Aging, Author Interviews, Science / 31.05.2017 Interview with: Kan Cao PhD Associate professor of cell biology and molecular genetics University of Maryland What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: In 2015, our group demonstrated a surprising positive effect of methylene blue in treating fibroblast cells from progeria patients, a severe premature aging disease. Interestingly, we also noticed a beneficial effect of methylene blue in protecting normal skin cells. In this study, we followed the initial observation, compared methylene blue with other popular antioxidants, and conducted further analysis of the effects of methylene blue in 3d reconstructed skin. The take home message is that we believe methylene blue has a great anti-aging potential. As it is also super safe, we suggest it a potent ingredient for skin care products. (more…)