These collections showcase journal articles, preprints, book chapters, and other publications and presentations produced by faculty, postdocs, and researchers at UMass Chan Medical School, including a dedicated collection for research on COVID-19 and related viruses.

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  • COVID-19 and the Cardiovascular System: Requiem for a Medical Minotaur

    Koupenova, Milka; Chung, Mina K; Bristow, Michael R (2023-05-11)
    The world has finally emerged from the great medical, economic, and social calamity of 2020 to 2022, the COVID-19 pandemic. This Compendium of 10 articles describes various aspects of the effects of SARS-CoV-2 on the cardiovascular system, focusing on the heart. The Minotaur from Greek mythology is an apt metaphor, because this half bull/half man spike-adorned gain of function mutant slaughtered the innocent was nearly impossible to eradicate in his labyrinthian environs, inspired mass fear of the unknown, and ultimately was eliminated by resourceful, determined collaborators.1 Although SARS-CoV-2 infection has not been eliminated, it has been contained to the point of acquiring the status of a manageable infectious disease.
  • Renewal of oligodendrocyte lineage reverses dysmyelination and CNS neurodegeneration through corrected N-acetylaspartate metabolism

    Lotun, Anoushka; Li, Danning; Xu, Hongxia; Su, Qin; Tuncer, Serafettin; Sanmiguel, Julio; Mooney, Morgan; Baer, Christina E; Ulbrich, Russell; Eyles, Stephen J; et al. (2023-05-04)
    Myelinating oligodendrocytes are essential for neuronal communication and homeostasis of the central nervous system (CNS). One of the most abundant molecules in the mammalian CNS is N-acetylaspartate (NAA), which is catabolized into L-aspartate and acetate by the enzyme aspartoacylase (ASPA) in oligodendrocytes. The resulting acetate moiety is thought to contribute to myelin lipid synthesis. In addition, affected NAA metabolism has been implicated in several neurological disorders, including leukodystrophies and demyelinating diseases such as multiple sclerosis. Genetic disruption of ASPA function causes Canavan disease, which is hallmarked by increased NAA levels, myelin and neuronal loss, large vacuole formation in the CNS, and early death in childhood. Although NAA's direct role in the CNS is inconclusive, in peripheral adipose tissue, NAA-derived acetate has been found to modify histones, a mechanism known to be involved in epigenetic regulation of cell differentiation. We hypothesize that a lack of cellular differentiation in the brain contributes to the disruption of myelination and neurodegeneration in diseases with altered NAA metabolism, such as Canavan disease. Our study demonstrates that loss of functional Aspa in mice disrupts myelination and shifts the transcriptional expression of neuronal and oligodendrocyte markers towards less differentiated stages in a spatiotemporal manner. Upon re-expression of ASPA, these oligodendrocyte and neuronal lineage markers are either improved or normalized, suggesting that NAA breakdown by Aspa plays an essential role in the maturation of neurons and oligodendrocytes. Also, this effect of ASPA re-expression is blunted in old mice, potentially due to limited ability of neuronal, rather than oligodendrocyte, recovery.
  • Implications of Non-Specific Effects for Testing, Approving, and Regulating Vaccines

    Benn, Christine Stabell; Amenyogbe, Nelly; Björkman, Anders; Domínguez-Andrés, Jorge; Fish, Eleanor N; Flanagan, Katie L; Klein, Sabra L; Kollmann, Tobias R; Kyvik, Kirsten Ohm; Netea, Mihai G; et al. (2023-04-19)
    The current framework for testing and regulating vaccines was established before the realization that vaccines, in addition to their effect against the vaccine-specific disease, may also have "non-specific effects" affecting the risk of unrelated diseases. Accumulating evidence from epidemiological studies shows that vaccines in some situations can affect all-cause mortality and morbidity in ways that are not explained by the prevention of the vaccine-targeted disease. Live attenuated vaccines have sometimes been associated with decreases in mortality and morbidity that are greater than anticipated. In contrast, some non-live vaccines have in certain contexts been associated with increases in all-cause mortality and morbidity. The non-specific effects are often greater for female than male individuals. Immunological studies have provided several mechanisms that explain how vaccines might modulate the immune response to unrelated pathogens, such as through trained innate immunity, emergency granulopoiesis, and heterologous T-cell immunity. These insights suggest that the framework for the testing, approving, and regulating vaccines needs to be updated to accommodate non-specific effects. Currently, non-specific effects are not routinely captured in phase I-III clinical trials or in the post-licensure safety surveillance. For instance, an infection with Streptococcus pneumoniae occurring months after a diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccination would not be considered an effect of the vaccination, although evidence indicates it might well be for female individuals. Here, as a starting point for discussion, we propose a new framework that considers the non-specific effects of vaccines in both phase III trials and post-licensure.
  • Retracted Covid-19 articles: significantly more cited than other articles within their journal of origin

    Taros, Trenton; Zoppo, Christopher; Yee, Nathan; Hanna, Jack; MacGinnis, Christine (2023-04-12)
    With the expansion of research volume, coinciding with the age of the internet, the retraction of published papers from scientific journals has become crucial to preserving scientific integrity. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, both public and professional interest in scientific literature has grown as people attempt to educate themselves on the virus. The Retraction Watch Database COVID-19 blog was accessed in June and November of 2022 and analyzed to ensure articles met inclusion criteria. Articles were then accessed on Google Scholar and the Scopus database to find number of citations and SJR/CiteScore. The average SJR and CiteScore for a journal that published one of the articles was 1.531 and 7.3 respectively. The retracted articles were cited an average of 44.8 times, which was significantly higher than the average CiteScore (p = 0.01). Between June and November, retracted COVID-19 articles gained a total of 728 new citations, presence of "withdrawn" or "retracted" before article title did not affect citation rates. COPE guidelines for retraction statements were not met for 32% of articles. We believe retracted COVID-19 publications may have been more likely to include bold claims that garnered a disproportionately high amount of attention within the scientific community. Additionally, we found many journals were not forthright with explanations for why articles had been retracted. Retractions could be a tool used to add to the scientific discourse, but currently we are only getting half the data, the what and not the why.
  • Atypical Fragility Fractures due to Bony or Soft Tissue Phosphaturic Mesenchymal Tumors: A Report of Two Cases

    Clegg, Stephanie M; Eiel, Emily S; Fine, Sara; Gafni, Rachel I; Most, Mathew J (2023-04-12)
    Introduction: Tumor-induced osteomalacia (TIO) is a rare paraneoplastic disorder where patients present with hypophosphatemia, chronic diffuse bone pain, and occasionally fractures. Benign phosphaturic mesenchymal tumors (PMT) are responsible for the TIO and are largely soft tissue tumors. Cases: Two male patients with TIO secondary to PMT were reported-one in the bony scapula and the other in the plantar foot soft tissue. The first case describes a 63-year-old Caucasian male, who sustained an intertrochanteric proximal femur stress fracture and approximately two years of diffuse bone pain and hypophosphatemia. Wide excision of a left scapula boney lesion resulted in immediate resolution of his electrolyte abnormalities and bone pain. Case 2 describes a 58-year-old male with four years of multifocal bone pain and atraumatic fractures. A 68Ga-DOTATATE-positron emission tomography/computed tomography (PET/CT) scan identified a soft tissue tumor in his plantar foot, which was ultimately excised. He also experienced near immediate resolution of his pain and no additional fractures. Conclusion: TIO is a rare condition presenting with chronic multifocal bone pain, stress fractures, and hypophosphatemia. These two cases highlight that the causative tumor may originate in soft tissue or bone. Furthermore, a high index of suspicion, along with fibroblast growth factor-23 testing and DOTATATE-PET/CT localization, can help with diagnosis and minimize treatment delays.
  • Impact of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccination on menstrual bleeding quantity: An observational cohort study

    Darney, Blair G; Boniface, Emily R; Van Lamsweerde, Agathe; Han, Leo; Matteson, Kristen A; Cameron, Sharon; Male, Victoria; Acuna, Juan; Benhar, Eleonora; Pearson, Jack T; et al. (2023-04-10)
    Objective: To assess whether coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccination impacts menstrual bleeding quantity. Design: Retrospective cohort. Setting: Five global regions. Population: Vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals with regular menstrual cycles using the digital fertility-awareness application Natural Cycles°. Methods: We used prospectively collected menstrual cycle data, multivariable longitudinal Poisson generalised estimating equation (GEE) models and multivariable multinomial logistic regression models to calculate the adjusted difference between vaccination groups. All regression models were adjusted for confounding factors. Main outcome measures: The mean number of heavy bleeding days (fewer, no change or more) and changes in bleeding quantity (less, no change or more) at three time points (first dose, second dose and post-exposure menses). Results: We included 9555 individuals (7401 vaccinated and 2154 unvaccinated). About two-thirds of individuals reported no change in the number of heavy bleeding days, regardless of vaccination status. After adjusting for confounding factors, there were no significant differences in the number of heavy bleeding days by vaccination status. A larger proportion of vaccinated individuals experienced an increase in total bleeding quantity (34.5% unvaccinated, 38.4% vaccinated; adjusted difference 4.0%, 99.2% CI 0.7%-7.2%). This translates to an estimated 40 additional people per 1000 individuals with normal menstrual cycles who experience a greater total bleeding quantity following the first vaccine dose' suffice. Differences resolved in the cycle post-exposure. Conclusions: A small increase in the probability of greater total bleeding quantity occurred following the first COVID-19 vaccine dose, which resolved in the cycle after the post-vaccination cycle. The total number of heavy bleeding days did not differ by vaccination status. Our findings can reassure the public that any changes are small and transient.
  • Advancing Maternal Health Equity Among Migrant Communities

    Johnson-Agbakwu, Crista (2023-04-06)
    Crista Johnson-Agbakwu, MD, is the inaugural executive director of the new UMass Chan Medical School Collaborative in Health Equity. Dr. Johnson-Agbawku, professor of obstetrics & gynecology and population & quantitative health sciences, is an accomplished physician who has focused her career on reducing the disparities between social determinants of health and health care. This talk was planned in conjunction with the National Library of Medicine traveling exhibit, "Outside/Inside: Immigration, Migration, and Health Care in the United States," hosted at the UMass Chan Medical School Lamar Soutter Library March 13 - April 22, 2023.
  • Genomic Investigation of Remission and Relapse of Psychotic Depression Treated with Sertraline plus Olanzapine: The STOP-PD II Study

    Men, Xiaoyu; Marshe, Victoria; Elsheikh, Samar S; Alexopoulos, George S; Marino, Patricia; Meyers, Barnett S; Mulsant, Benoit H; Rothschild, Anthony J; Voineskos, Aristotle N; Whyte, Ellen M; et al. (2023-04-04)
    Introduction: Little is known regarding genetic factors associated with treatment outcome of psychotic depression. We explored genomic associations of remission and relapse of psychotic depression treated with pharmacotherapy. Methods: Genomic analyses were performed in 171 men and women aged 18-85 years with an episode of psychotic depression who participated in the Study of the Pharmacotherapy of Psychotic Depression II (STOP-PD II). Participants were treated with open-label sertraline plus olanzapine for up to 12 weeks; those who achieved remission or near-remission and maintained it following 8 weeks of stabilization were eligible to participate in a 36-week randomized controlled trial that compared sertraline plus olanzapine with sertraline plus placebo in preventing relapse. Results: There were no genome-wide significant associations with either remission or relapse. However, at a suggestive threshold, SNP rs1026501 (31 kb from SYNPO2) in the whole sample and rs6844137 (within the intronic region of SYNPO2) in the European ancestry subsample were associated with a decreased likelihood of remission. In polygenic risk analyses, participants who had greater improvement after antidepressant treatments showed a higher likelihood of reaching remission. Those who achieved remission and had a higher polygenic risk for Alzheimer's disease had a significantly decreased likelihood of relapse. Conclusion: Our analyses provide preliminary insights into the genetic architecture of remission and relapse in a well-characterized group of patients with psychotic depression.
  • Improved Performance of ChatGPT-4 on the OKAP Exam: A Comparative Study with ChatGPT-3.5 [preprint]

    Teebagy, Sean; Colwell, Lauren; Wood, Emma; Yaghy, Antonio; Faustina, Misha (2023-04-03)
    This study aims to evaluate the performance of ChatGPT-4, an advanced Artificial Intelligence (AI) language model, on the Ophthalmology Knowledge Assessment Program (OKAP) examination compared to its predecessor, ChatGPT-3.5. Both models were tested on 180 OKAP practice questions covering various ophthalmology subject categories. Results showed that ChatGPT-4 significantly outperformed ChatGPT-3.5 (81% vs. 57%; p<0.001), indicating improvements in medical knowledge assessment. The superior performance of ChatGPT-4 suggests potential applicability in ophthalmologic education and clinical decision support systems. Future research should focus on refining AI models, ensuring a balanced representation of fundamental and specialized knowledge, and determining the optimal method of integrating AI into medical education and practice.
  • Challenges in Use of Practice-based Research Networks for a Medical Device Trial to Detect SARS-CoV-2

    Daly, Jeanette M; O'Connor, Laurel; Schmidt, Megan E; Ferrara, Laura K; Parang, Kim; Levy, Barcey T (2023-04-02)
    Introduction/objectives: Primary care practice-based research networks (PBRNs) participated in a point of care (POC) device study funded by by the National Institutes of Health and led by the University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School (UMass) to speed the development, validation, and commercialization of POC tests to detect SARS-CoV-2. The purposes of this study were to describe the characteristics of participating PBRNs and their respective collaborators in this device trial and describe complications challenging its execution. Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with lead personnel from participating PBRNs and UMass. Results: Four PBRNs and UMass were invited to participate and 3 PBRNs and UMass participated. This device trial recruited 321 subjects in 6 months; 65 subjects from PBRNs. Each PBRN and the academic medical center site enrolled and recruited subjects differently. Main challenges identified were having adequate clinic personnel to enroll and aid in consent and questionnaire completion, frequently changing inclusion/exclusion criteria, use of the digital electronic data collection platform, and having access to a -80°C freezer to store supplies. Discussion: This trial involved numerous researchers, primary care clinic leaders and staff, and academic center sponsored program staff and attorneys resulting in a resource-intensive endeavor to enroll 65 subjects in the real-world clinical setting of primary care PBRNs with the academic medical center enrolling the rest. Multiple obstacles to standing up the study were encountered by the PBRNS. Conclusions: Primary care PBRNs rely largely on the goodwill established between academic health centers and participating practices. For future investigations involving device studies, collaborating PBRN leaders should assess whether recruitment criteria may change, obtain detailed lists of equipment needed, and/or know if the study is likely to be halted suddenly to appropriately prepare their member practices.
  • Experience with telemedicine in neuromuscular clinic during COVID-19 pandemic

    Ghasemi, Mehdi; Poulliot, Kristy; Daniello, Kate M; Silver, Brian (2023-03-31)
    Objectives: The aim of the present study was to evaluate the feasibility and acceptability of telehealth for the care of neuromuscular patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. Methods: Neuromuscular patients or their caregivers, as well as health care providers (HCPs), who completed a televisit during the pandemic received an online survey, assessing satisfaction with the visit, quality of care, and experience with the televisit interference. Results: Surveys from 46 neuromuscular patients (including 18 with motor neuron disease [MND])/caregivers and 7 HCPs were completed. Several aspects of televisits including good communication, adequate time to discuss concern, provision of equal care, and telemedicine interference were rated favorably among participants. Telehealth was strongly satisfactory in 30 (65.22%) and satisfactory in 15 (32.61%) neuromuscular patients/caregivers. In 18 MND patients, this was 10 (55.56%) and 7 (38.89%), respectively. Moreover, 24 (52.17%) neuromuscular patients/caregivers would strongly agree and 18 (39.13%) would agree to participate again in televisits. This was 10 (55.56%) and 4 (33.33%) for MND cases, respectively. Various medical issues were addressed during the televisits including medication management, ordering tests/referrals, discussion of goals of care, and research. The predictive stepwise logistic model found younger age as a predicting factor for higher satisfaction from, or participation again in, televisits in neuromuscular patients. Limb onset location was also a predicting factor for strong satisfaction from televisits in MND cases. Conclusions: Telemedicine is feasible and highly effective at achieving personalized care that was rated satisfactory by the majority of neuromuscular patients/caregivers and HCPs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The European Guidelines on Diagnosis and Management of Neutropenia in Adults and Children: A Consensus Between the European Hematology Association and the EuNet-INNOCHRON COST Action

    Fioredda, Francesca; Skokowa, Julia; Tamary, Hannah; Spanoudakis, Michail; Farruggia, Piero; Almeida, Antonio; Guardo, Daniela; Höglund, Petter; Newburger, Peter E; Palmblad, Jan; et al. (2023-03-30)
    Neutropenia, as an isolated blood cell deficiency, is a feature of a wide spectrum of acquired or congenital, benign or premalignant disorders with a predisposition to develop myelodysplastic neoplasms/acute myeloid leukemia that may arise at any age. In recent years, advances in diagnostic methodologies, particularly in the field of genomics, have revealed novel genes and mechanisms responsible for etiology and disease evolution and opened new perspectives for tailored treatment. Despite the research and diagnostic advances in the field, real world evidence, arising from international neutropenia patient registries and scientific networks, has shown that the diagnosis and management of neutropenic patients is mostly based on the physicians' experience and local practices. Therefore, experts participating in the European Network for the Innovative Diagnosis and Treatment of Chronic Neutropenias have collaborated under the auspices of the European Hematology Association to produce recommendations for the diagnosis and management of patients across the whole spectrum of chronic neutropenias. In the present article, we describe evidence- and consensus-based guidelines for the definition and classification, diagnosis, and follow-up of patients with chronic neutropenias including special entities such as pregnancy and the neonatal period. We particularly emphasize the importance of combining the clinical findings with classical and novel laboratory testing, and advanced germline and/or somatic mutational analyses, for the characterization, risk stratification, and monitoring of the entire spectrum of neutropenia patients. We believe that the wide clinical use of these practical recommendations will be particularly beneficial for patients, families, and treating physicians.
  • Synthesis and validation of click-modified of NOD1/2 agonists [preprint]

    Bharadwaj, Ravi; Anonick, Madison V.; Mashayekh, Siavash; Brown, Ashley; Wodzanowski, Kimberly A.; Okuda, Kendi; Silverman, Neal; Grimes, Catherine L. (2023-03-28)
    NOD1 and NOD2 sense small bacterial peptidoglycan fragments often called muropeptides. These muropeptides include iE-DAP and MDP, the minimal agonists for NOD1 and NOD2, respectively. Here, we synthesized and validated alkyne-modified muropeptides, iE-DAP-Alk and MDP-Alk, for use in click-chemistry reactions. While it has long been known that many cell types respond to extracellular exposure to muropeptides, it is unclear how these innate immune activators access their cytosolic innate immune receptors, NOD1 and NOD2. The subcellular trafficking and transport mechanisms by which muropeptides access these cytosolic innate immune receptors are a major gap in our understanding of these critical host responses. The clickchemistry-enabled agonists developed here will be particularly powerful to decipher the underlying cell biology and biochemistry of NOD1 and NOD2 innate immune sensing.
  • From primordial clocks to circadian oscillators

    Pitsawong, Warintra; Pádua, Ricardo A P; Grant, Timothy; Hoemberger, Marc; Otten, Renee; Bradshaw, Niels; Grigorieff, Nikolaus; Kern, Dorothee (2023-03-22)
    Circadian rhythms play an essential part in many biological processes, and only three prokaryotic proteins are required to constitute a true post-translational circadian oscillator1. The evolutionary history of the three Kai proteins indicates that KaiC is the oldest member and a central component of the clock2. Subsequent additions of KaiB and KaiA regulate the phosphorylation state of KaiC for time synchronization. The canonical KaiABC system in cyanobacteria is well understood3-6, but little is known about more ancient systems that only possess KaiBC. However, there are reports that they might exhibit a basic, hourglass-like timekeeping mechanism7-9. Here we investigate the primordial circadian clock in Rhodobacter sphaeroides, which contains only KaiBC, to elucidate its inner workings despite missing KaiA. Using a combination of X-ray crystallography and cryogenic electron microscopy, we find a new dodecameric fold for KaiC, in which two hexamers are held together by a coiled-coil bundle of 12 helices. This interaction is formed by the carboxy-terminal extension of KaiC and serves as an ancient regulatory moiety that is later superseded by KaiA. A coiled-coil register shift between daytime and night-time conformations is connected to phosphorylation sites through a long-range allosteric network that spans over 140 Å. Our kinetic data identify the difference in the ATP-to-ADP ratio between day and night as the environmental cue that drives the clock. They also unravel mechanistic details that shed light on the evolution of self-sustained oscillators.
  • Crystal Structures of Inhibitor-Bound Main Protease from Delta- and Gamma-Coronaviruses

    Zvornicanin, Sarah N; Shaqra, Ala M; Huang, Qiuyu J; Ornelas, Elizabeth; Moghe, Mallika; Knapp, Mark; Moquin, Stephanie; Dovala, Dustin; Schiffer, Celia A; Kurt Yilmaz, Nese (2023-03-18)
    With the spread of SARS-CoV-2 throughout the globe causing the COVID-19 pandemic, the threat of zoonotic transmissions of coronaviruses (CoV) has become even more evident. As human infections have been caused by alpha- and beta-CoVs, structural characterization and inhibitor design mostly focused on these two genera. However, viruses from the delta and gamma genera also infect mammals and pose a potential zoonotic transmission threat. Here, we determined the inhibitor-bound crystal structures of the main protease (Mpro) from the delta-CoV porcine HKU15 and gamma-CoV SW1 from the beluga whale. A comparison with the apo structure of SW1 Mpro, which is also presented here, enabled the identification of structural arrangements upon inhibitor binding at the active site. The cocrystal structures reveal binding modes and interactions of two covalent inhibitors, PF-00835231 (active form of lufotrelvir) bound to HKU15, and GC376 bound to SW1 Mpro. These structures may be leveraged to target diverse coronaviruses and toward the structure-based design of pan-CoV inhibitors.
  • Cryo-EM structure of the human Sirtuin 6-nucleosome complex [preprint]

    Chio, Un Seng; Rechiche, Othman; Bryll, Alysia R; Zhu, Jiang; Feldman, Jessica L; Peterson, Craig L; Tan, Song; Armache, Jean-Paul (2023-03-18)
    Sirtuin 6 (SIRT6) is a multifaceted protein deacetylase/deacylase and a major target for small-molecule modulators of longevity and cancer. In the context of chromatin, SIRT6 removes acetyl groups from histone H3 in nucleosomes, but the molecular basis for its nucleosomal substrate preference is unknown. Our cryo-electron microscopy structure of human SIRT6 in complex with the nucleosome shows that the catalytic domain of SIRT6 pries DNA from the nucleosomal entry-exit site and exposes the histone H3 N-terminal helix, while the SIRT6 zinc-binding domain binds to the histone acidic patch using an arginine anchor. In addition, SIRT6 forms an inhibitory interaction with the C-terminal tail of histone H2A. The structure provides insights into how SIRT6 can deacetylate both H3 K9 and H3 K56. Teaser: The structure of the SIRT6 deacetylase/nucleosome complex suggests how the enzyme acts on both histone H3 K9 and K56 residues.
  • De novo lipogenesis fuels adipocyte autophagosome and lysosome membrane dynamics

    Rowland, Leslie A; Guilherme, Adilson; Henriques, Felipe; DiMarzio, Chloe; Munroe, Sean; Wetoska, Nicole; Kelly, Mark; Reddig, Keith; Hendricks, Gregory; Pan, Meixia; et al. (2023-03-13)
    Adipocytes robustly synthesize fatty acids (FA) from carbohydrate through the de novo lipogenesis (DNL) pathway, yet surprisingly DNL contributes little to their abundant triglyceride stored in lipid droplets. This conundrum raises the hypothesis that adipocyte DNL instead enables membrane expansions to occur in processes like autophagy, which requires an abundant supply of phospholipids. We report here that adipocyte Fasn deficiency in vitro and in vivo markedly impairs autophagy, evident by autophagosome accumulation and severely compromised degradation of the autophagic substrate p62. Our data indicate the impairment occurs at the level of autophagosome-lysosome fusion, and indeed, loss of Fasn decreases certain membrane phosphoinositides necessary for autophagosome and lysosome maturation and fusion. Autophagy dependence on FA produced by Fasn is not fully alleviated by exogenous FA in cultured adipocytes, and interestingly, imaging studies reveal that Fasn colocalizes with nascent autophagosomes. Together, our studies identify DNL as a critical source of FAs to fuel autophagosome and lysosome maturation and fusion in adipocytes.
  • Divalent siRNAs are bioavailable in the lung and efficiently block SARS-CoV-2 infection

    Hariharan, Vignesh N; Shin, Minwook; Chang, Ching-Wen; O'Reilly, Daniel; Biscans, Annabelle; Yamada, Ken; Guo, Zhiru; Somasundaran, Mohan; Tang, Qi; Monopoli, Kathryn; et al. (2023-03-09)
    The continuous evolution of SARS-CoV-2 variants complicates efforts to combat the ongoing pandemic, underscoring the need for a dynamic platform for the rapid development of pan-viral variant therapeutics. Oligonucleotide therapeutics are enhancing the treatment of numerous diseases with unprecedented potency, duration of effect, and safety. Through the systematic screening of hundreds of oligonucleotide sequences, we identified fully chemically stabilized siRNAs and ASOs that target regions of the SARS-CoV-2 genome conserved in all variants of concern, including delta and omicron. We successively evaluated candidates in cellular reporter assays, followed by viral inhibition in cell culture, with eventual testing of leads for in vivo antiviral activity in the lung. Previous attempts to deliver therapeutic oligonucleotides to the lung have met with only modest success. Here, we report the development of a platform for identifying and generating potent, chemically modified multimeric siRNAs bioavailable in the lung after local intranasal and intratracheal delivery. The optimized divalent siRNAs showed robust antiviral activity in human cells and mouse models of SARS-CoV-2 infection and represent a new paradigm for antiviral therapeutic development for current and future pandemics.
  • Use of expert consensus to develop a shared list of procedures with potential for aerosol generation during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic

    Pepe, Dana E; Mehrotra, Preeti; Bruno-Murtha, Lou Ann; Colgrove, Robert; Doron, Shira; Duncan, Robert; Ellison, Richard; Haessler, Sarah; Hooper, David C; Klompas, Michael; et al. (2023-03-06)
    The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic highlighted the lack of agreement regarding the definition of aerosol-generating procedures and potential risk to healthcare personnel. We convened a group of Massachusetts healthcare epidemiologists to develop consensus through expert opinion in an area where broader guidance was lacking at the time.
  • Endemic Burkitt lymphoma avatar mouse models for exploring inter-patient tumor variation and testing targeted therapies

    Saikumar Lakshmi, Priya; Oduor, Cliff I; Forconi, Catherine S; M'Bana, Viriato; Bly, Courtney; Gerstein, Rachel M; Otieno, Juliana A; Ong'echa, John M; Münz, Christian; Luftig, Micah A; et al. (2023-03-06)
    Endemic Burkitt lymphoma (BL) is a childhood cancer in sub-Saharan Africa characterized by Epstein-Barr virus and malaria-associated aberrant B-cell activation and MYC chromosomal translocation. Survival rates hover at 50% after conventional chemotherapies; therefore, clinically relevant models are necessary to test additional therapies. Hence, we established five patient-derived BL tumor cell lines and corresponding NSG-BL avatar mouse models. Transcriptomics confirmed that our BL lines maintained fidelity from patient tumors to NSG-BL tumors. However, we found significant variation in tumor growth and survival among NSG-BL avatars and in Epstein-Barr virus protein expression patterns. We tested rituximab responsiveness and found one NSG-BL model exhibiting direct sensitivity, characterized by apoptotic gene expression counterbalanced by unfolded protein response and mTOR pro-survival pathways. In rituximab-unresponsive tumors, we observed an IFN-α signature confirmed by the expression of IRF7 and ISG15. Our results demonstrate significant inter-patient tumor variation and heterogeneity, and that contemporary patient-derived BL cell lines and NSG-BL avatars are feasible tools to guide new therapeutic strategies and improve outcomes for these children.

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