Current therapies for pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) provide symptomatic relief and improve prognosis but fall short of improving long-term survival. There is emerging evidence for a role of inflammatory mediators, primarily IL-6, in the pathogenesis of PAH. However, the mechanisms by which IL-6 potentially affects PAH are unknown. In this issue of the JCI, Tamura, Phan, and colleagues identified ectopic upregulation of the membrane-bound IL-6 receptor (IL6R), indicating classical IL-6 signaling in the smooth muscle layer of remodeled vessels in human and experimental PAH. They performed a series of in vitro and in vivo experiments that provide deeper insights into the mechanisms of classical IL-6 signaling and propose interventions directed against IL6R as a potential therapeutic strategy for PAH.
Soni Savai Pullamsetti, Werner Seeger, Rajkumar Savai
Rasmussen’s encephalitis (RE) is a neuroinflammatory disease that typically affects only one hemisphere of the brain, resulting in severe seizures. Sixty years after the disease was first described, the preferred and best treatment option for RE is grotesque and involves removing a hemisphere of the brain (hemispherectomy); therefore, a better understanding of this seizure disorder may provide additional, less invasive therapeutic options. In this issue of the JCI, Carmant and colleagues have developed an animal model of this focal seizure disorder. The model provides experimental insights into the pathogenesis of RE and potential new treatments for this disease.
Inheritance of the E4 allele of the apolipoprotein E gene (APOE4) substantially increases the risk of developing late-onset Alzheimer disease (AD). A large body of evidence has firmly established a role for apoE in modulating the risk of developing the amyloid plaque pathology that is pathognomonic for AD. In this issue of the JCI, Liao and colleagues discovered that antibodies against a nonlipidated form of apoE4 are highly effective in delaying the deposition of amyloid β (Aβ) peptides in mouse models of AD pathology. Using a combination of passive immunization and viral-mediated expression of recombinant antibodies, the authors show that Fc receptor–mediated clearance of the nonlipidated apoE4 was critical in delaying Aβ deposition. Collectively, this study identifies a new therapeutic target that could be exploited to prevent, or possibly reverse, the Aβ pathology of AD.
David R. Borchelt
Malaria, caused by mosquito-transmitted Plasmodium parasites, continues to take a major toll on global health. The development of drugs and vaccines that reduce malaria transmission from humans back to mosquitos could contribute to the control and eventual eradication of malaria, but research models for the early clinical evaluation of candidate interventions are lacking. In this issue of the JCI, Collins and colleagues report the successful transmission of Plasmodium falciparum parasites from humans to mosquitoes during controlled human malaria infection, thus providing a potential tool to accelerate the development of much needed transmission-blocking drugs and vaccines.
Kazutoyo Miura, Peter D. Crompton
As oncogenes drive carcinogenesis and promote cancer cell survival, they are highly attractive therapeutic targets, and oncogene-targeting small molecules have achieved some clinical success. While many oncogenes are presently considered to be “druggable,” tumors often acquire treatment resistance, and patients are rarely cured in response to oncogene-specific treatment. In this issue of the JCI, Veatch and colleagues describe a patient with metastatic acral melanoma who experienced a complete tumor response following infusion of tumor-infiltrating T cells that targeted multiple tumor antigens, including a BRAFV600E driver mutation. T cells genetically engineered to express an anti-BRAFV600E T cell receptor (TCR) from the patient demonstrated recognition of an epitope that spanned the BRAFV600E mutation. These findings suggest that BRAFV600E might be targeted therapeutically with adoptive transfer of anti-BRAFV600E T cells. This research supports the emerging therapeutic paradigm of targeting oncogenic drivers with T cell immunotherapy.
Christian S. Hinrichs
Oncolytic viruses (OVs) are a versatile new class of therapeutic agents based on native or genetically modified viruses that selectively replicate in tumor cells and can express therapeutic transgenes designed to target cells within the tumor microenvironment and/or host immunity. To date, however, confirmation of the underlying mechanism of action and an understanding of innate and acquired drug resistance for most OVs have been limited. In this issue of the JCI, Zamarin et al. report a comprehensive analysis of an oncolytic Newcastle disease virus (NDV) using both murine melanoma tumor models and human tumor explants to explore how the virus promotes tumor eradication and details of the mechanisms involved. These findings have implications for the optimization of oncolytic immunotherapy, at least that based on NDV, and further confirm that specific combinatorial approaches are promising for clinical development.
Praveen K. Bommareddy, Howard L. Kaufman
Bone formation and resorption are tightly coupled, and dysfunction of either process leads to bone diseases, such as osteoporosis. Bone-forming agents have been explored clinically to increase bone density; however, long-term efficacy of these strategies is limited due to the accompanying increase in resorption in response to increased bone formation. Axonal guidance molecules have recently been shown to regulate formation-resorption coupling and thus have the potential for osteoporosis therapy. In this issue of the JCI, Kim et al. demonstrate that osteoclast-secreted SLIT3 influences bone formation and resorption by promoting osteoblast migration and suppressing osteoclast differentiation. Activation of SLIT3/ROBO signaling in ovariectomized mice increased bone mass, suggesting that SLIT3 should be further explored as a therapeutic target.
Jameel Iqbal, Tony Yuen, Se-Min Kim, Mone Zaidi
Atherosclerosis is a chronic inflammatory disease of the vasculature that is initiated by cholesterol deposition into the arterial wall, which triggers the infiltration of immune and inflammatory cells, including monocytes and macrophages. As atherosclerotic plaques progress, localized hypoxia promotes compensatory angiogenesis from the vasa vasorum. Immature neovessels are prone to leakage, thus destabilizing the plaque and leading to intraplaque hemorrhage. Macrophages with different phenotypes, ranging from classical inflammatory subtypes to alternatively activated antiinflammatory macrophages, have been identified in atherosclerotic lesions. Antiinflammatory hemoglobin-scavenging CD163+ macrophages are present in neovessel- and hemorrhage-rich areas; however, the role of these macrophages in atherogenesis has been unclear. In this issue of the JCI, Guo, Akahori, and colleagues show that CD163+ macrophages promote angiogenesis, vessel permeability, and leucocyte infiltration in human and mouse atherosclerotic lesions through a mechanism involving hemoglobin:haptoglobin/CD163/HIF1α-mediated VEGF induction. This study thus identifies proatherogenic properties of CD163+ macrophages, which previously were thought to be beneficial.
Benoit Pourcet, Bart Staels
Heart failure (HF) has been referred to as the cardiovascular epidemic of our time. Understanding the molecular determinants of HF disease progression and mortality risk is of utmost importance. In this issue of the JCI, Zhang et al. uncover an important link between clinical HF mortality risk and a common variant that regulates SCN5A expression through microRNA-dependent (miR-dependent)mechanisms. They also demonstrate that haploinsufficiency of SCN5A is associated with increased accumulation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in a genetically engineered murine model. Their data suggest that even modest depression of SCN5A expression may promote pathologic cardiac remodeling and progression of HF.
David S. Park, Glenn I. Fishman
Asthma is remarkably heterogeneous, and there are multiple underlying inflammatory pathways and structural airway abnormalities that lead to symptomatic disease. Consequently, a current challenge in the field is to precisely characterize different types of asthma, with the goal of developing personalized approaches to therapy. In the current issue of the JCI, Dunican et al. developed a noninvasive way to assess airway dysfunction in asthma by measuring mucus accumulation using multidetector computed tomography (MDCT) and found that mucus plugging of small airways was remarkably common in subjects with severe asthma. This work highlights the importance of noninvasive imaging approaches in defining specific asthma subsets and guiding targeted therapies.
Steve N. Georas
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