Trophoblasts, the specialized cells of the placenta, play a major role in implantation and formation of the maternal-fetal interface. Through an unusual differentiation process examined in this review, these fetal cells acquire properties of leukocytes and endothelial cells that enable many of their specialized functions. In recent years a great deal has been learned about the regulatory mechanisms, from transcriptional networks to oxygen tension, which control trophoblast differentiation. The challenge is to turn this information into clinically useful tests for monitoring placental function and, hence, pregnancy outcome.
Kristy Red-Horse, Yan Zhou, Olga Genbacev, Akraporn Prakobphol, Russell Foulk, Michael McMaster, Susan J. Fisher
Cell-to-cell viral transmission facilitates the propagation of HIV-1 and human T cell leukemia virus type 1. Mechanisms of cell-to-cell transmission by retroviruses were not well understood until the recent description of virological synapses (VSs). VSs function as specialized sites of immune cell-to-cell contact that direct virus infection. Deciphering the molecular mechanisms of VS formation provides a fascinating insight into how pathogens subvert immune cell communication programs and achieve viral spread.
Vincent Piguet, Quentin Sattentau
Among the most cost-effective strategies for preventing viral infections, vaccines have proven effective primarily against viruses causing acute, self-limited infections. For these it has been sufficient for the vaccine to mimic the natural virus. However, viruses causing chronic infection do not elicit an immune response sufficient to clear the infection and, as a result, vaccines for these viruses must elicit more effective responses — quantitative and qualitative — than does the natural virus. Here we examine the immunologic and virologic basis for vaccines against three such viruses, HIV, hepatitis C virus, and human papillomavirus, and review progress in clinical trials to date. We also explore novel strategies for increasing the immunogenicity and efficacy of vaccines.
Jay A. Berzofsky, Jeffrey D. Ahlers, John Janik, John Morris, SangKon Oh, Masaki Terabe, Igor M. Belyakov
Obesity and its associated comorbidities are among the most prevalent and challenging conditions confronting the medical profession in the 21st century. A major metabolic consequence of obesity is insulin resistance, which is strongly associated with the deposition of triglycerides in the liver. Hepatic steatosis can either be a benign, noninflammatory condition that appears to have no adverse sequelae or can be associated with steatohepatitis: a condition that can result in end-stage liver disease, accounting for up to 14% of liver transplants in the US. Here we highlight recent advances in our understanding of the molecular events contributing to hepatic steatosis and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis.
Jeffrey D. Browning, Jay D. Horton
The term “prion” was introduced by Stanley Prusiner in 1982 to describe the atypical infectious agent that causes transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, a group of infectious neurodegenerative diseases that include scrapie in sheep, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans, chronic wasting disease in cervids, and bovine spongiform encephalopathy in cattle. Over the past twenty years, the word “prion” has been taken to signify various subtly different concepts. In this article, we refer to the prion as the transmissible principle underlying prion diseases, without necessarily implying any specific biochemical or structural identity. When Prusiner started his seminal work, the study of transmissible spongiform encephalopathies was undertaken by only a handful of scientists. Since that time, the “mad cow” crisis has put prion diseases on the agenda of both politicians and the media. Significant progress has been made in prion disease research, and many aspects of prion pathogenesis are now understood. And yet the diagnostic procedures available for prion diseases are not nearly as sensitive as they ought to be, and no therapeutic intervention has been shown to reliably affect the course of the diseases. This article reviews recent progress in the areas of pathogenesis of, diagnostics of, and therapy for prion diseases and highlights some conspicuous problems that remain to be addressed in each of these fields.
Adriano Aguzzi, Mathias Heikenwalder, Gino Miele
Acute renal failure (ARF), characterized by sudden loss of the ability of the kidneys to excrete wastes, concentrate urine, conserve electrolytes, and maintain fluid balance, is a frequent clinical problem, particularly in the intensive care unit, where it is associated with a mortality of between 50% and 80%. In this review, the epidemiology and pathophysiology of ARF are discussed, including the vascular, tubular, and inflammatory perturbations. The clinical evaluation of ARF and implications for potential future therapies to decrease the high mortality are described.
Robert W. Schrier, Wei Wang, Brian Poole, Amit Mitra
Chronic and excessive inflammation in skin and joints causes significant morbidity in psoriasis patients. As a prevalent T lymphocyte–mediated disorder, psoriasis, as well as the side effects associated with its treatment, affects patients globally. In this review, recent progress is discussed in the areas of genetics, the immunological synapse, the untangling of the cytokine web and signaling pathways, xenotransplantation models, and the growing use of selectively targeted therapies. Since psoriasis is currently incurable, new management strategies are proposed to replace previous serendipitous approaches. Such strategic transition from serendipity to the use of novel selective agents aimed at defined targets in psoriatic lesions is moving rapidly from research benches to the bedsides of patients with this chronic and debilitating disease.
Brian J. Nickoloff, Frank O. Nestle
In recent years, great strides in understanding and regulating the immune system have led to new hope for harnessing its exquisite specificity to destroy cancer cells without affecting normal tissues. This review examines the fundamental immunologic advances and the novel vaccine strategies arising from these advances, as well as the early clinical trials studying new approaches to treat or prevent cancer.
Jay A. Berzofsky, Masaki Terabe, SangKon Oh, Igor M. Belyakov, Jeffrey D. Ahlers, John E. Janik, John C. Morris
The kidney plays a central role in our ability to maintain appropriate sodium balance, which is critical to determination of blood pressure. In this review we outline current knowledge of renal salt handling at the molecular level, and, given that Westernized societies consume more salt than is required for normal physiology, we examine evidence that the lowering of salt intake can combat hypertension.
Kevin M. O’Shaughnessy, Fiona E. Karet
Malaria, the most prevalent and most pernicious parasitic disease of humans, is estimated to kill between one and two million people, mainly children, each year. Resistance has emerged to all classes of antimalarial drugs except the artemisinins and is responsible for a recent increase in malaria-related mortality, particularly in Africa. The de novo emergence of resistance can be prevented by the use of antimalarial drug combinations. Artemisinin-derivative combinations are particularly effective, since they act rapidly and are well tolerated and highly effective. Widespread use of these drugs could roll back malaria.
Nicholas J. White
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