A discovery made several years ago in a lab researching asthma at Wake Forest School of Medicine may now have implications for the treatment of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a disease with no known cure and only two FDA-approved drugs to treat its progression and severity.
A study published in the journal Neurology Neuroimmunology & Neuroinflammation showed that ALS patients with a commonly inherited genetic variation or polymorphism in the interleukin 6 (IL6) receptor gene may experience more severe symptoms and faster progression of the disease.
This relationship was first identified in asthma patients in 2012 by Gregory A. Hawkins, PhD, and co-workers at the School of Medicine. He found that people who had asthma and this inherited trait experienced more severe asthma than those who did not have it.
The ALS study was led by Carol Milligan, PhD, professor of neurobiology and anatomy and senior author, and was spearheaded by MD/PhD student Marlena Wosiski-Kuhn of the Class of 2020.
“This study is the first to show that this polymorphism may modify the course of ALS,” Milligan said. “We hope that our findings may provide a target for a new treatment and lay the groundwork for future clinical trials.”
New information published by School of Medicine scientists suggests that gut bacteria and its interactions with immune cells and metabolic organs, including fat tissue, play a key role in childhood obesity.
“The medical community used to think that obesity was a result of consuming too many calories. However, a series of studies over the past decade has confirmed that the microbes living in our gut are not only associated with obesity but also are one of the causes,” said Hariom Yadav, PhD, lead author of the review and assistant professor of molecular medicine.
Yadav’s manuscript, published in the journal Obesity Reviews, reviewed existing studies (animal and human) on how the interaction between gut microbiome and immune cells can be passed from mother to baby as early as gestation and can contribute to childhood obesity.
The review also described how a mother's health, diet, exercise level, antibiotic use, birth method (natural or cesarean), and feeding method (formula or breast milk) can affect the risk of obesity in her children.
“This compilation of current research should be very useful for doctors, nutritionists and dietitians to discuss with their patients because so many of these factors can be changed if people have enough good information,” Yadav said.
Scientists have reported a new approach to treating lung cancer with inhaled nanoparticles developed at the School of Medicine.
In this proof-of-concept study, Dawen Zhao, MD, PhD, associate professor of biomedical engineering, used a mouse model to determine if metastatic lung tumors responded to an inhalable nanoparticle-immunotherapy system combined with the radiation therapy that is commonly used to treat lung cancer.
Among other findings, the team showed that combining the nanoparticle inhalation with radiation applied to a portion of one lung led to regression of tumors in both lungs and prolonged survival of the mice. The team also reported that it completely eliminated lung tumors in some of the mice.
Zhao’s inhalable immunotherapy presents several key advantages to previous methods, especially the ability to access deep-seated lung tumors because the nanoparticulate-carrying aerosol was designed to reach all parts of the lung, and the feasibility of repeated treatment by using a non-irritating aerosol formulation.
The researchers have filed a provisional patent application for the inhalable nanoparticle-immunotherapy system. Their study was published in Nature Communications.
Speed, agility and strength are definitely assets on the football field. But when it comes to hits to the head, those talents may actually increase exposure for the young athletes who account for about 70% of this country’s football players.
A study of youth league football players by researchers at the School of Medicine found that higher vertical jumping ability and faster times in speed and agility drills were generally associated with higher head impact exposure, especially in games as compared to practices.
“Previous studies have shown the severity and number of head impacts increases with the level of play in football, but we have found that there is significant variability in head impact exposure among individuals playing at the same level,” said Jillian E. Urban, PhD ’15, assistant professor of biomedical engineering and the study’s senior author.
“Differences in position account for some of that variation at the high school and college levels, but less so in youth football. Our objective was to see if there is a relationship in youth football between head impact exposure and physical ability as measured by commonly used drills, and our results suggest there is.”
The study was published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.
Intensively controlling a person’s blood pressure was more effective at slowing the accumulation of white matter lesions in the brain than standard treatment of high blood pressure. That is according to a nationwide study of hundreds of participants in the National Institutes of Health’s Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial (SPRINT).
Researchers used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to scan the brains of trial participants. The results, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, complement a previous study led by a team of scientists at Wake Forest Baptist Health that showed that intensive control of blood pressure significantly reduced the risk of developing mild cognitive impairment.
Jeff Williamson, MD, MHS, professor of gerontology and geriatric medicine, was the principal investigator of the previous study. He and colleagues at Wake Forest Baptist were also involved in the most recent study.
“Blood pressure lowering remains the only proven pathway to reducing risk for memory loss,” he said, “and Wake Forest Baptist is honored to have been asked by the National Institutes of Health to lead this research that is helping improve the health of people right here in the Triad as well as across the country.”
Research reported in this publication was supported by the following sources and grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH):
Scientists Identify Genetic Variation Linked to Severity of ALS: Hope for Tomorrow, a gift in the memory of Murray Sherman, the Wake Forest Baptist Health Brian White Fund and the Tab A. Williams Funds at Wake Forest School of Medicine.
Player Athleticism Increases Head Impact Exposure in Youth Football: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke awards R01 NS094410 and R01 NS082453, National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences grant KL2 TR001421 and the Childress Institute for Pediatric Trauma at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.
Intensive Blood Pressure Control May Slow Age-Related Brain Damage: NIH Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial, which was jointly funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, the National Institute on Aging, and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (HHSN268200900040C, HHSN268200900046C, HHSN268200900047C, HHSN268200900048C, and HHSN268200900049C and interagency agreement A-HL-13-002-001), and the following NIH grants: OD023495, TR000439, RR025755, RR024134, TR000003, RR025771, TR000093, RR025752, TR000073, TR001064, TR000050, TR000005, TR000017, TR000105, TR000445, TR000075, TR000002, TR000064, TR000433, GM103337. Additional funding was provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Azilsartan and chlorthalidone (combined with azilsartan) were provided by Takeda Pharmaceuticals International Inc.