Organoid technology has provided new translational research opportunities in oncology, in part by enabling the development of patient-representative living biobanks. Prostate cancer research historically has been constrained to a small number of in vitro models, limiting the ability to translate experimental conclusions for contemporary, heterogeneous patient populations. The facility of organoid culture methods to maintain luminal prostate epithelia, the common lineage of prostate cancers, has greatly expanded the phenotypic and genotypic diversity of available tractable models, including luminal stem/progenitor cells and progressive patient-derived cancers. Biobanks of patient prostate cancer organoids enable increased accuracy in predicting therapeutic efficacy and informative clinical trial designs. Here, we discuss how prostate organoid technology is currently being used, the promising areas of future therapeutic applications, and the current obstacles to be overcome.
Michael Beshiri, Supreet Agarwal, Juan Juan Yin, Kathleen Kelly
Connexins are crucial cardiac proteins that form hemichannels and gap junctions. Gap junctions are responsible for the propagation of electrical and chemical signals between myocardial cells and cells of the specialized conduction system in order to synchronize the cardiac cycle and steer cardiac pump function. Gap junctions are normally open, while hemichannels are closed, but pathological circumstances may close gap junctions and open hemichannels, thereby perturbing cardiac function and homeostasis. Current evidence demonstrates an emerging role of hemichannels in myocardial ischemia and arrhythmia, and tools are now available to selectively inhibit hemichannels without inhibiting gap junctions as well as to stimulate hemichannel incorporation into gap junctions. We review available experimental evidence for hemichannel contributions to cellular pro-arrhythmic events in ventricular and atrial cardiomyocytes, and link these to insights at the level of molecular control of connexin-43–based hemichannel opening. We conclude that a double-edged approach of both preventing hemichannel opening and preserving gap junctional function will be key for further research and development of new connexin-based experimental approaches for treating heart disease.
Luc Leybaert, Maarten A.J. De Smet, Alessio Lissoni, Rosalie Allewaert, H. Llewelyn Roderick, Geert Bultynck, Mario Delmar, Karin R. Sipido, Katja Witschas
Kidney disease is a major driver of mortality among patients with diabetes and diabetic kidney disease (DKD) is responsible for close to half of all chronic kidney disease cases. DKD usually develops in a genetically susceptible individual as a result of poor metabolic (glycemic) control. Molecular and genetic studies indicate the key role of podocytes and endothelial cells in driving albuminuria and early kidney disease in diabetes. Proximal tubule changes show a strong association with the glomerular filtration rate. Hyperglycemia represents a key cellular stress in the kidney by altering cellular metabolism in endothelial cells and podocytes and by imposing an excess workload requiring energy and oxygen for proximal tubule cells. Changes in metabolism induce early adaptive cellular hypertrophy and reorganization of the actin cytoskeleton. Later, mitochondrial defects contribute to increased oxidative stress and activation of inflammatory pathways, causing progressive kidney function decline and fibrosis. Blockade of the renin-angiotensin system or the sodium-glucose cotransporter is associated with cellular protection and slowing kidney function decline. Newly identified molecular pathways could provide the basis for the development of much-needed novel therapeutics.
Samer Mohandes, Tomohito Doke, Hailong Hu, Dhanunjay Mukhi, Poonam Dhillon, Katalin Susztak
Infections with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and vaccinations targeting the spike protein (S) offer protective immunity against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). This immunity may further be shaped by cross-reactivity with common cold coronaviruses. Mutations arising in S that are associated with altered intrinsic virus properties and immune escape result in the continued circulation of SARS-CoV-2 variants. Potentially, vaccine updates will be required to protect against future variants of concern, as for influenza. To offer potent protection against future variants, these second-generation vaccines may need to redirect immunity to epitopes associated with immune escape and not merely boost immunity toward conserved domains in preimmune individuals. For influenza, efficacy of repeated vaccination is hampered by original antigenic sin, an attribute of immune memory that leads to greater induction of antibodies specific to the first-encountered variant of an immunogen compared with subsequent variants. In this Review, recent findings on original antigenic sin are discussed in the context of SARS-CoV-2 evolution. Unanswered questions and future directions are highlighted, with an emphasis on the impact on disease outcome and vaccine design.
Muriel Aguilar-Bretones, Ron A.M. Fouchier, Marion P.G. Koopmans, Gijsbert P. van Nierop
Hematopoietic stem cells, regulated by their microenvironment (or “niche”), sustain the production of mature blood and immune cells. Leukemia cells remodel the microenvironment to enhance their survival, which is accompanied by the loss of support for normal hematopoiesis in hematologic malignancies. Extracellular vesicles (EVs) mediate intercellular communication in physiological and pathological conditions, and deciphering their functions in cell-cell interactions in the ecosystem can highlight potential therapeutic targets. In this Review, we illustrate the utility of EVs derived from various cell types, focusing on the biological molecules they contain and the behavioral alterations they can induce in recipient cells. We also discuss the potential for clinical application in hematologic malignancies, including EV-based therapeutic regimens, drug delivery via EVs, and the use of EVs (or their cargoes) as biomarkers.
Guohuan Sun, Quan Gu, Junke Zheng, Hui Cheng, Tao Cheng
Germline loss-of-function mutations of the VHL tumor suppressor gene cause von Hippel–Lindau disease, which is associated with an increased risk of hemangioblastomas, clear cell renal cell carcinomas (ccRCCs), and paragangliomas. This Review describes mechanisms involving the VHL gene product in oxygen sensing, protein degradation, and tumor development and current therapeutic strategies targeting these mechanisms. The VHL gene product is the substrate recognition subunit of a ubiquitin ligase that targets the α subunit of the heterodimeric hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF) transcription factor for proteasomal degradation when oxygen is present. This oxygen dependence stems from the requirement that HIFα be prolyl-hydroxylated on one (or both) of two conserved prolyl residues by members of the EglN (also called PHD) prolyl hydroxylase family. Deregulation of HIF, and particularly HIF2, drives the growth of VHL-defective ccRCCs. Drugs that inhibit the HIF-responsive gene product VEGF are now mainstays of ccRCC treatment. An allosteric HIF2 inhibitor was recently approved for the treatment of ccRCCs arising in the setting of VHL disease and has advanced to phase III testing for sporadic ccRCCs based on promising phase I/II data. Orally available EglN inhibitors are being tested for the treatment of anemia and ischemia. Five of these agents have been approved for the treatment of anemia in the setting of chronic kidney disease in various countries around the world.
William G. Kaelin Jr.
SARS-CoV-2–infected individuals may suffer a multi–organ system disorder known as “long COVID” or post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection (PASC). There are no standard treatments, the pathophysiology is unknown, and incidence varies by clinical phenotype. Acute COVID-19 correlates with biomarkers of systemic inflammation, hypercoagulability, and comorbidities that are less prominent in PASC. Macrovessel thrombosis, a hallmark of acute COVID-19, is less frequent in PASC. Female sex at birth is associated with reduced risk for acute COVID-19 progression, but with increased risk of PASC. Persistent microvascular endotheliopathy associated with cryptic SARS-CoV-2 tissue reservoirs has been implicated in PASC pathology. Autoantibodies, localized inflammation, and reactivation of latent pathogens may also be involved, potentially leading to microvascular thrombosis, as documented in multiple PASC tissues. Diagnostic assays illuminating possible therapeutic targets are discussed.
Jasimuddin Ahamed, Jeffrey Laurence
The discovery of microRNAs and their role in diseases was a breakthrough that inspired research into microRNAs as drug targets. Cardiovascular diseases are an area in which limitations of conventional pharmacotherapy are highly apparent and where microRNA-based drugs have appreciably progressed into preclinical and clinical testing. In this Review, we summarize the current state of microRNAs as therapeutic targets in the cardiovascular system. We report recent advances in the identification and characterization of microRNAs, their manipulation and clinical translation, and discuss challenges and perspectives toward clinical application.
Bernhard Laggerbauer, Stefan Engelhardt
Hypoxia-inducible factors (HIFs) are master regulators of oxygen homeostasis that match O2 supply and demand for each of the 50 trillion cells in the adult human body. Cancer cells co-opt this homeostatic system to drive cancer progression. HIFs activate the transcription of thousands of genes that mediate angiogenesis, cancer stem cell specification, cell motility, epithelial-mesenchymal transition, extracellular matrix remodeling, glucose and lipid metabolism, immune evasion, invasion, and metastasis. In this Review, the mechanisms and consequences of HIF activation in cancer cells are presented. The current status and future prospects of small-molecule HIF inhibitors for use as cancer therapeutics are discussed.
Elizabeth E. Wicks, Gregg L. Semenza
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) accounts for almost half of all deaths related to non-communicable disease worldwide, making it the single largest global cause of mortality. Although the risk factors for coronary artery disease — the most common cause of CVD — are well known and include hypertension, high cholesterol, age, and genetics, CVDs are now recognized as chronic inflammatory conditions. Arterial blockages, known as atherosclerosis, develop due to excess cholesterol accumulating within the arterial wall, creating a perpetually inflammatory state. The normally quiescent intimal layer of the vessel wall becomes laden with inflammatory cells, which alters the surrounding endothelial, smooth muscle, and extracellular matrix components to propagate disease. Macrophages, which can be either tissue resident or monocyte derived, are a key player in atherosclerotic disease progression and regression, and the understanding of their functions and origins continues to evolve with the use of deep phenotyping methodologies. This Review outlines how macrophages interact with each layer of the developing atherosclerotic plaque and discusses new concepts that are challenging our previous views on how macrophages function and our evolving understanding of the contribution of macrophages to disease.
Leah I. Susser, Katey J. Rayner
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