Plasmodium vivax bench research greatly lags behind Plasmodium falciparum because of an inability to culture in vitro. A century ago, intentionally inducing a malaria infection was a strategy commonly used to cure late-stage syphilis. These controlled human malaria infections were used with expertise and persisted to the end of World War II. While controlled malaria liver-stage infection has been achieved for both P. vivax and P. falciparum, controlled human transmission to mosquitoes falls short for both species. In this issue of the JCI, Collins et al. present groundbreaking work that establishes a system to transmit P. vivax gametocytes from humans to mosquitoes. The authors injected a unique human isolate of P. vivax that reached high gametocyte density within weeks. This study provides a technical advance that will facilitate the study and eradication of the human parasite P. vivax.
David J. Sullivan, Peter Agre
Organ shortage continues to limit the lives of patients who require liver transplantation. While extending criteria for liver organs provides a needed resource, tissue damage from prolonged ischemic injury can result in early allograft dysfunction and consequent rejection. In this issue of the JCI, Nakamura et al. used a mouse transplantation model with prolonged ex vivo cold storage to explore liver graft protection. The authors found that liver grafts with absent carcinoembryonic antigen-related cell adhesion molecule 1 (CEACAM1) exhibited increased ischemia-reperfusion injury inflammation and decreased function in wild-type recipients. The authors went on to correlate CEACAM1 levels with postreperfusion damage in human liver transplant recipients. Notably, this study identified a potential biomarker for liver transplant donor graft quality.
Samer Tohme, David A. Geller
Hearing loss caused by the death of sensory hair cells of the inner ear is an unfortunate side effect for many patients treated with aminoglycoside antibiotics or platinum-containing chemotherapy agents. In animal models, induction of heat shock confers substantial otoprotection against aminoglycoside- and cisplatin-induced hair cell death. In this issue of the JCI, Breglio et al. demonstrate that inner ear tissue released exosomes carrying heat shock protein 70 (HSP70) in response to heat stress. HSP70 acted by a paracrine mechanism that engaged the Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) on hair cells to protect them from death. Exosomes and the HSP70/TLR4 pathway could thus provide treatment targets for the protection of hair cells from chemically induced death or from other insults, such as noise.
Nerve growth factor (NGF) regulates many aspects of neuronal biology by retrogradely propagating signals along axons to the targets of those axons. How this occurs when axons contain a plethora of proteins that can silence those signals has long perplexed the neurotrophin field. In this issue of the JCI, Li et al. suggest an answer to this vexing problem, while exploring why the Elp1 gene that is mutated in familial dysautonomia (FD) causes peripheral neuropathy. They describe a distinctive function of Elp1 as a protein that is required to sustain NGF signaling by blocking the activity of its phosphatase that shuts off those signals. This finding helps explain the innervation deficits prominent in FD and reveals a unique role for Elp1 in the regulation of NGF-dependent TrkA activity.
David R. Kaplan, William C. Mobley
Alterations in calcium signaling in pancreatic acinar cells can result in pancreatitis. Although pressure changes in the pancreas can elevate cytosolic calcium (Ca2+) levels, it is not known how transient pressure-activated elevations in calcium can cause prolonged calcium changes and consequent pancreatitis. In this issue of the JCI, Swain et al. describe roles for the mechanically activated plasma membrane calcium channels Piezo1 and transient receptor potential vanilloid subfamily 4 (TRPV4) in acinar cells. The authors used genetic deletion models and cell culture systems to investigate calcium signaling. Notably, activation of the Piezo1-dependent TRPV4 pathway was independent of the cholecystokinin (CCK) stimulation pathway. These results elegantly resolve an apparent discrepancy in calcium signaling and the pathogenesis of pancreatitis in pancreatic acinar cells.
Fred Gorelick, Michael H. Nathanson
Immunosuppression continues to be a necessary component of transplantation, despite its association with a multitude of adverse effects. Numerous efforts have been made to circumvent the need for immunosuppression by using various techniques to achieve donor hyporesponsiveness. In this issue of the JCI, Morath et al. take this endeavor forward. Prior to transplantation, the researchers infused recipients with donor-modified immune cells and achieved immunologic hyporesponsiveness. This successful phase I trial also provides a possible avenue for achieving transplantation without the requisite immunosuppression.
Sam Kant, Daniel C. Brennan
Infection with the Gram-negative bacterium Helicobacter pylori remains the most important modifiable risk factor for the development of gastric cancer, a leading cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide. How the interactions between H. pylori and its host shape the gastric environment during chronic infection warrants further investigation. In this issue of the JCI, Palrasu et al. used human cell lines and mouse models to provide mechanistic insight into H. pylori’s ability to delay apoptosis in gastric epithelial cells by actively driving the degradation of a proapoptotic factor, SIVA1. Their findings suggest that promoting the survival of gastric epithelial cells has implications not only for H. pylori pathogenesis but for host tumorigenesis.
José B. Sáenz, Jason C. Mills
Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD) results from expression of the full-length double homeobox 4 (DUX4-FL) retrogene in skeletal muscle. However, even in cases of severe FSHD the presence of DUX4 is barely detectable. In this issue of the JCI, Bosnakovski et al. used an inducible, muscle-specific human DUX4 to reproduce the low-level, sporadic DUX4 expression of human FSHD muscle as well the myopathology seen in human FSHD disease. Notably, dysregulated fibroadipogenic progenitors accumulated in affected muscles, thus providing a mechanism for the replacement of muscle by fibrosis and fat.
Carlo Serra, Kathryn R. Wagner
The pandemic coronavirus infectious disease (COVID-19), caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), is rapidly spreading across the globe. In this issue of the JCI, Chen and colleagues compared the clinical and immunologic characteristics between moderate versus severe COVID-19. The authors found that respiratory distress on admission is associated with unfavorable outcomes. Increased cytokine levels (IL-6, IL-10 and TNFα), lymphopenia (in CD4+ and CD8+ T cells), and decreased IFNγ expression in CD4+ T cells are associated with severe COVID-19. Overall, this study characterized the cytokine storm in severe COVID-19 and provides insights into immune therapeutics and vaccine design.
Savannah F. Pedersen, Ya-Chi Ho
Brown and beige adipose tissues contain thermogenic fat cells that can be activated by β3-adrenergic receptor agonists. In rodents, such drugs both diminish obesity and improve glucose homeostasis. In this issue of the JCI, O’Mara et al. and Finlin and Memetimin et al. report that chronic administration of the approved β3 agonist mirabegron to human subjects was without effect on body weight or fat mass, but improved several measures of glucose homeostasis. Though the mechanisms mediating these metabolic effects are uncertain, the data suggest that β3 agonists could have therapeutic utility in disorders of glucose homeostasis.
Jeffrey S. Flier
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