The gut microbiota has the capacity to affect host appetite via intestinal satiety pathways, as well as complex feeding behaviors. In this Review, we highlight recent evidence that the gut microbiota can modulate food preference across model organisms. We discuss effects of the gut microbiota on the vagus nerve and brain regions including the hypothalamus, mesolimbic system, and prefrontal cortex, which play key roles in regulating feeding behavior. Crosstalk between commensal bacteria and the central and peripheral nervous systems is associated with alterations in signaling of neurotransmitters and neuropeptides such as dopamine, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), and glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1). We further consider areas for future research on mechanisms by which gut microbes may influence feeding behavior involving these neural pathways. Understanding roles for the gut microbiota in feeding regulation will be important for informing therapeutic strategies to treat metabolic and eating disorders.
Kristie B. Yu, Elaine Y. Hsiao
Given the crucial role of the gastrointestinal tract and associated organs in handling nutrient assimilation and metabolism, it has long been known that its communication with the brain is important for the control of ingestive behavior and body weight regulation. It is also clear that gut-brain communication is bidirectional and utilizes both rapid neural and slower humoral mechanisms and pathways. However, progress in understanding these mechanisms and leveraging them for the treatment of obesity and metabolic disease has been hindered by the enormous dimension of the gut mucosa, the complexity of the signaling systems, and lack of specific tools. With the ascent of modern neurobiological technology, our understanding of the role of vagal afferents in gut-brain communication has begun to change. The first function-specific populations of vagal afferents providing nutritional feedback as well as feed-forward signals have been identified with genetics-guided methodology, and it is hoped that extension of the methodology to other neural communication pathways will follow soon. Currently, efficient clinical leveraging of gut-brain communication to treat obesity and metabolic disease is limited to a few gut hormones, but a more complete understanding of function-specific and projection-specific neuronal populations should make it possible to develop selective and more effective neuromodulation approaches.
Hans-Rudolf Berthoud, Vance L. Albaugh, Winfried L. Neuhuber
The gastrointestinal tract comprises a complex ecosystem with extensive opportunities for functional interactions between neoplastic epithelial cells and stromal, immune, neuronal, glial, and other cell types, as well as microorganisms and metabolites within the gut lumen. In this Review, we focus on interactions between gastrointestinal cancers and elements of the central and enteric nervous systems. This previously understudied but rapidly emerging area of investigation has blossomed in recent years, particularly with respect to improved understanding of neural contributions to the development and progression of esophageal, gastric, pancreatic, and colon neoplasia. Cancer neuroscience offers great promise to advance our understanding of how neural-cancer interactions promote alimentary tract neoplasia. The resulting mechanistic insights can be leveraged to identify diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers, and to develop novel therapeutic interventions.
Alyssa Schledwitz, Guofeng Xie, Jean-Pierre Raufman
The immunoprevention of cancer and cancer recurrence is an important area of concern for the scientific community and society as a whole. Researchers have been working for decades to develop vaccines with the potential to alleviate these health care and economic burdens. So far, vaccines have made more progress in preventing cancer than in eliminating already established cancer. In particular, vaccines targeting oncogenic viruses, such as the human papillomavirus and the hepatitis B virus, are exceptional examples of successful prevention of virus-associated cancers, such as cervical cancer and hepatocellular carcinoma. Cancer-preventive vaccines targeting nonviral antigens, such as tumor-associated antigens and neoantigens, are also being extensively tested. Here, we review the currently approved preventive cancer vaccines; discuss the challenges in this field by covering ongoing preclinical and clinical human trials in various cancers; and address various issues related to maximizing cancer vaccine benefit.
Tomohiro Enokida, Alvaro Moreira, Nina Bhardwaj
Tumor metastasis is a singularly important determinant of survival in most cancers. Historically, radiation therapy (RT) directed at a primary tumor mass was associated infrequently with remission of metastasis outside the field of irradiation. This away-from-target or “abscopal effect” received fringe attention because of its rarity. With the advent of immunotherapy, there are now increasing reports of abscopal effects upon RT in combination with immune checkpoint inhibition. This sparked investigation into underlying mechanisms and clinical trials aimed at enhancement of this effect. While these studies clearly attribute the abscopal effect to an antitumor immune response, the initial molecular triggers for its onset and specificity remain enigmatic. Here, we propose that DNA damage–induced inflammation coupled with neoantigen generation is essential during this intriguing phenomenon of systemic tumor regression and discuss the implications of this model for treatment aimed at triggering the abscopal effect in metastatic cancer.
Timothy P. Lippert, Roger A. Greenberg
Since the discovery of myostatin (MSTN; also known as GDF-8) as a critical regulator of skeletal muscle mass in 1997, there has been an extensive effort directed at understanding the cellular and physiological mechanisms underlying MSTN activity, with the long-term goal of developing strategies and agents capable of blocking MSTN signaling to treat patients with muscle loss. Considerable progress has been made in elucidating key components of this regulatory system, and in parallel with this effort has been the development of numerous biologics that have been tested in clinical trials for a wide range of indications, including muscular dystrophy, sporadic inclusion body myositis, spinal muscular atrophy, cachexia, muscle loss due to aging or following falls, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. Here, I review what is known about the MSTN regulatory system and the current state of efforts to target this pathway for clinical applications.
Sickle cell disease (SCD) is a monogenic disorder characterized by recurrent episodes of severe bone pain, multi-organ failure, and early mortality. Although medical progress over the past several decades has improved clinical outcomes and offered cures for many affected individuals living in high-income countries, most SCD patients still experience substantial morbidity and premature death. Emerging technologies to manipulate somatic cell genomes and insights into the mechanisms of developmental globin gene regulation are generating potentially transformative approaches to cure SCD by autologous hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) transplantation. Key components of current approaches include ethical informed consent, isolation of patient HSCs, in vitro genetic modification of HSCs to correct the SCD mutation or circumvent its damaging effects, and reinfusion of the modified HSCs following myelotoxic bone marrow conditioning. Successful integration of these components into effective therapies requires interdisciplinary collaborations between laboratory researchers, clinical caregivers, and patients. Here we summarize current knowledge and research challenges for each key component, emphasizing that the best approaches have yet to be developed.
Phillip A. Doerfler, Akshay Sharma, Jerlym S. Porter, Yan Zheng, John F. Tisdale, Mitchell J. Weiss
Scientific progress and discovery of preventions and cures for life-threatening diseases depend on the vitality of the biomedical research workforce. We analyzed the workforce of cancer researchers applying for and receiving R01 awards from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) from fiscal years 1990 to 2016, the last year prior to implementation of the Next Generation Researchers Initiative. Here we report that the NCI R01 Principal Investigator (PI) workforce expanded 1.4-fold and aged over this time frame. We tracked 9 age groups and found that the number of PIs in the 3 oldest groups increased dramatically, in contrast with the younger groups. Sustained increases in the number of funded older PIs stemmed from increases in the number of older PIs submitting applications, rather than higher funding rates for older PIs. The decline in the number of funded younger PIs was driven in part by (a) a marked increase in time from PhD degree to first R01 application and award, as well as (b) a decrease in retention of PIs in the funded R01 workforce beyond their first R01 award. The NCI is using these and other analyses to inform strategies and policies for attracting, supporting, and retaining meritorious early-career researchers.
Melissa D. Antman, Roman Gorelik, Amy Kennedy, Grace F. Liou, Eddie N. Billingslea, James G. Corrigan, L. Michelle Bennett
As part of the centennial celebration of insulin’s discovery, this review summarizes the current understanding of the genetics, pathogenesis, treatment, and outcomes in type 1 diabetes (T1D). T1D results from an autoimmune response that leads to destruction of the β cells in the pancreatic islet and requires life-long insulin therapy. While much has been learned about T1D, it is now clear that there is considerable heterogeneity in T1D with regards to genetics, pathology, response to immune-based therapies, clinical course, and susceptibility to diabetes-related complications. This review highlights knowledge gaps and opportunities to improve the understanding of T1D pathogenesis and outlines emerging therapies to treat or prevent T1D and reduce the burden of T1D.
Alvin C. Powers
The tumor microenvironment profoundly influences the behavior of recruited leukocytes and tissue-resident immune cells. These immune cells, which inherently have environmentally driven plasticity necessary for their roles in tissue homeostasis, dynamically interact with tumor cells and the tumor stroma and play critical roles in determining the course of disease. Among these immune cells, neutrophils were once considered much more static within the tumor microenvironment; however, some of these earlier assumptions were the product of the notorious difficulty in manipulating neutrophils in vitro. Technological advances that allow us to study neutrophils in context are now revealing the true roles of neutrophils in the tumor microenvironment. Here we discuss recent data generated by some of these tools and how these data might be synthesized into more elegant ways of targeting these powerful and abundant effector immune cells in the clinic.
Amanda J. McFarlane, Frédéric Fercoq, Seth B. Coffelt, Leo M. Carlin
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