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Physical Activity and Aging: A Life-Long Story

Marching Towards Regenerative Cardiac Therapy with Human Pluripotent Stem Cells

Abstract: Damage in cardiac tissues from ischemia or other pathological conditions leads to heart failure; and cell loss or dysfunction in pacemaker tissues due to congenital heart defects, aging, and acquired diseases can cause severe arrhythmias. The promise of successful therapies with stem cells to treat these conditions has remained elusive to the scientific community. However, recent advances in this field have opened new opportunities for regenerative cardiac therapy. Transplantation of cardiomyocytes derived from human pluripotent stem cells has the potential to alleviate heart disease. Since the initial derivation of human embryonic stem cells, significant progress has been made in the generation and characterization of enriched cardiomyocytes and the demonstration of the ability of these cardiomyocytes to survive, integrate, and function in animal models. The scope of therapeutic potential from pluripotent stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes has been further expanded with the invention of induced pluripotent stem cells, which can be induced to generate functional cardiomyocytes for regenerative cardiac therapy in a patient specific manner. The reprogramming technology has also inspired the recent discovery of direct conversion of fibroblasts into cardiomyocyte-like cells, which may allow endogenous cardiac repair. Regenerative cardiac therapy with human pluripotent stem cells is now moving closer to clinic testing. ... Read more

Exercise Testing in the 21st Century: from an "Old" Diagnostic to a Novel Health Risk Assessment Tool

Abstract: Exercise testing was developed as a diagnostic tool in the first half of the 20th century when people, mostly men, paid the huge cost of coronary artery disease (CAD). Both the changing nature of CAD, which affects both men and women, and the aging of the population led to redefining the use of exercise testing. This test is now mainly used for evaluating overall prognosis. In parallel, new measurement such as exercise capacity and several components of the physiological reserve enrich the information which can be obtained from exercise testing. Therefore, exercise testing has become the major dynamic tool for predicting premature mortality far beyond traditional and disease specific risk markers. The present article reviews the main pieces of information which led to these changes and summarizes the elements which give exercise testing its utility. ... Read more

New Drugs for the Treatment of Hyperkalemia in Patients Treated with Renin-Angiotensin-Aldosterone System Inhibitors -- Hype or Hope?

Abstract: Hyperkalemia (serum potassium >5.5 mmol/L) may result from increased potassium intake, impaired distribution between the intracellular and extracellular spaces, and/or reduced renal excretion. Renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system inhibitors (RAASIs) represent an important therapeutic strategy in patients with hypertension, heart failure, chronic kidney disease, and diabetes, but hyperkalemia is a key limitation to fully titrate RAASIs in these patients who are most likely to benefit from treatment. Thus, we need new drugs to control hyperkalemia in these patients while maintaining the use of RAASIs. We review two new polymer-based, non-systemic agents under clinical development, patiromer calcium and zirconium silicate, designed to increase potassium loss via the gastrointestinal tract for the management of hyperkalemia. ... Read more

Genetics and Genetic Testing of Dilated Cardiomyopathy: a New Perspective

Abstract: The completion of the Human Genome Project was a landmark achievement, but as clinical genetic testing becomes more mainstream, the extent of remarkable genetic variation is increasingly being appreciated. Newer DNA sequencing technology can now complete the sequencing of an entire human genome several times over in a matter of days, but this will undoubtedly add new challenges to the difficulty of distinguishing true pathogenic variants from benign variants in diagnostic genetics and in the research setting. The recent discovery of the role of titin gene (TTN) mutations in dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) will make genetic testing in this disease more efficient. Furthermore, better understanding of genotype-phenotype associations will assist clinicians in identifying early stages of disease and providing more appropriate treatments. This high level of complexity requires an expert genetic team to offer counseling and to manage, deliver, and follow-up over time the results of genetic testing, which is particularly important for screening of family members potentially at risk. In DCM, genetic testing may be useful for the identification of non-carriers and asymptomatic carriers, as well as for prevention strategies, sport recommendations, and defibrillator implantation. It can also guide reproductive decision-making including utilization of pre-implantation genetic diagnostic strategies. ... Read more

Epigenetics in Atherosclerosis: a Clinical Perspective

Abstract: Significant progress has been made in understanding in the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis. Nevertheless, atherosclerosis remains a great threat to human health worldwide. Epigenetic mechanisms, which involve DNA methylation, histone modification, and microRNA, have significantly enhanced our understanding of the pathological process of atherosclerosis. More importantly, epigenetic processes (in contrast to genetic alterations) are reversible and thus provide a potential therapeutic target in atherosclerosis treatment. Both in vitro and in vivo studies using drugs targeting enzymes involved in epigenetic modifications have shown considerable promise in atherosclerosis treatment. This review aims to present an overview of current epigenetic mechanisms involved in the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis, and discuss points in these processes where therapeutic interventions likely bear fruition. ... Read more

Aerobic Exercise in the Elderly: A Key to Successful Aging

Abstract: A decline in maximal aerobic exercise capacity occurs across the adult age-span, accelerating in later years. This age-associated decline in aerobic capacity is accentuated by superimposed comorbidities common to the elderly such as cardiac, pulmonary, and peripheral artery disease. However, observational and training studies demonstrate significant improvement in peak oxygen consumption in both health and disease settings. In addition, exercise training exerts beneficial effects on blood pressure, lipids, glucose tolerance, bone density, depression, and quality of life. A major challenge to physicians and society is to increase the low participation rates of older adults in both home-based exercise and supervised exercise rehabilitation programs. ... Read more

Therapeutic Angiogenesis for Ischemic Disorders: What Is Missing for Clinical Benefits?

Abstract: The idea of promoting angiogenesis in ischemic tissues remains an undisputed therapeutic approach for the treatment of myocardium and skeletal muscles that lack sufficient blood supply. However, clinical experiences from several large trials indicated that delivery of proangiogenic factors to patients suffering from myocardial infarction and leg ischemia has not shown significant benefits. Despite continuous success in various animal disease models, why has this simple principle not shown proof of concept in patients? What has been missing in the trial deign? What are the differences between animal models and patients? What are the optimal components for promoting functional collateral networks? This brief review discusses molecular mechanisms underlying arteriogenesis and proposes novel approaches for improvement of therapeutic outcomes. ... Read more

Advances in Gene Therapy for Heart Failure

Abstract: Chronic heart failure is expected to increase its social and economic burden as a consequence of improved survival in patients with acute cardiac events. Cardiac gene therapy holds significant promise in heart failure treatment for patients with currently very limited or no treatment options. The introduction of adeno-associated virus (AAV) gene vector changed the paradigm of cardiac gene therapy, and now it is the primary vector of choice for chronic heart failure gene therapy in clinical and preclinical studies. Recently, there has been significant progress towards clinical translation in this field spearheaded by AAV-1 mediated sarcoplasmic reticulum Ca2+ ATPase (SERCA2a) gene therapy targeting chronic advanced heart failure patients. Meanwhile, several independent laboratories are reporting successful gene therapy approaches in clinically relevant large animal models of heart failure and some of these approaches are expected to enter clinical trials in the near future. This review will focus on gene therapy approaches targeting heart failure that is in clinical trials and those close to its initial clinical trial application. ... Read more

Current siRNA Targets in the Prevention and Treatment of Intimal Hyperplasia

Abstract: Intimal hyperplasia (IH) is the leading cause of late vein and prosthetic bypass graft failure. Injury at the time of graft implantation leading to the activation of endothelial cells and dedifferentiation of vascular smooth muscle cells to a synthetic phenotype are known causes of IH. Prior attempts to develop therapy to mitigate these cellular changes to prevent IH and graft failure have failed. Small interfering RNA (siRNA) mediated targeted gene silencing is a promising tool to prevent IH. Several studies have been performed in this direction to target genes that are involved in IH. In this review we discuss siRNA targets that are being investigated for prevention and treatment of IH. ... Read more

Identification and Functions of the Plasma Membrane Receptor for Thyroid Hormone Analogues

Abstract: Integrin αvβ3 is a heterodimeric structural protein of the plasma membrane that bears a cell surface receptor for thyroid hormone. The functions of this receptor are distinct from those of the classical nuclear receptor (TR) for thyroid hormone. The integrin is expressed primarily by cancer cells, dividing endothelial and vascular smooth muscle cells, and osteoclasts. The hormone receptor on αvβ3 enables L-thyroxine (T4) and 3, 5, 3'-triiodo-L-thyronine (T3) to stimulate cancer cell proliferation and angiogenesis and to regulate the activity of certain membrane ion pumps. Bound to the receptor, the hormone ligand also stimulates protein trafficking within the cell. A deaminated derivative of T4, tetraiodothyroacetic acid (tetrac), blocks binding and actions of T4 and T3 at the receptor on αvβ3; tetrac also has anti-proliferative actions at the integrin thyroid hormone receptor beyond the effects of antagonizing actions of agonist thyroid hormone analogues at the receptor. The structure-activity relationships of hormone analogues at the receptor have been computer-modeled and indicate that the receptor includes a site that binds T3 and a site that binds both T4 and T3. Mathematical modeling of the kinetics of hormone-binding also suggests the existence of two sites. Cell proliferation is modulated from the T4/T3 site. Tetrac has been re-formulated as a nanoparticle (nanotetrac) that acts exclusively at the αvβ3 receptor and does not enter cells. Nanotetrac disrupts expression of genes in multiple cancer cell survival pathways. The tetrac formulations block human cancer cell proliferation in vitro and in tumor xenografts. Nanotetrac and tetrac inhibit the pro-angiogenic actions in vitro of vascular endothelial growth factor, basic fibroblast factor, and other growth factors. Thus, the receptor described on integrin αvβ3 for T4 and T3, the function of which is materially affected by tetrac and nanotetrac, provides insight into tumor cell biology and vascular biology. ... Read more

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