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Global Systems Biology and Personalized Healthcare Solutions

Abstract: Most drugs don't work optimally in most patients. The same drug can exert a significant overall therapeutic benefit in some patients while post a pronounced overall toxicity risk in others with the same disease. Pharmacogenomics has progressively received attention in the drug development process. But genetics is not the only factor that contributes to the differences that individual patients respond to drugs. Enter global systems biology. ... Read more

Integration of Genomics into Medical Practice

Abstract: Although some have wondered whether the sequencing of the human genome has led to major advances in medicine, in fact there are multiple examples where genomics has been integrated into medical practice. In the area of prevention, genomic approaches are now used for non-invasive prenatal testing of fetal DNA in the maternal circulation, for expanded preconceptional screening for carrier status, for autosomal recessive disorders, and for assessment of risk of common disease. In the area of diagnosis, major advances have been made in cytogenomics and in use of whole exome or whole genome sequencing. In therapeutics, pharmacogenetic testing is now feasible, tumor genome sequencing is being used to guide cancer therapy, and genomic discoveries are enabling development of new targeted therapies. Ultimately it is possible that genome sequencing may be done for all individuals on a routine basis, though there remain significant technical, ethical, and medical systems challenges to be overcome. It is likely that integration of genomics into medical practice will occur gradually over a long period of time, but the process is now well underway. ... Read more

Why Is Coinfection with Influenza Virus and Bacteria So Difficult to Control?

Abstract: Influenza viruses are genetically labile pathogens which avoid immune detection by constantly changing their coat proteins. Most human infections are caused by mildly pathogenic viruses which rarely cause life-threatening disease in healthy people, but some individuals with a weakened immune system can experience severe complications. Widespread infections with highly pathogenic strains of influenza virus are less common, but have the potential to cause enormous death tolls among healthy adults if infection rates reach pandemic proportions. Increased virulence has been attributed to a variety of factors, including enhanced susceptibility to coinfection with common strains of bacteria. The mechanisms that facilitate dual infection are a major focus of current research, as preventative measures are needed to avert future pandemics. ... Read more

The Contribution of Non-human Primate Models to the Development of Human Vaccines

Abstract: The non-human primates (NHPs) model in biomedical research has contributed to the study of human infectious, autoimmune, oncogenic, and neurological diseases. This review focuses on the importance of NHP models in vaccine development for tuberculosis, pertussis, Dengue, group A streptococcus (Streptococcus pyogenes) infection, HIV infection, and certain diseases in the elderly (influenza, for example). From understanding disease pathogenesis and mechanisms of protection, to assessing vaccine safety and efficacy, we discuss selected cases where the importance of the use of NHP models is highlighted. ... Read more

The Impact of New Genomic Technologies in Reproductive Medicine

Abstract: Recent advances in the clinical application of genomic technologies have significantly impacted the field of prenatal diagnosis. Central to these advances has been the implementation of chromosomal microarray analysis (CMA). Microdeletions and microduplications, undetectable by traditional karyotyping, have recently been confirmed to play a role in altered neurocognitive development. CMA is now recommended for fetuses with structural anomalies. However, CMA comes with an increased need and role for genetic counseling, because the potential genomic information available is exponentially increased. CMA also can be performed on a small number of preimplantation embryonic cells for assessment of the embryo's reproductive potential. Implementation of these new genomic techniques in an in vitro fertilization setting has already demonstrated significant improvements in reproductive outcome. Techniques are now being developed to eliminate the necessity for invasive prenatal diagnosis procedures. Currently in its infancy, noninvasive prenatal testing using cell-free fetal DNA from maternal blood has already improved the sensitivity for detection of the common aneuploidies and current efforts are focused on identifying select microdeletions. The explosion of new genomic technologies continues to offer great benefits. However, each needs critical assessment prior to adoption in a clinical setting. ... Read more

All Eyes on the Next Generation of HIV Vaccines: Strategies for Inducing a Broadly Neutralizing Antibody Response

Abstract: HIV-1 broadly neutralizing antibodies (BNAbs) develop after several years of infection through a recursive process of memory B cell adaptation and maturation against co-evolving virus quasispecies. Advances in single-cell sorting and memory B cell antibody cloning methods have identified many new HIV BNAbs targeting conserved epitopes on the HIV envelope (env) protein. 3D crystal structures and biophysical analyses of BNAbs bound to invariant virus structures expressed on monomeric gp120, epitope scaffolds, core structures, and native trimers have helped us to visualize unique binding interactions and paratope orientations that have been instrumental in guiding vaccine design. A paradigm shift in the approach to structure-based design of HIV-1 envelope immunogens came recently after several laboratories discovered that native viral envelopes or "env-structures" reverse-engineered to bind with high affinity to a handful of broadly neutralizing antibodies did not in fact bind the predicted germline precursors of these broadly neutralizing antibodies. A major challenge for HIV-1 B cell vaccine development moving forward is the design of new envelope immunogens that can trigger the selection and expansion of germline precursor and intermediate memory B cells to recapitulate B cell ontogenies associated with the maturation of a broadly neutralizing antibody response. Equally important for vaccine development is the identification of delivery systems, prime-boost strategies, and synergistic adjuvant combinations that can induce the magnitude and quality of antigen-specific T follicular helper (TFH) cell responses needed to drive somatic hypermutation (SHM) and B cell maturation against heterologous primary virus envelopes. Finding the combination of multi-protein envelope immunogens and immunization strategies that can evolve a potent broadly neutralizing antibody response portends to require a complex vaccine regimen that might be difficult to implement on any scale. This perspective strives to integrate recent insights into mechanisms associated with the evolution of an HIV-1 broadly neutralizing antibody response with current immunogen design and proffers a novel immunization strategy for skewing TH17/TFH cell responses that can drive B cell adaptation and affinity maturation associated with a broadly neutralizing antibody response. ... Read more

Pharmacogenomics in Childhood Rheumatic Disorders: A Foundation for Future Individualized Therapy

Abstract: Investigating the effect of genotype on drug response in children is an evolving field, with many challenges, but there is great potential to optimize safe and effective use of drugs in children. An exponential increase in available medications for use in children with rheumatic disease has opened seemingly endless genotype/phenotype relationships to explore, but challenges inherent in studying rare diseases and the often overlooked role of ontogeny contribute to limitations in pharmacogenomic studies in this population. With careful recognition of the importance of development, improved phenotyping with the incorporation of biomarkers, and expanding collaborative efforts on a national and even international scale, the field of pediatric rheumatology has the opportunity to strategically study the new therapeutic armamentarium available and provide individualized safe and effective therapies to our population of patients. ... Read more

A Prospective, Randomized, Double-Blind Study Assessing the Clinical Impact of Integrated Pharmacogenomic Testing for Major Depressive Disorder

Abstract: Objective: A prospective double-blind randomized control trial (RCT) to evaluate the benefit of a combinatorial, five gene pharmacogenomic test and interpretive report (GeneSight) for the management of psychotropic medications used in the treatment of major depression in an outpatient psychiatric practice. Methods: Depressed adult outpatients were randomized to a treatment as usual (TAU, n=25) arm or a pharmacogenomic-informed GeneSight (n=26) arm. Subjects were blinded to their treatment group and depression severity was assessed by blinded study raters. Within two days of enrollment, clinicians of subjects in the guided group received the GeneSight report that categorized each of 26 psychotropic medications within a green, yellow, or red "bin" based on the relationship of each medication to a subject's pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic combinatorial gene variant profile. Antidepressant medication changes began within 2 weeks after baseline assessments. Depression severity was assessed by blinded study raters using the HAMD-17, PHQ-9, QIDS-SR, and QIDS-CR administered 4, 6, and 10 weeks after baseline assessment. Results: Between-group trends were observed with greater than double the likelihood of response and remission in the GeneSight group measured by HAMD-17 at week 10. Mean percent improvement in depressive symptoms on HAMD-17 was higher for the GeneSight group over TAU (30.8% vs 20.7%; p=0.28). TAU subjects who had been prescribed medications at baseline that were contraindicated based on the individual subject's genotype (i.e., red bin) had almost no improvement (0.8%) in depressive symptoms measured by HAMD-17 at week 10, which was far less than the 33.1% improvement (p=0.06) in the pharmacogenomic guided subjects who started on a red bin medication and the 26.4% improvement in GeneSight subjects overall (p=0.08). Conclusions: Pharmacogenomic-guided treatment with GeneSight doubles the likelihood of response in all patients with treatment resistant depression and identifies 30% of patients with severe gene-drug interactions who have the greatest improvement in depressive symptoms when switched to genetically suitable medication regimens. ... Read more

Pharmacogenetics of Antidepressants, Mood Stabilizers, and Antipsychotics in Diverse Human Populations

Abstract: An increasing focus on personalized medicine is driving a renewed effort to understand the impact of ethnic and genetic background on treatment outcomes. Since responses to psychopharmacological treatments continue to be sub-optimal, there is a pressing need to identify markers of tolerability and efficacy. Pharmacogenomic studies aim to find such markers within the human genome, and have made some progress in recent years. Progress has been slower in populations with diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. Here we review 10 genome-wide association studies (GWAS) that assessed outcomes after antidepressant, antipsychotic, or mood stabilizer treatment. These studies used samples collected by the Clinical Antipsychotic Trials of Intervention Effectiveness (CATIE), Sequenced Treatment Alternatives to Relieve Depression (STAR*D), and Systematic Treatment Enhancement Program for Bipolar Disorder (STEP-BD) studies. We highlight findings from African American and European American participants since they are the largest groups studied, but we also address issues related to Asian and Hispanic groups. None of the GWAS we reviewed identified individual genetic markers at genome-wide significance, probably due to limited sample sizes. However, all the studies found poorer outcomes among African American participants. Some of this disparity seems to be explained by psychosocial and economic disadvantages, but at least 2 studies found that widespread genetic differences between participants of European and African ancestry also play an important role. Non-European groups are underrepresented in these studies, but the differences that are evident so far suggest that poorer outcomes among African Americans are not inevitable and may be particularly suited to pharmacogenomic strategies. The vision of more personalized psychopharmacology may critically depend on larger studies in more diverse human populations. ... Read more

Statin Pharmacogenomics: Pursuing Biomarkers for Predicting Clinical Outcomes

Abstract: Indicated for treating hyperlipidemias and for the prevention of cardiovascular disease (CVD), statins rank among the most commonly prescribed drug classes. While statins are considered to be highly effective in preventing atherosclerotic events, a substantial portion of treated patients still progress to overt CVD. Genetic factors are thought to contribute substantially to treatment outcome. Several candidate genes have been associated with statin dose requirements and treatment outcomes, but a clinically relevant pharmacogenomics test to guide statin therapy has not yet emerged. Here we define basic pharmacogenomics terminology, present strong candidate genes (CETP, HMGCR, SLCO1B1, ABCB1, and CYP3A4/5), and discuss the challenges in developing much-needed statin pharmacogenomics biomarkers for predicting treatment outcomes. ... Read more

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