The department’s best research articles from 2011

Medicine faculty contributed to more than 1200 peer-reviewed articles in 2011, a significant reflection of the strengths and depths of the department’s research activities and the faculty that lead the basic science, clinical and translational science investigation at Duke.

As he leadership of the department chose the following articles to represent the best of the publications in calendar year 2011.

Best basic science research

Akilesh S, Suleiman H, Yu HY, Stander MC, *Lavin P, *Gbadegesin R…*Winn MP, Shaw AS. Arhgap24 inactivates Rac1 in mouse podocytes, and a mutant form is associated with familial focal segmental glomerulosclerosis. Journal of Clinical Investigation. 2011, Oct;121(10):4127-4137.

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The specialized epithelial cell of the kidney, the podocyte, has a complex actin-based cytoskeleton. Dynamic regulation of this cytoskeleton is required for efficient barrier function of the kidney. Podocytes are a useful cell type to study the control of the actin cytoskeleton in vivo, because disruption of components of the cytoskeleton results in podocyte damage, cell loss, and a prototypic injury response called focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS). Searching for actin regulatory proteins that are expressed in podocytes, we identified a RhoA-activated Rac1 GTPase-activating protein (Rac1-GAP), Arhgap24, that was upregulated in podocytes as they differentiated, both in vitro and in vivo. Increased levels of active Rac1 and Cdc42 were measured in Arhgap24 knockdown experiments, which influenced podocyte cell shape and membrane dynamics. Consistent with a role for Arhgap24 in normal podocyte functioning in vivo, sequencing of the ARHGAP24 gene in patients with FSGS identified a mutation that impaired its Rac1-GAP activity and was associated with disease in a family with FSGS. Thus, Arhgap24 contributes to the careful balancing of RhoA and Rac1 signaling in podocytes, the disruption of which may lead to kidney disease.

*Lovgren AK, *Kovacs JJ, *Xie T, *Potts EN, *Li YJ, *Foster M, *Liang J, *Meltzer EB, *Jiang D, *Lefkowitz RJ, *Noble PW.. beta-Arrestin Deficiency Protects Against Pulmonary Fibrosis in Mice and Prevents Fibroblast Invasion of Extracellular Matrix. Science Translational Medicine. 2011, Mar;3(74):

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Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis is a progressive disease that causes unremitting extracellular matrix deposition with resulting distortion of pulmonary architecture and impaired gas exchange. β-Arrestins regulate G protein (heterotrimeric guanine nucleotide-binding protein)-coupled receptors through receptor desensitization while also acting as signaling scaffolds to facilitate numerous effector pathways. Here, we examine the role of β-arrestin1 and β-arrestin2 in the pathobiology of pulmonary fibrosis. In the bleomycin-induced mouse lung fibrosis model, loss of either β-arrestin1 or β-arrestin2 resulted in protection from mortality, inhibition of matrix deposition, and protected lung function. Fibrosis was prevented despite preserved recruitment of inflammatory cells and fibroblast chemotaxis. However, isolated lung fibroblasts from bleomycin-treated β-arrestin-null mice failed to invade extracellular matrix and displayed altered expression of genes involved in matrix production and degradation. Furthermore, knockdown of β-arrestin2 in fibroblasts from patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis attenuated the invasive phenotype. These data implicate β-arrestins as mediators of fibroblast invasion and the development of pulmonary fibrosis, and as a potential target for therapeutic intervention in patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

Best clinical research

*O’Connor CM, Starling RC, *Hernandez AF, Armstrong PW, Dickstein K, *Hasselblad V, et al. Effect of Nesiritide in Patients with Acute Decompensated Heart Failure. New England Journal of Medicine. 2011, Jul;365(1):32-43.

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BACKGROUND: Nesiritide is approved in the United States for early relief of dyspnea in patients with acute heart failure. Previous meta-analyses have raised questions regarding renal toxicity and the mortality associated with this agent.

METHODS: We randomly assigned 7141 patients who were hospitalized with acute heart failure to receive either nesiritide or placebo for 24 to 168 hours in addition to standard care. Coprimary end points were the change in dyspnea at 6 and 24 hours, as measured on a 7-point Likert scale, and the composite end point of rehospitalization for heart failure or death within 30 days.

RESULTS: Patients randomly assigned to nesiritide, as compared with those assigned to placebo, more frequently reported markedly or moderately improved dyspnea at 6 hours (44.5% vs. 42.1%, P=0.03) and 24 hours (68.2% vs. 66.1%, P=0.007), but the prespecified level for significance (P≤0.005 for both assessments or P≤0.0025 for either) was not met. The rate of rehospitalization for heart failure or death from any cause within 30 days was 9.4% in the nesiritide group versus 10.1% in the placebo group (absolute difference, -0.7 percentage points; 95% confidence interval [CI], -2.1 to 0.7; P=0.31). There were no significant differences in rates of death from any cause at 30 days (3.6% with nesiritide vs. 4.0% with placebo; absolute difference, -0.4 percentage points; 95% CI, -1.3 to 0.5) or rates of worsening renal function, defined by more than a 25% decrease in the estimated glomerular filtration rate (31.4% vs. 29.5%; odds ratio, 1.09; 95% CI, 0.98 to 1.21; P=0.11).

CONCLUSIONS: Nesiritide was not associated with an increase or a decrease in the rate of death and rehospitalization and had a small, nonsignificant effect on dyspnea when used in combination with other therapies. It was not associated with a worsening of renal function, but it was associated with an increase in rates of hypotension. On the basis of these results, nesiritide cannot be recommended for routine use in the broad population of patients with acute heart failure. (Funded by Scios; ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT00475852.).

*Noble PW, Albera C, Bradford WZ, Costabel U, Glassberg MK, Kardatzke D, et al. Pirfenidone in patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (CAPACITY): two randomised trials. Lancet. 2011, May;377(9779):1760-1769.

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BACKGROUND: Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis is a progressive and fatal lung disease with inevitable loss of lung function. The CAPACITY programme (studies 004 and 006) was designed to confirm the results of a phase 2 study that suggested that pirfenidone, a novel antifibrotic and anti-inflammatory drug, reduces deterioration in lung function in patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

METHODS: In two concurrent trials (004 and 006), patients (aged 40-80 years) with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis were randomly assigned to oral pirfenidone or placebo for a minimum of 72 weeks in 110 centres in Australia, Europe, and North America. In study 004, patients were assigned in a 2:1:2 ratio to pirfenidone 2403 mg/day, pirfenidone 1197 mg/day, or placebo; in study 006, patients were assigned in a 1:1 ratio to pirfenidone 2403 mg/day or placebo. The randomisation code (permuted block design) was computer generated and stratified by region. All study personnel were masked to treatment group assignment until after final database lock. Treatments were administered orally, 801 mg or 399 mg three times a day. The primary endpoint was change in percentage predicted forced vital capacity (FVC) at week 72. Analysis was by intention to treat. The studies are registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, numbers NCT00287729 and NCT00287716.

FINDINGS: In study 004, 174 of 435 patients were assigned to pirfenidone 2403 mg/day, 87 to pirfenidone 1197 mg/day, and 174 to placebo. In study 006, 171 of 344 patients were assigned to pirfenidone 2403 mg/day, and 173 to placebo. All patients in both studies were analysed. In study 004, pirfenidone reduced decline in FVC (p=0·001). Mean FVC change at week 72 was -8·0% (SD 16·5) in the pirfenidone 2403 mg/day group and -12·4% (18·5) in the placebo group (difference 4·4%, 95% CI 0·7 to 9·1); 35 (20%) of 174 versus 60 (35%) of 174 patients, respectively, had a decline of at least 10%. A significant treatment effect was noted at all timepoints from week 24 and in an analysis over all study timepoints (p=0·0007). Mean change in percentage FVC in the pirfenidone 1197 mg/day group was intermediate to that in the pirfenidone 2403 mg/day and placebo groups. In study 006, the difference between groups in FVC change at week 72 was not significant (p=0·501). Mean change in FVC at week 72 was -9·0% (SD 19·6) in the pirfenidone group and -9·6% (19·1) in the placebo group, and the difference between groups in predicted FVC change at week 72 was not significant (0·6%, -3·5 to 4·7); however, a consistent pirfenidone effect was apparent until week 48 (p=0·005) and in an analysis of all study timepoints (p=0·007). Patients in the pirfenidone 2403 mg/day group had higher incidences of nausea (125 [36%] of 345 vs 60 [17%] of 347), dyspepsia (66 [19%] vs 26 [7%]), vomiting (47 [14%] vs 15 [4%]), anorexia (37 [11%] vs 13 [4%]), photosensitivity (42 [12%] vs 6 [2%]), rash (111 [32%] vs 40 [12%]), and dizziness (63 [18%] vs 35 [10%]) than did those in the placebo group. Fewer overall deaths (19 [6%] vs 29 [8%]) and fewer deaths related to idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (12 [3%] vs 25 [7%]) occurred in the pirfenidone 2403 mg/day groups than in the placebo groups.

INTERPRETATION: The data show pirfenidone has a favourable benefit risk profile and represents an appropriate treatment option for patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

FUNDING: InterMune.

Best translational science research

Laferrere B, Reilly D, Arias S, Swerdlow N, Gorroochurn P, Bawa B, …Lien L, Shah SH, Svetkey LP, Newgard CB.Differential Metabolic Impact of Gastric Bypass Surgery Versus Dietary Intervention in Obese Diabetic Subjects Despite Identical Weight Loss. Science Translational Medicine. 2011, Apr;3(80):80re2.

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Glycemic control is improved more after gastric bypass surgery (GBP) than after equivalent diet-induced weight loss in patients with morbid obesity and type 2 diabetes mellitus. We applied metabolomic profiling to understand the mechanisms of this better metabolic response after GBP. Circulating amino acids (AAs) and acylcarnitines (ACs) were measured in plasma from fasted subjects by targeted tandem mass spectrometry before and after a matched 10-kilogram weight loss induced by GBP or diet. Total AAs and branched-chain AAs (BCAAs) decreased after GBP, but not after dietary intervention. Metabolites derived from BCAA oxidation also decreased only after GBP. Principal components (PC) analysis identified two major PCs, one composed almost exclusively of ACs (PC1) and another with BCAAs and their metabolites as major contributors (PC2). PC1 and PC2 were inversely correlated with pro-insulin concentrations, the C-peptide response to oral glucose, and the insulin sensitivity index after weight loss, whereas PC2 was uniquely correlated with levels of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR). These data suggest that the enhanced decrease in circulating AAs after GBP occurs by mechanisms other than weight loss and may contribute to the better improvement in glucose homeostasis observed with the surgical intervention.

See all publications by faculty member, and look for the connections and collaborations between investigators, on the REACH NC directory.

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