PCOM Library / Archive for "Hot Topics in Research"

Category: Hot Topics in Research

Hot Topics: Group Medical Visits Effective for Chronic Conditions

Jackie Werner Alternative and Complementary Medicine, Hot Topics in Research, Uncategorized

Characteristics and Components of Medical Group Visits for Chronic Health Conditions: A Systematic Scoping Review

Parikh M, Rajendran I, D’Amico S, Luo M, Gardiner P. Characteristics and components of medical group visits for chronic health conditions: A systematic scoping review. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2019;25(7):683-698. https://doi.org/10.1089/acm.2018.0524.

Objectives: Chronic health conditions are a major challenge to the health care system. Medical Group Visits (MGVs) are a valuable health care delivery model used in a variety of medical settings and patient populations. We conducted a systematic scoping review of MGV research literature for chronic health conditions to summarize the characteristics and individual components of MGVs in the United States of America and Canada.

Design: We followed the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses scoping review methodology and searched five databases using nine widely used MGV-related terms.

Subjects: We included studies conducted in the United States and Canada, whose participants were >18 years old and attended an MGV conducted in a medical setting by a billable health care provider. We excluded groups related to diabetes, pregnancy, and cancer.

Results: Of 3777 studies identified, we found 55 eligible studies of which 9 are randomized controlled trials and 46 are observational studies. The majority of studies were conducted in academic medical centers, were observational in design, and recruited patients using physician referrals. The three most frequently studied groups include a combination of several chronic conditions (n = 12), chronic pain conditions (n = 10), and cardiovascular disease (n = 9). Curriculum components included didactics (n = 55), experiential activities (n = 27), and socializing components (n = 12). Didactic areas include (1) medical topics such as symptoms management (n = 27) of which 14 included pain management, and (2) lifestyle/educational component (n = 33) that comprised of talks on nutrition (n = 29), exercise (n = 20), stress (n = 16), and sleep (n = 10). The top integrative medicine (IM) modalities (n = 13) included: mindfulness techniques (n = 8), meditation (n = 6), and yoga (n = 5). Substantial heterogeneity was observed in the recruitment, implementation, curriculum components, and outcomes reported.

Conclusion: The MGV is a model of patient-centered care that has captured the attention of researchers. IM modalities are well represented in the curriculum components of MGVs. Further investigation into the components identified by this study, may help in better targeting of group interventions to patients and contexts, where it is most likely to be effective.

Hot Topics: Liver Cell Could Regenerate Tissue

Jackie Werner Gastroenterology, Hot Topics in Research

Single cell analysis of human foetal liver captures the transcriptional profile of hepatobiliary hybrid progenitors

Segal JM, Kent D, Wesche DJ, et al. Single cell analysis of human foetal liver captures the transcriptional profile of hepatobiliary hybrid progenitors. Nature Communications. 2019;10(1):3350. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-019-11266-x.

The liver parenchyma is composed of hepatocytes and bile duct epithelial cells (BECs). Controversy exists regarding the cellular origin of human liver parenchymal tissue generation during embryonic development, homeostasis or repair. Here we report the existence of a hepatobiliary hybrid progenitor (HHyP) population in human foetal liver using single-cell RNA sequencing. HHyPs are anatomically restricted to the ductal plate of foetal liver and maintain a transcriptional profile distinct from foetal hepatocytes, mature hepatocytes and mature BECs. In addition, molecular heterogeneity within the EpCAM+ population of freshly isolated foetal and adult human liver identifies diverse gene expression signatures of hepatic and biliary lineage potential. Finally, we FACS isolate foetal HHyPs and confirm their hybrid progenitor phenotype in vivo. Our study suggests that hepatobiliary progenitor cells previously identified in mice also exist in humans, and can be distinguished from other parenchymal populations, including mature BECs, by distinct gene expression profiles.

Hot Topics: Autism Linked to High Estrogen in Womb

Jackie Werner Developmental Disorders, Hot Topics in Research, Psychology and Psychiatry

Foetal oestrogens and autism

Baron-Cohen S, Tsompanidis A, Auyeung B, et al. Foetal oestrogens and autism. Mol Psychiatry. 2019. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41380-019-0454-9.

Elevated latent prenatal steroidogenic activity has been found in the amniotic fluid of autistic boys, based on measuring prenatal androgens and other steroid hormones. To date, it is unclear if other prenatal steroids also contribute to autism likelihood. Prenatal oestrogens need to be investigated, as they play a key role in synaptogenesis and corticogenesis during prenatal development, in both males and females. Here we test whether levels of prenatal oestriol, oestradiol, oestrone and oestrone sulphate in amniotic fluid are associated with autism, in the same Danish Historic Birth Cohort, in which prenatal androgens were measured, using univariate logistic regression (n= 98 cases, n= 177 controls). We also make a like-to-like comparison between the prenatal oestrogens and androgens. Oestradiol, oestrone, oestriol and progesterone each related to autism in univariate analyses after correction with false discovery rate. A comparison of standardised odds ratios showed that oestradiol, oestrone and progesterone had the largest effects on autism likelihood. These results for the first time show that prenatal oestrogens contribute to autism likelihood, extending the finding of elevated prenatal steroidogenic activity in autism. This likely affects sexual differentiation, brain development and function.

Hot Topics: Neurotoxin Targets Malaria Mosquitos

Jackie Werner Hot Topics in Research, Infectious Disease

A neurotoxin that specifically targets Anopheles mosquitoes

Contreras E, Masuyer G, Qureshi N, et al. A neurotoxin that specifically targets anopheles mosquitoes. Nature Communications. 2019;10(1):2869. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-019-10732-w.

Clostridial neurotoxins, including tetanus and botulinum neurotoxins, generally target vertebrates. We show here that this family of toxins has a much broader host spectrum, by identifying PMP1, a clostridial-like neurotoxin that selectively targets anopheline mosquitoes. Isolation of PMP1 from Paraclostridium bifermentans strains collected in anopheline endemic areas on two continents indicates it is widely distributed. The toxin likely evolved from an ancestral form that targets the nervous system of similar organisms, using a common mechanism that disrupts SNARE-mediated exocytosis. It cleaves the mosquito syntaxin and employs a unique receptor recognition strategy. Our research has an important impact on the study of the evolution of clostridial neurotoxins and provides the basis for the use of P. bifermentans strains and PMP1 as innovative, environmentally friendly approaches to reduce malaria through anopheline control.

Hot Topics: Drug Release Controlled with Artificial DNA

Jackie Werner Hot Topics in Research, Pharmaceutical Sciences

Engineering an orchestrated release avalanche from hydrogels using DNA-nanotechnology

Kimna C, Lieleg O. Engineering an orchestrated release avalanche from hydrogels using DNA-nanotechnology. Journal of Controlled Release. 2019;304:19-28. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.jconrel.2019.04.028.

Most medical therapies require repeated, sequential administration of therapeutic agents in well-defined intervals and over extended time windows. Typically, the patient is in charge of applying the individual drug doses, and insufficient patient compliance reduces the efficiency of the treatment. Therefore, the development of a smart delivery mechanism releasing therapeutic agents in a pre-defined, time-controlled fashion would be beneficial for many medical treatments. Here, we present a DNA-mediated release cascade which allows for precisely controlling the sequential delivery of several different nanoparticles. By using complementary DNA sequences, nanoparticle aggregates are created, embedded into distinct layers of a hydrogel and released by triggering aggregate dispersal. This mechanism is compatible with physiological conditions as the release cascade is initiated by exposing the nanoparticle-loaded gel to physiological salt concentrations. Moreover, we show that the reservoir hydrogel can be enriched with biopolymers to receive charge-selective release properties towards small molecules – without interfering with the DNA-based release cascade. Owing to the excellent reproducibility, precision and effectiveness of the presented mechanism, a similar DNA-mediated release avalanche may lead to the development of autonomous and robust delivery systems, which minimize the possibility of pharmaceutical therapy failure due to patient non-compliance.

Hot Topics: Medical Selfies Empower Patients

Jackie Werner Family Medicine, Hot Topics in Research, Psychology and Psychiatry

Creating Consumer-Generated Health Data: Interviews and a Pilot Trial Exploring How and Why Patients Engage

Burns K, McBride CA, Patel B, FitzGerald G, Mathews S, Drennan J. Creating consumer-generated health data: Interviews and a pilot trial exploring how and why patients engage. Journal of Medical Internet Research. 2019;21(6):e12367. https://doi.org/10.2196/12367

Background: Consumer-generated health data (CGHD) are any clinically relevant data collected by patients or their carers (consumers) that may improve health care outcomes. Like patient experience measures, these data reflect the consumer perspective and is part of a patient-centric agenda. The use of CGHD is believed to enhance diagnosis, patient engagement, and thus foster an improved therapeutic partnership with health care providers.

Objective: The aim of this study was to further identify how these data were used by consumers and how it influences engagement via a validated framework. In addition, carer data has not been explored for the purpose of engagement.

Methods: Study 1 used interviews with CGHD-experienced patients, carers, and doctors to understand attitudes about data collection and use, developing an ontological framework. Study 2 was a pilot trial with carers (parents) of children undergoing laparoscopic appendectomy. For 10 days carers generated and emailed surgical site photographs to a tertiary children’s hospital. Subsequently, carers were interviewed about the engagement framework. In total, 60 interviews were analyzed using theme and content analysis.

Results: This study validates a framework anchored in engagement literature, which categorizes CGHD engagement outcomes into 4 domains: physiological, cognitive, emotional, and behavioral. CGHD use is complex, interconnected, and can be organized into 10 themes within these 4 domains.

Conclusions: CGHD can instigate an ecosystem of engagement and provide clinicians with an enhanced therapeutic relationship through an extended view into the patient’s world. In addition to clinical diagnosis and efficient use of health care resources, data offer another tool to manage consumers service experience, especially the emotions associated with the health care journey. Collection and use of data increases consumers sense of reassurance, improves communication with providers, and promotes greater personal responsibility, indicating an empowering consumer process. Finally, it can also improve confidence and satisfaction in the service.

Hot Topics: Primary Care Guidelines for Transgender Patients

Jackie Werner Ethics, Family Medicine, Hot Topics in Research

Care of the Transgender Patient

Safer JD, Tangpricha V. Care of the transgender patient. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2019;171(1):ITC16. https://doi.org/10.7326/AITC201907020.

Transgender persons are a diverse group whose gender identity differs from their sex recorded at birth. Some choose to undergo medical treatment to align their physical appearance with their gender identity. Barriers to accessing appropriate and culturally competent care contribute to health disparities in transgender persons, such as increased rates of certain types of cancer, substance abuse, mental health conditions, infections, and chronic diseases. Thus, it is important that clinicians understand the specific medical issues that are relevant to this population.

Hot Topics: EEG Analysis Detects Hidden Consciousness

Jackie Werner Critical Care, Hot Topics in Research

Detection of Brain Activation in Unresponsive Patients with Acute Brain Injury

Claassen J, Doyle K, Matory A, et al. Detection of brain activation in unresponsive patients with acute brain injury. New Engl Journal of Medicine. 2019;380(26):2497-2505. https://doi.org/10.1056/NEJMoa1812757.


Brain activation in response to spoken motor commands can be detected by electroencephalography (EEG) in clinically unresponsive patients. The prevalence and prognostic importance of a dissociation between commanded motor behavior and brain activation in the first few days after brain injury are not well understood.


We studied a prospective, consecutive series of patients in a single intensive care unit who had acute brain injury from a variety of causes and who were unresponsive to spoken commands, including some patients with the ability to localize painful stimuli or to fixate on or track visual stimuli. Machine learning was applied to EEG recordings to detect brain activation in response to commands that patients move their hands. The functional outcome at 12 months was determined with the Glasgow Outcome Scale–Extended (GOS-E; levels range from 1 to 8, with higher levels indicating better outcomes).


A total of 16 of 104 unresponsive patients (15%) had brain activation detected by EEG at a median of 4 days after injury. The condition in 8 of these 16 patients (50%) and in 23 of 88 patients (26%) without brain activation improved such that they were able to follow commands before discharge. At 12 months, 7 of 16 patients (44%) with brain activation and 12 of 84 patients (14%) without brain activation had a GOS-E level of 4 or higher, denoting the ability to function independently for 8 hours (odds ratio, 4.6; 95% confidence interval, 1.2 to 17.1).


A dissociation between the absence of behavioral responses to motor commands and the evidence of brain activation in response to these commands in EEG recordings was found in 15% of patients in a consecutive series of patients with acute brain injury.

Hot Topics: Exercise in Older Adults Boosts Memory

Jackie Werner Geriatrics, Hot Topics in Research, Memory Impairment

Semantic Memory Activation After Acute Exercise in Healthy Older Adults

Won J, Alfini AJ, Weiss LR, et al. Semantic memory activation after acute exercise in healthy older adults. Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society: 1-12. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1355617719000171.

Objectives: A growing body of research suggests that regular participation in long-term exercise is associated with enhanced cognitive function. However, less is known about the beneficial effects of acute exercise on semantic memory. This study investigated brain activation during a semantic memory task after a single session of exercise in healthy older adults using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Methods: Using a within-subjects counterbalanced design, 26 participants (ages, 55–85 years) underwent two experimental visits on separate days. During each visit, participants engaged in 30 min of rest or stationary cycling exercise immediately before performing a Famous and Non-Famous name discrimination task during fMRI scanning. Results: Acute exercise was associated with significantly greater semantic memory activation (Famous>Non-Famous) in the middle frontal, inferior temporal, middle temporal, and fusiform gyri. A planned comparison additionally showed significantly greater activation in the bilateral hippocampus after exercise compared to rest. These effects were confined to correct trials, and as expected, there were no differences between conditions in response time or accuracy. Conclusions: Greater brain activation following a single session of exercise suggests that exercise may increase neural processes underlying semantic memory activation in healthy older adults. These effects were localized to the known semantic memory network, and thus do not appear to reflect a general or widespread increase in brain blood flow. Coupled with our prior exercise training effects on semantic memory-related activation, these data suggest the acute increase in neural activation after exercise may provide a stimulus for adaptation over repeated exercise sessions.

Hot Topics: Liquid Lab-on-a-Chip 3D Printed

Jackie Werner Biomedical Sciences, Hot Topics in Research, Pharmaceutical Sciences

Harnessing liquid-in-liquid printing and micropatterned substrates to fabricate 3-dimensional all-liquid fluidic devices

Feng W, Chai Y, Forth J, Ashby PD, Russell TP, Helms BA. Harnessing liquid-in-liquid printing and micropatterned substrates to fabricate 3-dimensional all-liquid fluidic devices. Nature Communications. 2019;10(1):1095. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-019-09042-y.

Systems comprised of immiscible liquids held in non-equilibrium shapes by the interfacial assembly and jamming of nanoparticle−polymer surfactants have significant potential to advance catalysis, chemical separations, energy storage and conversion. Spatially directing functionality within them and coupling processes in both phases remains a challenge. Here, we exploit nanoclay−polymer surfactant assemblies at an oil−water interface to produce a semi-permeable membrane between the liquids, and from them all-liquid fluidic devices with bespoke properties. Flow channels are fabricated using micropatterned 2D substrates and liquid-in-liquid 3D printing. The anionic walls of the device can be functionalized with cationic small molecules, enzymes, and colloidal nanocrystal catalysts. Multi-step chemical transformations can be conducted within the channels under flow, as can selective mass transport across the liquid−liquid interface for in-line separations. These all-liquid systems become automated using pumps, detectors, and control systems, revealing a latent ability for chemical logic and learning.