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- Safety and clinical outcomes of rituximab therapy in patients with different autoimmune diseases: experience from a national registry (GRAID) (2011)
- Introduction Evidence from a number of open-label, uncontrolled studies has suggested that rituximab may benefit patients with autoimmune diseases who are refractory to standard of care. The objective of this study was to evaluate the safety and clinical outcomes of rituximab in several standard of care-refractory autoimmune diseases (within rheumatology, nephrology, dermatology and neurology) other than rheumatoid arthritis or non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in a real-life clinical setting. Methods Patients who received rituximab having shown an inadequate response to standard of care had their safety and clinical outcomes data retrospectively analysed as part of the German Registry of Autoimmune Diseases. The main outcome measures were safety and clinical response, as judged at the discretion of the investigators. Results A total of 370 patients (299 patient-years) with various autoimmune diseases (23.0% with systemic lupus erythematosus, 15.7% antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibody-associated vasculitides, 15.1% multiple sclerosis and 10.0% pemphigus) from 42 centres received a mean dose of 2440 mg of rituximab over a median (range) of 194 (180 to 1407) days. The overall rate of serious infections was 5.3 per 100 patient-years during rituximab therapy. Opportunistic infections were infrequent across the whole study population, and mostly occurred in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus. There were 11 deaths (3.0% of patients) after rituximab treatment (mean 11.6 months after first infusion, range 0.8 to 31.3 months), with most of the deaths caused by infections. Overall (n = 293), 13.3% of patients showed no response, 45.1% showed a partial response and 41.6% showed a complete response. Responses were also reflected by reduced use of glucocorticoids and various immunosuppressives during rituximab therapy and follow-up compared with before rituximab. Rituximab generally had a positive effect on patient well-being (physician's visual analogue scale; mean improvement from baseline of 12.1 mm). Conclusions Data from this registry indicate that rituximab is a commonly employed, well-tolerated therapy with potential beneficial effects in standard of care-refractory autoimmune diseases, and support the results from other open-label, uncontrolled studies. Additional file 1: Supplemental tables. Table A1. Duration of follow-up from first rituximab infusion to last control visit by diagnosis. Table A2. Number of rituximab infusions by diagnosis.
- SchussenAktivplus: reduction of micropollutants and of potentially pathogenic bacteria for further water quality improvement of the river Schussen, a tributary of Lake Constance, Germany (2013)
- The project focuses on the efficiency of combined technologies to reduce the release of micropollutants and bacteria into surface waters via sewage treatment plants of different size and via stormwater overflow basins of different types. As a model river in a highly populated catchment area, the river Schussen and, as a control, the river Argen, two tributaries of Lake Constance, Southern Germany, are under investigation in this project. The efficiency of the different cleaning technologies is monitored by a wide range of exposure and effect analyses including chemical and microbiological techniques as well as effect studies ranging from molecules to communities.
- Reconciliation of essential process parameters for an enhanced predictability of Arctic stratospheric ozone loss and its climate interactions (RECONCILE): activities and results (2013)
- The international research project RECONCILE has addressed central questions regarding polar ozone depletion, with the objective to quantify some of the most relevant yet still uncertain physical and chemical processes and thereby improve prognostic modelling capabilities to realistically predict the response of the ozone layer to climate change. This overview paper outlines the scope and the general approach of RECONCILE, and it provides a summary of observations and modelling in 2010 and 2011 that have generated an in many respects unprecedented dataset to study processes in the Arctic winter stratosphere. Principally, it summarises important outcomes of RECONCILE including (i) better constraints and enhanced consistency on the set of parameters governing catalytic ozone destruction cycles, (ii) a better understanding of the role of cold binary aerosols in heterogeneous chlorine activation, (iii) an improved scheme of polar stratospheric cloud (PSC) processes that includes heterogeneous nucleation of nitric acid trihydrate (NAT) and ice on non-volatile background aerosol leading to better model parameterisations with respect to denitrification, and (iv) long transient simulations with a chemistry-climate model (CCM) updated based on the results of RECONCILE that better reproduce past ozone trends in Antarctica and are deemed to produce more reliable predictions of future ozone trends. The process studies and the global simulations conducted in RECONCILE show that in the Arctic, ozone depletion uncertainties in the chemical and microphysical processes are now clearly smaller than the sensitivity to dynamic variability.
- Extended pancreas donor program – the EXPAND study rationale and study protocol (2013)
- Background: Simultaneous pancreas kidney transplantation (SPK), pancreas transplantation alone (PTA) or pancreas transplantation after kidney (PAK) are the only curative treatment options for patients with type 1 (juvenile) diabetes mellitus with or without impaired renal function. Unfortunately, transplant waiting lists for this indication are increasing because the current organ acceptability criteria are restrictive; morbidity and mortality significantly increase with time on the waitlist. Currently, only pancreas organs from donors younger than 50 years of age and with a body mass index (BMI) less than 30 are allocated for transplantation in the Eurotransplant (ET) area. To address this issue we designed a study to increase the available donor pool for these patients. Methods/Design: This study is a prospective, multicenter (20 German centers), single blinded, non-randomized, two armed trial comparing outcome after SPK, PTA or PAK between organs with the currently allowed donor criteria versus selected organs from donors with extended criteria. Extended donor criteria are defined as organs procured from donors with a BMI of 30 to 34 or a donor age between 50 and 60 years. Immunosuppression is generally standardized using induction therapy with Myfortic, tacrolimus and low dose steroids. In principle, all patients on the waitlist for primary SPK, PTA or PAK are eligible for the clinical trial when they consent to possibly receiving an extended donor criteria organ. Patients receiving an organ meeting the current standard criteria for pancreas allocation (control arm) are compared to those receiving extended criteria organ (study arm); patients are blinded for a follow-up period of one year. The combined primary endpoint is survival of the pancreas allograft and pancreas allograft function after three months, as an early relevant outcome parameter for pancreas transplantation. Discussion: The EXPAND Study has been initiated to investigate the hypothesis that locally allocated extended criteria organs can be transplanted with similar results compared to the currently allowed standard ET organ allocation. If our study shows a favorable comparison to standard organ allocation criteria, the morbidity and mortality for patients waiting for transplantation could be reduced in the future. Trial registered at: NCT01384006
- Reconciliation of essential process parameters for an enhanced predictability of Arctic stratospheric ozone loss and its climate interactions (2012)
- Significant reductions in stratospheric ozone occur inside the polar vortices each spring when chlorine radicals produced by heterogeneous reactions on cold particle surfaces in winter destroy ozone mainly in two catalytic cycles, the ClO dimer cycle and the ClO/BrO cycle. Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which are responsible for most of the chlorine currently present in the stratosphere, have been banned by the Montreal Protocol and its amendments, and the ozone layer is predicted to recover to 1980 levels within the next few decades. During the same period, however, climate change is expected to alter the temperature, circulation patterns and chemical composition in the stratosphere, and possible geo-engineering ventures to mitigate climate change may lead to additional changes. To realistically predict the response of the ozone layer to such influences requires the correct representation of all relevant processes. The European project RECONCILE has comprehensively addressed remaining questions in the context of polar ozone depletion, with the objective to quantify the rates of some of the most relevant, yet still uncertain physical and chemical processes. To this end RECONCILE used a broad approach of laboratory experiments, two field missions in the Arctic winter 2009/10 employing the high altitude research aircraft M55-Geophysica and an extensive match ozone sonde campaign, as well as microphysical and chemical transport modelling and data assimilation. Some of the main outcomes of RECONCILE are as follows: (1) vortex meteorology: the 2009/10 Arctic winter was unusually cold at stratospheric levels during the six-week period from mid-December 2009 until the end of January 2010, with reduced transport and mixing across the polar vortex edge; polar vortex stability and how it is influenced by dynamic processes in the troposphere has led to unprecedented, synoptic-scale stratospheric regions with temperatures below the frost point; in these regions stratospheric ice clouds have been observed, extending over >106km2 during more than 3 weeks. (2) Particle microphysics: heterogeneous nucleation of nitric acid trihydrate (NAT) particles in the absence of ice has been unambiguously demonstrated; conversely, the synoptic scale ice clouds also appear to nucleate heterogeneously; a variety of possible heterogeneous nuclei has been characterised by chemical analysis of the non-volatile fraction of the background aerosol; substantial formation of solid particles and denitrification via their sedimentation has been observed and model parameterizations have been improved. (3) Chemistry: strong evidence has been found for significant chlorine activation not only on polar stratospheric clouds (PSCs) but also on cold binary aerosol; laboratory experiments and field data on the ClOOCl photolysis rate and other kinetic parameters have been shown to be consistent with an adequate degree of certainty; no evidence has been found that would support the existence of yet unknown chemical mechanisms making a significant contribution to polar ozone loss. (4) Global modelling: results from process studies have been implemented in a prognostic chemistry climate model (CCM); simulations with improved parameterisations of processes relevant for polar ozone depletion are evaluated against satellite data and other long term records using data assimilation and detrended fluctuation analysis. Finally, measurements and process studies within RECONCILE were also applied to the winter 2010/11, when special meteorological conditions led to the highest chemical ozone loss ever observed in the Arctic. In addition to quantifying the 2010/11 ozone loss and to understand its causes including possible connections to climate change, its impacts were addressed, such as changes in surface ultraviolet (UV) radiation in the densely populated northern mid-latitudes.
- Sex-stratified Genome-wide Association Studies Including 270,000 Individuals Show Sexual Dimorphism in Genetic Loci for Anthropometric Traits (2013)
- Men and women differ substantially regarding height, weight, and body fat. Interestingly, previous work detecting genetic effects for waist-to-hip ratio, to assess body fat distribution, has found that many of these showed sex-differences. However, systematic searches for sex-differences in genetic effects have not yet been conducted. Therefore, we undertook a genome-wide search for sexually dimorphic genetic effects for anthropometric traits including 133,723 individuals in a large meta-analysis and followed promising variants in further 137,052 individuals, including a total of 94 studies. We identified seven loci with significant sex-difference including four previously established (near GRB14/COBLL1, LYPLAL1/SLC30A10, VEGFA, ADAMTS9) and three novel anthropometric trait loci (near MAP3K1, HSD17B4, PPARG), all of which were significant in women, but not in men. Of interest is that sex-difference was only observed for waist phenotypes, but not for height or body-mass-index. We found no evidence for sex-differences with opposite effect direction for men and women. The PPARG locus is of specific interest due to its link to diabetes genetics and therapy. Our findings demonstrate the importance of investigating sex differences, which may lead to a better understanding of disease mechanisms with a potential relevance to treatment options.
- Defining the core proteome of the chloroplast envelope membranes (2013)
- High-throughput protein localization studies require multiple strategies. Mass spectrometric analysis of defined cellular fractions is one of the complementary approaches to a diverse array of cell biological methods. In recent years, the protein content of different cellular (sub-)compartments was approached. Despite of all the efforts made, the analysis of membrane fractions remains difficult, in that the dissection of the proteomes of the envelope membranes of chloroplasts or mitochondria is often not reliable because sample purity is not always warranted. Moreover, proteomic studies are often restricted to single (model) species, and therefore limited in respect to differential individual evolution. In this study we analyzed the chloroplast envelope proteomes of different plant species, namely, the individual proteomes of inner and outer envelope (OE) membrane of Pisum sativum and the mixed envelope proteomes of Arabidopsis thaliana and Medicago sativa. The analysis of all three species yielded 341 identified proteins in total, 247 of them being unique. 39 proteins were genuine envelope proteins found in at least two species. Based on this and previous envelope studies we defined the core envelope proteome of chloroplasts. Comparing the general overlap of the available six independent studies (including ours) revealed only a number of 27 envelope proteins. Depending on the stringency of applied selection criteria we found 231 envelope proteins, while less stringent criteria increases this number to 649 putative envelope proteins. Based on the latter we provide a map of the outer and inner envelope core proteome, which includes many yet uncharacterized proteins predicted to be involved in transport, signaling, and response. Furthermore, a foundation for the functional characterization of yet unidentified functions of the inner and OE for further analyses is provided.
- A tunable strain sensor using nanogranular metals (2010)
- This paper introduces a new methodology for the fabrication of strain-sensor elements for MEMS and NEMS applications based on the tunneling effect in nano-granular metals. The strain-sensor elements are prepared by the maskless lithography technique of focused electron-beam-induced deposition (FEBID) employing the precursor trimethylmethylcyclopentadienyl platinum [MeCpPt(Me)3]. We use a cantilever-based deflection technique to determine the sensitivity (gauge factor) of the sensor element. We find that its sensitivity depends on the electrical conductivity and can be continuously tuned, either by the thickness of the deposit or by electron-beam irradiation leading to a distinct maximum in the sensitivity. This maximum finds a theoretical rationale in recent advances in the understanding of electronic charge transport in nano-granular metals.
- An ancient pathway combining carbon dioxide fixation with the generation and utilization of a sodium ion gradient for ATP synthesis (2012)
- Synthesis of acetate from carbon dioxide and molecular hydrogen is considered to be the first carbon assimilation pathway on earth. It combines carbon dioxide fixation into acetyl-CoA with the production of ATP via an energized cell membrane. How the pathway is coupled with the net synthesis of ATP has been an enigma. The anaerobic, acetogenic bacterium Acetobacterium woodii uses an ancient version of this pathway without cytochromes and quinones. It generates a sodium ion potential across the cell membrane by the sodium-motive ferredoxin:NAD oxidoreductase (Rnf). The genome sequence of A. woodii solves the enigma: it uncovers Rnf as the only ion-motive enzyme coupled to the pathway and unravels a metabolism designed to produce reduced ferredoxin and overcome energetic barriers by virtue of electron-bifurcating, soluble enzymes.
- Thermodynamic characterization of an engineered tetracycline-binding riboswitch (2006)
- Riboswitches reflect a novel concept in gene regulation that is particularly suited for technological adaptation. Therefore, we characterized thermodynamically the ligand binding properties of a synthetic, tetracycline (tc)-binding RNA aptamer, which regulates gene expression in a dose-dependent manner when inserted into the untranslated region of an mRNA. In vitro, one molecule of tc is bound by one molecule of partially pre-structured and conformationally homogeneous apo-RNA. The dissociation constant of 770 pM, as determined by fluorimetry, is the lowest reported so far for a small molecule-binding RNA aptamer. Additional calorimetric analysis of RNA point mutants and tc derivatives identifies functional groups crucial for the interaction and including their respective enthalpic and entropic contributions we can propose detailed structural and functional roles for certain groups. The conclusions are consistent with mutational analyses in vivo and support the hypothesis that tc-binding reinforces the structure of the RNA aptamer, preventing the scanning ribosome from melting it efficiently.