Alport syndrome is a rare hereditary renal disease that is characterized by blood and protein in the urine, hypertension, progressive kidney failure, hearing loss, and eye abnormalities. While it is possible to diagnose the disease early, current therapies are unable to prevent end-stage kidney failure. In this episode, Lina Shehadeh and colleagues determined that osteopontin is highly upregulated in the renal tubules of a mouse model of Alport syndrome and promotes excessive cholesterol influx to the kidney. Deletion of the osteopontin-encoding gene ameliorated Alport-associated disease manifestations and improved lifespan. Together, these results identify osteopontin as a driver of renal dysfunction in Alprot syndrome and provides potential therapeutic targets to be further explored.
The transmembrane protein GARP serves as a receptor for latent TGF-β, resulting in activation of this cytokine. GARP is expressed on the surface of Tregs, tumors, and platelets and has been implicated in cancer immune invasion. In this episode, Zihai Li and colleagues reveal that the GARP-TGF-β complex is present on activated, but not resting, human and murine B cells. Using multiple murine genetic models, the authors determined that this complex is essential for maintaining immune tolerance and for preventing autoimmune disease. These results support further exploration of B cell GARP as a therapeutic target and possible diagnostic tool.
Sepsis is a life-threatening complication of infection that results in over 250,000 deaths per year in the United States. There is a strong correlation between reduced levels of lymphocytes, such as CD8+ and CD4+ T cells, and increased mortality; therefore, strategies aimed to increase these cells have therapeutic potential. The cytokine IL-7 prevents lymphocyte death, increases lymphocyte proliferation, and has been shown to improve intestinal lymphocyte counts in patients with HIV-1. In this episode, Richard Hotchkiss details the results from a prospective, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of recombinant human IL-7 in patients with septic shock and severe lymphocytopenia. IL-7 reversed the loss of lymphocytes in septic patients, suggesting that this approach be further explored.
Hepatic stellate cells (HSCs) are key mediators of liver fibrosis; however, the pathways that drive HSC migration, proliferation, and ECM production in response hepatic injury are not fully understood. In this episode, Vijay Shah and colleagues show that mice lacking the scaffold protein synectin are protected from liver fibrosis. This protection associated with down regulation of PDGFR-β and PDGFR-α via distinct synectin-regulated mechanisms, thus identifying synectin as an important mediator of liver fibrosis.