Metastasis portends a poor prognosis for cancer patients. Primary tumor cells disseminate through the bloodstream before the appearance of detectable metastatic lesions. The analysis of cancer cells in blood-so-called circulating tumor cells (CTCs)-may provide unprecedented opportunities for metastatic risk assessment and investigation. NanoFlares are nanoconstructs that enable live-cell detection of intracellular mRNA. NanoFlares, when coupled with flow cytometry, can be used to fluorescently detect genetic markers of CTCs in the context of whole blood. They allow one to detect as few as 100 live cancer cells per mL of blood and subsequently culture those cells. This technique can also be used to detect CTCs in a murine model of metastatic breast cancer. As such, NanoFlares provide, to our knowledge, the first genetic-based approach for detecting, isolating, and characterizing live cancer cells from blood and may provide new opportunities for cancer diagnosis, prognosis, and personalized therapy.
Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a debilitating medical condition and current treatments are ineffective in patients with cavernous nerve (CN) injury, due to penile remodeling and apoptosis. A critical regulator of penile smooth muscle and apoptosis is the secreted protein sonic hedgehog (SHH). SHH protein is decreased in rat prostatectomy and diabetic ED models, SHH inhibition in the penis induces apoptosis and ED, and SHH treatment at the time of CN injury suppresses smooth muscle apoptosis and promotes regeneration of erectile function. Thus SHH treatment has significant translational potential as an ED therapy if similar mechanisms underlie ED development in patients. In this study we quantify SHH protein and morphological changes in corpora cavernosal tissue of control, prostatectomy and diabetic patients and hypothesize that decreased SHH protein is an underlying cause of ED development in prostatectomy and diabetic patients. Our results show significantly decreased SHH protein in prostatectomy and diabetic penis. Morphological remodelling of the penis, including significantly increased apoptotic index and decreased smooth muscle/collagen ratio, accompanies declining SHH. SHH signaling is active in human penis and is altered in a parallel manner to previous observations in the rat. These results suggest that SHH has significant potential to be developed as an ED therapy in prostatectomy and diabetic patients. The increased apoptotic index long after initial injury is suggestive of ongoing remodeling that may be clinically manipulatable.
SHH plays a significant role in peripheral nerve regeneration and has clinical potential to be used as a regenerative therapy for the CN in prostatectomy patients and in other patients with neuropathy of peripheral nerves. Efforts to regenerate the cavernous nerve (CN), which provides innervation to the penis, have been minimally successful, with little translation into improved clinical outcomes. We propose that, Sonic hedgehog (SHH), is critical to maintain CN integrity, and that SHH delivered to the CN by novel peptide amphiphile (PA) nanofibers, will promote CN regeneration, restore physiological function, and prevent penile morphology changes that result in erectile dysfunction (ED). We performed localization studies, inhibition of SHH signaling in the CN, and treatment of crushed CNs with SHH protein via linear PA gels, which are an innovative extended release method of delivery. Morphological, functional and molecular analysis revealed that SHH protein is essential to maintain CN architecture, and that SHH treatment promoted CN regeneration, suppressed penile apoptosis and caused a 58% improvement in erectile function in less than half the time reported in the literature. These studies show that SHH has substantial clinical application to regenerate the CN in prostatectomy and diabetic patients, that this methodology has broad application to regenerate any peripheral nerve that SHH is necessary for maintenance of its structure, and that this nanotechnology method of protein delivery may have wide spread application as an in vivo delivery tool in many organs.
Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a serious medical condition that affects 16-82% of prostate cancer patients treated by radical prostatectomy and current treatments are ineffective in 50-60% of prostatectomy patients. The reduced efficacy of treatments makes novel therapeutic approaches to treat ED essential. The secreted protein Sonic hedgehog (SHH) is a critical regulator of penile smooth muscle and apoptosis that is decreased in cavernous nerve (CN) injury and diabetic ED models. Past studies using Affi-Gel beads have shown SHH protein to be effective in suppressing apoptosis caused by CN injury.
Sex-specific traits that lead to the production of dimorphic gametes, sperm in males and eggs in females, are fundamental for sexual reproduction and accordingly widespread among animals. Yet the sex-biased genes that underlie these sex-specific traits are under strong selective pressure, and as a result of adaptive evolution they often become divergent. Indeed out of hundreds of male or female fertility genes identified in diverse organisms, only a very small number of them are implicated specifically in reproduction in more than one lineage. Few genes have exhibited a sex-biased, reproductive-specific requirement beyond a given phylum, raising the question of whether any sex-specific gametogenesis factors could be conserved and whether gametogenesis might have evolved multiple times. Here we describe a metazoan origin of a conserved human reproductive protein, BOULE, and its prevalence from primitive basal metazoans to chordates. We found that BOULE homologs are present in the genomes of representative species of each of the major lineages of metazoans and exhibit reproductive-specific expression in all species examined, with a preponderance of male-biased expression. Examination of Boule evolution within insect and mammalian lineages revealed little evidence for accelerated evolution, unlike most reproductive genes. Instead, purifying selection was the major force behind Boule evolution. Furthermore, loss of function of mammalian Boule resulted in male-specific infertility and a global arrest of sperm development remarkably similar to the phenotype in an insect boule mutation. This work demonstrates the conservation of a reproductive protein throughout eumetazoa, its predominant testis-biased expression in diverse bilaterian species, and conservation of a male gametogenic requirement in mice. This shows an ancient gametogenesis requirement for Boule among Bilateria and supports a model of a common origin of spermatogenesis.
Smooth muscle apoptosis is a major contributing factor to erectile dysfunction (ED) development in prostatectomy and diabetic patients and animal models. A critical regulator of penile smooth muscle and apoptosis is Sonic hedgehog (SHH). The SHH protein is decreased in ED models and SHH treatment of cavernous nerve (CN) injured rats prevents smooth muscle apoptosis. A close association between androgen deficiency and ED has been suggested in the literature, but few studies have examined the molecular effects on penile smooth muscle and on known signaling mechanisms that regulate morphology. Aim. Examine testosterone and SHH interaction in eugonadal adult, adolescent and juvenile rats by performing castration studies and treatment with supraphysiological testosterone.
Sonic hedgehog (SHH) is an essential regulator of smooth muscle apoptosis in the penis that has significant clinical potential as a therapy to suppress post-prostatectomy apoptosis, an underlying cause of erectile dysfunction (ED). Thus an understanding of how SHH signaling is regulated in the adult penis is essential to move the field of ED research forward and to develop new treatment strategies. We propose that hedgehog-interacting protein (HIP), which has been shown to bind SHH protein and to play a role in SHH regulation during embryogenesis of other organs, is a critical regulator of SHH signaling, penile morphology, and apoptosis induction.
The cavernous nerve (CN) is commonly injured during prostatectomy. Manipulation of the nerve microenvironment is critical to improve regeneration and develop novel erectile dysfunction therapies. Sonic hedgehog (SHH) treatment promotes CN regeneration. The mechanism of how this occurs is unknown. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) facilitates return of erectile function after CN injury and it has been suggested in cortical neurons and the sciatic nerve that BDNF may be a target of SHH.
The cavernous nerve (CN) is commonly injured during prostatectomy, resulting in erectile dysfunction (ED). Although peripheral nerves have a limited ability to regenerate, a return of function typically does not occur due to irreversible down stream morphological changes in the penis that result from CN injury. We have shown in previous studies that sonic hedgehog (SHH) is critical for CN regeneration and improves erectile function after crush injury.
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