American College of Cardiology

Lab Notes — Fall 2019

The Key to Allergies

An unexpected source drives severe allergies, researchers from UConn Health, The Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine, and Yale University report in Science. An antibody known as high-affinity IgE is often behind the most severe food allergies, triggering anaphylactic shock. The researchers looked at mice with a genetic immune problem that causes severe food allergies including anaphylaxis. They found a subtype of immune cells called Tfh13 signal to B cells, another category of immune cell, telling them to make high-affinity IgE. When the researchers deleted Tfh13 cells in mice, the allergies disappeared. People with severe allergies tend to have elevated Tfh13 levels compared with nonallergic peers. The findings could point the way to better allergy testing and perhaps new approaches for treating allergies.


Just Breathe

Yoga practice that emphasizes mental relaxation and breathing techniques can have as much of a beneficial impact on high blood pressure as aerobic exercise, according to research by Yin Wu, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in UConn’s Department of Kinesiology. The study, published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, highlights the potential for yoga as an alternative antihypertensive therapy, particularly for those unable or unwilling to perform aerobic exercise. “We are not telling people to use yoga to substitute for aerobic exercise,” says Wu. “Aerobic exercise is the gold standard for antihypertensive lifestyle therapy. But yoga provides an additional option that can be just as effective.”


Caution: Falls Ahead

Antidepressant drugs known as selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, or SNRIs, can lead to adverse events in adults over 65, according to a team of researchers from UConn School of Pharmacy, UConn Health, and Yale University. Among this drug class, duloxetine, which is commonly known as Cymbalta, was shown to most likely increase the risk of falls over time, according to the study published in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society. SNRIs, particularly duloxetine, should be avoided or used with caution in older adults, the researchers say.


Halting Hypertension’s Effects

Elderly people with hypertension who took a high dosage of medicine to manage their high blood pressure showed significantly less accumulation of harmful brain lesions compared to those taking a lower dose of the same medicine, UConn Health researchers reported at the American College of Cardiology’s 68th Annual Scientific Session. However, the reduction in brain lesions did not translate to a significant improvement in mobility and cognitive function. The INFINITY study is the first to demonstrate an effective way to slow the progression of cerebrovascular disease, a condition common in older adults that restricts the flow of blood to the brain. In addition to seeing beneficial effects in the brain, those who kept their blood pressure lower also were less likely to suffer major cardiovascular events, such as a heart attack or stroke.

Lab Notes – Summer 2018

Gout Drug Increases Risk of Death in Some

A study of gout patients taking one of two medications used to prevent excess buildup of uric acid has linked the drug febuxostat to an increased risk of death for users with heart disease when compared to the medication allopurinol. In contrast, the study found no difference between the two medications when considering the risk of nonfatal coronary events, including hospitalizations for heart failure, arrhythmias, pulmonary embolism, myocardial infarction, or stroke. The findings of the trial (commonly referred to as the CARES trial), led by UConn School of Medicine’s Dr. William B. White, were released at the American College of Cardiology’s 67th Annual Scientific Session and published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Previously, no cardiovascular clinical trial has ever demonstrated an increased risk of cardiovascular death without also showing a heightened risk of other cardiovascular outcomes.


Prostate Medication Ups Dementia Threat

Tamsulosin

Tamsulosin, a medication prescribed to treat benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), may increase the risk of dementia in men ages 65 or older, a recent UConn study published in Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety found. The risk of developing dementia increased by as much as 17 percent when compared to similar patients who were not taking any medication to treat BPH. According to Dr. Helen Wu of the Connecticut Institute for Clinical and Translational Science and UConn Health, tamsulosin may also quicken the decline of those with early memory loss.


New Compound Stimulates Immune Response Against Cancer

A new synthetic compound created by a team of top immunologists, molecular biologists, and chemists has proven to be highly effective in activating human invariant natural killer T cells (iNKT). The compound called AH10-7 also causes the cells to release a specific set of proteins that stimulate anti-tumor immunity. One of the limitations of earlier compounds was their tendency to cause iNKT cells to release a rush of different cytokines with conflicting immune responses. The study, led by UConn chemistry professor Amy Howell, Ph.D., was published in Cell Chemical Biology. The findings could lead to more effective cancer treatments and vaccines.


Type of Dwarfism Linked to Infertility

human egg and sperm

UConn Health cell biologists Laurinda Jaffe and Leia Shuhaibar were studying fertility when they noticed unusually long bones in their mice. Upon further examination, they discovered that a mutated gene for the NPR2 enzyme, which controls how eggs mature in the ovaries, blocks an enzyme called the fibroblast growth factor receptor, resulting in abnormally long bones. In contrast, the fibroblast growth factor receptor is always “on” in individuals diagnosed with achondroplastic dwarfism, causing decreased bone growth and shortened limbs. The study, funded in part by the NIH and published in eLife, may lead to new drug therapies to treat achondroplasia.