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Translational and clinical research

Translational research describes the process of converting basic scientific findings into novel treatments and diagnostics aimed to address unmet clinical needs. Here, we showcase a plethora of diverse studies, ranging from the investigation of the molecular mechanisms underlying the onset and course of a disease using preclinical models, to the development of innovative interventions in human subjects with the goal to guide health care policy and clinical practice.

Featured articles

There are no targeted pharmacologic therapies to treat lung injury during mechanical ventilation (MV). Here the authors identify a mechanosensitive microRNA (miR-146a) in alveolar macrophages during MV and increase miR-146a to supraphysiological levels in these cells to mitigate ventilator induced lung injury.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is a disease of prematurity requiring Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) activation on the gut epithelium. Here the authors show that the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) mediates NEC pathogenesis via effects on TLR4, and that supplementing the diet with AHR ligands during pregnancy or postnatally prevents NEC.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Clinical trials of novel therapeutics for Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) have provided largely negative results, so far. Here, the authors present a machine learning framework that quantifies potential associations between the pathology of AD severity and gene-based molecular mechanisms to enable drug repurposing.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Photoacoustic imaging has generated increasing interest for uses in preclinical research and clinical translation. Here the authors develop a three-dimensional photoacoustic computed tomography system that allows for multipurpose imaging of biological tissues ranging from the rodent brain to the human breast.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Clinical estrogen receptor (ER) testing for breast cancer is limited in predicting response to endocrine therapy (ET). In this phase 2 clinical trial, authors demonstrate that the responsiveness to ET can be predicted by use of PET/CT with 21-[18F]fluorofuranylnorprogesterone (FFNP) to detect the change in tumor progesterone receptor (PgR) levels after a one-day estradiol challenge.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Sharing early evidence, as a trial is ongoing, is fundamental for both physicians and patients to make enrollment decisions. Here, the authors report the results of a simulation study evaluating the potential effects of early release of interim efficacy and safety data on the duration and validity of an ongoing clinical trial and demonstrate that positive interim results may shorten trial duration through increased enrollment.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Interpretation of Computed Tomography Angiography for intracranial aneurysm diagnosis can be time-consuming and challenging. Here, the authors present a deep-learning-based framework achieving improved performance compared to that of radiologists and expert neurosurgeons.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Exercise improves metabolic health and physical condition, particularly important for health in aged individuals. Here, the authors identify that Sestrins, proteins induced by exercise, are key mediators of the metabolic adaptation to exercise and increase endurance through the AKT and PGC1a axes.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Hepatic steatosis is associated with poor cardiometabolic health, with de novo lipogenesis (DNL) contributing to hepatic steatosis and subsequent insulin resistance. Here, the authors use 1H-MRS methodology to show hepatic SFA fraction is a measure of DNL and specifically may hamper hepatic insulin sensitivity.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Blood and lymphatic vessels bear a strong resemblance but do not share a lumen, thus maintaining their distinct functions. Here, the authors describe that Folliculin, a tumor suppressor, prevents the fusion of these vessels during development by limiting the plasticity of venous and lymphatic endothelial cells.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Intestinal stromal cells (IntSCs) play essential roles in maintaining intestinal homeostasis. Here the authors show that VEGF-C expression in specialized IntSCs is regulated by YAP/TAZ, and VEGF-C is responsible for maintaining lacteal integrity, thus influencing dietary fat drainage into lacteals.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Preclinical studies have shown that negative pressure ventilation ex situ lung perfusion results in less ventilator-induced lung injury compared to positive pressure ventilation of donor lungs during transplantation procedures. Here the authors perform a single-arm clinical trial with 12 participants to study patient survival and primary graft dysfunction with ex situ lung perfusion.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

The role of automatic electrocardiogram (ECG) analysis in clinical practice is limited by the accuracy of existing models. In that context, the authors present a Deep Neural Network (DNN) that recognizes different abnormalities in ECG recordings which matches or outperform cardiology and emergency resident medical doctors.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Islet amyloid polypeptide (IAPP) deposition is associated with islet cell loss in diabetes. Here the authors show that a small molecule autophagy enhancer reduces IAPP accumulation in vitro, and also improves glucose tolerance in hIAPP+ mice fed high-fat diet, accompanied by reduced hIAPP accumulation, in vivo.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

HER2+ breast cancer patients can often develop resistance to trastuzumab and therefore potential combination therapies need to be explored. Here, the authors report the results of a multi-center randomized phase II clinical trial evaluating the pathological and molecular responses associated with trastuzumab and/or lapatinib in combination with chemotherapy in HER2+ breast cancer patients.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

All-trans retinoic acid - ATRA- is known to remodulate the stroma of pancreatic cancer in mice. Here, the authors carried out a Phase Ib trial in pancreatic patients and show that ATRA in combination with chemotherapy is a safe potential treatment for patients with advanced pancreatic cancer, and demonstrate a stromal modulatory effect.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Preclinical evidence suggests that a fasting mimicking diet (FMD) can make cancer cells more vulnerable to chemotherapy, while protecting normal cells. In this randomized phase II clinical trial of 131 patients with HER2 negative early stage breast cancer, the authors demonstrate that FMD is safe and enhances the effects of neoadjuvant chemotherapy on radiological and pathological tumor response.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

ER-positive breast cancer patients do not usually respond to immunotherapy. In this phase II clinical trial, the authors report the safety and efficacy of combining vorinostat and pembrolizumab with tamoxifen in ER-positive breast cancers and provide evidence that T-cell exhaustion may serve as a potential signature for the response of this combination therapy.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

The emergence of tumour adaptive radioresistance can limit the success of radiation therapy and immunotherapy in breast cancer. In this study, the authors demonstrate that CD47 and HER2 are coordinating in tumor response to radiation and that co-blockage of both receptors can eliminate radiorestistant breast cancer cells.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

The clinical application of T cell bispecific antibodies (TCBs) is often limited by the lack of tumour-specific antigens. In this study, the authors present a strategy to increase TCB tumour-selectivity by adding an anti-CD3 moiety that can be specifically activated by tumor specific proteases in the tumor microenvironment.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

The gut microbiome affects systemic metabolism and is a therapeutic target for type 2 diabetes. Here the authors demonstrate in a randomized controlled trial that effects of berberine, a plant alkaloid known to lower blood glucose, may be explained by the inhibition of Ruminococcus bromii mediated biotransformation of the bile acid deoxycholic acid.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Histones, proteins that bind DNA, are toxic for pathogens outside cells but can also cause multi-organ damage as seen in sepsis. Here the authors develop small negatively charged molecules that can be used as histone antidotes, and show that they improve the phenotype in mouse models with histone-related pathologies.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Combinatorial treatments have become a standard of care for various complex diseases including cancers. Here, the authors show that combinatorial responses of two anticancer drugs can be accurately predicted using factorization machines trained on large-scale pharmacogenomic data for guiding precision oncology studies.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Cellular senescence is a hallmark of ageing and is important for the pathogenesis of ageing-related diseases. Here, the authors develop a morphology-based deep learning system to identify senescent cells and a quantitative scoring system to evaluate the state of endothelial cells to evaluate the effects of anti-senescent reagents.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Developing effective drugs for Alzheimer’s disease (AD), the most common cause of dementia, has been difficult because of complicated pathogenesis. Here, the authors report an efficient network-based drug-screening platform developed by integrating mathematical modeling and the pathological features of human cerebral organoids.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Inhibiting thrombosis without inducing bleeding is a major challenge for anticoagulant agents. Here the authors describe a synthetic FXIIa inhibitor able to efficiently prevent thrombosis in mice and suppress coagulation in artificial lungs in rabbits without increasing the risk of bleeding.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

The development of specific anti-cytokine/chemokine therapeutic strategies for atherosclerotic disease is challenging. Here, the authors have designed a peptide-based ectodomain mimic of the chemokine receptor CXCR4 that selectively targets MIF but not CXCL12 and blocks experimental atherosclerosis in vivo.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Aberrant synchronous oscillations have been associated with numerous brain disorders, including essential tremor. The authors show that synchronous cerebellar activity can casually affect essential tremor and that its underlying mechanism may be related to the temporal coherence of the tremulous movement.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Antigen-specific IL9-secreting CD4 Th9 and CD8 Tc9 cells have been previously characterized for their anti-tumour properties. Here, the authors show that ex vivo polarized Th9/Tc9 human CAR-T cells display increased anti-tumor activity in pre-clinical haematological and solid cancer models compared to conventional IL-2 activated CAR-T cells.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications