This week PLOS Medicine publishes the following new articles:
Martin Widschwendter and colleagues perform an epigenome-wide methylation analysis of endometrial cancers and identify methylation of HAND2 as one of the most common hypermethylated and silenced genes in endometrial cancer. Endometrial cancer is the most common gynecological cancer, and its incidence is continuing to rise in an older and more obese population. HAND2 is active in the healthy endometrium (the tissue lining the uterus) where it antagonizes the growth-inducing effects of estrogen. By contrast, in more than 90% of endometrial cancers, the gene has undergone hypermethylation, an epigenetic modification that doesn’t change its DNA sequence but renders it inactive. Moreover, analysis of HAND2 methylation in endometrial secretions collected from women with postmenopausal bleeding (which can be a symptom of endometrial cancer) accurately identified individuals with early stage cancer.
Asuncion Mejias and colleagues examine the use of blood RNA profiles for the diagnosis of infants with respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and suggest that molecular markers might be able to predict disease severity. RSV is responsible for a substantial fraction of serious respiratory infections and deaths among young children worldwide and a top candidate for vaccine development. They found that children who are ill with RSV infections have a characteristic gene expression pattern that is different not only from healthy children but also from children infected with either influenza virus or human rhinovirus, two other common causes of lower respiratory tract disease. This pattern, which the researchers called the RSV biosignature, could reliably identify children with RSV infections in different settings. In a linked Perspective, Peter Openshaw discusses the challenges in advancing RSV treatments and the implications of using a newly identified gene signature for diagnosis and prediction of RSV severity.
In a featured Health in Action article, Jeff Sloan and colleagues describe the development of the Patient-Reported Outcomes Quality of Life (PROQOL) instrument, which captures and stores patient-recorded outcomes in the medical record for patients with diabetes.