Quality assessment of expert answers to lay questions about cystic fibrosis from various language zones in Europe: the ECORN-CF project
Kris De Boeck
Thomas Otto Friedrich Wagner
Helge Uwe Hebestreit
- Background: The European Centres of Reference Network for Cystic Fibrosis (ECORN-CF) established an Internet forum which provides the opportunity for CF patients and other interested people to ask experts questions about CF in their mother language. The objectives of this study were to: 1. develop a detailed quality assessment tool to analyze quality of expert answers, 2. evaluate the intra- and inter-rater agreement of this tool, and 3. explore changes in the quality of expert answers over the time frame of the project.
Methods: The quality assessment tool was developed by an expert panel. Five experts within the ECORN-CF project used the quality assessment tool to analyze the quality of 108 expert answers published on ECORN-CF from six language zones. 25 expert answers were scored at two time points, one year apart. Quality of answers was also assessed at an early and later period of the project. Individual rater scores and group mean scores were analyzed for each expert answer.
Results: A scoring system and training manual were developed analyzing two quality categories of answers: content and formal quality. For content quality, the grades based on group mean scores for all raters showed substantial agreement between two time points, however this was not the case for the grades based on individual rater scores. For formal quality the grades based on group mean scores showed only slight agreement between two time points and there was also poor agreement between time points for the individual grades. The inter-rater agreement for content quality was fair (mean kappa value 0.232+/-0.036, p<0.001) while only slight agreement was observed for the grades of the formal quality (mean kappa value 0.105+/-0.024, p<0.001). The quality of expert answers was rated high (four language zones) or satisfactory (two language zones) and did not change over time.
Conclusions: The quality assessment tool described in this study was feasible and reliable when content quality was assessed by a group of raters. Within ECORN-CF, the tool will help ensure that CF patients all over Europe have equal possibility of access to high quality expert advice on their illness.
Descending aortic calcification increases renal dysfunction and in-hospital mortality in cardiac surgery patients with intraaortic balloon pump counterpulsation placed perioperatively: a case control study
James D. Rawn
Prem S. Shekar
Tobias Michael Bingold
Holger K. Eltzschig
Stanton K Shernan
- Introduction: Acute kidney injury (AKI) after cardiac surgery increases length of hospital stay and in-hospital mortality. A significant number of patients undergoing cardiac surgical procedures require perioperative intra-aortic balloon pump (IABP) support. Use of an IABP has been linked to an increased incidence of perioperative renal dysfunction and death. This might be due to dislodgement of atherosclerotic material in the descending thoracic aorta (DTA). Therefore, we retrospectively studied the correlation between DTA atheroma, AKI and in-hospital mortality.
Methods: A total of 454 patients were retrospectively matched to one of four groups: -IABP/-DTA atheroma, +IABP/-DTA atheroma, -IABP/+DTA atheroma, +IABP/+DTA atheroma. Patients were then matched according to presence/absence of DTA atheroma, presence/absence of IABP, performed surgical procedure, age, gender and left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF). DTA atheroma was assessed through standard transesophageal echocardiography (TEE) imaging studies of the descending thoracic aorta.
Results: Basic patient characteristics, except for age and gender, did not differ between groups. Perioperative AKI in patients with -DTA atheroma/+IABP was 5.1% versus 1.7% in patients with -DTA atheroma/-IABP. In patients with +DTA atheroma/+IABP the incidence of AKI was 12.6% versus 5.1% in patients with +DTA atheroma/-IABP. In-hospital mortality in patients with +DTA atheroma/-IABP was 3.4% versus 8.4% with +DTA atheroma/+IABP. In patients with +DTA atheroma/+IABP in hospital mortality was 20.2% versus 6.4% with +DTA atheroma/-IABP. Multivariate logistic regression identified DTA atheroma > 1 mm (P = *0.002, odds ratio (OR) = 4.13, confidence interval (CI) = 1.66 to 10.30), as well as IABP support (P = *0.015, OR = 3.04, CI = 1.24 to 7.45) as independent predictors of perioperative AKI and increased in-hospital mortality. DTA atheroma in conjunction with IABP significantly increased the risk of developing acute kidney injury (P = 0.0016) and in-hospital mortality (P = 0.0001) when compared to control subjects without IABP and without DTA atheroma.
Conclusions: Perioperative IABP and DTA atheroma are independent predictors of perioperative AKI and in-hospital mortality. Whether adding an IABP in patients with severe DTA calcification increases their risk of developing AKI and mortality postoperatively cannot be clearly answered in this study. Nevertheless, when IABP and DTA are combined, patients are more likely to develop AKI and to die postoperatively in comparison to patients without IABP and DTA atheroma.
Prospective evaluation of artemether-lumefantrine for the treatment of non-falciparum and mixed-species malaria in Gabon
Daisy A. Diop
Ayola A. Adegnika
Peter G. Kremsner
- Background: The recommendation of artemisinin combination therapy (ACT) as first-line treatment for uncomplicated falciparum malaria is supported by a plethora of high quality clinical trials. However, their recommendation for the treatment of mixed-species malaria and the large-scale use for the treatment of non-falciparum malaria in endemic regions is based on anecdotal rather than systematic clinical evidence.
Methods: This study prospectively observed the efficacy of artemether-lumefantrine for the treatment of uncomplicated non-falciparum or mixed-species malaria in two routine district hospitals in the Central African country of Gabon.
Results: Forty patients suffering from uncomplicated Plasmodium malariae, Plasmodium ovale or mixed-species malaria (including Plasmodium falciparum) presenting at the hospital received artemether-lumefantrine treatment and were followed up. All evaluable patients (n = 38) showed an adequate clinical and parasitological response on Day 28 after oral treatment with artemether-lumefantrine (95% confidence interval: 0.91,1). All adverse events were of mild to moderate intensity and completely resolved by the end of study.
Conclusions: This first systematic assessment of artemether-lumefantrine treatment for P. malariae, P. ovale and mixed-species malaria demonstrated a high cure rate of 100% and a favourable tolerability profile, and thus lends support to the practice of treating non-falciparum or mixed-species malaria, or all cases of malaria without definite species differentiation, with artemether-lumefantrine in Gabon.
Trial Registration: ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT00725777
Biglycan: a multivalent proteoglycan providing structure and signals
Madalina V. Nastase
Marian F. Young
- Research over the past few years has provided fascinating results indicating that biglycan, besides being a ubiquitous structural component of the extracellular matrix (ECM), may act as a signaling molecule. Proteolytically released from the ECM, biglycan acts as a danger signal signifying tissue stress or injury. As a ligand of innate immunity receptors and activator of the inflammasome, biglycan stimulates multifunctional proinflammatory signaling linking the innate to the adaptive immune response. By clustering several types of receptors on the cell surface and orchestrating their downstream signaling events, biglycan is capable to autonomously trigger sterile inflammation and to potentiate the inflammatory response to microbial invasion. Besides operating in a broad biological context, biglycan also displays tissue-specific affinities to certain receptors and structural components, thereby playing a crucial role in bone formation, muscle integrity, and synapse stability at the neuromuscular junction. This review attempts to provide a concise summary of recent data regarding the involvement of biglycan in the regulation of inflammation and the musculoskeletal system, pointing out both a signaling and a structural role for this proteoglycan. The potential of biglycan as a novel therapeutic target or agent for the treatment of inflammatory diseases and skeletal muscular dystrophies is also addressed.
Does social interaction destablise financial markets?
- With this paper, I propose a simple asset pricing model that accounts for the influence from social interaction. Investors are assumed to make up their mind about an asset’s price based on a forecasting strategy and its past profitability as well as on the contemporaneous expectations of other market participants. Empirically analysing stocks of the DAX30 index, I provide evidence that social interaction rather destabilises financial markets. Based on my results, I state that at least, it does not have a stabilising effect.
Fluctuations of social influence: evidence from the behaviour of mutual fund managers during the economic crisis 2008/09
- In this paper, I analyse the reciprocal social influence on investment decisions within an international group of roughly 2000 mutual fund managers that invested in companies of the DAX30. Using a robust estimation procedure, I provide empirical evidence that in the average a fund manager puts 0.69% more portfolio weight on a particular stock, if other fund managers increase the corresponding position by 1%. The dynamics of this influence on portfolio weights suggest that fund managers adjust their behaviour according to the prevailing market situation and are more strongly influenced by others in times of an economic downturn. Analysing the working locations of the fund managers, I conclude that more than 90% of the magnitude of influence is due to pure observation. While this form of influence varies much in time, the magnitude of influence resulting from the exchange of opinion is more or less constant.
Tumor angiogenesis and anti-angiogenic therapy in malignant gliomas revisited
Karl H. Plate
Daniel J. Dumont
- The cellular and molecular mechanisms of tumor angiogenesis and its prospects for anti-angiogenic cancer therapy are major issues in almost all current concepts of both cancer biology and targeted cancer therapy. Currently, (1) sprouting angiogenesis, (2) vascular co-option, (3) vascular intussusception, (4) vasculogenic mimicry, (5) bone marrow-derived vasculogenesis, (6) cancer stem-like cell-derived vasculogenesis and (7) myeloid cell-driven angiogenesis are all considered to contribute to tumor angiogenesis. Many of these processes have been described in developmental angiogenesis; however, the relative contribution and relevance of these in human brain cancer remain unclear. Preclinical tumor models support a role for sprouting angiogenesis, vascular co-option and myeloid cell-derived angiogenesis in glioma vascularization, whereas a role for the other four mechanisms remains controversial and rather enigmatic. The anti-angiogenesis drug Avastin (Bevacizumab), which targets VEGF, has become one of the most popular cancer drugs in the world. Anti-angiogenic therapy may lead to vascular normalization and as such facilitate conventional cytotoxic chemotherapy. However, preclinical and clinical studies suggest that anti-VEGF therapy using bevacizumab may also lead to a pro-migratory phenotype in therapy resistant glioblastomas and thus actively promote tumor invasion and recurrent tumor growth. This review focusses on (1) mechanisms of tumor angiogenesis in human malignant glioma that are of particular relevance for targeted therapy and (2) controversial issues in tumor angiogenesis such as cancer stem-like cell-derived vasculogenesis and bone-marrow-derived vasculogenesis.
Diffusion of elearning as an innovation and economic aspects of elearning support structure
- Meanwhile, many universities and educational institutions have implemented an e-learning center or some similar, often smaller institutional units in order to support the usage of new media in teaching and learning processes . This paper addresses questions around the installation of such e-learning support structures at different levels of an institution and also looks at the diffusion of e-learning as an innovation in educational institutions.
New format for online courses: the open course Future of Learning
- Since 2007 the concept of open online courses came up leading to many discussions of this new format in blog posts and articles especially in the US and Canada. 2011, the first German open online course was started addressing the Future of Learning.
The article discusses the concept of open online courses, the experiences with the first German course, and gives some perspectives on further developments which partly were implemented in a new course that was just started in 2012.
Virtual machine scheduling in dedicated computing clusters
- Time-critical applications process a continuous stream of input data and have to meet speciﬁc timing constraints. A common approach to ensure that such an application satisﬁes its constraints is over-provisioning: The application is deployed in a dedicated cluster environment with enough processing power to achieve the target performance for every speciﬁed data input rate. This approach comes with a drawback: At times of decreased data input rates, the cluster resources are not fully utilized. A typical use case is the HLT-Chain application that processes physics data at runtime of the ALICE experiment at CERN. From a perspective of cost and efficiency it is desirable to exploit temporarily unused cluster resources. Existing approaches aim for that goal by running additional applications. These approaches, however, a) lack in ﬂexibility to dynamically grant the time-critical application the resources it needs, b) are insufficient for isolating the time-critical application from harmful side-effects introduced by additional applications or c) are not general because application-speciﬁc interfaces are used. In this thesis, a software framework is presented that allows to exploit unused resources in a dedicated cluster without harming a time-critical application. Additional applications are hosted in Virtual Machines (VMs) and unused cluster resources are allocated to these VMs at runtime. In order to avoid resource bottlenecks, the resource usage of VMs is dynamically modiﬁed according to the needs of the time-critical application. For this purpose, a number of previously not combined methods is used. On a global level, appropriate VM manipulations like hot migration, suspend/resume and start/stop are determined by an informed search heuristic and applied at runtime. Locally on cluster nodes, a feedback-controlled adaption of VM resource usage is carried out in a decentralized manner. The employment of this framework allows to increase a cluster’s usage by running additional applications, while at the same time preventing negative impact towards a time-critical application. This capability of the framework is shown for the HLT-Chain application: In an empirical evaluation the cluster CPU usage is increased from 49% to 79%, additional results are computed and no negative effect towards the HLT-Chain application are observed.