Taxation in times of austerity: a question of political economy
- Even though fiscal sovereignty still counts as a fundamental principle of government, global and regional economic integration as well as increasing levels of sovereign debt severely limit governments’ tax policy choices. In particular the redistributive function of taxation has suffered in the pursuit of economic competitiveness. As inequality rises and attention is directed again at taxation as a means for redistribution, international cooperation appears as an avenue to enable redistribution through taxation. Yet, one of the predominant international institutions dealing with tax matters – the OECD – with its focus on economic growth and competitiveness and resulting tax policy advice prevents rather than promotes national and international debates on taxation as a question of social justice. The paper argues that questions of taxation need to be perceived as questions of social justice and thus as questions of politics, and not merely of economics. Only if taxation is not considered a mere economic instrument can a ‘political economy’ be maintained. The paper addresses the three objectives of taxation – revenue generation, redistribution and regulation -- and how they are affected as governments aim for fiscal consolidation to conclude that governments’ power to freely pursue and calibrate these objectives has come to appear rather as a myth than the core of sovereignty. It then demonstrates how the OECD’s tax policy advice and cooperation in tax matters react to the constraints on governmental taxation powers; how they aim at economic growth and competitiveness to the detriment of (other) ideas of social justice. The paper concludes with a call for (re)integrating social and global justice concerns into debates on taxation.
Differential stability of cell-free circulating microRNAs : implications for their utilization as biomarkers
Eduardo Augusto Alonso
Ricardo M. Biondi
- Background: MicroRNAs circulating in the blood, stabilized by complexation with proteins and/or additionally by encapsulation in lipid vesicles, are currently being evaluated as biomarkers. The consequences of their differential association with lipids/vesicles for their stability and use as biomarkers are largely unexplored and are subject of the present study.
Methods: The levels of a set of selected microRNAs were determined by quantitative reverse-transcription PCR after extraction from sera or vesicle- and non-vesicle fractions prepared from sera. The stability of these microRNAs after incubation with RNase A or RNase inhibitor, an inhibitor of RNase A family enzymes was studied.
Results: The levels of microRNA-1 and microRNA-122, but not those of microRNA-16, microRNA-21 and microRNA-142-3p, declined significantly during a 5-h incubation of the sera. RNase inhibitor prevented the loss of microRNAs in serum as well as the degradation of microRNA-122, a microRNA not expressed in blood cells, in whole blood. Stabilization of microRNA-122 was also achieved by hemolysis. Prolonged incubation of the sera led to enrichment of vesicle-associated relative to non-vesicle-associated microRNAs. Vesicle-associated microRNAs were more resistant to RNase A treatment than the respective microRNAs not associated with vesicles.
Conclusions: Serum microRNAs showed differential stability upon prolonged incubation. RNase inhibitor might be useful to robustly preserve the pattern of cell-free circulating microRNAs. In the case of microRNAs not expressed in blood cells this can also be achieved by hemolysis. Vesicle-associated microRNAs appeared to be more stable than those not associated with vesicles, which might be useful to disclose additional biomarker properties of miRNAs.
HIF1A reduces acute lung injury by optimizing carbohydrate metabolism in the alveolar epithelium
Christoph H. Borchers
Thomas J. Mariani
Douglas J. Kominsky
Holger K. Eltzschig
- Background: While acute lung injury (ALI) contributes significantly to critical illness, it resolves spontaneously in many instances. The majority of patients experiencing ALI require mechanical ventilation. Therefore, we hypothesized that mechanical ventilation and concomitant stretch-exposure of pulmonary epithelia could activate endogenous pathways important in lung protection.
Methods and Findings: To examine transcriptional responses during ALI, we exposed pulmonary epithelia to cyclic mechanical stretch conditions—an in vitro model resembling mechanical ventilation. A genome-wide screen revealed a transcriptional response similar to hypoxia signaling. Surprisingly, we found that stabilization of hypoxia-inducible factor 1A (HIF1A) during stretch conditions in vitro or during ventilator-induced ALI in vivo occurs under normoxic conditions. Extension of these findings identified a functional role for stretch-induced inhibition of succinate dehydrogenase (SDH) in mediating normoxic HIF1A stabilization, concomitant increases in glycolytic capacity, and improved tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle function. Pharmacologic studies with HIF activator or inhibitor treatment implicated HIF1A-stabilization in attenuating pulmonary edema and lung inflammation during ALI in vivo. Systematic deletion of HIF1A in the lungs, endothelia, myeloid cells, or pulmonary epithelia linked these findings to alveolar-epithelial HIF1A. In vivo analysis of 13C-glucose metabolites utilizing liquid-chromatography tandem mass-spectrometry demonstrated that increases in glycolytic capacity, improvement of mitochondrial respiration, and concomitant attenuation of lung inflammation during ALI were specific for alveolar-epithelial expressed HIF1A.
Conclusions: These studies reveal a surprising role for HIF1A in lung protection during ALI, where normoxic HIF1A stabilization and HIF-dependent control of alveolar-epithelial glucose metabolism function as an endogenous feedback loop to dampen lung inflammation.
Cross-sectional study assessing HIV related knowledge, attitudes and behavior in Namibian public sector employees in capital and regional settings
Til R. Kiderlen
- The study objective was to assess the current status of HIV knowledge, attitudes and behavior (KAB) among employees of Namibian ministries. As most HIV campaigning takes place in the capital of Windhoek, an additional aim was to compare Windhoek to four regions (Hardap, Erongo, Oshana, and Caprivi). Between January and March 2011 a cross-sectional survey was conducted in two Namibian ministries, with participants selected randomly from the workforce. Data collection was based on questionnaires. 832 participants were included in the study (51.6% male). Nearly 90% of participants reported to have been tested for HIV before. Knowledge about HIV transmission ranged from 67% to 95% of correct answers, with few differences between the capital and regions. However, a knowledge gap regarding HIV transmission and prevention was seen. In particular, we found significantly lower knowledge regarding transmission from mother-to-child during pregnancy and higher rate of belief in a supernatural role in HIV transmission. In addition, despite many years of HIV prevention activities, a substantial proportion of employees had well-known HIV risk factors including multiple concurrent partnership rates (21%), intergenerational sex (19%), and lower testing rates for men (82% compared to women with 91%).
Function of survivin in trophoblastic cells of the placenta
- Background: Preeclampsia is one of the leading causes of maternal and perinatal mortality and morbidity worldwide and its pathogenesis is not totally understood. As a member of the chromosomal passenger complex and an inhibitor of apoptosis, survivin is a well-characterized oncoprotein. Its roles in trophoblastic cells remain to be defined.
Methods: The placental samples from 16 preeclampsia patients and 16 well-matched controls were included in this study. Real-time PCR, immunohistochemistry and Western blot analysis were carried out with placental tissues. Primary trophoblastic cells from term placentas were isolated for Western blot analysis. Cell proliferation, cell cycle analysis and immunofluorescence staining were performed in trophoblastic cell lines BeWo, JAR and HTR-8/SVneo.
Results: The survivin gene is reduced but the protein amount is hardly changed in preeclamptic placentas, compared to control placentas. Upon stress, survivin in trophoblastic cells is phosphorylated on its residue serine 20 by protein kinase A and becomes stabilized, accompanied by increased heat shock protein 90. Depletion of survivin induces chromosome misalignment, abnormal centrosome integrity, and reduced localization and activity of Aurora B at the centromeres/kinetochores in trophoblastic metaphase cells.
Conclusions: Our data indicate that survivin plays pivotal roles in cell survival and proliferation of trophoblastic cells. Further investigations are required to define the function of survivin in each cell type of the placenta in the context of proliferation, differentiation, apoptosis, angiogenesis, migration and invasion.
The T-cell oncogene Tal2 is a Target of PU.1 and upregulated during osteoclastogenesis
- Transcription factors play a crucial role in regulating differentiation processes during human life and are important in disease. The basic helix-loop-helix transcription factors Tal1 and Lyl1 play a major role in the regulation of gene expression in the hematopoietic system and are involved in human leukemia. Tal2, which belongs to the same family of transcription factors as Tal1 and Lyl1, is also involved in human leukaemia. However, little is known regarding the expression and regulation of Tal2 in hematopoietic cells. Here we show that Tal2 is expressed in hematopoietic cells of the myeloid lineage. Interestingly, we found that usage of the Tal2 promoter is different in human and mouse cells. Two promoters, hP1 and hP2 drive Tal2 expression in human erythroleukemia K562 cells, however in mouse RAW cells only the mP1 promoter is used. Furthermore, we found that Tal2 expression is upregulated during oesteoclastogenesis. We show that Tal2 is a direct target gene of the myeloid transcription factor PU.1, which is a key transcription factor for osteoclast gene expression. Strikingly, PU.1 binding to the P1 promoter is conserved between mouse and human, but PU.1 binding to P2 was only detected in human K562 cells. Additionally, we provide evidence that Tal2 influences the expression of the osteoclastic differentiation gene TRACP. These findings provide novel insight into the expression control of Tal2 in hematopoietic cells and reveal a function of Tal2 as a regulator of gene expression during osteoclast differentiation.
Delayed wound repair in sepsis is associated with reduced local pro-inflammatory cytokine expression
Anna Lena Sander
- Sepsis is one of the main causes for morbidity and mortality in hospitalized patients. Moreover, sepsis associated complications involving impaired wound healing are common. Septic patients often require surgical interventions that in-turn may lead to further complications caused by impaired wound healing. We established a mouse model to the study delayed wound healing during sepsis distant to the septic focus point. For this reason cecal ligation and puncture (CLP) was combined with the creation of a superficial wound on the mouse ear. Control animals received the same procedure without CPL. Epithelialization was measured every second day by direct microscopic visualization up to complete closure of the wound. As interplay of TNF-α, TGF-β, matrix metalloproteinases (MMP), and tissue inhibitors of metalloproteinases (TIMP) is important in wound healing in general, TNF-α, TGF-β, MMP7, and TIMP1 were assessed immunohistochemical in samples of wounded ears harvested on days 2, 6, 10 and 16 after wounding. After induction of sepsis, animals showed a significant delay in wound epithelialization from day 2 to 12 compared to control animals. Complete wound healing was attained after mean 12.2± standard deviation (SD) 3.0 days in septic animals compared to 8.7± SD 1.7 days in the control group. Septic animals showed a significant reduction in local pro-inflammatory cytokine level of TNF-α on day 2 and day 6 as well as a reduced expression of TGF-β on day 2 in wounds. A significant lower expression of MMP7 as well as TIMP1 was also observed on day 2 after wounding. The induction of sepsis impairs wound healing distant to the septic focus point. We could demonstrate that expression of important cytokines for wound repair is deregulated after induction of sepsis. Thus restoring normal cytokine response locally in wounds could be a good strategy to enhance wound repair in sepsis.
Non-equivalence of antibiotic generic drugs and risk for intensive care
Charles James Kirkpatrick
- Background: The underlying axiom in applying generic drugs is the equivalence of their active ingredient with the (usually more expensive) innovator product, an all-embracing statement with the insidious result that physicians assume that the generic products have been subjected to the same rigorous testing regimens as the brand-name products. The present paper presents novel experimental data on an investigator-blinded comparison between the innovator imipenem antibiotic, and a number of its generics.
Methods: Particulate matter contamination of each group was visualized by means of a membrane filter method. Functional studies in an animal model–the dorsal skinfold chamber technique in mice-designed to simulate the state of microcirculatory dysfunction in intensive care patients was performed, in order to assess the influence of the particulate matter of each group on the functional capillary density of the striated skin muscle, after their intravenous injection.
Results: The results showed massive particulate contamination of the generics, in a size range relevant for impacting the microcirculation. The particulate contamination contributed in some generic groups to a significant shutdown of tissue perfusion.
Conclusion: The presented data underscore the need to raise the regulatory barriers for the entry of generics to the market, well beyond the simplistic proof of “bioequivalence”, which in no measure deals with the essential questions of quality and patient safety. If generics are used, they should be tested by a filter technique and optical microscopy, to ensure the absence especially of small particulate contaminants and their purity.
Personalizing HIV therapy, mission impossible?
Nils von Hentig
- Sustained HIV suppression depends on a number of factors including therapy adherence, management of side effects, viral resistance and individual characteristics of patients and therapeutic settings. Treatment response rates range up to 90% in therapy naïve patients but decline to approximately 50% in patients who received several antiretrovirals during treatment history. Furthermore, HIV protease inhibitors (PI) and non nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTI) plasma concentrations display high inter- and intra individual variability and the therapeutic window is comparably narrow. In this therapeutic setting the personalization of dosing regimens has been suggested in many cases to tailor the ARV plasma concentrations with the intention to maximize therapy success and minimize side effects in the individual. However, personalizing therapy by modifying the dosing regimen bears the danger of losing therapeutic efficacy, increasing side effects or causing viral resistance.
This topical review identifies pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic models of antiretroviral therapy appraising the potential application to HIV therapy and discusses its future in the light of new drug classes and fix-dose combinations.
A novel approach to probabilistic biomarker-based classification using functional near-infrared spectroscopy
Andre F. Marquand
Michael M. Plichta
Martin W. Schecklmann
Tomasz A. Jarczok
Michael J. Brammer
Andreas J. Fallgatter
- Pattern recognition approaches to the analysis of neuroimaging data have brought new applications such as the classification of patients and healthy controls within reach. In our view, the reliance on expensive neuroimaging techniques which are not well tolerated by many patient groups and the inability of most current biomarker algorithms to accommodate information about prior class frequencies (such as a disorder's prevalence in the general population) are key factors limiting practical application. To overcome both limitations, we propose a probabilistic pattern recognition approach based on cheap and easy-to-use multi-channel near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) measurements. We show the validity of our method by applying it to data from healthy controls (n = 14) enabling differentiation between the conditions of a visual checkerboard task. Second, we show that high-accuracy single subject classification of patients with schizophrenia (n = 40) and healthy controls (n = 40) is possible based on temporal patterns of fNIRS data measured during a working memory task. For classification, we integrate spatial and temporal information at each channel to estimate overall classification accuracy. This yields an overall accuracy of 76% which is comparable to the highest ever achieved in biomarker-based classification of patients with schizophrenia. In summary, the proposed algorithm in combination with fNIRS measurements enables the analysis of sub-second, multivariate temporal patterns of BOLD responses and high-accuracy predictions based on low-cost, easy-to-use fNIRS patterns. In addition, our approach can easily compensate for variable class priors, which is highly advantageous in making predictions in a wide range of clinical neuroimaging applications. Hum Brain Mapp, 2013. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.