Publications by authors named "Andrea Malizia"

46 Publications

Mindfulness-based online intervention increases well-being and decreases stress after Covid-19 lockdown.

Sci Rep 2022 04 20;12(1):6483. Epub 2022 Apr 20.

MoMiLab Research Unit, IMT School for Advanced Studies Lucca, Lucca, Italy.

Mindfulness interventions were shown to be effective in improving well-being and reducing perceived stress in several conditions. These effects were also found in online mindfulness-based training, especially in employees in organizational environments. The aim of this study was to test the effectiveness of an online mindfulness intervention on healthy employees, especially after the first Italian Covid-19 lockdown. Participants in the intervention group underwent an 8-week mindfulness online training program based on the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) protocol compared to a control (no-intervention) group. All participants filled in weekly surveys for the whole intervention duration via online questionnaires to measure their habits, mindfulness (FFMQ-15), emotion regulation (ERQ), positive and negative affect (PANAS), depression, anxiety and stress (DASS-21), resilience (RSA) and insomnia (ISI). 69 participants in the intervention group and 63 in the no-treatment control group were considered in the longitudinal analyses. We found significant differences between the intervention and control groups over time in the measures of mindfulness (in particular the nonreactivity subscale), positive affect, depression, and insomnia. Moreover, we found that the frequency of practice and ease perceived in practicing were positively correlated to several indices of well-being (mindfulness, positive affect, cognitive reappraisal) and negatively correlated to several indices of stress (negative affect, depression, anxiety, stress, insomnia, expressive suppression). These results show the importance and effectiveness of online mindfulness training programs to cope with stress among employees, especially after the Covid-19 lockdown.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-022-10361-2DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9019542PMC
April 2022

The Contribution of Shape Features and Demographic Variables to Disembedding Abilities.

Front Psychol 2022 29;13:798871. Epub 2022 Mar 29.

Social and Affective Neuroscience (SANe) group, MoMiLab, IMT School for Advanced Studies Lucca, Lucca, Italy.

Humans naturally perceive visual patterns in a global manner and are remarkably capable of extracting object shapes based on properties such as proximity, closure, symmetry, and good continuation. Notwithstanding the role of these properties in perceptual grouping, studies highlighted differences in disembedding performance across individuals, which are summarized by the field dependence dimension. Evidence suggests that age and educational attainment explain part of this variability, whereas the role of sex is still highly debated. Also, which stimulus features primarily influence inter-individual variations in perceptual grouping has still to be fully determined. Building upon these premises, we assessed the role of age, education level, and sex on performance at the Leuven Embedded Figure Test-a proxy of disembedding abilities-in 391 cisgender individuals. We also investigated to what extent shape symmetry, closure, complexity, and continuation relate to task accuracy. Overall, target asymmetry, closure, and good continuation with the embedding context increase task difficulty. Simpler shapes are more difficult to detect than those with more lines, yet context complexity impairs the recognition of complex targets (i.e., those with 6 lines or more) to a greater extent. Concerning demographic data, we confirm that age and educational attainment are significantly associated with disembedding abilities and reveal a perceptual advantage in males. In summary, our study further highlights the role of shape properties in disembedding performance and unveils sex differences not reported so far.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2022.798871DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9004388PMC
March 2022

Estimating Successful Internal Mobility: A Comparison Between Structural Equation Models and Machine Learning Algorithms.

Front Artif Intell 2022 25;5:848015. Epub 2022 Mar 25.

MoMiLab Research Unit, IMT School for Advanced Studies Lucca, Lucca, Italy.

Internal mobility often depends on predicting future job satisfaction, for such employees subject to internal mobility programs. In this study, we compared the predictive power of different classes of models, i.e., (i) traditional Structural Equation Modeling (SEM), with two families of Machine Learning algorithms: (ii) regressors, specifically least absolute shrinkage and selection operator (Lasso) for feature selection and (iii) classifiers, specifically Bagging meta-model with the -nearest neighbors algorithm (-NN) as a base estimator. Our aim is to investigate which method better predicts job satisfaction for 348 employees (with operational duties) and 35 supervisors in the training set, and 79 employees in the test set, all subject to internal mobility programs in a large Italian banking group. Results showed average predictive power for SEM and Bagging -NN (accuracy between 61 and 66%; F1 scores between 0.51 and 0.73). Both SEM and Lasso algorithms highlighted the predictive power of resistance to change and orientation to relation in all models, together with other personality and motivation variables in different models. Theoretical implications are discussed for using these variables in predicting successful job relocation in internal mobility programs. Moreover, these results showed how crucial it is to compare methods coming from different research traditions in predictive Human Resources analytics.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/frai.2022.848015DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8990773PMC
March 2022

COVID-19 and Stressful Adjustment to Work: A Long-Term Prospective Study About Homeworking for Bank Employees in Italy.

Front Psychol 2022 17;13:843095. Epub 2022 Mar 17.

Molecular Mind Laboratory (MoMiLab), IMT School for Advanced Studies Lucca, Lucca, Italy.

The COVID-19 evolution has forced the massive introduction of homeworking (HW) for most employees in the initial stages of the pandemic and then return to work, mainly due to the vaccination campaign. These multiple abrupt adjustment demands in work may be a source of intense stress for office workers with consequences on wellbeing and the quality of life. This long-term prospective study aimed at investigating the effect of adaptation demands on a broad population of employees of a large Italian banking group in the job-related stress framework. We administered a web-based survey to 1,264 participants in Reopening after the first lockdown, from June to October 2020, at 841 subjects in Second Wave, corresponding to the rise of contagions from November 2020 to January 2021, and to 491 individuals in Vaccination Round, which ranged from February to June 2021. We assessed workaholism by using the Dutch Work Addiction Scale (DUWAS-10), work-family conflicting overlap by using the Work and Family Conflict Scale (WAFCS), and concern for back to work (BW) and for HW by specific questions. Higher WAFCS scores characterized Reopening and Vaccination Round while Second Wave had the highest level of concern for HW. Women and younger individuals showed the highest concern for BW, WAFCS, and DUWAS-10 scores regardless of the pandemic stage. HW days per week were related to more heightened concern for BW and lower concern for HW, DUWAS, and WAFCS scores. The number of children was related to lower Concern for BW and higher WAFCS scores in Reopening and Second Wave. Our data showed that massive adjustment demands in work and family routine represented a significant source of stress for employees, regardless of the different pandemic stages. The highest level of fatigue emerged in women and younger subjects. These results shed light on the need for a road map to promote a gradual and structured adjustment for workers and encourage organizations to consider homeworking as a valid stable alternative.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2022.843095DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8970302PMC
March 2022

Affect and Cognition in Managerial Decision Making: A Systematic Literature Review of Neuroscience Evidence.

Front Psychol 2022 9;13:762993. Epub 2022 Mar 9.

Laboratory for the Analysis of CompleX Economic Systems (AXES), IMT School for Advanced Studies Lucca, Lucca, Italy.

How do affect and cognition interact in managerial decision making? Over the last decades, scholars have investigated how managers make decisions. However, what remains largely unknown is the interplay of affective states and cognition during the decision-making process. We offer a systematization of the contributions produced on the role of affect and cognition in managerial decision making by considering the recent cross-fertilization of management studies with the neuroscience domain. We implement a Systematic Literature Review of 23 selected contributions dealing with the role of affect and cognition in managerial decisions that adopted neuroscience techniques/points of view. Collected papers have been analyzed by considering the so-called reflexive (X-) and reflective (C-) systems in social cognitive neuroscience and the type of decisions investigated in the literature. Results obtained help to support an emerging "unified" mind processing theory for which the two systems of our mind are not in conflict and for which affective states have a driving role toward cognition. A research agenda for future studies is provided to scholars who are interested in advancing the investigation of affect and cognition in managerial decision making, also through neuroscience techniques - with the consideration that these works should be at the service of the behavioral strategy field.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2022.762993DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8959627PMC
March 2022

Mental health in the post-lockdown pandemic phase: Relief or exacerbation of psychological distress? A cross-sectional study in the general population in Italy.

Acta Psychol (Amst) 2022 May 8;225:103555. Epub 2022 Mar 8.

Molecular Mind Laboratory (MoMiLab), IMT School for Advanced Studies Lucca, Lucca, Italy. Electronic address:

This study is one of the first aiming at investigating the mental health in the post-lockdown period in an Italian adult population and detecting demographic and psychological predictors for a worse outcome. 1401 participants answered a web-based survey including the Emotional Reaction Questionnaire (ERQ), the Positive Affect and Negative Affect Scale (PANAS), the Impact of Event Scale-Revised (IES-R), the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ), the Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scale (DASS-21), and the Dutch Work Addiction Scale (DUWAS). Simple slope analyses highlighted that women, lower age, and suppression were related to higher scores for the PANAS negative affect scale, the DASS-21, the IES-R, the GHQ, and the DUWAS. In our sample, 1.2% of participants showed depressive symptoms, 0.5% anxiety symptoms, and 2% stress symptoms. Moreover, 5.4% of participants reported post-traumatic symptoms and 15% signs of psychological distress. Compared with data on the lockdown period, our results show lower levels of depressive, anxiety, and stress symptoms, possibly due to the slackening of preventive measures adopted since June. Despite this, post-traumatic symptoms and signs of psychological distress were still present. Our data suggest the necessity to monitor psychological adaption over time in general and at-risk subjects.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.actpsy.2022.103555DOI Listing
May 2022

A High-Performance Gamma Spectrometer for Unmanned Systems Based on Off-the-Shelf Components.

Sensors (Basel) 2022 Jan 29;22(3). Epub 2022 Jan 29.

Department of Industrial and Civil Engineering, University of Pisa, 56122 Pisa, Italy.

Since the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident in March 2011, the technology available for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for radiation monitoring has improved greatly. Remote access to radiation-contaminated areas not only eliminates unnecessary exposure of civilians or military personnel, but also allows workers to explore inaccessible places. Hazardous levels of radioactive contamination can be expected as a result of accidents in the nuclear power industry or as a result of the intentional release of radioactive materials for terrorist purposes (dirty bombs, building contamination, etc.). The possibility to detect, identify, and characterize radiation and nuclear material using mobile and remote sensing platforms is a common requirement in the radiation sensing community. The technology has applications in homeland security and law enforcement, customs and border protection, nuclear power plant safety and security, nuclear waste monitoring, environmental recovery, and the military. In this work, the authors have developed, implemented, and characterized a gamma-ray detection and spectroscopy system capable of operating on a UAV. The system was mainly developed using open-source software and affordable hardware components to reduce development and maintenance costs and provide satisfactory performance as a detection instrument. The designed platform can be used to perform mapping or localization tasks to improve the risk assessment process for first responders during the management of radiological and nuclear incidents. First, the design process of the system is described; the result of the characterization of the platform is then presented together with the use of the prototype installed on a UAV in an exercise simulating a radiological and nuclear contamination scenario.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/s22031078DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8838996PMC
January 2022

Effects of Ionizing Radiation on Flora Ten Years after the Fukushima Dai-ichi Disaster.

Plants (Basel) 2022 Jan 15;11(2). Epub 2022 Jan 15.

Department of Biomedicine and Prevention, University of Rome Tor Vergata, Via di Motpellier 1, 00133 Rome, Italy.

The aim of this work is to analyze the effects of ionizing radiation and radionuclides (like Cs) in several higher plants located around the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant (FNPP), evaluating both their adaptive processes and evolution. After the FNPP accident in March 2011 much attention was focused to the biological consequences of ionizing radiation and radionuclides released in the area surrounding the nuclear plant. This unexpected mishap led to the emission of radionuclides in aerosol and gaseous forms from the power plant, which contaminated a large area, including wild forest, cities, farmlands, mountains, and the sea, causing serious problems. Large quantities of I, Cs, and Cs were detected in the fallout. People were evacuated but the flora continued to be affected by the radiation exposure and by the radioactive dusts' fallout. The response of biota to FNPP irradiation was a complex interaction among radiation dose, dose rate, temporal and spatial variation, varying radiation sensitivities of the different plants' species, and indirect effects from other events. The repeated ionizing radiations, acute or chronic, guarantee an adaptation of the plant species, demonstrating a radio-resistance. Consequently, ionizing radiation affects the genetic structure, especially during chronic irradiation, reducing genetic variability. This reduction is associated with the different susceptibility of plant species to chronic stress. This would confirm the adaptive theory associated with this phenomenon. The effects that ionizing radiation has on different life forms are examined in this review using the FNPP disaster as a case study focusing the attention ten years after the accident.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/plants11020222DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8781571PMC
January 2022

3-T MRI and clinical validation of ultrasound-guided transperineal laser ablation of benign prostatic hyperplasia.

Eur Radiol Exp 2021 09 17;5(1):41. Epub 2021 Sep 17.

Department of Biomedicine and Prevention, University of Rome "Tor Vergata", 00133, Rome, Italy.

Background: Transperineal laser ablation (TPLA) of the prostate is a novel, mini-invasive option for men with lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS) due to benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH). Our aim was to assess the impact of ultrasound-guided TPLA regarding urodynamic improvement and sexual function, monitoring clinical data, postprocedural complications and imaging findings at 3-T multiparametric magnetic resonance imaging.

Methods: Forty-four patients aged ≥ 50 affected with moderate to severe LUTS (International Prostate Symptoms score ≥ 12) due to benign prostatic obstruction and refractoriness, intolerance or poor compliance to medical therapies underwent US-guided TPLA between May 2018 and February 2020. Clinical measurements included PSA, uroflowmetry, sexual function assessment (using the International Index of Erectile Function and Male Sexual Health Questionnaire-Ejaculatory Dysfunction short form) and quality of life questionnaire. Adverse events were evaluated using the Clavien-Dindo scale. Volume changes were measured by MRI and automatic segmentation software during 1-year follow-up. Registration: NCT04044573 - May 5th, 2018, https://www.clinicaltrials.gov RESULTS: MRI assessed the changes over time with a 53% mean reduction of adenoma volume and 71% of the ablated area, associated with clinical and functional improvement and resolution of LUTS in all cases. Five of 44 patients (11.3%) had urinary blockage due to clots and required re-catheterisation for 2 weeks. The overall adverse event rate was 7%.

Conclusion: US-guided TPLA performed as a safe, manageable and effective treatment for LUTS. It could be considered an alternative effective mini-invasive procedure to standard treatments for BPH in the outpatient setting.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s41747-021-00239-9DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8445741PMC
September 2021

Uncertainty and Demand for Insurance: A Theoretical Model of How Self-Control Manages the Optimal Decision-Making.

Front Psychol 2021 17;12:700289. Epub 2021 Aug 17.

Molecular Mind Laboratory (MoMiLab), IMT School for Advanced Studies Lucca, Lucca, Italy.

With the present work, we aim to mark a beginning line on the study of decision-making of potential consumers in the insurance sector, with the long-term purpose of defining the optimal cognitive processes to be undertaken when deciding whether to purchase insurance or not. Decision-making in conditions of uncertainty is influenced by the dual-self model doers/planner integrated with the hot-cold states and prospect utility function. Thus, we present a theoretical model of choice-making to evaluate the level of optimal self-control necessary to be exerted if the individual is either in the hot or in the cold state depending on the arousal. This theoretical choice-making model lays the ground for the decision journey by following the long-term utility and avoiding gross mistakes that could lead the consumer not to insure, when the odds suggest doing it, or vice versa, in situations when it would not be necessary.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.700289DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8415836PMC
August 2021

Enhancing Organizational Memory Through Virtual Memoryscapes: Does It Work?

Front Psychol 2021 12;12:683870. Epub 2021 Aug 12.

MoMiLab, IMT School for Advanced Studies Lucca, Lucca, Italy.

Enhancing cognitive memory through virtual reality represents an issue, that has never been investigated in organizational settings. Here, we compared a virtual memoryscape (treatment) - an immersive virtual environment used by subjects as a shared memory tool based on spatial navigation - with respect to the traditional individual-specific mnemonic tool based on the "method of loci" (control). A memory task characterized by high ecological validity was administered to 82 subjects employed by large banking group. Memory recall was measured, for both groups, immediately after the task (Phase 1) and one week later (Phase 2). Results show that (i) in Phase 1, the method of loci was more efficient in terms of recalling information than the to the virtual memoryscape; (ii) in Phase 2, there was no difference. Compared to the method of loci, the virtual memoryscape presents the advantages - relevant for organizations - of being collective, controllable, dynamic, and non-manipulable.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.683870DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8387558PMC
August 2021

Response of a Radiology Department to the SARS-CoV-2 Pandemic: The Experience of the Hospital "Policlinico Tor Vergata" in Rome.

Int J Environ Res Public Health 2021 May 14;18(10). Epub 2021 May 14.

Department of Biomedicine and Prevention, University of Rome Tor Vergata, Via di Montpellier 1, 00133 Rome, Italy.

The dissemination of severe acute respiratory syndrome linked to the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, prompted all health services to provide adequate measures to limit new cases that could affect healthcare professionals. Due to the large number of suspected patients subjected to CT scans and the proximity of radiologists to the patient during exams, radiologists as well as the entire staff of the radiology department are particularly exposed to SARS-CoV-2. This article includes the emergency management procedures, the use of personal protective devices, and the rearrangement of exam rooms and of human resources in the department of radiology at "Policlinico Tor Vergata" in Rome performed during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. We introduce the management measures that our department has taken to cope with the influx of patients while still ensuring the proper management of other emergencies and time-sensitive exams.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18105255DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8156382PMC
May 2021

Infectious Diseases Seeker (IDS): An Innovative Tool for Prompt Identification of Infectious Diseases during Outbreaks.

Int J Environ Res Public Health 2021 03 20;18(6). Epub 2021 Mar 20.

Department of Industrial Engineering, University of Rome "Tor Vergata", 00133 Rome, Italy.

Background: Several technologies for rapid molecular identification of pathogens are currently available; jointly with monitoring tools (i.e., web-based surveillance tools, infectious diseases modelers, and epidemic intelligence methods), they represent important components for timely outbreak detection and identification of the involved pathogen. The application of these approaches is usually feasible and effective when performed by healthcare professionals with specific expertise and skills and when data and resources are easily accessible. Contrariwise, in the field situation where healthcare workers or first responders from heterogeneous competences can be asked to investigate an outbreak of unknown origin, a simple and suitable tool for rapid agent identification and appropriate outbreak management is highly needed. Most especially when time is limited, available data are incomplete, and accessible infrastructure and resources are inadequate. The use of a prompt, user-friendly, and accessible tool able to rapidly recognize an infectious disease outbreak and with high sensitivity and precision may be a game-changer to support emergency response and public health investigations.

Methods: This paper presents the work performed to implement and test an innovative tool for prompt identification of infectious diseases during outbreaks, called Infectious Diseases Seeker (IDS). IDS is a standalone software that runs on the most common operative systems. It has been built by integrating a database containing an interim set of 60 different disease causative agents and COVID-19 data and is able to work in an off-line mode without requiring a network connection.

Results: IDS has been applied in a real and complex scenario in terms of concomitant infectious diseases (yellow fever, COVID-19, and Lassa fever), as can be in the second part of 2020 in Nigeria. The outcomes have allowed inferring that yellow fever (YF), and not Lassa fever, was affecting the area under investigation.

Conclusions: Our result suggests that a tool like IDS could be valuable for the quick and easy identification and discrimination of infectious disease outbreaks even when concurrent outbreaks occur, like for the case study of YF and COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18063216DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8003641PMC
March 2021

The Relation Between Consumers' Frontal Alpha Asymmetry, Attitude, and Investment Decision.

Front Neurosci 2020 21;14:577978. Epub 2021 Jan 21.

IMT School for Advanced Studies Lucca, Lucca, Italy.

The frontal alpha asymmetry (FAA) is a neurophysiological measure of motivation and preference. Despite the FAA is associated to commercial pleasantness, conflicting evidence emerged in the literature regarding its relationship with behavior. To study the association between FAA and consumers' decision, we manipulated a commercial script to elicit diverse consumers' attitudes and decisions and to evaluate whether the FAA score is associated to their final investment. A little informative script (S1) was used to polarize consumers' attitudes and investments toward unfavorable scores, while a more personalized message (S2) to elicit in customers a favorable attitude and higher investments. Twenty-one participants listened to the scripts, and their FAA, attitude, and monetary investment were measured. In S1, the FAA did not correlate with neither attitude nor the investment decision, while a robust negative correlation between these variables was found in S2. No other peripheral body and neural measures associated with attitude or final decision. Our data suggest that the FAA correlates with attitude and decision, when a commercial script is customized and provides an adequate information, likely leading the consumer to a more reasoned and planned decision-making process. When facilitating a favorable attitude toward an offer, the negative correlation of FAA and behavior may reflect the involvement of a control system, whose role is to monitor and govern possible conflicts between approach and avoidance motivations. This observation provides additional indication on the value of FAA as a marker of consumer behaviors, and how it could be affected by experimental and contextual bias.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2020.577978DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7874093PMC
January 2021

Testing the identification effectiveness of an unknown outbreak of the Infectious Diseases Seeker (IDS) using and comparing the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak with the past SARS and MERS epidemics.

J Infect Public Health 2021 Jan 9;14(1):123-130. Epub 2020 Dec 9.

Department of Industrial Engineering, University of Rome "Tor Vergata", Italy.

Background: The aim of this research is to assess the predictive accuracy of the Infectious Diseases Seeker (IDS) - an innovative tool for prompt identification of the causative agent of infectious diseases during outbreaks - when field epidemiological data collected from a novel outbreak of unknown origin are analysed by the tool. For this reason, it has been taken into account the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, which began in China at the end of December 2019, has rapidly spread around the globe, and it has led to a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC), declared to the 30th of January 2020 by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Methods: The IDS takes advantage of an off-line database, built before the COVID-19 pandemic, which represents a pivotal characteristic for working without an internet connection. The software has been tested using the epidemiological data available in different and progressive stages of the COVID-19 outbreak. As a comparison, the results of the tests performed using the epidemiological data from the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) epidemic in 2002 and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) epidemic in 2012, are shown.

Results: The overall outcomes provided by the software are comforting, as a matter of the fact that IDS has identified with a good accuracy the SARS and MERS epidemics (over 90%), while, as expected, it has not provided erroneous and equivocal readings after the elaboration COVID-19 epidemic data.

Conclusions: Even though IDS has not recognized the COVID-19 epidemic, it has not given to the end user a false result and wrong interpretation, as expected by the developers. For this reason, IDS reveals itself as useful software to identify a possible epidemic or outbreak. Thus, the intention of developers is to plan, once the software will be released, dedicated updates and upgrades of the database (e.g., SARS-CoV-2) in order to keep this tool increasingly useful and applicable to reality.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jiph.2020.11.014DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7725062PMC
January 2021

Adaptive Quasi-Unsupervised Detection of Smoke Plume by LiDAR.

Sensors (Basel) 2020 Nov 18;20(22). Epub 2020 Nov 18.

Department of Industrial Engineering, University of Rome "Tor Vergata", Via del Politecnico 1, 00133 Rome, Italy.

The early detection of fire is one of the possible applications of LiDAR techniques. The smoke generated by a fire is mainly compounded of CO, HO, particulate, and other combustion products, which involve the local variation of the scattering of the electromagnetic wave at specific wavelengths. The increases of the backscattering coefficient are transduced in peaks on the signal of the backscattering power recorded by the LiDAR system, located exactly where the smoke plume is, allowing not only the detection of a fire but also its localization. The signal processing of the LiDAR signals is critical in the determination of the performances of the fire detection. It is important that the sensitivity of the apparatus is high enough but also that the number of false alarms is small, in order to avoid the trigger of useless and expensive countermeasures. In this work, a new analysis method, based on an adaptive quasi-unsupervised approach was used to ensure that the algorithm is continuously updated to the boundary conditions of the system, such as the weather and experimental apparatus issues. The method has been tested on an experimental campaign of 227 pulses and the performances have been analyzed in terms of sensitivity and specificity.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/s20226602DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7698937PMC
November 2020

Adaptation to ionizing radiation of higher plants: From environmental radioactivity to chernobyl disaster.

J Environ Radioact 2020 Oct 10;222:106375. Epub 2020 Aug 10.

Department of Biomedicine and Prevention, University of Rome Tor Vergata, Italy. Electronic address:

The purpose of this work is to highlight the effects of ionizing radiation on the genetic material in higher plants by assessing both adaptive processes as well as the evolution of plant species. The effects that the ionizing radiation has on greenery following a nuclear accident, was examined by taking the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant disaster as a case study. The genetic and evolutionary effects that ionizing radiation had on plants after the Chernobyl accident were highlighted. The response of biota to Chernobyl irradiation was a complex interaction among radiation dose, dose rate, temporal and spatial variation, varying radiation sensitivities of the different plants' species, and indirect effects from other events. Ionizing radiation causes water radiolysis, generating highly reactive oxygen species (ROS). ROS induce the rapid activation of detoxifying enzymes. DeoxyriboNucleic Acid (DNA) is the object of an attack by both, the hydroxyl ions and the radiation itself, thus triggering a mechanism both direct and indirect. The effects on DNA are harmful to the organism and the long-term development of the species. Dose-dependent aberrations in chromosomes are often observed after irradiation. Although multiple DNA repair mechanisms exist, double-strand breaks (DSBs or DNA-DSBs) are often subject to errors. Plants DSBs repair mechanisms mainly involve homologous and non-homologous dependent systems, the latter especially causing a loss of genetic information. Repeated ionizing radiation (acute or chronic) ensures that plants adapt, demonstrating radioresistance. An adaptive response has been suggested for this phenomenon. As a result, ionizing radiation influences the genetic structure, especially during chronic irradiation, reducing genetic variability. This reduction may be associated with the fact that particular plant species are more subject to chronic stress, confirming the adaptive theory. Therefore, the genomic effects of ionizing radiation demonstrate their likely involvement in the evolution of plant species.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvrad.2020.106375DOI Listing
October 2020

Enhancing Radiation Detection by Drones through Numerical Fluid Dynamics Simulations.

Sensors (Basel) 2020 Mar 23;20(6). Epub 2020 Mar 23.

Department of Biomedicine and Prevention, University of Rome Tor Vergata, 00133 Rome, Italy.

This study addresses the optimization of the location of a radioactive-particle sensor on a drone. Based on the analysis of the physical process and of the boundary conditions introduced in the model, computational fluid dynamics simulations were performed to analyze how the turbulence caused by drone propellers may influence the response of the sensors. Our initial focus was the detection of a small amount of radioactivity, such as that associated with a release of medical waste. Drones equipped with selective low-cost sensors could be quickly sent to dangerous areas that first responders might not have access to and be able to assess the level of danger in a few seconds, providing details about the source terms to Radiological-Nuclear (RN) advisors and decision-makers. Our ultimate application is the simulation of complex scenarios where fluid-dynamic instabilities are combined with elevated levels of radioactivity, as was the case during the Chernobyl and Fukushima nuclear power plant accidents. In similar circumstances, accurate mapping of the radioactive plume would provide invaluable input-data for the mathematical models that can predict the dispersion of radioactivity in time and space. This information could be used as input for predictive models and decision support systems (DSS) to get a full situational awareness. In particular, these models may be used either to guide the safe intervention of first responders or the later need to evacuate affected regions.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/s20061770DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7147154PMC
March 2020

Laser-induced fluorescence (LIF) as a smart method for fast environmental virological analyses: validation on Picornaviruses.

Sci Rep 2019 08 29;9(1):12598. Epub 2019 Aug 29.

Department of Industrial Engineering, University of Rome "Tor Vergata", Via del Politecnico 1, Rome, 00133, Italy.

Virological analysis is time-consuming and expensive. The aim of this work is to demonstrate the applicability of laser-induced fluorescence (LIF) to the classification of viruses, reducing the time for this analysis and its costs. Experimental tests were performed in which different viruses were irradiated with a UV laser emitting at 266 nm and the emitted spectra were recorded by a spectrometer. The classification techniques show the possibility of discriminating viruses. Although the application of the LIF technique to biological agents has been thoroughly studied by many researchers over the years, this work aims at validating for the first time its applicability to virological analyses. The development of a fast virological analysis may revolutionize this field, allowing fast responses to epidemiologic events, reducing their risks and improving the efficiency of monitoring environments. Moreover, a cost reduction may lead to an increase in the monitoring frequency, with an obvious enhancement of safety and prevention.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-49005-3DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6715700PMC
August 2019

Early assessment of weight velocity can support frontline health workers in predicting malnutrition in HIV-exposed infants: preliminary results from a DREAM cohort in Malawi.

Minerva Pediatr 2020 Feb 21;72(1):14-21. Epub 2019 Mar 21.

Department of Biomedicine and Prevention, University of Rome Tor Vergata, Rome, Italy.

Background: Children born to HIV-positive mothers are particularly susceptible to malnutrition. Currently, monitoring programs rely on punctual anthropometric measurements to assess child growth. Growth velocities could be an additional tool in identifying critical time windows for prevention and implementation of early intervention for malnutrition.

Methods: A retrospective analysis was conducted using data from 817 HIV exposed but uninfected children extracted from DREAM program database. By using the WHO reference for growth standards, patterns of weight velocity for different intervals of assessment from one to 18 months of age were explored. Odds ratios and multinomial logistic regressions between selected weight velocity Z-scores thresholds and successive malnutrition indices (at 6, 12, 18 months of age) were calculated.

Results: Weight velocity was above the standard mean in the first 3 months, then progressively declined over time. In children with normal nutritional status, significant risks of becoming malnourished (mild malnutrition - underweight [OR 10.8; 95% CI: 4.5-26], chronic malnutrition - stunting [OR 8.3; 95% CI: 2-34.9] and acute malnutrition - wasting [OR 11.7; 95% CI: 1.5-90.5]) started when weight velocity Z-scores <0, at all interval ages. Multinomial regression showed that in the first 6 months, the weight velocity decrements strongly impacted on underweight (OR 17.9; 95% CI: 4-80.7), while the risk of Stunting occurred later at 18 months (OR 8.7; 95% CI: 4.3-17.6), with highest impact at the lowest thresholds.

Conclusions: The assessment of weight velocity Z-scores, coupled with the already validated malnutrition indices, can support frontline health workers in early prediction of child malnutrition and performing nutritional counselling in the context of HIV/AIDS and food insecurity.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.23736/S0026-4946.19.05417-3DOI Listing
February 2020

Antidepressants for insomnia in adults.

Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2018 May 14;5:CD010753. Epub 2018 May 14.

Primary Care and Population Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Southampton, Aldermoor Health Centre, Aldermoor Close, Southampton, UK, SO16 5ST.

Background: Insomnia disorder is a subjective condition of unsatisfactory sleep (e.g. sleep onset, maintenance, early waking, impairment of daytime functioning). Insomnia disorder impairs quality of life and is associated with an increased risk of physical and mental health problems including anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol abuse, and increased health service use. hypnotic medications (e.g. benzodiazepines and 'Z' drugs) are licensed for sleep promotion, but can induce tolerance and dependence, although many people remain on long-term treatment. Antidepressant use for insomnia is widespread, but none is licensed for insomnia and the evidence for their efficacy is unclear. This use of unlicensed medications may be driven by concern over longer-term use of hypnotics and the limited availability of psychological treatments.

Objectives: To assess the effectiveness, safety and tolerability of antidepressants for insomnia in adults.

Search Methods: This review incorporated the results of searches to July 2015 conducted on electronic bibliographic databases: the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL, 2015, Issue 6), MEDLINE (1950 to 2015), Embase (1980 to 2015) and PsycINFO (1806 to 2015). We updated the searches to December 2017, but these results have not yet been incorporated into the review.

Selection Criteria: Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of adults (aged 18 years or older) with a primary diagnosis of insomnia and all participant types including people with comorbidities. Any antidepressant as monotherapy at any dose whether compared with placebo, other medications for insomnia (e.g. benzodiazepines and 'Z' drugs), a different antidepressant, waiting list control or treatment as usual.

Data Collection And Analysis: Two review authors independently assessed trials for eligibility and extracted data using a data extraction form. A third review author resolved disagreements on inclusion or data extraction.

Main Results: The search identified 23 RCTs (2806 participants).Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) compared with placebo: three studies (135 participants) compared SSRIs with placebo. Combining results was not possible. Two paroxetine studies showed significant improvements in subjective sleep measures at six (60 participants, P = 0.03) and 12 weeks (27 participants, P < 0.001). There was no difference in the fluoxetine study (low quality evidence).There were either no adverse events or they were not reported (very low quality evidence).Tricyclic antidepressants (TCA) compared with placebo: six studies (812 participants) compared TCA with placebo; five used doxepin and one used trimipramine. We found no studies of amitriptyline. Four studies (518 participants) could be pooled, showing a moderate improvement in subjective sleep quality over placebo (standardised mean difference (SMD) -0.39, 95% confidence interval (CI) -0.56 to -0.21) (moderate quality evidence). Moderate quality evidence suggested that TCAs possibly improved sleep efficiency (mean difference (MD) 6.29 percentage points, 95% CI 3.17 to 9.41; 4 studies; 510 participants) and increased sleep time (MD 22.88 minutes, 95% CI 13.17 to 32.59; 4 studies; 510 participants). There may have been little or no impact on sleep latency (MD -4.27 minutes, 95% CI -9.01 to 0.48; 4 studies; 510 participants).There may have been little or no difference in adverse events between TCAs and placebo (risk ratio (RR) 1.02, 95% CI 0.86 to 1.21; 6 studies; 812 participants) (low quality evidence).'Other' antidepressants with placebo: eight studies compared other antidepressants with placebo (one used mianserin and seven used trazodone). Three studies (370 participants) of trazodone could be pooled, indicating a moderate improvement in subjective sleep outcomes over placebo (SMD -0.34, 95% CI -0.66 to -0.02). Two studies of trazodone measured polysomnography and found little or no difference in sleep efficiency (MD 1.38 percentage points, 95% CI -2.87 to 5.63; 169 participants) (low quality evidence).There was low quality evidence from two studies of more adverse effects with trazodone than placebo (i.e. morning grogginess, increased dry mouth and thirst).

Authors' Conclusions: We identified relatively few, mostly small studies with short-term follow-up and design limitations. The effects of SSRIs compared with placebo are uncertain with too few studies to draw clear conclusions. There may be a small improvement in sleep quality with short-term use of low-dose doxepin and trazodone compared with placebo. The tolerability and safety of antidepressants for insomnia is uncertain due to limited reporting of adverse events. There was no evidence for amitriptyline (despite common use in clinical practice) or for long-term antidepressant use for insomnia. High-quality trials of antidepressants for insomnia are needed.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD010753.pub2DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6494576PMC
May 2018

Biological Dual-Use Research and Synthetic Biology of Yeast.

Sci Eng Ethics 2017 04 20;23(2):365-374. Epub 2016 Jun 20.

Department of Biology and Biotechnology, La Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, Italy.

In recent years, the publication of the studies on the transmissibility in mammals of the H5N1 influenza virus and synthetic genomes has triggered heated and concerned debate within the community of scientists on biological dual-use research; these papers have raised the awareness that, in some cases, fundamental research could be directed to harmful experiments, with the purpose of developing a weapon that could be used by a bioterrorist. Here is presented an overview regarding the dual-use concept and its related international agreements which underlines the work of the Australia Group (AG) Export Control Regime. It is hoped that the principles and activities of the AG, that focuses on export control of chemical and biological dual-use materials, will spread and become well known to academic researchers in different countries, as they exchange biological materials (i.e. plasmids, strains, antibodies, nucleic acids) and scientific papers. To this extent, and with the aim of drawing the attention of the scientific community that works with yeast to the so called Dual-Use Research of Concern, this article reports case studies on biological dual-use research and discusses a synthetic biology applied to the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, namely the construction of the first eukaryotic synthetic chromosome of yeast and the use of yeast cells as a factory to produce opiates. Since this organism is considered harmless and is not included in any list of biological agents, yeast researchers should take simple actions in the future to avoid the sharing of strains and advanced technology with suspicious individuals.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11948-016-9774-1DOI Listing
April 2017

Viral bioterrorism: Learning the lesson of Ebola virus in West Africa 2013-2015.

Virus Res 2015 Dec 8;210:318-26. Epub 2015 Sep 8.

Department of Industrial Engineering, University of Rome Tor Vergata, Rome, Italy; Didactical Board of the International Master Courses in Protection Against CBRNe events, Department of Industrial Engineering and School of Medicine and Surgery, University of Rome Tor Vergata, Rome, Italy.

Among the potential biological agents suitable as a weapon, Ebola virus represents a major concern. Classified by the CDC as a category A biological agent, Ebola virus causes severe hemorrhagic fever, characterized by high case-fatality rate; to date, no vaccine or approved therapy is available. The EVD epidemic, which broke out in West Africa since the late 2013, has got the issue of the possible use of Ebola virus as biological warfare agent (BWA) to come to the fore once again. In fact, due to its high case-fatality rate, population currently associates this pathogen to a real and tangible threat. Therefore, its use as biological agent by terrorist groups with offensive purpose could have serious repercussions from a psychosocial point of view as well as on closely sanitary level. In this paper, after an initial study of the main characteristics of Ebola virus, its potential as a BWA was evaluated. Furthermore, given the spread of the epidemic in West Africa in 2014 and 2015, the potential dissemination of the virus from an urban setting was evaluated. Finally, it was considered the actual possibility to use this agent as BWA in different scenarios, and the potential effects on one or more nation's stability.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.virusres.2015.09.002DOI Listing
December 2015

Ebola virus disease 2013-2014 outbreak in west Africa: an analysis of the epidemic spread and response.

Int J Microbiol 2015 17;2015:769121. Epub 2015 Mar 17.

Department of Industrial Engineering, University of Rome Tor Vergata, Via del Politecnico 1, 00173 Rome, Italy ; International Master Courses in Protection against CBRNe Events, Department of Industrial Engineering and School of Medicine and Surgery, University of Rome Tor Vergata, Via del Politecnico 1, 00173 Rome, Italy.

The Ebola virus epidemic burst in West Africa in late 2013, started in Guinea, reached in a few months an alarming diffusion, actually involving several countries (Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Senegal, and Mali). Guinea and Liberia, the first nations affected by the outbreak, have put in place measures to contain the spread, supported by international organizations; then they were followed by the other nations affected. In the present EVD outbreak, the geographical spread of the virus has followed a new route: the achievement of large urban areas at an early stage of the epidemic has led to an unprecedented diffusion, featuring the largest outbreak of EVD of all time. This has caused significant concerns all over the world: the potential reaching of far countries from endemic areas, mainly through fast transports, induced several countries to issue information documents and health supervision for individuals going to or coming from the areas at risk. In this paper the geographical spread of the epidemic was analyzed, assessing the sequential appearance of cases by geographic area, considering the increase in cases and mortality according to affected nations. The measures implemented by each government and international organizations to contain the outbreak, and their effectiveness, were also evaluated.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2015/769121DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4380098PMC
April 2015

Evidence-based pharmacological treatment of anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder: a revision of the 2005 guidelines from the British Association for Psychopharmacology.

J Psychopharmacol 2014 May 8;28(5):403-39. Epub 2014 Apr 8.

1Faculty of Medicine, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK.

This revision of the 2005 British Association for Psychopharmacology guidelines for the evidence-based pharmacological treatment of anxiety disorders provides an update on key steps in diagnosis and clinical management, including recognition, acute treatment, longer-term treatment, combination treatment, and further approaches for patients who have not responded to first-line interventions. A consensus meeting involving international experts in anxiety disorders reviewed the main subject areas and considered the strength of supporting evidence and its clinical implications. The guidelines are based on available evidence, were constructed after extensive feedback from participants, and are presented as recommendations to aid clinical decision-making in primary, secondary and tertiary medical care. They may also serve as a source of information for patients, their carers, and medicines management and formulary committees.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0269881114525674DOI Listing
May 2014

Drugs for addiction: a therapeutic area in need of a 'shot in the arm'.

Br J Clin Pharmacol 2014 Feb;77(2):225-7

Clinical Psychopharmacology and Neurostimulation, Department of Neurosurgery, Frenchay hospital, North Bristol NHS Trust, Bristol, BS16 1LE, UK.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/bcp.12316DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4014028PMC
February 2014

Neural correlates of the psychedelic state as determined by fMRI studies with psilocybin.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2012 Feb 23;109(6):2138-43. Epub 2012 Jan 23.

Neuropsychopharmacology Unit, University of Bristol, Bristol BS8 2BN, United Kingdom.

Psychedelic drugs have a long history of use in healing ceremonies, but despite renewed interest in their therapeutic potential, we continue to know very little about how they work in the brain. Here we used psilocybin, a classic psychedelic found in magic mushrooms, and a task-free functional MRI (fMRI) protocol designed to capture the transition from normal waking consciousness to the psychedelic state. Arterial spin labeling perfusion and blood-oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) fMRI were used to map cerebral blood flow and changes in venous oxygenation before and after intravenous infusions of placebo and psilocybin. Fifteen healthy volunteers were scanned with arterial spin labeling and a separate 15 with BOLD. As predicted, profound changes in consciousness were observed after psilocybin, but surprisingly, only decreases in cerebral blood flow and BOLD signal were seen, and these were maximal in hub regions, such as the thalamus and anterior and posterior cingulate cortex (ACC and PCC). Decreased activity in the ACC/medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) was a consistent finding and the magnitude of this decrease predicted the intensity of the subjective effects. Based on these results, a seed-based pharmaco-physiological interaction/functional connectivity analysis was performed using a medial prefrontal seed. Psilocybin caused a significant decrease in the positive coupling between the mPFC and PCC. These results strongly imply that the subjective effects of psychedelic drugs are caused by decreased activity and connectivity in the brain's key connector hubs, enabling a state of unconstrained cognition.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1119598109DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3277566PMC
February 2012

MicroRNAs in cardiomyocyte development.

Wiley Interdiscip Rev Syst Biol Med 2011 Mar-Apr;3(2):183-90

Department of Cardiology, Children's Hospital Boston, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.

MicroRNAs (miRNAs) negatively regulate gene expression at the post-transcriptional level, primarily by base-pairing with the 3'-untranslated region (3'-UTR) of their target mRNAs. Many miRNAs are expressed in a tissue/organ-specific manner and are associated with an increasing number of cell proliferation, differentiation, and tissue development events. Cardiac muscle expresses distinct genes encoding structural proteins and a subset of signal molecules that control tissue specification and differentiation. The transcriptional regulation of cardiomyocyte development has been well established, yet only until recently has it been uncovered that miRNAs participate in the regulatory networks. A subset of miRNAs are either specifically or highly expressed in cardiac muscle, providing an opportunity to understand how gene expression is controlled by miRNAs at the post-transcriptional level in this muscle type. miR-1, miR-133, miR-206, and miR-208 have been found to be muscle-specific, and thus have been called myomiRs. The discovery of myomiRs as a previously unrecognized component in the regulation of gene expression adds an entirely new layer of complexity to our understanding of cardiac muscle development. Investigating myomiRs will not only reveal novel molecular mechanisms of the miRNA-mediated regulatory network in cardiomyocyte development, but also raise new opportunities for therapeutic intervention for cardiovascular disease.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/wsbm.111DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3058499PMC
June 2011

Modulation of ion channels in clinical psychopharmacology: adults and younger people.

Expert Rev Clin Pharmacol 2010 May;3(3):397-416

Psychopharmacology Unit, Department of Community Based Medicine, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK.

This review focuses on the use of Na(+), Ca(2+) and Cl(-) channel modulators in psychiatric disease. Drugs that modulate ion channels have been used in psychiatry for more than a century, and in this review we critically evaluate clinical research that reports the therapeutic effects of drugs acting on GABA(A), voltage-gated Na(+) and voltage-gated Ca(2+) channels in pediatric and adult patients. As in other fields, the evidence underpinning the use of medicines in younger people is far less robust than for adults. In addition, we discuss some current developments and highlight clinical disorders in which current molecules could be further tested. Notable success stories, such as benzodiazepines (in sleep and anxiety disorders) and antiepileptics (in bipolar disorder), have been the result of serendipitous discoveries or refinements of serendipitous discoveries, as in all other major treatments in psychiatry. Genomic, high-throughput screening and molecular pharmacology discoveries may, however, guide further developments in the future. This could include increased research in promising targets that have been perceived as commercially risky, such as selective α-subunit GABA(A) receptors.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1586/ecp.10.21DOI Listing
May 2010
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