Publications by authors named "Courtney Woolsey"

15 Publications

  • Page 1 of 1

Use of convalescent serum reduces severity of COVID-19 in nonhuman primates.

Cell Rep 2021 03 23;34(10):108837. Epub 2021 Feb 23.

Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, TX 77555, USA; Galveston National Laboratory, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, TX 77555, USA. Electronic address:

Passive transfer of convalescent plasma or serum is a time-honored strategy for treating infectious diseases. Human convalescent plasma containing antibodies against severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is currently being used to treat patients with coronavirus disease 2019 where clinical efficacy trials are ongoing. Here, we assess therapeutic passive transfer in groups of SARS-CoV-2-infected African green monkeys with convalescent sera containing either high or low anti-SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibody titers. Differences in viral load and pathology are minimal between monkeys that receive the lower titer convalescent sera and untreated controls. However, lower levels of SARS-CoV-2 in respiratory compartments, reduced severity of virus-associated lung pathology, and reductions in coagulopathy and inflammatory processes are observed in monkeys that receive high titer sera versus untreated controls. Our data indicate that convalescent plasma therapy in humans may be an effective strategy provided that donor sera contain high anti-SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing titers given in early stages of the disease.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.celrep.2021.108837DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7901292PMC
March 2021

Transcriptional Analysis of Lymphoid Tissues from Infected Nonhuman Primates Reveals the Basis for Attenuation and Immunogenicity of an Ebola Virus Encoding a Mutant VP35 Protein.

J Virol 2021 02 24;95(6). Epub 2021 Feb 24.

Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, College of Biological Sciences, University of California, Irvine, Irvine, California, USA

Infection with (EBOV), a member of the family, causes a disease characterized by high levels of viremia, aberrant inflammation, coagulopathy, and lymphopenia. EBOV initially replicates in lymphoid tissues and disseminates via dendritic cells (DCs) and monocytes to liver, spleen, adrenal gland, and other secondary organs. EBOV protein VP35 is a critical immune evasion factor that inhibits type I interferon signaling and DC maturation. Nonhuman primates (NHPs) immunized with a high dose (5 × 10 PFU) of recombinant EBOV containing a mutated VP35 (VP35m) are protected from challenge with wild-type EBOV (wtEBOV). This protection is accompanied by a transcriptional response in the peripheral blood reflecting a regulated innate immune response and a robust induction of adaptive immune genes. However, the host transcriptional response to VP35m in lymphoid tissues has not been evaluated. Therefore, we conducted a transcriptional analysis of axillary and inguinal lymph nodes and spleen tissues of NHPs infected with a low dose (2 × 10 PFU) of VP35m and then back-challenged with a lethal dose of wtEBOV. VP35m induced early transcriptional responses in lymphoid tissues that are distinct from those observed in wtEBOV challenge. Specifically, we detected robust antiviral innate and adaptive responses and fewer transcriptional changes in genes with roles in angiogenesis, apoptosis, and inflammation. Two of three macaques survived wtEBOV back-challenge, with only the nonsurvivor displaying a transcriptional response reflecting Ebola virus disease. These data suggest that VP35 is a key modulator of early host responses in lymphoid tissues, thereby regulating disease progression and severity following EBOV challenge. Zaire Ebola virus (EBOV) infection causes a severe and often fatal disease characterized by inflammation, coagulation defects, and organ failure driven by a defective host immune response. Lymphoid tissues are key sites of EBOV pathogenesis and the generation of an effective immune response to infection. A recent study demonstrated that infection with an EBOV encoding a mutant VP35, a viral protein that antagonizes host immunity, can protect nonhuman primates (NHPs) against lethal EBOV challenge. However, no studies have examined the response to this mutant EBOV in lymphoid tissues. Here, we characterize gene expression in lymphoid tissues from NHPs challenged with the mutant EBOV and subsequently with wild-type EBOV to identify signatures of a protective host response. Our findings are critical for elucidating viral pathogenesis, mechanisms of host antagonism, and the role of lymphoid organs in protective responses to EBOV to improve the development of antivirals and vaccines against EBOV.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/JVI.01995-20DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8094945PMC
February 2021

Establishment of an African green monkey model for COVID-19 and protection against re-infection.

Nat Immunol 2021 01 24;22(1):86-98. Epub 2020 Nov 24.

Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, TX, USA.

Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is responsible for an unprecedented global pandemic of COVID-19. Animal models are urgently needed to study the pathogenesis of COVID-19 and to screen vaccines and treatments. We show that African green monkeys (AGMs) support robust SARS-CoV-2 replication and develop pronounced respiratory disease, which may more accurately reflect human COVID-19 cases than other nonhuman primate species. SARS-CoV-2 was detected in mucosal samples, including rectal swabs, as late as 15 days after exposure. Marked inflammation and coagulopathy in blood and tissues were prominent features. Transcriptome analysis demonstrated stimulation of interferon and interleukin-6 pathways in bronchoalveolar lavage samples and repression of natural killer cell- and T cell-associated transcripts in peripheral blood. Despite a slight waning in antibody titers after primary challenge, enhanced antibody and cellular responses contributed to rapid clearance after re-challenge with an identical strain. These data support the utility of AGM for studying COVID-19 pathogenesis and testing medical countermeasures.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41590-020-00835-8DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7790436PMC
January 2021

Intranasal exposure of African green monkeys to SARS-CoV-2 results in acute phase pneumonia with shedding and lung injury still present in the early convalescence phase.

Res Sq 2020 Aug 13. Epub 2020 Aug 13.

University of Texas Medical Branch.

We recently reported the development of the first African green monkey (AGM) model for COVID-19 based on a combined liquid intranasal (i.n.) and intratracheal (i.t.) exposure to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Here, we followed up on this work by assessing an i.n. particle only route of exposure using the LMA mucosal atomization device (MAD). Six AGMs were infected with SARS-CoV-2; three animals were euthanized near the peak stage of virus replication (day 5) and three animals were euthanized during the early convalescence period (day 34). All six AGMs supported robust SARS-CoV-2 replication and developed respiratory disease. Evidence of coagulation dysfunction as noted by a transient increases in aPTT and circulating levels of fibrinogen was observed in all AGMs. The level of SARS-CoV-2 replication and lung pathology was not quite as pronounced as previously reported with AGMs exposed by the combined i.n. and i.t. routes; however, SARS-CoV-2 RNA was detected in nasal swabs of some animals as late as day 15 and rectal swabs as late as day 28 after virus challenge. Of particular importance to this study, all three AGMs that were followed until the early convalescence stage of COVID-19 showed substantial lung pathology at necropsy as evidenced by multifocal chronic interstitial pneumonia and increased collagen deposition in alveolar walls despite the absence of detectable SARS-CoV-2 in any of the lungs of these animals. These findings are consistent with human COVID-19 further demonstrating that the AGM faithfully reproduces the human condition.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.21203/rs.3.rs-50023/v2DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7430587PMC
August 2020

Intranasal exposure of African green monkeys to SARS-CoV-2 results in acute phase pneumonia with shedding and lung injury still present in the early convalescence phase.

Virol J 2020 08 18;17(1):125. Epub 2020 Aug 18.

Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, TX, 77555, USA.

We recently reported the development of the first African green monkey (AGM) model for COVID-19 based on a combined liquid intranasal (i.n.) and intratracheal (i.t.) exposure to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Here, we followed up on this work by assessing an i.n. particle only route of exposure using the LMA mucosal atomization device (MAD). Six AGMs were infected with SARS-CoV-2; three animals were euthanized near the peak stage of virus replication (day 5) and three animals were euthanized during the early convalescence period (day 34). All six AGMs supported robust SARS-CoV-2 replication and developed respiratory disease. Evidence of coagulation dysfunction as noted by a transient increases in aPTT and circulating levels of fibrinogen was observed in all AGMs. The level of SARS-CoV-2 replication and lung pathology was not quite as pronounced as previously reported with AGMs exposed by the combined i.n. and i.t. routes; however, SARS-CoV-2 RNA was detected in nasal swabs of some animals as late as day 15 and rectal swabs as late as day 28 after virus challenge. Of particular importance to this study, all three AGMs that were followed until the early convalescence stage of COVID-19 showed substantial lung pathology at necropsy as evidenced by multifocal chronic interstitial pneumonia and increased collagen deposition in alveolar walls despite the absence of detectable SARS-CoV-2 in any of the lungs of these animals. These findings are consistent with human COVID-19 further demonstrating that the AGM faithfully reproduces the human condition.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12985-020-01396-wDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7431901PMC
August 2020

Establishment of an African green monkey model for COVID-19.

bioRxiv 2020 May 17. Epub 2020 May 17.

Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, TX 77555, USA.

Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is responsible for an unprecedented global pandemic of COVID-19. Animal models are urgently needed to study the pathogenesis of COVID-19 and to screen candidate vaccines and treatments. Nonhuman primates (NHP) are considered the gold standard model for many infectious pathogens as they usually best reflect the human condition. Here, we show that African green monkeys support a high level of SARS-CoV-2 replication and develop pronounced respiratory disease that may be more substantial than reported for other NHP species including cynomolgus and rhesus macaques. In addition, SARS-CoV-2 was detected in mucosal samples of all animals including feces of several animals as late as 15 days after virus exposure. Importantly, we show that virus replication and respiratory disease can be produced in African green monkeys using a much lower and more natural dose of SARS-CoV-2 than has been employed in other NHP studies.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1101/2020.05.17.100289DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7263506PMC
May 2020

Early Transcriptional Changes within Liver, Adrenal Gland, and Lymphoid Tissues Significantly Contribute to Ebola Virus Pathogenesis in Cynomolgus Macaques.

J Virol 2020 05 18;94(11). Epub 2020 May 18.

Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, School of Biological Sciences, University of California, Irvine, Irvine, California, USA

Ebola virus (EBOV) continues to pose a significant threat to human health, as evidenced by the 2013-2016 epidemic in West Africa and the ongoing outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. EBOV causes hemorrhagic fever, organ damage, and shock culminating in death, with case fatality rates as high as 90%. This high lethality combined with the paucity of licensed medical countermeasures makes EBOV a critical human pathogen. Although EBOV infection results in significant damage to the liver and the adrenal glands, little is known about the molecular signatures of injury in these organs. Moreover, while changes in peripheral blood cells are becoming increasingly understood, the host responses within organs and lymphoid tissues remain poorly characterized. To address this knowledge gap, we tracked longitudinal transcriptional changes in tissues collected from EBOV-Makona-infected cynomolgus macaques. Following infection, both liver and adrenal glands exhibited significant and early downregulation of genes involved in metabolism, coagulation, hormone synthesis, and angiogenesis; upregulated genes were associated with inflammation. Analysis of lymphoid tissues showed early upregulation of genes that play a role in innate immunity and inflammation and downregulation of genes associated with cell cycle and adaptive immunity. Moreover, transient activation of innate immune responses and downregulation of humoral immune responses in lymphoid tissues were confirmed with flow cytometry. Together, these data suggest that the liver, adrenal gland, and lymphatic organs are important sites of EBOV infection and that dysregulating the function of these vital organs contributes to the development of Ebola virus disease. Ebola virus (EBOV) remains a high-priority pathogen since it continues to cause outbreaks with high case fatality rates. Although it is well established that EBOV results in severe organ damage, our understanding of tissue injury in the liver, adrenal glands, and lymphoid tissues remains limited. We begin to address this knowledge gap by conducting longitudinal gene expression studies in these tissues, which were collected from EBOV-infected cynomolgus macaques. We report robust and early gene expression changes within these tissues, indicating they are primary sites of EBOV infection. Furthermore, genes involved in metabolism, coagulation, and adaptive immunity were downregulated, while inflammation-related genes were upregulated. These results indicate significant tissue damage consistent with the development of hemorrhagic fever and lymphopenia. Our study provides novel insight into EBOV-host interactions and elucidates how host responses within the liver, adrenal glands, and lymphoid tissues contribute to EBOV pathogenesis.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/JVI.00250-20DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7269430PMC
May 2020

Immune correlates of postexposure vaccine protection against Marburg virus.

Sci Rep 2020 02 20;10(1):3071. Epub 2020 Feb 20.

Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, TX, 77555, USA.

Postexposure immunization can prevent disease and reduce transmission following pathogen exposure. The rapid immunostimulatory properties of recombinant vesicular stomatitis virus (rVSV)-based vaccines make them suitable postexposure treatments against the filoviruses Ebola virus and Marburg virus (MARV); however, the mechanisms that drive this protection are undefined. Previously, we reported 60-75% survival of rhesus macaques treated with rVSV vectors expressing MARV glycoprotein (GP) 20-30 minutes after a low dose exposure to the most pathogenic variant of MARV, Angola. Survival in this model was linked to production of GP-specific antibodies and lower viral load. To confirm these results and potentially identify novel correlates of postexposure protection, we performed a similar experiment, but analyzed plasma cytokine levels, frequencies of immune cell subsets, and the transcriptional response to infection in peripheral blood. In surviving macaques (80-89%), we observed induction of genes mapping to antiviral and interferon-related pathways early after treatment and a higher percentage of T helper 1 (Th1) and NK cells. In contrast, the response of non-surviving macaques was characterized by hypercytokinemia; a T helper 2 signature; recruitment of low HLA-DR expressing monocytes and regulatory T-cells; and transcription of immune checkpoint (e.g., PD-1, LAG3) genes. These results suggest dysregulated immunoregulation is associated with poor prognosis, whereas early innate signaling and Th1-skewed immunity are important for survival.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-59976-3DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7033120PMC
February 2020

Resistance of Cynomolgus Monkeys to Nipah and Hendra Virus Disease Is Associated With Cell-Mediated and Humoral Immunity.

J Infect Dis 2020 05;221(Suppl 4):S436-S447

Galveston National Laboratory, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston.

Background: The henipaviruses, Hendra virus (HeV) and Nipah virus (NiV), are capable of causing severe and often lethal respiratory and/or neurologic disease in animals and humans. Given the sporadic nature of henipavirus outbreaks, licensure of vaccines and therapeutics for human use will likely require demonstration of efficacy in animal models that faithfully reproduce the human condition. Currently, the African green monkey (AGM) best mimics human henipavirus-induced disease.

Methods: The pathogenic potential of HeV and both strains of NiV (Malaysia, Bangladesh) was assessed in cynomolgus monkeys and compared with henipavirus-infected historical control AGMs. Multiplex gene and protein expression assays were used to compare host responses.

Results: In contrast to AGMs, in which henipaviruses cause severe and usually lethal disease, HeV and NiVs caused only mild or asymptomatic infections in macaques. All henipaviruses replicated in macaques with similar kinetics as in AGMs. Infection in macaques was associated with activation and predicted recruitment of cytotoxic CD8+ T cells, Th1 cells, IgM+ B cells, and plasma cells. Conversely, fatal outcome in AGMs was associated with aberrant innate immune signaling, complement dysregulation, Th2 skewing, and increased secretion of MCP-1.

Conclusion: The restriction factors identified in macaques can be harnessed for development of effective countermeasures against henipavirus disease.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/infdis/jiz613DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7213570PMC
May 2020

A VP35 Mutant Ebola Virus Lacks Virulence but Can Elicit Protective Immunity to Wild-Type Virus Challenge.

Cell Rep 2019 09;28(12):3032-3046.e6

Center for Microbial Pathogenesis, Institute for Biomedical Sciences, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA 30303, USA. Electronic address:

Zaire ebolavirus (EBOV) VP35 protein is a suppressor of type I interferon (IFN) production, an inhibitor of dendritic cell maturation, and a putative virulence determinant. Here, a recombinant EBOV encoding a mutant VP35 virus (VP35m) is demonstrated to activate RIG-I-like receptor signaling and innate antiviral pathways. When inoculated into cynomolgus macaques, VP35m exhibits dramatic attenuation as compared to wild-type EBOV (wtEBOV), with 20 or 300 times the standard 100% lethal challenge dose not causing EBOV disease (EVD). Further, VP35m infection, despite limited replication in vivo, activates antigen presentation and innate immunity pathways and elicits increased frequencies of proliferating memory T cells and B cells and production of anti-EBOV antibodies. Upon wtEBOV challenge, VP35m-immunized animals survive, exhibiting host responses consistent with an orderly immune response and the absence of excessive inflammation. These data demonstrate that VP35 is a critical EBOV immune evasion factor and provide insights into immune mechanisms of EBOV control.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.celrep.2019.08.047DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6886687PMC
September 2019

Author Correction: Infection with the Makona variant results in a delayed and distinct host immune response compared to previous Ebola virus variants.

Sci Rep 2019 May 8;9(1):7329. Epub 2019 May 8.

Galveston National Laboratory, Galveston, TX, USA.

A correction to this article has been published and is linked from the HTML and PDF versions of this paper. The error has not been fixed in the paper.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-42949-6DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6505025PMC
May 2019

Postexposure Efficacy of Recombinant Vesicular Stomatitis Virus Vectors Against High and Low Doses of Marburg Virus Variant Angola in Nonhuman Primates.

J Infect Dis 2018 11;218(suppl_5):S582-S587

Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston.

A recombinant vesicular stomatitis virus (rVSV) expressing the Marburg virus (MARV) Musoke variant glycoprotein fully protects macaques against 2 MARV variants and Ravn virus as a preventive vaccine and MARV variant Musoke as a postexposure treatment. To evaluate postexposure efficacy against the most pathogenic MARV variant, Angola, we engineered rVSVs expressing homologous Angola glycoprotein. Macaques were challenged with high or low doses of variant Angola and treated 20-30 minutes after exposure. A total of 25% and 60%-75% of treated macaques survived the high-dose and low-dose challenges, respectively. The more rapid disease progression of variant Angola versus variant Musoke may account for the incomplete protection observed.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/infdis/jiy293DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6249565PMC
November 2018

Transcriptome Analysis of Circulating Immune Cell Subsets Highlight the Role of Monocytes in Zaire Ebola Virus Makona Pathogenesis.

Front Immunol 2017 26;8:1372. Epub 2017 Oct 26.

Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, College of Biological Sciences, University of California, Irvine, Irvine, CA, United States.

Existing models of Ebola virus disease (EVD) suggest antigen-presenting cells are initial targets of (ZEBOV). studies have shown that ZEBOV infection of monocytes and macrophages results in the production of inflammatory mediators, which may cause lymphocyte apoptosis. However, these findings have not been corroborated by studies. In this study, we report the first longitudinal analysis of transcriptional changes in purified monocytes, T-cells, and B-cells isolated from cynomolgus macaques following infection with ZEBOV-Makona. Our data reveal monocytes as one of the major immune cell subsets that supports ZEBOV replication . In addition, we report a marked increase in the transcription of genes involved in inflammation, coagulation, and vascular disease within monocytes, suggesting that monocytes contribute to EVD manifestations. Further, genes important for antigen presentation and regulation of immunity were downregulated, potentially subverting development of adaptive immunity. In contrast, lymphocytes, which do not support ZEBOV replication, showed transcriptional changes limited to a small number of interferon-stimulated genes (ISGs) and a failure to upregulate genes associated with an antiviral effector immune response. Collectively, these data suggest that ZEBOV-infected monocytes play a significant role in ZEBOV-Makona pathogenesis and strategies to suppress virus replication or modify innate responses to infection in these cells should be a priority for therapeutic intervention.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2017.01372DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5662559PMC
October 2017

Infection with the Makona variant results in a delayed and distinct host immune response compared to previous Ebola virus variants.

Sci Rep 2017 08 29;7(1):9730. Epub 2017 Aug 29.

Galveston National Laboratory, Galveston, TX, USA.

Zaire Ebolavirus (ZEBOV) continues to pose a significant threat to human health as highlighted by the recent epidemic that originated in West Africa and the ongoing outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Although the ZEBOV variant responsible for this epidemic (Makona) shares significant genetic similarity with previously identified variants (Kikwit and Mayinga), recent reports suggest slower disease progression in nonhuman primates. However, the pathogenesis caused by the new variant is not fully understood. We present the first comprehensive approach in understanding ZEBOV-Makona pathogenesis in cynomolgus macaques by measuring changes in immune cell frequencies, plasma levels of immune mediators, and differentially expressed genes (DEGs) within whole blood (WB) and peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC). Our combined approach revealed a link between: 1) increased interferon-stimulated gene expression, IFNα levels, and activated plasmacytoid dendritic cells; 2) higher proinflammatory gene expression, cytokine and chemokine levels, and non-classical monocytes; 3) gene signature of leukocyte activation and increased granulocytes; and 4) decreased expression of lymphocyte related genes and lymphopenia. In addition, our data strongly indicate delayed disease progression as well as limited overlap (~30%) in host transcriptome changes following ZEBOV-Makona infection compared to ZEBOV-Kikwit. These observations provide novel insight into the molecular mechanisms of ZEBOV-Makona pathogenesis.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-017-09963-yDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5574898PMC
August 2017