Aug 15th, 2014
Two APK faculty members are being recognized for performing with distinction. Read more here […]
Aug 15th, 2014
Dr. Ashley Smuder, a NIH post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Applied Physiology and Kinesiology, has been promoted to Research Assistant Professor. She will continue her work in Dr. Scott […]
Nov 3rd, 2014
We are excited to announce that Dr. Beth Barton, currently in the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology at the University of Pennsylvania, has been hired by APK as part […]
April 27, 2016
As the sun started to set over the Field and Fork Gardens, students sampled food made from local produce and enjoyed demonstrations by local chefs while others planted corn with the Gator Gardening Club. The first event of its kind, Fresh Off The Farm allowed students to learn about eating local and how to use fresh produce. The April 8 event – a collaboration between Field and Fork Pantry, Student Government, the Culinary Arts Student Union and Gator Gardening Club – included local farmers selling produce, garden tours and musical performances. The Culinary Arts Student Union offered samples of five courses that used produce donated by the farmers, such as tempeh buttercup-lettuce wraps and beet radish spring salad. Steven Che, CASU founder and culinary director, said people often think they don’t like vegetables because they’re getting produce grown in mass production, where the focus isn’t on taste, and eating vegetables that are out of season, which are no longer at the peak of flavor, he said. The festival showed off fresh, local alternatives. “We just really wanted people to appreciate local foods, local chefs, local produce and local farmers,” he said. Interacting with farmers gives you an appreciation for and allows you to be a part of your local community, said Joselin Padron-Rasines, UF’s student government president. From a farmer’s perspective, community support keeps them running, growing and expanding to other areas, said Katie McNamara, a Frog Song Organics employee. Buying local also reduces the fuel used transporting produce to market. Students often don’t buy local because of convenience, McNamara said. They’re concerned about classes, on tight budgets and can be intimidated about buying local when comparing the prices to Publix. “If you get used to buying in season, then it can be extremely affordable, but that’s not the way that we’re grown up in America,” she said. “They just don’t know that buying strawberries out of season can be not the most affordable option so that deters them from buying locally.” The biggest barrier to students buying local is they don’t know that it exists, McNamara said. “Now that this event happened and things like that continue to go down on campus,” she said, “they’ll learn more about it and be able to use those services,” she said.
April 26, 2016
The Zika virus was present in Haiti several months before the first Zika cases were identified in Brazil, according to new research by infectious-disease specialists at the University of Florida. This finding confirms that the Zika virus was present in the Americas prior to March 2015, when the virus was first identified in Brazil, and suggests that the spread of Zika virus in the Americas was likely more complicated than early theories presumed. “We know that the virus was present in Haiti in December of 2014,” said Dr. Glenn Morris, M.D., M.P.H., a professor of medicine and the director of UF’s Emerging Pathogens Institute. “And, based on molecular studies, it may have been present in Haiti even before that date.” Although the findings suggest that the Zika virus was circulating in the Americas prior to 2015, what remains unclear is exactly what confluence of factors caused the virus to take off in Brazil. The findings were published Monday in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases. Researchers hope further inquiry will shed light on the factors that led to the proliferation of Zika virus in Brazil as well as the sharp rise in the number of birth defects in that nation in cases where pregnant women were infected with the then-uncommon flavivirus. Scientists from UF’s environmental and global health department and the Emerging Pathogens Institute isolated the Zika virus from three patients while studying the transmission of dengue and chikungunya in Haiti in 2014. School children exhibiting febrile illness within the Gressier/Leogane region of Haiti were taken to a free outpatient clinic, where blood samples were drawn and screened for dengue, chikungunya and malaria. Upon isolation, the viruses were first considered “mystery” viruses, as PCR-based tests indicated they were neither dengue nor chikungunya viruses, and little attention had been paid to the possibility that Zika virus might be present in the Caribbean. Using a sophisticated RT-PCR based method that potentially amplifies any RNA, the researchers produced PCR amplicons that were subsequently sequenced and identified as Zika virus sequences. The plasma samples that yielded Zika virus were taken three months before March 2015, when Brazilian scientists first confirmed via genetic analysis that Zika virus was present in Brazil and causing a significant disease burden in the South American nation. The Zika virus was virtually unknown outside of public health circles prior to the 2007 outbreak in the Yap Islands, a small group of islands in Micronesia where an estimated 73 percent of residents 3 years of age and older were infected with the virus. Questions still remain regarding how it came to the Americas. “The Brazilian and Haitian strains are genetically similar,” said John Lednicky, Ph.D., an associate professor in the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions’ department of environmental and global health and an associate researcher at the Emerging Pathogens Institute. Lednicky designed the project’s virus isolation work and identified and sequenced the Haitian Zika virus isolates. Lednicky said the genetic sequences of the Haitian isolates from 2014 are more similar to those of the French Polynesian strains than to many of the Brazilian Zika virus strains. Lednicky thinks this may be because the Haitian 2014 strain is slightly older than the isolates from Brazil in 2015. Morris echoed Lednicky’s suggestion that Zika virus had been in the Americas for a period of time before it began causing a noticeable level of illness. “There is a possibility that this virus had been moving around the Caribbean before it hit the right combination of conditions in Brazil and took off,” Morris said. “By using the sophisticated culturing and sequencing capabilities that we have here at the Emerging Pathogens Institute, we were able to begin to fill in some of the unknown areas in the history of the Zika virus, leading us toward a better understanding of what caused this outbreak to suddenly occur at the magnitude that it did in Brazil.”
April 21, 2016
The new mouse model is significant because it closely replicates the symptoms and gene expression patterns found in people who have the most common genetic cause of ALS and frontotemporal dementia. The findings were published today (April 21) in the journal Neuron. Having a mouse model that replicates how these two conditions affect nerve cells and pathways in the brain and spinal cord is crucial to understanding what triggers disease in people and for developing treatments, said Laura P.W. Ranum, Ph.D., director of the UF Center for NeuroGenetics, a faculty member of the UF Genetics Institute and a professor in the UF College of Medicine department of molecular genetics and microbiology. The study’s lead author, Yuanjing Liu, Ph.D., a recent graduate of the UF interdisciplinary program in biomedical sciences, worked closely with graduate student Amrutha Pattamatta and other UF researchers to generate and characterize the mice. The team spent nearly four years developing the mouse model, which has an expansion mutation in the C9orf72 gene. This mutation is the most common genetic cause of ALS and accounts for up to 40 percent of all familial cases of the disease, according to The ALS Association. ALS kills nerve cells that stretch from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to muscles, causing muscle wasting, paralysis and death. An estimated 30,000 people in the United States have the disease at any given time and life expectancy is usually two to five years. This mutation is also a common cause of inherited dementia. While other scientists have developed mouse models focusing on different ALS-related genes, the UF Health researchers are the first to cultivate one that focuses on the C9orf72 gene that closely mimics features of both ALS and frontotemporal dementia, including paralysis and dementia. The new mouse model will allow researchers to understand how the same genetic mutation causes paralysis in some patients and cognitive and behavioral problems in others, and how some people escape disease altogether. These mice showed the accumulation of problematic RNA and protein clumps suspected of helping the diseases to progress. Because ALS and frontotemporal dementia belong to a genetically complex disease spectrum that isn’t easily studied in humans, the mouse models will enable researchers to tease apart exactly how the gene mutation causes disease. The C9orf72 gene produces at least eight different mutant products. Having the mouse model will help researchers understand which ones are the most important in terms of causing disease. It should also allow them to learn more about what takes place in a particular region of the brain where healthy cells exist next to ones that have died. “I am excited because one of the two mutant RNAs produced by the mutation accumulates in neurons that are vulnerable to the disease and die. This gives us an important clue for future studies aimed at developing therapies for people,” Liu said. Likewise, Ranum is intrigued by the 20 percent of the mice that have the mutated gene but do not develop ALS or frontotemporal dementia. Similarly, a subset of people who carry the C9orf72 mutation do not develop the disease. This suggests there is some protective element at work that, if understood, could be exploited to prevent disease onset, she said. Ranum said her group is already making use of the new mouse model. That includes collaborations with private industry on research aimed at reversing or preventing the disease. The research was funded by Target ALS, The ALS Association, the Robert Packard Center for ALS Research and the University of Florida.