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 […]
May 26, 2017
Travel between the continental U.S. and the Caribbean led to locally acquired Zika virus infections in Florida, according to new research published this week. By sequencing the virus’s genome at different points in the outbreak, scientists from institutions that include the University of Florida created a family tree showing where cases originated and how quickly they spread. They discovered that transmission of Zika virus began in Florida at least four -- and potentially up to 42 -- times last year. The researchers also traced most of the Zika lineages back to strains of the virus in the Caribbean. The researchers noted that most of the local Zika transmission in Florida occurred in Miami-Dade County. Other counties had A. aegypti mosquitoes, but Miami received more travelers from regions with Zika transmission than any other city in the country. In fact, 72 percent of the traffic from regions with Zika transmission to Florida arrived in either Miami or Ft. Lauderdale. The researchers found a correlation between Zika virus transmission and mosquito populations, showing that periods with high numbers of A. aegypti mosquitoes – which scientists have shown are capable of transmitting Zika virus and several related viruses – resulted in an increase in local transmission in humans. The paper was published Wednesday in the journal Nature. Zika transmission in the Caribbean and other parts of the Americas remains the key indicator for both locally acquired and travel-associated Zika infections in the United States. “If the large outbreaks that have occurred throughout the Caribbean and Central and South America have created enough immunity to Zika that it can’t effectively spread in those regions, then introductions to Florida will be minimal,” said Derek Cummings, a professor of biology at UF’s Emerging Pathogens Institute.. Cummings developed mathematical models that analyzed the transmission of Zika virus in Florida for the manuscript. The tendency for cases to decline sharply after big increases, Cummings said, is typical in outbreaks where a new pathogen causes an epidemic in a region and gives people infected in the initial outbreak immunity to subsequent infection. Most people who came to Florida last year with a Zika virus infection did not transmit the virus to others, Cummings said. But some introductions resulted in sustained chains of transmission of tens of people. An increase in “mosquito abundances” was associated with these local Zika cases. “When mosquito abundances went down, local cases went down,” Cummings said. “This isn’t surprising for a mosquito-transmitted infection, but it suggests that control measures to reduce mosquitoes worked last year, and we should keep those up when additional cases are seen.” The study was a collaboration of more than 60 researchers from nearly 20 institutions, including the Scripps Research Institute, the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, Florida Gulf Coast University, the University of Oxford, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, the Florida Department of Health, and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard.
May 10, 2017
For the millions of people every year who have or need medical devices implanted, a new advancement in 3D printing technology developed at the University of Florida promises significantly quicker implantation of devices that are stronger, less expensive, more flexible and more comfortable than anything currently available. In a paper published today in the journal Science Advances, researchers lay out the process they developed for using 3D printing and soft silicone to manufacture items that millions of patients use: ports for draining bodily fluids, implantable bands, balloons, soft catheters, slings and meshes. Silicone is 3D printed into the micro-organogel support material. The printing nozzle follows a predefined trajectory, depositing liquid silicone in its wake. The liquid silicone is supported by the micro-organgel material during this printing process. Currently, such devices are molded, which could take days or weeks to create customized parts designed to fit an individual patient. The 3D printing method cuts that time to hours, potentially saving lives. What’s more, extremely small and complex devices, such as drainage tubes containing pressure-sensitive valves, simply cannot be molded in one step. With the UF team’s new method, however, they can be printed. “Our new material provides support for the liquid silicone as it is 3D printing, allowing us create very complex structures and even encapsulated parts out of silicone elastomer,” said lead author Christopher O’Bryan, a mechanical and aerospace engineering doctoral student in UF’s Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering and lead author on the paper. It also could pave the way for new therapeutic devices that encapsulate and control the release of drugs or small molecules for guiding tissue regeneration or assisting diseased organs such as the pancreas or prostate. The cost savings could be significant as well. “The public is more sensitive to the high costs of medical care than ever before. Almost monthly we see major media and public outcry against high health care costs, wasteful spending in hospitals, exorbitant pharmaceutical costs,” said team member Tommy Angelini, an associate professor of mechanical and aerospace. “Everybody agrees on the need to reduce costs in medicine.” The new method was born out of a project Angelini and his team have been working on for several years: printable organs and tissues. To that end, the team made a significant discovery two years ago when it created a revolutionary way to manufacture soft materials using 3D printing and microscopic hydrogel particles as a medium. The problem was, the previous granular gel materials were water-based, so they were incompatible with oily “inks” like silicone. It was literally a case of trying to mix oil and water. To solve that problem, the team came up with an oily version of the microgels. “Once we started printing oily silicone inks into the oily microgel materials, the printed parts held their shapes,” Angelini said. “We were able to achieve really excellent 3D printed silicone parts – the best I’ve seen.” Water is pumped from one reservoir to another using a 3D printed silicone valve. The silicone valve contains two encapsulated ball valves that allow water to be pumped through the valve by squeezing the lower chamber. The silicone valve demonstrates the ability of our 3D printing method to create multiple encapsulated components in a single part -- something that cannot be done with a traditional 3D printing approach. Manufacturing organs and tissues remains a primary goal, but one that likely is many years away from reality. Not so with the medical implants. “The reality is that we are probably decades away from the widespread implanting of 3D printed tissues and organs into patients,” Angelini said. “By contrast, inanimate medical devices are already in widespread use for implantation. Unlike the long wait we have ahead of us for other 3D bioprinting technolgies to be developed, silicone devices can be put into widespread use without technologically limited delay.” Other members of the UF team are Tapomoy Bhattacharjee, Samuel Hart, Christopher P. Kabb, Kyle D. Schulze, Indrasena Chilakala, Brent S. Sumerlin, and Greg Sawyer.
May 9, 2017
Pet dogs provide valuable social support for kids when they’re stressed, according to a study by researchers from the University of Florida, who were among the first to document stress-buffering effects of pets for children. Darlene Kertes and colleagues tested the commonly held belief that pet dogs provide social support for kids using a randomized controlled study – the gold standard in research. “Many people think pet dogs are great for kids but scientists aren’t sure if that’s true or how it happens,” Kertes said. Kertes reasoned that one way this might occur is by helping children cope with stress. “How we learn to deal with stress as children has lifelong consequences for how we cope with stress as adults.” For their study, recently published in the journal Social Development, the researchers recruited approximately 100 pet-owning families, who came to their university laboratory with their dogs. To tap children’s stress, the children completed a public speaking task and mental arithmetic task, which are known to evoke feelings of stress and raise the stress hormone cortisol, and simulates real-life stress in children’s lives. The children were randomly assigned to experience the stressor with their dog present for social support, with their parent present, or with no social support. “Our research shows that having a pet dog present when a child is undergoing a stressful experience lowers how much children feel stressed out,” Kertes said . “Children who had their pet dog with them reported feeling less stressed compared to having a parent for social support or having no social support.” Samples of saliva was also collected before and after the stressor to check children’s cortisol levels, a biological marker of the body’s stress response. Results showed that for kids who underwent the stressful experience with their pet dogs, children’s cortisol level varied depending on the nature of the interaction of children and their pets. “Children who actively solicited their dogs to come and be pet or stroked had lower cortisol levels compared to children who engaged their dogs less,” said Kertes, an assistant professor in the psychology department of UF’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “When dogs hovered around or approached children on their own, however, children’s cortisol tended to be higher.” The children in the study were between 7 to 12 years old. “Middle childhood is a time when children’s social support figures are expanding beyond their parents, but their emotional and biological capacities to deal with stress are still maturing,” Kertes explained. “Because we know that learning to deal with stress in childhood has lifelong consequences for emotional health and well-being, we need to better understand what works to buffer those stress responses early in life.”