Preventing cervical cancer
The human papillomavirus vaccine can protect against cervical cancer, yet only one-fifth of adolescent girls on Medicaid in Florida receive the vaccine, even though it’s free for them. Now, with the help of a $150,000 grant from the Society of Adolescent Health and Medicine, UF researchers have launched a pilot project aimed at increasing vaccination rates in girls. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends girls and boys receive an HPV vaccine at age 11 or 12. Led by Stephanie Staras, Ph.D., the UF researchers will develop and test a multifaceted approach to increase awareness about the vaccine among girls and their parents, and to prompt more doctors to offer it. The study is one of 10 projects the Society of Adolescent Health and Medicine funded through a grant from Merck & Co. Inc.
— Claire Baralt and April Frawley Birdwell
Lessening liver damage
College of Medicine researchers Christiaan Leeuwenburgh, Ph.D., and Jae-Sung Kim, Ph.D., have received nearly $1.3 million from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases to uncover ways to lessen liver damage by studying the body’s natural process for breaking down and removing injured cells. During surgery or transplantation, surgeons stop blood flow to the liver, temporarily cutting off oxygen and nutrients. When blood rushes back to the organ afterward it often causes serious damage called ischemia/reperfusion injury. Finding a way to boost cells’ natural cleanup process — and with it, older livers’ ability to recover from such stress-related injury — would help patients recover after liver surgery.
— Laura Mize
UF researchers have received a $1.5 million, five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Cancer Institute to examine the role of an inflammation-causing protein in colon cancer development. Scientists suspect increased levels of the protein, called interleukin-8, or IL-8, may be partly to blame for increased rates of colon cancer among people who have ulcerative colitis, a condition that causes inflammation and bleeding in the lining of the colon and rectum. If IL-8 is a culprit in cancer formation, scientists would focus on finding ways to disrupt its function and, in turn, halt the growth of colon cancer, said principal investigator Emina Huang, M.D., a colorectal surgeon and an associate professor in the UF College of Medicine’s department of surgery. — Laura Mize