Spotlight on research

Spotlight on research

Liver cancer and gene therapy

Chen Ling, Ph.D.

UF researcher Chen Ling, Ph.D., has received three grants to study gene therapy techniques that target hepatoblastoma, or HB, the most common pediatric liver cancer in the U.S. The disease is typically diagnosed in children under age 2, and while treatments have improved in recent years, nearly one-third of patients still die from the illness within 10 years of diagnosis. Ling aims to develop novel gene-delivery vehicles called recombinant adeno-associated virus vectors, or rAAV, for use in gene therapy to selectively and efficiently target and destroy HB cells while minimizing the risk of additional damage.

Big discovery for small dogs

By analyzing the genes of bacteria, UF researchers have moved a step closer to pinpointing how two brain disorders common in small-breed dogs occur. The researchers found that the bacteria, known as Mycoplasma canis, invade dog’s cells and suppress their immune system responses. “This could explain how the bacteria are able to enter the brain in certain circumstances,” said lead investigator Daniel Brown, Ph.D., an associate professor of infectious diseases at the UF College of Veterinary Medicine. “If our theory is correct, it is possible that antibiotic therapy aimed at the mycoplasma could be beneficial if the condition is diagnosed early enough.” The researchers studied two common brain syndromes called granulomatous meningoencephalomyelitis, or GME, and necrotizing meningoencephalitis, or NME, which occur primarily in small toy-breed dogs such as pugs, Malteses, Yorkshire terriers, Chihuahuas and Pomeranians.