Lab notes

Lab Notes

Advancing gene therapy

A biotechnology company has raised $30 million to advance gene therapy treatments developed at the UF Powell Gene Therapy Center. The funding also will help UF Health researchers bring a novel form of gene therapy to patients with Pompe disease, a rare form of muscular dystrophy. The involvement of the company, Audentes Therapeutics Inc., should help scientists speed potential treatments to the patients who need them most, said Barry Byrne, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Powell Gene Therapy Center and a professor of pediatrics in the UF College of Medicine. “The ability to have a commercial sponsor for a scientific program allows our discoveries to be developed into real products that will help people,” Byrne said. “And that is really the goal.” — April Frawley


Preventing preeclampsia deaths

Mothers-to-be in Africa are three times more likely than women in the United States to develop the high blood pressure disorder preeclampsia, and even more likely to die from it. Now, UF researchers led by Tammy Euliano, M.D., and the Gainesville-based engineering firm Convergent Engineering have received a $250,000 grant as part of the Saving Lives at Birth Grand Challenges program to develop an easily transportable tool that could efficiently detect the warning signs of preeclampsia and help women in developing countries get the care they need. The goal of the funding is to find novel ways to reduce the death rates of mothers and babies in developing countries. The project will last 18 months, and if the results are promising, the researchers will be eligible to apply for an additional grant to test the device in Africa. — April Frawley

Evaluating breast milk expression

A UF researcher received a $400,000 National Institutes of Health grant to evaluate the best time to initiate breast milk expression in mothers of very low birth weight infants in an effort to improve health outcomes for this vulnerable population. College of Nursing clinical assistant professor Leslie Parker, Ph.D., A.R.N.P., and her team, which includes associate professor Charlene Krueger, Ph.D., R.N., and College of Medicine clinical assistant professor Sandra Sullivan, M.D., will compare different times post-birth for expressing milk in the mothers and evaluate which time frame is optimal for ensuring adequate breast milk production. “I hope that my program of research can improve short- and long-term health outcomes for very low birth weight infants by improving their nutritional status and decreasing complications due to prematurity,” Parker said. — Tracy Brown Wright

Regenerating skin

The U.S. Department of Defense has awarded $1.2 million to the UF College of Medicine’s department of surgery for skin regeneration research that may benefit injured troops and also may help civilians. Adam Katz, M.D., a UF Health physician and an associate professor in the department of surgery’s division of plastic and reconstructive surgery, and his team are working in the laboratory to explore whether they can use a patient’s excess fat as a personalized adhesive bandage to prompt the body to heal wounds faster and with less scarring. Another project, aimed at making existing scars look and “feel” better, involves removing fat tissue from one part of a patient’s body using liposuction techniques, and injecting it under a scar at another site. — Laura Mize