Eat, drink and make discoveries

Eat, drink and make discoveries

Researcher Akane Yu’s dedication brought her from Japan to UF

By Paige Parrinelli
Akane Yu

Akane Yu

A self-described foodie and health nut, Akane Yu, M.D., Ph.D., loves to cook.

Yu says that in many ways cooking reminds her of research. Just like baking her favorite breads and cakes, it requires technique and experience, and she often has to struggle to get perfect results. She then has to try to repeat those results in order to improve her recipe.

It’s not so different from the work she does for the College of Medicine’s department of surgery. Yu is a visiting scholar from Tokyo who has been conducting research in the department’s division of plastic surgery since 2012.

Her research, which is supported by the by Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine, examines the use of fat transfer in wound healing. This process involves removing fat from a patient via liposuction and then using that fat to create an adipose stem cell paste. The paste can be applied to wounds in order to improve healing and reduce scarring.

Yu said the paste also helps prevent the excessive contraction of wounds.

“Contraction is a normal aspect of wound healing, but too much contraction can cause problems, such as pain and disfigurement, and may result in loss of function,” she said.

Yu said the treatment would benefit several different types of patients, including wounded warriors and patients who have large wounds on their faces.

“This approach is also meant to enhance the healing of chronic wounds, such as those caused by diabetes, and to improve the healing of wounds that result from trauma or cancer resection,” she said.

Yu started her career in plastic surgery after graduating from the Yokohama City University School of Medicine in 2000. She worked as a plastic surgeon for 10 years before obtaining her Ph.D. from Kitasato University in 2012.

Yu wanted to do more research to complement her clinical work, so she contacted Adam Katz, M.D., an associate professor of surgery in the division of plastic and reconstructive surgery at UF Health.

Katz said he couldn’t provide Yu funding to come to UF, since he was in the process of transferring from the University of Virginia. Instead, Yu showed dedication to her work by acquiring the grants herself.

Katz said he was impressed with the guts Yu had to move her entire family to a new country.

Yu’s family includes a daughter, who is in in second grade, a son in preschool, and her husband, Wenjiang Yu. Akane Yu said she wouldn’t be where she is today without the support of her husband. Wenjiang Yu left his job managing his family’s restaurant in Japan to come help take care of their children while she works at UF.

Katz said that since Yu started working at UF Health she became highly involved in the local community. After only a few months of living in Gainesville she invited Katz to watch her perform in the holiday show for the UF’s Women’s Chorale.

“Holy moly, if it wasn’t for her I wouldn’t have any idea that was happening,” Katz said.