Lab notes

Lab notes

Healthy weight, healthy kids

This spring, researchers will begin a study examining a healthy lifestyle program for young children and their parents in Columbia County. The Healthy Kids Program is designed to help parents and children ages 3 to 7 who are at the higher end of the growth chart improve their diet, increase physical activity and modify the home environment in order to promote healthy lifestyles. The no-cost program helps families work together to learn how to manage real-life problems and make gradual changes. “Rates of childhood and adult obesity are higher in rural areas compared to urban areas,” said David Janicke, Ph.D., an associate professor in the College of Public Health and Health Professions. “While many young children who are at the higher end of the growth curve do grow out of their extra weight, we are beginning to see more and more children who do not. Young children who continue to be at the higher end of the growth curve are at greater risk for long-term obesity, as well as associated health problems such as Type 2 diabetes.”


Now hear this

The drug gentamicin can provide effective treatment for people with bacterial infections that are resistant to other antibiotics, but this medication can cause a serious side effect, too: hearing loss. Now, UF researchers have discovered that a dietary supplement shows promise for protecting against drug-induced hearing loss when taken during gentamicin treatment. The findings of this study in rodents appeared in the Journal of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology. Colleen Le Prell, Ph.D., and colleagues tested the use of a dietary supplement containing the antioxidants beta carotene and vitamins C and E, as well as the mineral magnesium, for protection against gentamicin-induced hearing loss. Hearing loss is largely caused by the production of free radicals, which destroy healthy inner ear cells. The antioxidant vitamins prevent hearing damage by “scavenging” the free radicals and protecting against their effects.


Tick, tick, tick

A simple DNA-based test could help identify strains of a debilitating tickborne disease that infects an increasing number of people. Conducted in the College of Veterinary Medicine, the research marks the first time scientists have demonstrated the ability to distinguish human from animal strains in ticks carrying the organism that causes anaplasmosis, a disease with symptoms similar to influenza and Lyme disease. This information could help researchers pinpoint areas where ticks that carry these strains are present in large numbers. “With that knowledge, physicians could potentially enhance screening for the disease agent and begin earlier treatment of patients suspected of being infected,” said Anthony Barbet, Ph.D., a professor of infectious diseases at the College of Veterinary Medicine and a co-author of the study. “In addition, blood supplies used for transfusions could be better protected.”