Lab notes

Lab notes

1) A tax that saves lives

Increasing state alcohol taxes could prevent thousands of deaths a year from car crashes. UF researchers found that alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes decreased after taxes on beer, wine and spirits went up in Illinois. Fatal alcohol-related car crashes in Illinois declined 26 percent after a 2009 increase in alcohol taxes. The decrease was even more marked for young people, at 37 percent. The reduction was similar for crashes involving alcohol-impaired drivers and extremely drunken drivers, at 22 and 25 percent, respectively. The study was released online in the American Journal of Public Health in March. “Similar alcohol tax increases implemented across the country could prevent thousands of deaths from car crashes each year,” said Alexander C. Wagenaar, Ph.D., a professor in the College of Medicine department of health outcomes and policy. “If policymakers are looking to address dangerous drivers on our roads and reduce the number of fatalities, they should reverse the trend of allowing inflation to erode alcohol taxes.” Elizabeth Hillaker Downs

2) Vitamin D and osteoarthritis

If you are overweight and have osteoarthritis, you may want to bone up on products that have vitamin D. Higher levels of vitamin D may decrease pain and improve function in obese individuals with osteoarthritis. Findings published in the January issue of The Clinical Journal of Pain indicate that obese individuals who suffer from osteoarthritis and have adequate vitamin D levels could walk, balance and rise from sitting to standing better than obese participants with insufficient vitamin D levels. “Adequate vitamin D may be significant to improving osteoarthritis pain because it affects bone quality and protects cell function to help reduce inflammation. Vitamin D maintains calcium and phosphate concentration levels to keep bones strong,” said lead author Toni L. Glover, Ph.D., ARNP, an assistant professor in the UF College of Nursing, part of UF Health. “Increased pain due to osteoarthritis could limit physical activity, including outdoor activity, which would lead to both decreased vitamin D levels and increased obesity.” Tracy Brown Wright

3) Advances in understanding a deadly brain tumor

For most patients with a common brain tumor, the outlook is grim. Aggressive and stubborn, glioblastoma is hard to wipe out with surgery, radiation or chemotherapy. Now, a group that includes UF Health researchers has found a way to improve survival time in a mouse model by halting the tumor’s spread. It’s the first time scientists have manipulated successfully the signals in a cell that allow it to contract in order to impede a brain tumor’s growth. The approach makes it harder for the cell to squeeze through surrounding tissue, keeping the tumor in check. Other UF Health researchers are working on a different approach to treat glioblastoma —a vaccine. In collaboration with researchers at the Duke Cancer Institute, UF Health researcher Duane Mitchell M.D., Ph.D., and his team discovered a common booster virus could help improve the effect of a vaccine aimed at glioblastoma, potentially improving patient survival. Doug Bennett and Morgan Sherburne