Lab notes

Lab notes …

Educating parents, helping children

Children with autism spectrum disorder often exhibit serious behavior problems, including tantrums, aggression and self-injury, but new findings reported in The Journal of the American Medical Association demonstrate that a parent training program can reduce these behaviors by nearly 70 percent. Led by Cynthia Johnson, Ph.D., an associate professor in the department of clinical and health psychology at the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions, the study randomly assigned 180 children with autism spectrum disorder and behavioral problems to a 24-week parent training program or a 24-week parent education program. While the parent training program reduced children’s serious behavior problems by nearly 70 percent, the educational sessions were linked to a 40 percent reduction in children’s behavioral problems.Jill Pease

From skates to humans

The ability of hormones to regulate the genes responsible for external sex organ growth and development evolved nearly 400 million years ago in our aquatic ancestors. UF Genetics Institute researchers studying cartilaginous fishes called skates found that the genetic pathway leading to the development of sex organs is the same across vertebrates, including humans. Published in Nature Communications, the study also shows that sex hormones trigger the genetic pathways that lead to external genital formation. Concern exists that the increasing rate of some genital birth defects could be caused by factors disrupting these sex hormones. Martin J. Cohn, Ph.D., a Howard Hughes Medical Institute scientist and professor in the department of molecular genetics and microbiology, led the study.Megan Kimmel

A bridge from parents to providers

College of Nursing researcher Jennifer Elder, Ph.D., R.N., will use seed money to help forge a much-needed bridge between patients with autism and professionals who can provide them with support and information. Elder received a “Tier I Pipeline to Proposal” award from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, or PCORI, to build and forge collaborations to further autism research for underserved families. Elder will lead the nine-month research project, which seeks to connect patients and families in rural, underserved communities with clinicians, teachers and community members to identify interventions that are most effective for individuals with autism spectrum disorders. Tracy Brown Wright

A drop in drug deaths

Oxycodone-related deaths dropped 25 percent after Florida implemented its Prescription Drug Monitoring Program in late 2011 as part of its response to the state’s prescription drug abuse epidemic, according to UF Health researchers. The drop in fatalities could stem from the number of health care providers who used the program’s database to monitor controlled substance prescriptions. “Forty-nine states have prescription drug monitoring programs of some kind, but this is the first study to demonstrate that one of these programs significantly reduced oxycodone-related deaths,” said Chris Delcher, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the department of health outcomes and policy and the study’s lead author. Elizabeth Hillaker Downs