LAB Notes

A solution for sepsis?

Researchers have long sought to uncover what makes preterm babies more susceptible to the dangerous blood infection sepsis than babies born at full-term.  Recently, research findings reported in the journal Nature suggested that a type of cell may prevent a newborn’s body from launching a proper immune attack and that reducing the number of these cells could spark the needed response. The authors theorized that reducing these cells (red blood cell precursors) could help babies respond more effectively to blood infection. To reduce the precursor cells in neonatal mice, the researchers treated them with an antibody they thought would target the cells specifically. However, a UF Health study published in The Journal of Immunology challenged these findings and shows that the treatment used to remove these cells was largely responsible for the findings. “We found that the antibody that was given to newborn mice to reduce these cells actually caused a minor injury to the intestine,” said James L. Wynn, M.D., an associate professor of pediatrics and pathology, immunology and laboratory medicine in the College of Medicine. “Our findings in mice and human cells suggest the impact of these cells on newborn infection risk is limited.”    — April Frawley Lacey

Stopping diarrhea in children

Across the world, diarrhea kills more than 2,000 children every day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. To combat this global health problem, UF Health researchers have uncovered how a protein found in the gut could help reverse the deadly effects of diarrhea. When activated, the calcium-sensing receptor protein reversed the two life-threatening conditions that occur when a person has diarrhea — dehydration and metabolic acidosis, a build-up of acid in the bloodstream, according to results published this summer in the American Journal of Physiology – Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology. With these findings, the researchers hope to develop a commercial drink, similar to other oral rehydration solutions, that combats both dehydration and acidosis, said Sam Cheng, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of pediatrics in the College of Medicine.    — April Frawley Lacey

Making connections in the pancreas

Diseases that afflict the pancreas — pancreatitis, pancreatic cancer and diabetes — are often risk factors for one another. Now UF Health researchers are seeking the links between them. The researchers have received a five-year, $2 million grant to study the link between these three diseases. They will be part of a nationwide group called the Consortium for the Study of Chronic Pancreatitis, Diabetes and Pancreatic Cancer, administered by the National Cancer Institute and the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, or the NIDDK. Pancreatitis is the benign inflammation and scarring of the pancreas, an organ situated behind the stomach that produces digestive enzymes. Researchers suspect that a relationship exists between pancreatitis, pancreatic cancer and diabetes. Christopher Forsmark, M.D., is the principal investigator of the grant at UF.— Morgan Sherburne