LAB Notes

An app for your asthma

UF researchers are launching a new study to assist young teenagers in managing their illness with help from a device that rarely leaves teens’ sides: smartphones. UF’s Team Speak project uses mobile health technology that researchers hope will help adolescents between the ages of 12 and 15 and their parents or caregivers identify asthma management goals. “This is an age when parents look to teenagers to take more responsibility for their care, but sometimes kids aren’t interested in doing that yet, they aren’t prepared, or they don’t have the knowledge or skills to take on that increased responsibility, even though they may want to,” said David Fedele, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the department of clinical and health psychology at the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions. — Jill Pease

Hush Yik Yak?

The hyperlocal app Yik Yak has gotten a lot of media attention for being a platform on which students have posted threats and racial slurs, and campuses have considered banning it. Now UF Health researchers are calling for a broader, more systematic analysis of Yik Yak’s postings, based on their study of the early days of the app, before colleges make that decision. The study, recently published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior, is the first to examine postings on the social media site. “We’re not condoning the type of rhetoric we see on the application. Profane, racist and misogynistic language is not OK,” said Erik Black, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the UF College of Medicine’s department of pediatrics. Co-author and UF Health physician Lindsay Thompson, M.D., added, “I think having a healthy skepticism is appropriate. But in this situation, among college students, fears and moves toward censorship would be unfounded.”  — Morgan Sherburne

Slipping past the blood-brain barrier

The human brain has a remarkable defense system that filters bacteria and chemicals. For brain tumor patients, the barrier works almost too well, by blocking most chemotherapy drugs. Now, a team led by a
UF Health researcher has found that a laser system already used to kill brain tumors has another benefit: It opens a temporary “window” in the blood-brain barrier that enables crucial chemotherapy drugs to pass into the brain for up to six weeks. The findings, published in the journal PLOS One, raise the possibility that a host of chemotherapy drugs once rendered ineffective by the blood-brain barrier could now be used against glioblastoma, said David D. Tran, M.D., Ph.D., chief of neuro-oncology in the UF College of Medicine’s department of neurosurgery and co-lead author of the study.— Doug Bennett