Lab Notes

Trauma and psychological illness

A new study by UF researchers finds middle-aged adults with psychological illness such as anxiety and depression are more likely to have longer hospital stays and rehabilitation following trauma affecting bones and muscles. “We need to better identify patients who have higher risks associated with preexisting psychological illness so they can receive the most effective therapies,” said the study’s lead author, Terrie Vasilopoulos, Ph.D., an assistant professor of anesthesiology and of orthopaedics and rehabilitation in the UF College of Medicine. For the study, Vasilopoulos’ team expanded on prior research that showed that patients with preexisting psychological illness who are hospitalized for orthopedic trauma have 46 percent longer hospital stays following an injury than their counterparts. — Marilee Griffin

Dialing in on colon cancer

UF pharmacy researchers have identified novel drug targets and a new screening method for drugs affecting the signaling pathways in colorectal cancer. Colorectal cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the United States. Every year, about 140,000 Americans are diagnosed and more than 50,000 people die from the disease. Hendrik Luesch, Ph.D., a professor and chair of the department of medicinal chemistry and the Debbie and Sylvia DeSantis Chair in Natural Products Drug Discovery and Development, and Long H. Dang, M.D., Ph.D., an associate professor of medicine, have devised a strategy whereby multiple cancer pathways may be targeted simultaneously for drug discovery. Many of the proteins currently under investigation as possible targets for cancer therapy are found in these pathways. Their results appear in a study published in the American Chemical Society’s Chemical Biology journal. — Matt Splett

The shape-shifting flu

UF Health Shands Hospital officials are reporting a late-season surge in the number of patients hospitalized with influenza. Since Feb. 15, 17 people were admitted to the medical and pediatric intensive care units. “Our research over the past several years has highlighted the ease with which the flu virus can change,” said Nicole Iovine, M.D., Ph.D., hospital epidemiologist for UF Health Shands Hospital and an associate professor of medicine in the UF College of Medicine’s division of infectious diseases and global medicine. “It is possible that those changes have made it such that the vaccine might be less effective against what is now circulating.” — Evan Barton