Lab Notes

Lab Notes

Researchers gain insight into why some muscle cells don’t repair themselves

A group led by a UF Health researcher has gained a better understanding of the genetic activities that prevent muscle cells from repairing themselves. The findings apply to a rare congenital disorder known as early onset myopathy, areflexia, respiratory distress and dysphagia, or EMARDD. While the disease is known to affect a few dozen patients worldwide, the findings have implications for other muscle disorders, including muscular dystrophy. The researchers have identified a gene and mutation that essentially function as a “switch” that prevents muscle cell proliferation in EMARDD patients. Using mouse muscle cells and mouse models, the researchers found a deficiency of a certain gene, known as Megf10, and the overabundance of a mutant form of this gene leads to reduced muscle cell growth and migration. The mutation disrupts a crucial interaction between the protein product and another protein involved in cell-to-cell communication. — Doug Bennett

Imaging biomarker for Parkinson’s could aid in testing drugs to slow disease’s progression

A newly discovered imaging biomarker could be used to track changes in the brain associated with the progression of Parkinson’s disease. The team of UF neuroscientists who made the discovery has validated the finding as part of an international multicenter study showing on diffusion MRI scans there is an increase over one year in “free-water,” or fluid unconstrained by brain tissue, in a part of the brain called the substantia nigra in more than 100 newly diagnosed, unmedicated Parkinson’s patients. This change is not seen in people without Parkinson’s. UF researchers said the use of this noninvasive biomarker tool could lead to new ways of testing treatment of the debilitating movement disorder. — Michelle Koidin Jaffee

Clinical trial examines cancer drug’s effectiveness against sepsis

UF researchers are part of a nationwide clinical trial to evaluate whether a cancer medication can be effective against sepsis and septic shock. Sepsis is thought to blunt the immune system in ways similar to some kinds of cancer through PD-1, a protein emitted by certain cells in the body. Nivolumab, an immunotherapy drug, blocks PD-1 in cancer patients and helps the immune system recognize and destroy diseased tissue. The clinical trial seeks to determine whether blocking PD-1 can also boost the immune system in patients with severe sepsis or septic shock. — Karin Lillis