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October 7, 2015

Medical Research: Florida scientists and researchers make inroads

Updates on research being done in Florida: Alzheimer's, traumatic brain injury, Parkinson's disease, macular degeneration, HIV, stem cells, cancer and diabetes,

Amy Keller | 6/1/2012


» Tat Offensive

Jay McLaughlin
Jay McLaughlin
Researchers at Scripps and Torrey Pines are studying a viral protein known as Tat that could lead to new therapies to treat HIV. Dr. Jay McLaughlin won a five-year, $2.2-million grant from the National Institute of Mental Health to study how the HIV virus produces related neuropathology and mood disorders. McLaughlin believes that Tat, which is a potent activator of HIV gene expression, may be involved in that process and the protein could serve as a target for new treatments that block or reduce HIV-related neuropathology and mood disorders. Susana Valente, an assistant professor at Scripps Florida, received $3.4 million from the National Institutes of Health to investigate a Tat inhibitor that is extremely effective at reducing viral output from acutely and chronically infected cells in culture.

» Herpes Virus

Fanxiu Zhu
Fanxiu Zhu
Dr. Fanxiu Zhu, an assistant professor of biology at Florida State University, won $1.5 million from the National Institutes of Health to continue his work on human herpes virus 8 (HHV-8), which causes a rare cancer called Kaposi’s sarcoma in patients with HIV. Zhu’s research provides a target for potential new drug therapies to treat the AIDS-related disease.

» Therapeutics

Dr. Massimo Caputi, an associate professor of biomedical science at Florida Atlantic University’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine, received $433,500 from NIH to further his research into identifying novel therapeutics for HIV.

Stem Cells

» ‘Humans on a Chip’

UCF chip
UCF researchers take a critical leap toward a ‘human-on-a-chip’ systems.

Using stem cells, researchers at the University of Central Florida were able to grow neuromuscular junctions between human muscle cells and human spinal cord cells — a scientific first that is a critical step in creating so-called “human-on-a-chip” systems. Such systems, which are essentially models that re-create how organs or organ systems function in the body, could play a key role in fast-tracking medical research and drug testing.

Susan Frost
Susan Frost
» Cancer pH D’s

Researchers at the University of Florida’s Shands Cancer Center have discovered that whether a tumor thrives or dies depends to some extent on the acidity, or pH level, of the environment in which it is growing. According to UF biochemist Susan Frost, tumors seem to flourish in a more acidic environment, and an enzyme called carbonic anhydrase IX appears to play a key role in maintaining an acidic environment. Thus, carbonic anhydrase IX’s role in tumor growth and survival makes the enzyme an important target for future anti-cancer drugs.

» Response Predictions

OvaGene Oncology in California has signed an agreement with Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa for the exclusive rights to develop and commercialize a microRNA-based procedure that predicts drug response for currently used cancer drugs. The procedure was developed and validated at Moffitt under the leadership of Dr. Johnathan Lancaster, director of women’s oncology at Moffitt Cancer Center.

Research at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa can help predict how effective cancer drugs will be on different patients.

» Personalized Medicine

Biovest International’s BiovaxID personalized cancer vaccine for treatment of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is moving toward the final regulatory approval. The results of a long-term clinical trial of the vaccine, which was developed with the U.S. National Cancer Institute, showed an extended disease-free survival for patients who developed a strong immune response after receiving the vaccine. Biovest International is headquartered in Tampa and manufactures its vaccine in Minneapolis.

Tags: Healthcare

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