Innovations in Florida
A roundup of stories on the latest research being done around the state.
Experiencing Space Flight
Florida Institute of Technology’s Human Spaceflight Lab has come up with a new simulator that director Ondrej Doule thinks will provide a space flight experience for a fraction of the cost of current simulators and parabolic airplane flights.
The simulator was built with the idea of an emergency rescue pod in mind — passengers having to control the craft while dealing with high levels of acceleration — but people inside can experience the range of suborbital flight from takeoff to landing, including microgravity, through 360-degree motion and the hyperbaric environment of a space suit.
Doule worked with Sanford-based Servos & Simulation to develop the simulator. “I think we are opening a completely new area of simulation of human spaceflight because we don’t need parabolic flight or to pay $5,000 or $10,000 for this, and we are approaching the general public,” Doule says.
Rethinking Meds for Kids
For treating serious conditions such as pediatric schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and certain severe autism behaviors, antipsychotic drugs are a first-line method. But doctors seeking a solution for kids with ADHD and other non-psychotic behaviors have been prescribing anti-psychotic meds “off-label.” Whatever the meds may be doing to address the child’s issues, one thing they may be doing is making the kids fat and setting them on the road to diabetes, according to a new study out of Florida Atlantic University’s med school.
“Over the past two decades, the U.S. has seen a dramatic increase in the use of anti-psychotic medications in children, and it’s not due to an epidemic of childhood schizophrenia or other conditions where anti-psychotics may be lifesaving,” says Dr. John Newcomer, a psychiatrist and senior author of the study who is a professor at FAU’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine. “Rather, it is part of a national phenomenon where children who have non-psychotic disorders with disruptive behaviors are increasingly being treated with anti-psychotic medications.”
Knowing that anti-psychotic use in adults can lead to diabetes, Florida Atlantic University med school researchers working with colleagues from Washington University in St. Louis measured changes in whole body and abdominal fat and insulin sensitivity in 144 children taking anti-psychotics for the first time.
Even just 12 weeks of treatment with anti-psychotic meds can increase body fat and decrease the body’s sensitivity to insulin, the study found.
“We believe it is time to really hit the brakes on the common first line use of these medications in children with nonpsychotic behavior disorders and to implement more consistent front-line use of behavioral treatment options that are available and effective,” Newcomer says.
Last year, University of Miami scientist Daniel Benetti won a nearly $1-million federal grant to spur a partnership with private company Aqquua to create an affordable supply of little fish through captive spawning, with an eye toward eventual aquaculture production of at least one of three species — red snapper, Nassau grouper and hogfish. Benetti, a professor and aquaculture director for UM’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, says the nation’s young marine aquaculture industry needs to develop commercially available seed stock of ecologically and economically important species and a way to live-ship that stock. “This project aims to resolve these issues and will allow for commercial producers to have access to low-cost, reliable supplies for the culture of a variety of native marine finfish,” Benetti says.
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