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UF study hopes to create an app to help with adolescent asthma

11 Apr
Woody Joseph is  a third-year public relations student at the University of Florida who aspires to become a public relations practitioner in the political realm. His ultimate desire is to become an advocate for social justice and a promoter of equality on all levels of society.

Woody Joseph is a third-year public relations student at the University of Florida who aspires to become a public relations practitioner in the political realm. His ultimate desire is to become an advocate for social justice and a promoter of equality on all levels of society.

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of contributing bloggers beginning their careers as journalists/public relations professionals at the University of Florida. Please see my earlier post about getting journalists excited about science writing early on.

By Woody Joseph

A recent study underway at the University of Florida is developing a mobile application, called Team Speak, that will attempt to help young individuals manage asthma. The project was funded by the National Institutes of Health earlier this year.

According to the Department of Clinical and Health Psychology at UF, the Team Speak project uses mobile health technology that researchers hope will help adolescents and their caregivers identify asthma management goals, develop behavioral strategies to meet those goals and strengthen communication skills between adolescents and parents.

The study targets adolescents with asthma between the ages of 12 and 15 and their parents.

“The reason we picked this age range is 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,” said David Fedele, the study’s lead investigator in a press release. “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.”

The Team Speak project hopes to encourage interventions to help manage asthma within individual families by collecting data from a small chunk of time and then inform the families on the next possible steps in asthma management, Fedele said.

The project consists of two phases, said Andrew McConville, lab coordinator and research assistant for the Team Speak project.

Phase one of the project involves the creating the app. Using a pilot program, an advisory board consisting of the parents of the participants receives feedback from the target audience.

Phase two of the  project is compiling the feedback and then tailoring the final version of the application for a four-month randomized control group trial.

The trial will include two groups. One group would be assigned to simply use the application. The other group is a self-guided control group that is given a diary to document their symptoms and handouts to better manage their asthma.

“Creating an app that would target self-management in asthma is an important psychological domain for lots of different illnesses, especially chronic illness, McConville said.

A secondary function of this project is to help adolescents take charge of their illness.

We also hope to help adolescents make the transition to independently manage asthma so that later down the line they could prevent avoidable symptoms and possible emergency room visits, McConville said.

When asked about the Team Speak mobile application and how it can help with asthma students’ responses were positive.

“I have been dealing with asthma my entire life,” Denard Smith, a third-year criminal justice major. “When I was younger the resources available to me were limited but it is interesting to see how technology is advancing to the point where a mobile app can help with asthma.”

Sarah Bounaim, a third-year education major, also believes that the app would be effective.

“My younger brother has asthma and being that my parents have always desired to instill independence within us, this app can help him take control over his chronic illness,” she said.

The Team Speak project is currently seeking more participant. If you or a family member is interested in participating in the study and would like to see if you are eligible, contact the UF Youth Asthma Research Lab at 352-273-5124.

 

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Skin cancer doesn’t go away in the winter

27 Dec
Felicity Dryer is a health enthusiast living in Southern California and encourages everyone to protect their skin all year round. She loves writing about personal health and fitness, nutrition and skin care, and you can find more of her writing samples here: https://felicitydryer.jux.com/

Felicity Dryer is a health enthusiast living in Southern California and encourages everyone to protect their skin all year round. She loves writing about personal health and fitness, nutrition and skin care, and you can find more of her writing samples here: https://felicitydryer.jux.com/

By Felicity Dryer

While the summer months tend to make us worry more about developing skin cancer than any other time of the year, the fact of the matter is that UV rays from the sun can easily reach us on cloudy and hazy days as well. These rays reflect off surfaces of the water, cement, sand and snow, which is why you might often see a friend come back from their ski trip with a red face!

But burned skin should be no laughing matter. In fact, the more we spend our days in the sun unprotected, the more we are putting ourselves at risk to developing skin cancer– the most common type of cancer in the United States. By reducing your exposure, protecting your skin with sunscreen and proper clothing and even avoiding those tanning salons during the colder months, you will certainly be helping your skin out.

Let’s take a closer look at this infographic to find out what else you can do to avoid skin cancer:

Click to Enlarge Image
Skin Cancer

Skin Cancer On The Rise
Skin Cancer on the rise in U.S. Your skin matters, get educated. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer, of all cancers in the U.S. 50% are skin cancer.
Brought To You By NorthWestPharmacy.com

Editor’s picks for 2013

2 Dec

banner_final2.jpgI know we still have a month left in 2013.

But with finals and holiday break coming up, I felt it would be appropriate to make a “Best of” post highlighting some of my favorite posts. Since a majority of the blog is written by me, I feel this aggregation serves as a reflection on the type of science writing I have done and the posts I enjoyed the most. But, I’ve also had some amazing guest bloggers this year and will also be including some of their posts as well. So check out the stories below in case you missed them! Thank you to all my loyal followers.

P.S. Once my thesis is over, expect big things!

Best of Layman’s Terms Media, 2013 (no particular order)

Breast cancer vaccines are nothing new: By Dorothy Hagmajer   “Am I going to die?”  That was Susan Foster’s first question when her doctor told her she had breast cancer.Continue reading

Science in the city: In the basement of the emergency medicine corridor of UF Health Jacksonville, Robert Wears, M.D., a professor in the department of emergency medicine, scans engineering books and medical journals, taking notes on his cluttered desk. He is carefully piecing together the historical puzzle of hospital safety.—> Continue reading

Eat, love and die. The short, but meaningful lives of love “bugs: Miss Plecia is all dolled up. She has been stuffing herself full of organic material and nectar in her swampy-syle pad for the past 20 days with hopes of finding her lifelong mate.—> Continue reading

What exactly is pus? Find out in 15 seconds.Wendy Corrales joins us this week to explain the gross, gooey liquid that plagues teenagers–pus!—-> Continue reading

What’s the deal with Dengue Fever? If you live in Florida, don’t ignore.As a Floridian I have somewhat become immune to the feel of a mosquito bite. The annoying quick itch sensation is quickly thwarted by the thoughtless reflex of my hand slapping the affected area and then quickly scratching up and down for a few seconds. After that, I pretty much forget about the bite.—> Continue reading

Scientist uses Instagram videos to explain anatomy concepts in 15 secondsI am always looking for people who share a passion for science and genuinely want to get others excited about it too, which is one of the main reasons I’m studying science communication. While I was in D.C. for the Science Online Climate Conference, I stayed with my friend Steph who introduced me to Wendy Corrales via Facebook. She showed me her videos and I was cracking up.—> Continue reading

UF researcher says T cells the answer to cancer vaccines: John “Bobby” Goulding, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in the department of pathology, immunology and laboratory medicine at the University of Florida, is in a scramble to help create safe and effective vaccines to prevent and fight human respiratory viruses.—>Continue reading

Rebecca Burton is the founder and editor of Layman's Terms Media. Started in 2011, this blog has been used to exercise Rebecca's love of science writing. These posts were selected based on how much was learned throughout the writing process, or the stories that were simply the most fun.

Rebecca Burton is the founder and editor of Layman’s Terms Media. Started in 2011, this blog has been used to exercise Rebecca’s love of science writing. These posts were selected based on how much was learned throughout the writing process, or the stories that were simply the most fun.

What’s for dinner? Island fish, brah: Study shows Hawaiian restaurant menus hold clues to reef healthMost of us look at menus simply to make a quick decision about what we are going to consume in the near future and at what price. We then give it back to our server and the menu is most likely forgotten. –> Continue reading

Abusive mothers’ DNA and the economy could share the blame with Florida DCF for recent child deaths: The Florida Department of Children and Families has been under fire for the past couple of years for failing to stop child abuse and neglect, resulting in thedeaths of seven childrenwho the department said were in “no immediate danger.” —> Continue reading

Wearing goggles to surf: Kook status or Florida Red Tide?: I took a deep breath in. Smelling the saltwater has always been my ritual before starting the process of unloading my surfboard. But, this time I did not feel refreshed or enlightened by the beach breeze. My eyes started to water.—> Continue reading

Native Florida wildlife caught on camera: By Michael Stone Wildlife photographer Michael Stone, a graduate student in science/health communications at the University of Florida, posts the different species and subspecies he sees in his online catalog.—> Continue reading

Great whites use stored liver oil to power through ocean “road trips”Bears, sea lions and whales rely on their external blubber to power through hibernations and migrations. For them, a little extra flab is crucial to their survival.—> Continue reading

 Sea turtles are Gulf travelers, scientists sayGulf Loggerheads were always thought to be homebodies. After the females nested, they would make a home at their local beach. They would never travel too far from familiarity.—> Continue reading

AAV: from ‘Almost A Virus’ to ‘An Awesome Virus’: In 1965, adeno-associated virus (AAV) was discovered while hitching a ride into the cell with adenovirus, which is a virus that causes the fretted pink eye, cold sores and sore throats.—> Continue reading

The Skinny on Good Fats and Bad Fats: How both will affect your health: By Megan Khan Karen Diet trends come in waves. One decade we see the rejection of carbohydrates, and we shun animal products the next. Some of you reading this right now may remember the low fat craze of the 90’s–it was then that fat got a bad rep. The reputation has stuck so much that “fat” is now considered an insult.—> Continue reading

Will tiny drones cure Floridians’ cynicism toward hurricanes? Most residents of Florida–a state constantly pummeled by tropical storms and hurricanes—have become overly cynical of the often hyped-up weather news warning that the latest tropical action in the Gulf of Mexico or off the coast of the Atlantic Ocean could be deadly. —> Continue reading

Croaking Cuban frogs Create Competition in South Florida: Southern Florida, particularly the more metropolitan areas such as Miami and Ft. Lauderdale are definitely not known for being quiet areas. The constant honking of horns, people yelling in multiple languages and bold headlines of bizarre news events make South Florida a melting pot of noise. —>Continue reading

Why Nemo would face an inevitable mid-life crisis: A finding Nemo 2 would not be Disney friendlyIf you’ve seen the movie Finding Nemo, and didn’t like it–shame on you! Pixar movies always have the right amount of humor, recognizable voices and great graphics that make them appealing to both children and adults. Their sequels are almost always just as profitable as the originals, and they’re ability to make animation seem like reality is superb! But, although I love this movie, there are serious factual flaws.—>Continue reading

Monkeys in Florida? iPhonatography from a jungle in Central FloridaAs I pondered ideas on what to do on Memorial Day Monday, I decided I needed to explore the land-locked area of Florida I often complain about, being a spoiled coastal girl who is accustomed to living near a beach. A friend mentioned a trip he took where he saw wild monkeys on an island in the middle of Silver River, near Silver Springs, Fla. After doing some preliminary research (mainly hear-say from Gainesville locals) I found out that  Silver River was the filming site the early Tarzan movies. Some of the monkeys escaped, bred and hence that is why there are wild monkeys in Florida.—> Continue reading

When did eating become so confusing? Tips to simplify your diet: By Megan Khan Karen There are hundreds of diets that are said to make you healthier than you have ever been, rejuvenate your body, avoid certain cancers, help you fit in your high school jeans and the list goes on. From the Atkins diet to the current “juicing” craze, we are fed heaps of “truths” about certain diets that are usually based on a tiny kernel of truth and a whole lot of anecdotal “evidence.”—> Continue reading

Warning: Smoothies can cause sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgiaIt’s that time of year again. Summer. Hot. Humid.The urge to swap that hot coffee for a refreshing smoothie may overcome you. But beware, drinking cold drinks can cause a condition called sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia.—> Continue reading

What do hula-hoopers, big-wave surfers and composers have in common? A state of “flow”For those of you who do follow my blog, you may have realized I’m a pretty big hoop enthusiast, who also enjoys an everyday runner’s high. Although the physical benefits of running and spinning a circle on various parts of my body may seem obvious, it’s the mental state I’m in when I go on a 5-mile run, or do a freestyle hoop-dance to a 10-track playlist that brings me back after a long workday.—> Continue reading

Be swamp-conscious: Pet owners should be aware of deadly pathogen in Gainesville: By Jackson Presser Pythium insidiosum is common in stagnant, swampy water (lakes/ponds with water temperatures ranging from 68F-95F) worldwide, and the very type of water that is a staple of Gainesville and surrounding areas.  Pythiosis affects its host depending on how it is introduced. Dogs, horses, cattle and other mammals can be infected simply by wading or drinking water that has been tainted with the infection. —> Continue reading

Movember coming to an end, Dollar Shave Club asking for donations

24 Nov

moEditor’s note: I received an email from the Dollar Shave Club asking me to help promote their cause on Layman’s Terms Media. Because this is a science and health blog, their cause seemed fitting. Check out the press release below to see how you can help fight prostate and testicular cancer while receiving discounts on razors!

Dollar Shave Club is raising money for the Movember Foundation to fight prostate and testicular cancer and mental health challenges. We are running a campaign that results in a $10 donation for every single Movember referral.

Here’s what you do to start earning that Movember MOola:

1. Register your Movember page at dollarshaveclub.com/movember
2. We’ll send you a unique proMO code.
3. Share your proMO code on your blog and tell your readers to use it when they sign up at dollarshaveclub.com.
4. Your readers get great razors for a few bucks a month, you raise money for Movember without begging for donations. Everyone wins.

Now get growing!

 

 

Could dust bring the next pandemic as quickly as birds?

5 Nov
Calli Breil is a master's student in the science and health communications program at the University of Florida, and is planning to graduate  in 2014.  Calli is particularly interested in writing about pathogens.  You can find her at callibreil.com, on LinkedInhttp://www.linkedin.com/in/callibreil and https://twitter.com/CalliBreil.

Calli Breil is a master’s student in the science and health communications program at the University of Florida, and is planning to graduate in 2014.  Calli is particularly interested in writing about pathogens and disease.

By Calli Breil/Contributing blogger 

(blog, Twitter, LinkedIn)

Dust and dirt can travel thousands of miles, across oceans, land and just about anywhere the wind can carry them.  In fact,  50 million metric tons of dust travel from Africa to Florida every August and September.  The common equivalent to 50 million metric tons is 100 empire state buildings!

So, we get a lot of dust from Africa, who cares?

Well, if we aren’t going to worry about the potentially toxic dust, perhaps we should worry about the microorganisms that cling on to dust particles for a free trip.

People have known for many years that microorganisms can travel the world through dust plumes. But, the real question is, “What is the risk?”

Although not equivocally proven, there have been theories that the foot-and-mouth outbreak in England in 2001 could have been caused from these dust plumes.

Why could it have been the dust plumes? 

Well, that year there happened to be an extraordinary amount of dust (that could potentially carry disease) traveling to northern England.

Why couldn’t it just have been a normal outbreak of the disease? 

England hadn’t seen the disease for years.  The outbreak also happened to break out ten days after the dust plumes hit – the exact incubation period for the infection.

If you doubt how troublesome the outbreak was, just know that it cost $1 billion dollars to slaughter the animals that were (or could have been) infected, as well as the massive amounts of revenue lost.

The risk is no laughing matter.

Topsoil across the globe can carry millions of bacteria, hundreds of thousands of fungi, and millions of viruses per gram of soil.

Once this soil is tossed into the air, it is like a salad of potential harm.  After all, about 50 percent of childhood diseases are respiratory (Griffin, 2007).

Some argue (and they would be right) that we don’t actually know if these dust plumes cause disease.

It is highly speculative, because there is no concrete evidence that ties the dust plumes to a disease outbreak – just very strong correlations.  But others have been much more… direct… about their conclusions.

For example, the Guardian reported that dust storms and plumes are “thought to  be responsible for spreading lethal meningitis spores through semi-arid central-arid Africa, where up to 250,000 people, particularly children, contract the disease each year.”

The same article brings up the fair point that scientists are now believing there is a link between dust and influenza, Sars, foot-and-mouth (as I have mentioned above) and other respiratory diseases.

Fortunately, new research is trying to find what other diseases could be transmitted through dust plumes.

For example, Andrew Schuerger’s DART (Dust at Altitude Recovery Technology) has helped find that pathogens responsible for problems in wheat, cacao beans, elm, flower and fruit rots and nail infections diseases are all found in these dust plumes.  In fact, some pathogens that are seen in pulmonary infections are also found in dust.

The real question is, “Do these pathogens get us sick?”

After all, there are tons of pathogens all around us. But not all of them are dangerous.

The point is that these dust plumes could be responsible for many outbreaks that we haven’t discovered the cause of, such as the foot-and-mouth outbreak in England.  And we won’t know until scientists, like Schuerger at the University of Florida, find out what the real risk is to us, our communities and our industries.

References:

Vidal, J. (2009).  Dust storms spread deadly diseases worldwide.  The Guardian.  Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/sep/27/dust-storms-diseases-sydney

Griffin, D.W. (2007).  Atmospheric movement and microorganisms in clouds of desert dust and implications for human health.  Clinical microbiology reviews.  P. 459-477.  Doi: 10.1128/CMR.00039-06

Special thanks to Andrew Schuerger, who works in the plant pathogens department at the University of Florida, for sparing time to talk at the Science Writers Conference 2013. 

Breast cancer vaccines are nothing new

4 Nov
Dorothy Hagmajer is a sophomore studying public relations at the University of Florida. This story confirmed her interest in health sciences and sparked an interest in health reporting. Hagmajer considers herself a novice writer, but expert dog-petter.

Dorothy Hagmajer is a sophomore studying public relations at the University of Florida. This story confirmed her interest in health sciences and sparked an interest in health reporting. Hagmajer considers herself a novice writer, but expert dog-petter.

 

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of contributing bloggers beginning their careers as journalists/public relations professionals at the University of Florida. Please see my earlier post about getting journalists excited about science writing early on.

 

By Dorothy Hagmajer 

“Am I going to die?”

That was Susan Foster’s first question when her doctor told her she had breast cancer.

Thirty-nine radiation treatments and nine chemotherapy treatments later, Foster had her answer.

In 2013, an estimated 232,000 American women are asking themselves that same question, according to the American Cancer Society. Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in women, surpassed only by lung cancer.

It’s facts like these that have spurred the search for a breast cancer vaccine.

Recently, a clinic in Cleveland, Ohio set 2015 as a tentative year for the beginning of clinical trials on a vaccine they developed, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

The vaccine is intended to create an immune response triggered by certain proteins expressed only in breast tumors – specifically, alpha-lactalbumin, according to research published in 2010 in Nature Medicine.

The protein is typically expressed during late pregnancy and lactation, and appears in high amounts in the majority of breast cancer tumors.

Following a series of trials with mice that were genetically predisposed to grow mouse breast tumors, the vaccine appears to be ready for its first steps to becoming a reality.

Sort of. Continue reading

Can exercise potentially help treat prostate cancer symptoms? UF researchers want to find out

21 Oct
Savanna Wood a junior studying Public Relations at the University of Florida. Wood was excited to contribute to Layman's Terms Media to try a new type of writing. "I wanted to attempt science and health writing because it is a topic I am very unfamiliar with. I am hoping that attempting different types of writing will help me find my calling. I am excited to continue to expand my knowledge of health science."

Savanna Wood a junior studying public relations at the University of Florida. Wood was excited to contribute to Layman’s Terms Media to try a new type of writing. “I wanted to attempt science and health writing because it is a topic I am very unfamiliar with. I am hoping that attempting different types of writing will help me find my calling. I am excited to continue to expand my knowledge of health science.”

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of contributing bloggers beginning their careers as journalists/public relations professionals at the University of Florida. Please see my earlier post about getting journalists excited about science writing early on.

By: Savanna Wood

Researchers in the department of applied physiology and kinesiology at the University of Florida are currently studying rats to discover how muscle decrease, a symptom of prostate cancer, can be reduced or avoided.

Because one in six men are diagnosed with prostate cancer throughout their lifetime, Peter Adhihetty, who holds a doctorate in biology, and his partners are tirelessly working to understand how a patient’s mitochondria is related to muscle mass and function decrease caused by prostate cancer.

Linda Nguyen, a fourth-year Ph.D. student at the University of Florida who works with Adhihetty, said mitochondria, or the “powerhouse of the south,” are important because they produce an energy-rich substance, adenosine triphosphate, or ATP.  ATP is a source of energy used in physiological reactions such as cell division, and is otherwise known as the currency of metabolism.

Understanding how these energy-rich organelles, or subunits of these cells, affect the organs and tissues will help researchers discover ways to minimize the impact that prostate cancer has on muscles. Nguyen said she hopes this will eventually lead to natural treatment options, minimizing the need for drugs.

Rat bootcamp

To analyze the muscle complications that result from the tumors, Adhihetty and his assistants culture and grow cancer cells and inject them directly into a rat’s prostate, Nguyen said.

To do this, the researchers divide the rats into two groups: mice with tumors and mice without tumors.  Those rats are then sub-divided into an active group and a sedentary group.

Because this research project is done through the exercise physiology department, dividing the rats into groups based on levels of exercise helps to study how/if exercise directly effects cancer, Nguyen said.

After the cancer is fully developed inside the rat, the active groups of rats are ready to attend research boot camp. The rats train for an hour a day, five days a week, for seven weeks. Nguyen said the rodents are placed on treadmills to ensure they are equally exercised.

“After seven weeks, the animals are euthanized and the tissues are harvested,” Nguyen said.

To aid in the process of tissue harvesting, Dr. Adhihetty offers volunteer positions to some of his students. Courtney Criswell, applied physiology and kinesiology major, is responsible for pulverizing the tissues that are broken up into difference muscle groups.

The organs and tissues are dissected from the rats, put into tubes and frozen with liquid nitrogen.

“My job is to take those tissues and to pulverize them and put them into a powder, while keeping them cold at the same time,” Criswell said.

Alaa Elannoan, a student of Dr. Adhihetty, started his volunteering just like Criswell did. He is now onto the step after the pulverizing of the tissue: western blotting.

“This is one of the many experiments that we do with proteins and tissues to analyze them,” said Elannoan.  “This two-to-three day process extracts proteins from the pulverized tissue and turns it into a liquid.”

Nguyen said that after the tissues are harvested and liquefied, they are analyzed to further understand the affect that mitochondria have on muscle function in a prostate cancer patient.

A main limitation of this study is that the tumor does not always form in the rat. Nguyen said it is important to remember that these obstacles are not uncommon when it comes to forcing cancer into action. The cancer cell injection has to be completely accurate in order to achieve results.

Adhietty and his colleagues are continuing to collaborate with other researchers in the department to get a better idea of prostate cancer as a disease.

“We like to further the understanding of how cancer affects skeletal muscles on the mitochondria and how exercise can lower the deficit. We then can pass our results on and let them be used for clinical research,” Nguyen said.