New cancer-prevention online program

Linda Bobroff, a nutrition professor and extension nutrition specialist, developed the Take Control to Reduce Your Cancer Risk extension program with the help of two staff members.

The extension program began because Bobroff found out there was funding available from the Florida Department of Health that needed to be spent before the end of the fiscal year. The program is a redo of a 15-lesson curriculum Bobroff had developed years ago called Take Control to Reduce Your Cancer Risk learn-by-mail program.

In order to make it different from what people might find by making a simple Google search, Bobroff developed the nine-module extension program to be more of a hands-on program where users complete activities related to the material and set goals.

Reading material, educational videos and non-graded self-tests are included. There is a $20 fee to enroll and there are no due dates for completing the material.  Users will have access to the program for six months, and it is available to anyone 18 and older.

— Lisandranette Rios

UF researchers to study oxytocin effects

A pair of grants totaling $3.75 million has been awarded to a pair of UF College of Pharmacy researchers to study oxytocin’s role in regulating the body’s response to stress and anxiety.

Charles Jason Frazier received a five-year, $1.875 million grant from the National Institute of Mental Health to study how oxytocin influences the brain structures that affect mood and social behavior. Eric Krause secured a five-year, $1.875 million grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. 

He will study how slightly elevated sodium levels cause changes that reduce the impact of psychological stress. Frazier is an associate professor and Krause is an assistant professor in the UF College of Pharmacy’s department of pharmacodynamics.

During his postdoctoral studies, Krause noticed animals with some salt intake and thirst appeared less stressed and more social, sparking his belief that sodium activated the neurons that produce oxytocin. From this, Frazier discovered oxytocin inhibits the brain from releasing a neurotransmitter that causes anxiety and depression in animals, validating Krause’s idea that small amounts of sodium can decrease anxiety levels.

Krause will conduct research on mice to examine how specific oxytocin receptors reduce anxious behavior and the cardiovascular system’s stress response by inhibiting a specific neurotransmitter.

— Melissa Brown

Ebola not able to spread through air, per UF professor

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa last year is known as the deadliest to date. From this came the fear that a mutation could allow the disease to spread through the air.

Marco Salemi, an associate professor at UF, and his research team analyzed the genomic sequences of Ebola that have been obtained from 1976 through 2014. They used this data to determine the chances of a mutation occurring that would cause the Ebola virus to change its mode of transmission.        

They discovered that such mutations were unlikely to have occurred in the past and were therefore unlikely to occur during the present outbreak, despite the increased rate of mutations, said Taj Azarian, the lead author of the study.

These findings have dispelled the fear of Ebola being a virus that can suddenly mutate to a point that it can become transmissible through the air.

— Melissa Brown