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April 30, 2002

Advances gives a glimpse of the many significant research projects at the university. Tell us about your discoveries. E-mail:

Asthma study funded
The Medical School has received a large federal grant to help contain asthma, a fast-growing disease that now afflicts an estimated 10 percent of the U.S. population.

The National Institutes of Health has awarded grants, totaling $19 million, to the Medical School to conduct three groundbreaking studies to find answers about asthma.

“What we are dealing with is an asthma epidemic,” says William W. Busse, professor of medicine and lead researcher for the studies. “In order for us to unlock some of the mysteries surrounding asthma, we must continue our efforts to develop a better understanding of the disease.”

Busse and his team of researchers will use the NIH funds to attack asthma from three angles: The role of viruses, the severity of illness and its molecular makeup.

Hearing and the heart
Is there an association between cardiovascular disease and age-related hearing loss — particularly in women who’ve had a heart attack?

A Medical School study adds to mounting evidence that the answer may be yes. “Our findings seem to support previous research that found a link between cardiovascular disease, its risk factors (such as cigarette smoking) and age-related hearing loss,” says lead author Peter Torre III, a post-doctoral fellow with the Medical School’s department of population health sciences.

As part of the Cochlear Epidemiology of Hearing Loss Study, cochlear function was tested in about 1,600 study participants, ages 52 to 97. Researchers found that participants with a history of cardiovascular disease were on average 54 percent more likely to have impaired cochlear function than other adults.

Curbside sterilization for gun-shy suburbs
University researchers, working with an Illinois city and a Milwaukee County Zoo curator, hope to surgically scale down an urban deer herd that has outgrown its welcome. Sterilizing female deer should eventually, and non-lethally, pare deer numbers in the Highland Park herd, says Nancy Mathews, a wildlife ecologist at College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.

Shooting remains the most cost-effective and reliable deer-control method, Mathews says. But many people object to firearm use in urban settings, and others frown on all lethal culling methods. Concerns about chronic wasting disease make relocating deer less acceptable, Mathews says.

UW–Madison is the first in the nation to offer surgical sterilization on free-ranging urban deer. Deer are caught in net traps, sedated and carried to the nearby operating room — a retired ambulance contributed by the Highland Park Police Department. Fast turnaround minimizes animal stress.

Getting health info online
Women who effectively use health information on the Internet appear to make ongoing use of varied resources there, according to researchers. The scientists’ findings are based on their evaluation of an experimental Internet site they created for women with breast cancer. Researchers headed by communication scientist Suzanne Pingree are exploring the issue of reaching traditionally underserved groups, such as rural and African-American women, as people turn to the Internet for health information. Pingree and researchers at the Center for Health Systems Research and Analysis are trying to bridge the “digital divide” by examining how women use Web health information, and usage patterns that yield best results.

Tags: research