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UCLA Campus Report: UCLA Takes On Grand Challenges Starting with Urban Sustainability

A look at some of the non-sports stories making headlines around campus

Fowler Museum Celebrating It's 50th Anniversary
Fowler Museum Celebrating It's 50th Anniversary

An occasional report from around campus that recognizes that UCLA is a school with a world-class reputation for research and innovation and whose people make real impact on the real world:

This week’s news includes UCLA tackling urban sustainability, diet tips for those with prostate cancer and how context counts for teens with anxiety disorders.

UCLA announces plan to tackle 'Grand Challenges,' starting with urban sustainability

UCLA unveiled plans on Nov. 15 designed to turn Los Angeles into a global model for urban sustainability. The project is the first of six in the UCLA Grand Challenge initiative that will unite the university's resources to tackle some of society's most pressing issues.

In a kickoff event at UCLA's Royce Hall (see video), Chancellor Gene Block described the ambitious project, "Thriving in a Hotter Los Angeles," whose goal is for the Los Angeles region to use exclusively renewable energy and local water by 2050 while protecting biodiversity and enhancing quality of life. Five additional challenges will be announced over the next few years; input from the community will help choose four of them.

"With our rich history of creating new ideas and a vibrant tradition of collaboration across disciplines, UCLA is uniquely capable of solving the most pressing issues facing society," Block said. "This is bigger than any research project we have tackled before. Each of our six UCLA Grand Challenge Projects will take on a different issue with an all-star campus-wide team of UCLA faculty, complemented by public engagement and student involvement. Our first project includes dozens of UCLA's most prominent and renowned scholars, who will create a model for sustainable living around the world."

You are what you eat: Low-fat diet changes prostate cancer tissue

Men with prostate cancer who ate a low-fat diet and took fish oil supplements had lower levels of pro-inflammatory substances in their blood and a lower cell cycle progression score — a measure used to predict cancer recurrence — than men who ate a typical Western diet, UCLA researchers found.

The findings are important because lowering the cell cycle progression (CCP) score may help prevent prostate cancers from becoming more aggressive, said lead study author William Aronson, a clinical professor of urology at UCLA and chief of urologic oncology at the West Los Angeles Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

"We found that CCP scores were significantly lower in the prostate cancer of men who consumed the low-fat fish oil diet, as compared to men who followed a higher-fat Western diet," Aronson said. "We also found that men on the low-fat fish oil diet had reduced blood levels of pro-inflammatory substances that have been associated with cancer."

For anxious children and teens, context counts, UCLA researchers say

Anxiety disorders are common in children and adolescents, affecting up to 25 percent of the youth population. Anxiety causes distress and functional impairment and, if left untreated, can result in bad grades, problems at home and increased rates of psychiatric disorders in adulthood.

These risks constitute a significant public health burden, and they underscore the importance of continued efforts to understand the cause and course of the disorder.

While earlier research found that anxious youths are apt to interpret neutral or ambiguous information as threatening, fueling the feelings of distress that characterize anxiety disorders, what happens in the brain and how the brain may be impacted has been unclear. In particular, where in the brain neutral information is transformed into "threatening" information in anxious youth has remained unknown.

Now researchers at UCLA have shown that teenagers with anxiety disorders show increased activity in a specific part of the brain, the medial prefrontal cortex, when they are interpreting a situation negatively. The results appear in the current online edition of the journal Biology of Mood and Anxiety Disorders.

UCLA in the News

UC, UCLA Hospital Workers Go on Strike

KCBS-Channel 2, KABC-Channel 7 and KTTV-Channel 11 reported today that members of a patient care and service workers union are staging a one-day strike at UCLA Health System facilities and other University of California medical centers.

How Important Is a Good-Looking Spouse?

An article in Tuesday's Huffington Post about research on factors that lead to satisfying marriages highlighted a study by UCLA psychology professors Benjamin Karney and Thomas Bradbury, who co-direct the Relationship Institute at UCLA, that found that men who felt they "lucked out" by marrying attractive wives were happier and more likely to care about their wives' needs — and, in turn, their wives were happier. Karney was quoted.

UCLA Works to Support Veterans

The new Ronald A. Katz Center for Collaborative Military Medicine at UCLA, where faculty will partner with the armed forces to address the unique challenges of healing and caring for the nation's most critically wounded warriors, was highlighted Sunday in the Los Angeles Daily News. Shannon O'Kelley, chief operating officer of the UCLA Health System, was quoted.


Samuel Culbert

Culbert, professor of human resources and organizational behavior at the UCLA Anderson School of Management, was quoted Thursday in a article about employee performance reviews. He was quoted Wednesday in a Wall Street Journal article about corporations' employee-ranking systems.