Designated by National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (July 18, 2016) — The University of Louisville has received a nearly $8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health for a National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism designated alcohol research center. The center is one of only 20 in the nation and the only one with a nutrition focus. It’s funding score for the grant was the best in the nation.
“We are going to take a unique focus into organ injury associated with alcohol use,” said Dr. Gregory C. Postel, interim executive vice president for health affairs at UofL. “Our researchers are going to examine the interactive role of nutrition and alcohol in the deleterious, as well as beneficial, effects of alcohol on the human body.”
Through four different projects, the research team led by Dr. Craig McClain, associate vice president for translational research and associate vice president for health affairs/research, has three specific aims:
- Facilitate interdisciplinary approaches and serve as a regional/national resource for the study of nutrition and alcohol-induced organ injury.
- Provide a robust pilot project program and comprehensive education and research training in order to develop the next generation of alcohol investigators.
- Develop potential therapeutic targets/interventions for alcohol induced organ injury based on the mechanistic research of the center and translate knowledge/interventions to the community.
“This funding will allow us to look at the problems that alcohol abuse causes, as well as the potential benefits of alcohol,” McClain said. “Our focus on dietary nutrition and abuse is unique. For example, only a small proportion of people who abuse alcohol will develop liver disease. We believe that the type of dietary fat intake is critical in the development of alcohol-induced organ injury.”
To find answers, the center will initially focus on four projects that will:
- Evaluate the role of dietary unsaturated fat in the development/progression of alcoholic liver disease.
- Evaluate alcohol-induced alterations in the gut-liver axis. Researchers will examine the role of histone deacetylases (HDACs) in both the intestine and liver in alcohol-induced gut-barrier dysfunction and steatohepatitis and the role of probiotics and dietary HDAC inhibitors in preventing/treating experimental ALD.
- Determine mechanisms by which maternal alcohol consumption causes mental retardation in the offspring. Researchers will evaluate epigenetic mechanisms by which alcohol induces apoptosis and teratogenesis, and by which the nutraceutical, sulforaphane, provides epigenetic protection.
- Evaluate mechanisms by which alcohol causes increased susceptibility to acute lung injury. They postulate that chronic alcohol intake triggers extracellular matrix remodeling resulting in “repavement” of lung tissue with a proinflammatory extracelluar matrix and that this process can be modulated by dietary intervention.