From the Director

Balz Frei, Ph.D.
Director & Endowed Chair
Linus Pauling Institute
Professor of Biochemistry & Biophysics

The year 2001 will mark the 100th anniversary of Linus Pauling's birth, and we are excited about the celebrations planned by LPI and Oregon State University. Linus Pauling was-and still remains-by far the most famous OSU alumnus (class of '22). He is the only individual ever to win two unshared Nobel Prizes (Chemistry '54, Peace '62). OSU is planning a number of events on campus, and LPI is organizing a three-day scientific and public conference in Portland, Oregon, called "Diet and Optimum Health." The purpose of this conference is to honor Dr. Pauling and present state-of-the-art scientific information on the role of dietary constituents in preventing and treating cancer, heart disease, and neurodegenerative diseases-a scientific discipline founded by Dr. Pauling in the late 1960s called "orthomolecular medicine." We have been able to put together an exciting program with many of the leading scientists in the field. Further information on the conference is provided on pages 8 and 9 of this newsletter.

There will also be a wonderful opportunity for LPI to honor the important contributions of Linus Pauling's wife when we fill the Ava Helen Pauling Chair next year. We are negotiating with an outstanding, world-renowned scientist and hope to be successful in recruiting him to LPI and OSU. More on this Chair and its recipient in the next Newsletter.

Another exciting development at LPI is the launching of the Micronutrient Information Center (MIC) this fall (see the article on this page). The purpose of the MIC is to provide scientifically accurate, up-to-date information to the public and the media about micronutrients, vitamins, and phytochemicals (plant chemicals that may affect health). Much of the current information available to the public is conflicting, incomplete, or incorrect and is often tainted by commercial interests. The MIC will provide a useful public service by summarizing the scientific evidence for the role of vitamins and other microconstituents of food in disease prevention and treatment. The MIC will initially include all the vitamins-minerals and selected phytochemicals will be added later as the information is prepared. Dr. Jane Higdon in the Institute has done an outstanding job at synthesizing a vast amount of scientific information in an accurate and balanced manner. We are looking forward to your feedback on the MIC to further improve its quality and usefulness.

As in previous years, some visiting scientists worked at LPI this year. Dr. Eric Decker, a Professor of Food Science at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, spent a six-month sabbatical in my laboratory studying the potential role of carnosine in inhibiting oxidation of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the "bad cholesterol" associated with atherosclerosis and heart disease. Carnosine, a compound found in meat, has been shown to accumulate in human tissues. Experiments demonstrated that carnosine provides some protection against LDL oxidation, but it was less effective than histidine, an amino acid structurally related to carnosine and present in human blood at concentrations exceeding those of carnosine. This observation opens up a possible role for histidine in inhibiting atherosclerosis. Dr. Decker enjoyed LPI and Oregon so much that he has applied for a faculty position in the Department of Food Science and Technology at OSU, with the possibility of obtaining a split appointment in LPI.

Dr. Francesco Visioli from the University of Milan, Italy, returned to LPI for a second visit (see his article on page 13 of this newsletter). He completed work begun last year in the Frei and Hagen laboratories demonstrating improved production of nitric oxide in human endothelial cells by vitamin C and lipoic acid. These findings have important implications because adequate levels of nitric oxide are necessary to maintain healthy blood vessels and lower the risk of a heart attack and stroke. Related to these observations, my colleagues at Boston University, Drs. Joseph Vita and John Keaney Jr., in collaboration with me recently showed that, in addition to vitamin C, drinking tea promotes normal blood vessel function in patients with heart disease. I am also pleased to announce that Drs. Keaney and Vita and I have been awarded a five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health to further investigate these intriguing findings and to study the underlying mechanisms. The ultimate goal of these projects is to identify efficient dietary and supplemental treatments for heart disease and stroke.

Last updated November, 2000


Honoring a Scientific Giant with Nutritional Research Toward Longer, Better Lives

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