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Research Newsletter-Fall/Winter 2009


Balz Frei, Ph.D.
LPI Director and Endowed Chair
Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics

Much has happened at the Linus Pauling Institute since the last Research Newsletter. In May, we held our fifth Diet and Optimum Health Conference in Portland, Oregon, with a record attendance of over 250 scientists from all over the world. At the conference, we presented the LPI Prize for Health Research to Dr. Michael Holick, a professor of medicine, physiology, and biophysics at the Boston University School of Medicine who revolutionized the understanding of vitamin D and its role in disease prevention. A summary of Dr. Holick's presentation and all the other talks at the conference can be found in this Newsletter. In August, we held our 11th annual LPI retreat at the Oregon Garden Resort near Salem, Oregon, where all the faculty, students, and research staff in LPI presented their latest findings and discussed new research directions and projects.

On September 25th, we celebrated the construction launch of the Linus Pauling Science Center, the future home of LPI at Oregon State University. Over 300 people attended the festivities, which featured numerous speakers. I had the honor of delivering the opening remarks, in which I described my first meeting with Dr. Linus Pauling on October 17, 1989, at the Linus Pauling Institute of Science and Medicine in Palo Alto, California. That also was the day of the 6.9-Richter scale Loma Prieta earthquake, which made my first encounter with Dr. Pauling a truly "earth-shaking" experience. I likened this event to the construction of the Linus Pauling Science Center, which also is an historic event—and will cause a seismic shift—for LPI and OSU. I went on to explain that the state-of-the-art research facilities that LPSC will provide for the Institute will free us "to rigorously pursue our mission to determine the role of diet, micronutrients, and lifestyle in preventing chronic disease and promoting optimum health. By extending not only lifespan but also 'healthspan'’ the Linus Pauling Institute will improve individual and public health, reduce human suffering, and help control the spiraling cost of health care. Our efforts in preventive medicine are critical for the health and economic vitality of cities, towns, and rural areas across the U.S., as communities seek to cope with an ever-increasing aging population."

Gerd Bobe, Ph.D.

Furthermore, I am very pleased to announce that a new Principal Investigator, Dr. Gerd Bobe, joined the LPI faculty in October. Dr. Bobe comes to us from the National Cancer Institute, where he was a post-doctoral Cancer Prevention Fellow for the past four years. His research focuses on identifying biomarkers in humans and animal models that are associated with colorectal cancer and are susceptible to modification by diet or dietary supplements, including micronutrients and flavonoids from fruits and vegetables. Dr. Bobe has a Master of Public Health with concentration in Public Health Nutrition from Johns Hopkins University and a Ph.D. in Animal Nutrition from Iowa State University. Dr. Bobe will be joining our Cancer Chemoprotection Program, which is directed by Dr. Rod Dashwood. We are excited about Dr. Bobe joining LPI and extend a warm welcome to his family.

Finally, LPI faculty have been exceptionally successful in securing several grants from the National Institutes of Health funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Dr. Joseph Beckman, the Ava Helen Pauling Chair, was awarded a supplement to his Environmental Health Sciences Center grant, "Reducing susceptibility to environmental stress throughout the lifespan." The primary use of the funds will be to recruit new center investigators, support the career development of new faculty, and award pilot project grants to improve health and reduce environmental stress in older adults through diet and lifestyle. Dr. Emily Ho, a member of the Cancer Chemoprotection Program, was awarded a supplement to investigate "Dietary histone deacetylase inhibitors in prostate cancer prevention." The long-term goal of this project is to determine the mechanisms by which cruciferous vegetables decrease prostate cancer risk, including studies of the bioavailability in humans of dietary and supplemental sulforaphane, a dietary factor abundant in broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables. Dr. Debbie Mustacich, Research Assistant Professor, was awarded a grant to support her work on the "Prophylactic use of vitamin E for prevention of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon-induced damage." Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are cancercausing compounds produced as by-products of the burning of fossil fuels or biomass. The hypothesis underlying Dr. Mustacich's proposal is that vitamin E supplementation protects the liver and other organs from DNA damage by increasing detoxification or elimination of PAHs and their metabolites from the body. Dr. Maret Traber, our "Goddess" of vitamin E, was awarded a supplement for her grant, "Mechanisms of vitamin E function studied in zebrafish." The goal of this project is to define molecular targets altered by vitamin E deficiency using zebrafish embryos, a unique experimental system that will allow Dr. Traber to answer why vitamin E is essential for reproduction and maintaining a healthy nervous system. And last but not least, Dr. David Williams, who was recently awarded the OSU Alumni Association Distinguished Professor Award, received a supplement for his grant "PAHs: new technologies and emerging health risks." The grant, a so-called Superfund Research Program, is a multi-project, $12.3-million grant directed by Dr. Williams to investigate human health impacts from exposure to PAHs and to develop new technologies to assess exposure and risk. The supplement funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provides training and career development for Dr. Sharon Krueger, Research Assistant Professor, who will investigate "Environmental PAH mixtures as skin and transplacental carcinogens." Congratulations to all of these LPI investigators for their success in securing these competitive NIH grants!

Last updated Nov 2009