From the Director

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

Photo of Balz Frei at his desk, with a portrait of Linus Pauling in the background

Another six months have passed since our last Newsletter, and the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University continues to prosper and grow. I am very pleased to report that we have now filled three new faculty positions in the Institute. As I had mentioned in the last Newsletter, over 140 candidates applied for these positions. Following very rigorous evaluations and interviews by our search committee, chaired by OSU Distinguished Professor George Bailey, we picked three top candidates based on their outstanding academic credentials and the relevance of their research interests to the mission of the Institute. Although these candidates had obtained competitive offers from other universities, such as Purdue University and the University of California at San Diego, they all accepted our offers to join the Linus Pauling Institute.

It is with great pleasure that I introduce these faculty to you. In May, Tory Hagen will join the Institute. He has a doctorate in biochemistry from Emory University and is currently a post-doctoral fellow in Professor Bruce Ames' laboratory at the University of California at Berkeley. Dr. Hagen's primary interest is in the role of mitochondria, which are the power plants of cells, in the aging process. He has published very significant work on the impairment of mitochondrial function in aged cells and tissues and how mitochondrial decay may be stopped or even reversed by dietary supplementation with carnitine and lipoic acid (see Dr. Hagen's article in this Newsletter). Dr. Hagen is now planning to explore the role of mitochondrial decay in heart muscle and the brain and the related problems of heart failure and age-related neurodegenerative disorders. In his letter of recommendation, Professor Ames wrote that Dr. Hagen "is clearly going to be a scientific star," and I fully agree with this assessment.

The second faculty to join the Institute, in June, will be Maret Traber, who holds a doctorate in nutrition, from the University of California at Berkeley, where she is currently working as an Associate Research Biochemist. It is fair to say, therefore, that there will be a substantial brain drain from Berkeley to the Linus Pauling Institute in the next few months! Dr. Traber's primary interest and expertise are in the area of vitamin E metabolism, where she has contributed many landmark papers and is considered one of the world's leading experts (see Dr. Traber's article in this Newsletter). Her research at the Linus Pauling Institute will continue this work on basic questions of vitamin E metabolism in humans and also address the question of how vitamin E affects degenerative diseases related to oxidative stress. In particular, Dr. Traber will investigate how this antioxidant vitamin may protect the skin against sunlight and UV-induced damage leading to cancer and prevent cigarette smoke-induced oxidative tissue damage related to lung cancer and emphysema.

The third new faculty member of the Institute is Roderick Dashwood, who has a doctorate from Portsmouth University in England and was a post-doctoral fellow many years ago here at Oregon State University. Dr. Dashwood is currently an Associate Professor in environmental biochemistry at the University of Hawaii and will join the Institute in August as a tenured Associate Professor. Dr. Dashwood's interest and expertise are in carcinogenesis, particularly colon cancer, and how dietary constituents may contribute to or prevent colon carcinogenesis. He is an internationally recognized expert in cancer chemoprevention and is examining the mechanisms by which chlorophyll and antioxidants in tea called catechins inhibit the cancer process. I am extremely pleased and excited that we have been able to attract these three outstanding scientists to the Institute!

Another notable event in recent months was the awarding of pilot project grants by the Linus Pauling Institute to four faculty at Oregon State University. More information on the awardees and their projects can be found on page 5. Finally, another major event was the Open House that the Linus Pauling Institute hosted last November, to which we invited our three advisory committees. All of the committee members, including Dr. Linus Pauling Jr., were very pleased with our progress.

The research in my own laboratory and the continued collaboration with my colleagues at Boston University has yielded some exciting results recently. We have been able to demonstrate that in healthy subjects daily supplementation with 200 International Units or more of vitamin E results in a substantial reduction in oxidative damage to the body's lipids and lipoproteins, and that daily supplementation of coronary artery disease patients with 500 mg of vitamin C normalizes the function and relaxation of their arteries. Both of these findings are relevant to the prevention and treatment of heart disease by vitamins C and E. With the research in my laboratory, the research programs brought into the Institute by the three new faculty members, and our ongoing collaborations with affiliate faculty and pilot program project awardees at Oregon State University, the Linus Pauling Institute continues to make many important discoveries on the role of vitamins, micronutrients and microconstituents of food in maintaining human health and preventing and treating disease.

Last updated May, 1998

Honoring a Scientific Giant with Research Toward Longer, Better Lives

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