Balz Frei

From the Director

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

There have been some exciting developments in LPI over the past six months, related both to research progress and personnel. Three recent studies by LPI researchers have been featured in the national and international news media. LPI faculty Dr. Tory Hagen, together with UC-Berkeley scientist Dr. Bruce Ames (the first recipient of the LPI Prize for Health Research), published a series of papers in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA showing that a combination of two naturally occurring compounds, acetyl-L-carnitine and alpha-lipoic acid, improves physical activity and memory performance of old rats. Dr. Hagen also described the mechanisms underlying these beneficial effects, which are largely related to improved function of mitochondria, the power plants within our cells, and decreased oxidative damage to critical biomolecules. Dr. Hagen's research may have important implications for maintaining human health through old age, thereby extending people's "health span." The second study that received media attention was published by LPI faculty Dr. Maret Traber and one of her students, LPI graduate fellow Angela Mastaloudis. This study found that intense exercise can increase oxidative stress and cause metabolic damage in humans, which may counteract some of the known health benefits of less intense exercise. Dr. Traber and Ms. Mastaloudis are now planning to investigate whether supplementation with antioxidant vitamins C and E can prevent the damage associated with intense exercise. The third study, co-authored by myself and another LPI graduate fellow, Jung Suh, was recently published in the medical journal Lancet. In collaboration with researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, we found that patients receiving heart transplants and given a combination of vitamins C and E in large doses developed significantly less coronary arteriosclerosis than patients given a placebo. Coronary arteriosclerosis severely limits the long-term survival of cardiac transplant recipients, as their arteries tend to thicken and clog very rapidly following a transplant. Our findings may also have value in other types of organ transplants, such as kidney, lung and liver, or following angioplasty, which is a common medical procedure for patients with coronary artery disease but one that often has to be repeated within a few months when arteries once again become narrowed.

I am also very pleased to report that two LPI faculty have been appointed to important leadership positions at Oregon State University. Dr. David Williams was appointed Director of the Marine/Freshwater Biomedical Sciences Center. This Center promotes research and training activities that utilize aquatic research models, particularly trout, to investigate environmentally related human diseases. Research programs of the Center investigators are currently focused on the study of cancer and neurotoxicity, which is a good fit with LPI’s mission to determine the role of dietary constituents in the prevention of human chronic diseases, including cancer and neuro-degenerative diseases. LPI faculty Dr. Joe Beckman was appointed Director of OSU's Environmental Health Sciences Center. This Center provides resources for the coordination and stimulation of interdisciplinary basic research and training related to the effects of environmental agents on human health, again with cancer as one major focus area. The Marine/Freshwater Biomedical Sciences Center and the Environmental Health Sciences Center are funded principally by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, a branch of the National Institutes of Health. While acting as Center Directors, Drs. Beckman and Williams will maintain their positions in LPI and continue to actively contribute to its scientific research. Congratulations to both of them for these prestigious appointments!

In addition, I have the pleasure of announcing the addition of another faculty to LPI—Dr. Tammy Bray will join the Institute as a Senior Scientist. She comes to OSU from The Ohio State University to become Dean of the recently formed College of Health and Human Sciences. While Dr. Bray's primary appointment is the Dean's position, she is planning to continue an active, extramurally funded research program affiliated with LPI. Dr. Bray's research interests are the role of oxidative stress and antioxidants in human health, especially as they relate to diabetes and protein energy malnutrition, and the role of nutrition in the regulation of gene expression. We would like to extend a warm welcome to Dr. Bray and her students and post-docs, who will join the Institute this summer.

With three Directors and a Dean and close ties to two other research Centers and a College with complementary missions, LPI is becoming a hub for health research at OSU. We are hoping to capitalize on this accumulation of scientific leadership in the Institute to initiate a fund-raising campaign for "Pauling Hall", a new building on campus that would bring these units together physically and further enhance our effectiveness to conduct research to improve people's lives and health around the world.

Drs. Maret Traber, Balz Frei, Tory Hagen, 
Joseph Beckman, David Williams and Roderick Dashwood
LPI Principal Investigators:  Drs. Maret Traber, Balz Frei, Tory Hagen,
Joseph Beckman, David Williams and Roderick Dashwood.

Last updated May, 2002

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

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