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June 2, 2000

ULM 's School of Pharmacy receives $792K grant

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences has awarded the College of Pharmacy at the University of Louisiana at Monroe a $792,000 research grant for the proposal entitled, "Dietary Restriction and Toxicant-Induced Liver Disease."

Dr. Harihara M. Mehendale, Professor and Kitty Degree Endowed Chair in Toxicology at ULM, headed a research team whose discoveries led to the grant. The work of the research team was published in several reputed journals, including Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology. The research won the Best Paper Award from the Society of Toxicology in March 1999.

This newly funded research project will run four years beginning June 1. The research project is intended to investigate the molecular mechanisms of how moderate diet restriction (caloric restriction) protects against exposure to ordinarily lethal doses of certain toxicants.

"Moderate diet restriction is known to increase life expectancy, protect from various debilitating non cancer types of diseases, as well as from incidence of cancer," Mehendale said. "Diet restriction is the single most important life style choice, that has maximum favorable impact on our quality of life. Clearly, this is a pivotal aspect of public health."

Results of the original study revealed that after only three weeks of moderate diet restriction, a normally lethal dose of a chemical toxicant that destroys the liver was no longer lethal. Further studies revealed that protection was not because the poison caused any less injury to the liver, but because the liver's ability to heal and recover from injury was substantially increased.

According to Mehendale, the new research will employ many state-of-the-art molecular biology techniques including the use of gene-knockout animal models to systematically investigate the role of various cytokines, growth factors and cellular regulatory mechanisms in control of the body's ability to repair damaged or injured tissue. Unlocking the secrets of how the body's ability to repair injured tissue is regulated is critical before physicians can devise ways of boosting tissue repair in patients and change an ordinarily hopeless prognosis into a positive outcome.

Mehendale says findings from the research will have "direct applications in medicine, where it is known that our ability to heal and recover from surgical or other types of wounds, as well as internal injuries inflicted by exposures to toxic chemicals or high doses of drugs are compromised by excessive caloric intake, high glucose, existing diseases such as diabetes, aging and by exposure to higher doses of drugs and other toxins."

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