CONTACT: BECKY SOGLIN
2130 Medical Laboratories
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 335-6660; fax (319) 335-9917
Release: July 26, 1999
UI researchers receive grant to study how alcohol affects
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- University of Iowa Health Care
researchers have received a five-year grant for more than $1.3 million from
the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) to study how
alcohol affects the survival of neurons, the fundamental unit of the nervous
The grant was effective July 1. The NIAAA is one of
the 18 institutes that comprise the National Institutes of Health.
Michael W. Miller, Ph.D., UI professor of psychiatry
and pharmacology, and a career research scientist at the Iowa City Veterans
Affairs Medical Center, will lead the study, which focuses on nerve growth
factor (NGF), a protein that helps keep neurons alive. When NGF is blocked
by alcohol, neuronal cells die abnormally.
"We will look at how alcohol affects the mechanisms
of NGF-mediated activity," Miller said.
Using cells cultures and animal models, the research
team hopes to identify which genes are turned on and off respectively by NGF
"Our findings may be useful in developing ways to
manipulate and antagonize the effects of alcohol," Miller said.
Aside from causing fetal alcohol syndrome, alcoholism
is known to contribute to problems such as dementia, liver disease, heart
disease, pancreatitis and certain forms of cancer.
The NIAAA supports and conducts biomedical and behavioral
research on the causes, consequences, treatment and prevention of alcoholism
and alcohol-related problems. The institute also helps lead national efforts
to reduce the severe and often fatal consequences of these problems.