Monday, September 24, 2007

UCD Researcher Gets Hefty Grant For Tobacco Study

UCD Researcher Gets Hefty Grant For Tobacco Study

A University of California, Davis, researcher has received a three-year $270,000 new investigator award from the Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program to study how tobacco exposure initiates complications in the lungs, leading to severe inflammatory response and chronic obstruction of the lungs.

Ayala Luria, a staff research associate in the laboratory of entomology professor Bruce Hammock, said her grant, "Oxylipin Mediators Prevent Smoke-Inducted Lung Inflammation," aims to "investigate the mechanism of action and regulatory pathways of pulmonary inflammatory-associated disease, to understand its cause, and to develop an effective treatment to prevent it."

Her research addresses a significant cause of global morbidity and mortality: Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). "This disease and its complications," she said, "are expected to become the third leading cause of death by the year of 2020."

"In our laboratory ... we found that increasing endogenous levels of anti-inflammatory mediators significantly reduce the inflammatory response," Luria said.

She further explained that "these mediators are products of arachidonic acids - polyunsaturated fatty acids with an oxygen ring - that have strong biological activity. We increase their intracellular levels by inhibiting their degradation - by the enzyme soluble epoxide hydrolase - or by molecular approaches."

Luria said the project aims to answer "an urgent demand for therapeutic involvement that will control the underlying inflammatory and destructive process" of COPD. Even when COPD patients with long tobacco use quit smoking, the "inflammatory response of many COPD patients doesn't resolve with the cessation of smoking," she said.

"We are using 30 years of knowledge of Dr. Hammock to make it applicable for a future cure."

Luria will work with Hammock and consultants Kent Pinkerton and Alan Buckpitt of the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, who previously provided guidance, training and resources.

Luria received one of five new investigator grants awarded this year by TRDRP.

She has a master's degree and doctorate in molecular biology and biochemistry from the Bar Ilan University, Ramat Gan, Israel.

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