Alcohol consumption can be characterized as a chronic environmental stress to the organism. Alcohol exposure results in complex cellular and organismal adaptations to respond to and manage this insult. In most individuals, modest alcohol consumption over a life-time does not result in substantive health risks, and in some systems, may actually be protective. Yet, in other individuals, or with more substantive consumption, chronic alcohol abuse increases risk for disease, including alcoholic liver disease (ALD), one of the most clinically important diseases resulting from chronic alcohol abuse. What marks the transition from a benign or even protective effect of ethanol to the transition to a pathophysiological development of ALD ?
Understanding the genetic, molecular, cellular and physiological responses to ethanol that “tip the balance” from an adaptive response to a maladaptive/ pathological response is critical to the development of therapeutic strategies to prevent and/or reverse ALD.
The Center will focus on four thematic areas of investigation to understand the mechanisms for ALD:
1. Measuring biochemical and molecular markers of ethanol-induced stress,
2. Assessing cellular responses to ethanol-induced stress,
3. Understanding the integrative organismal adaptations to ethanol
4. Translating advances from the laboratory to human clinical experiments.
Exploratory/Pilot projects in each of the thematic areas will allow for the exploration of novel areas of investigation that exploit the interdisciplinary expertise of Center members. The Administrative Core will facilitate these interdisciplinary interactions via organization of interactive meetings, including bi-monthly meetings of the Center membership, invited seminar speakers and an annual retreat.
The Animal Models and Cell Isolation Core, as well as a Clinical Core, will allow for synergistic advances in basic and clinical investigations by providing biological and clinical samples to Center members to test specific hypotheses.