Research Collaboration between Nixon-Pauly Labs is Monthly Publication Highlight

Jul 31, 2013

An article published in the Neurobiology of Disease that helps further the science on how alcohol abuse damages the brain has been named the UK College of Pharmacy Publication Highlight for July.

The article is entitled “Microglial Activation is Not Equivalent to Neuroinflammation in Alcohol-Induced Neurodegeneration: The Importance of Microglia Phenotype.”

Authors include S. Alex Marshall, graduate student, Justin A. McClain, Postdoctoral Scholar, Deann M. Hopkins, Technician, James R. Pauly, Professor and Kimberly Nixon, Associate Professor, all from the UK College of Pharmacy’s Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences as well as former Postdoctoral Scholar, Matthew L. Kelso, who is now an Assistant Professor, at the University of Nebraska.

Excessive alcohol intake, characteristic of the alcohol use disorders (alcoholism), results in brain damage (neurodegeneration). Scientists have been unable to identify how exactly alcohol causes brain damage, however, it has been hypothesized that alcohol-induced brain damage and related impairments in decision-making and cognition drives the downward spiral into alcohol addiction. A recent hot approach in the alcoholism drug discovery field was to target activated microglia and brain inflammation (neuroinflammation). This paper dispels the notion that all alcohol-induced, activated microglia – the chief driver of this previous hypothesis – creates brain damage. Using multiple scientific approaches, this publication shows,, that microglia are only partially activated by excessive alcohol intake and that the blood brain barrier remains intact. In fact, this research concludes that mere activation of microglia is not equivalent to neuroinflammation, and if anything, partially activated microglia may promote recovery.

“This research is vitally important to neuroscience and addiction research and challenges the current dogma,” said Linda Dwoskin, Associate Dean for Research for the UK College of Pharmacy. “The results described in this publication have major implications for therapeutics targeting inflammation for the treatment of alcohol-use disorders. Kudos to Drs. Nixon and Pauly on their innovative research.”

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