Location: Diet, Genomics and Immunology Lab
2006 Annual Report
Numerous epidemiological studies have suggested that human consumption of diets rich in fruits and vegetables containing high levels of phytochemicals can lower the risk for human chronic diseases, such as cancer and cardiovascular conditions. Phenolics and their conjugates are phytochemicals commonly found in the plant-derived foods of a typical American diet, and are reported to have beneficial health effects. In plants, phenolics are found alone, or conjugated with other classes of phytochemicals. Phenolic conjugates consist of various groups of phytochemicals, including phenylpropenic acid amides. Phenylpropenic acid amides are found in plants such as bell pepper, green onion, coffee, and cocoa, and are consumed by humans via plant-derived foods and products. However, the potential biological effects of these phytochemicals have not been investigated and their long-term health effects remain unknown.
It is hypothesized that phenolic conjugates can affect cellular and molecular processes related to human health, thereby helping treat and/or prevent chronic diseases such as heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and cancer. However, without adequate information concerning cellular absorption, as well as cellular and molecular actions of conjugates, it is not possible to accurately propose and/or assess their beneficial effects on human health, relative to human nutrition. Therefore, this research project focused on absorption. The study of cellular and molecular actions of phenolic conjugates is proposed in order to acquire information on cellular absorption and the molecular functions of phytochemicals in order to provide an understanding of their cellular and molecular mechanisms and to elucidate their beneficial effects on human chronic diseases.
Heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and cancer are serious human chronic diseases affecting millions of Americans. These diseases are attributable to multiple biological factors. However, inflammation and inflammation-related cellular events are currently believed to play important roles in initiating these diseases. Compounds suppressing these cellular events have been explored and produced by nutritional and pharmaceutical companies. In the nutritional sense, if preventive and/or therapeutic effects of these phytochemicals on disease can be accomplished through daily diets, it would be a natural, effective, and economical means for providing reasonable solutions to modern health crises related to chronic diseases. Traditionally, plants have demonstrated a potential for preventing human diseases because of typical long-term exposures to the phytochemicals they contain, in contrast to medicines providing therapeutic treatment on a short-term basis. However, there is still a huge gap in knowledge of the health effects from plants and their phytochemicals. A greater research effort is needed to study new phytochemicals. In this Laboratory, phenylpropenic acid amides found in bell pepper and cocoa have been studied and found to have great potential in modulating cellular and molecular events related to heart disease and cancer (the number 1 and number 2 causes of American mortality). In this proposed study, a mechanism-based approach is used to identify the cellular and molecular events critical for chronic diseases. Cellular and molecular processes associated with mitigating disease states are investigated, including signal transduction pathways, cell-cell interaction, cell activation, cell proliferation, and cell death (apoptosis). Techniques/methods used in this study include cell culture, reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), flow-cytometry, several biochemical assays, and animal models. These tools are utilized to identify specific cellular pathways and molecular mechanisms responsible for purported or newly-proposed benefits of phenylpropenic acid amides on human health.
FY 2007 1. Complete assays for the conjugates in biological samples. 2. Complete cell studies related to biological activities. 3. Initiate and continue cell signal studies (e.g., phosphorylation, kinases, COX I and II). 4. Initiate and conduct animal studies based on an in vitro study. FY 2008 1. Complete cell signal studies. 2. Initiate and continue cell-cell interaction study. 3. Continue animal study.
FY 2009 1. Complete cell-cell interaction study. 2. Complete animal study.
In collaboration with an investigator at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the scientist studied the effects of flavonoids on glucose absorption in the intestine.
Initiated Confidential Agreement "Information Exchange related to Lycium spp. (Wolfberry)" on Oct. 5, 2005.