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BATON ROUGE, La.—Five multi-year grants totaling approximately $9.4
million have been awarded for studies by scientists at the Pennington Biomedical
The grants are as follows:
The study to promote healthy weight and fitness in U.S. Army personnel is
by principal investigator Dr. Donald A. Williamson. Co-investigators for the
four-year study are Drs. Donna Ryan, Pamela Davis Martin, Ray Allen, Tiffany
Stewart and Corby Martin. The primary aims of this research project are (1)
development of a computer-based data collection system for tracking body weight/body
fat and fitness in career soldiers, (2) development of an Internet-based intervention
to promote healthy nutrition and physical fitness and (3) testing the efficacy
of this Internet-based intervention for the prevention of weight gain and promotion
of physical fitness in career soldiers.
The Weight Loss Maintenance Trial is being conducted by principal investigator Dr. Phillip J. Brantley, joined by Drs. David Harsha, Catherine Champagne and Betty Kennedy. The study, funded for four years, focuses on the regain of weight after initial weight loss. Its purpose is to determine the effects of two innovative behavioral interventions, each designed to maintain frequent contacts, compared to a usual-care control group. If the interventions are effective, they should complement ongoing efforts to stem the obesity epidemic and ultimately prevent obesity-related cardiovascular disease.
The study of the agouti-related protein (AGRP) and its role in human obesity is headed by Dr. George Argyropoulos, working with Pennington Center collaborators Drs. Claude Bouchard, Steven Smith, Jacqueline Stephens and Eric Ravussin. The five-year study centers on control of food intake by the hypothalamus and other hormone-secreting organs. When AGRP is overexpressed in animals, they develop obesity. The scientists will try to find mutations in this gene that can predispose humans to obesity.
The study of agouti and melanocortins in relation to obesity and diabetes is funded for five years and is led by Dr. Randall Mynatt. Collaborators are Drs. Jacqueline Stephens, Steven Smith, Thomas Gettys, Andrey Ptitsyn, Hans-Rudolf Berthoud and Leslie Kozak. The agouti gene was the first “obesity” gene cloned, and over the past 10 years the system it regulates has become recognized as a major regulator of body fat stores. To understand the potential function of agouti in human fat, Dr. Mynatt has engineered transgenic mice that produce high levels of agouti in their fat. The mice become obese and develop type 2 diabetes.
The three-year study to develop a treatment for prostate cancer is headed by Dr. Carola Leuschner, with Dr. William Hansel serving as a consultant. Laboratory mice will be inoculated with human prostate cancer cells so that treatment regimens, treatment efficacies on killing metastases and potential side effects of drugs can be observed. Membrane-disrupting peptides, which are connected with hormone ligands, destroy cell membranes only from cells that carry the receptors for those ligands. This construct ensures highest specificity to the target cells. These peptides, created in a laboratory, are similar to peptides found in bee venom.
The Pennington Biomedical Research Center is at the forefront of medical discovery as it relates to understanding the triggers of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and dementia. It is a campus of Louisiana State University and conducts basic, clinical and population research. The research enterprise at Pennington Biomedical includes approximately 80 faculty and more than 25 post-doctoral fellows who comprise a network of 44 laboratories supported by lab technicians, nurses, dietitians, and support personnel, and 13 highly specialized core service facilities. Pennington Biomedical’s more than 500 employees perform research activities in state-of-the-art facilities on the 222-acre campus located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.