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The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has awarded a 5-year K08 Career Development Award to Leon G. Coleman Jr, MD, PhD of the Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies, to study the central and peripheral immune responses to ethanol.

Alcohol abuse causes dysfunction of immune responses both in the brain and the periphery. Immune dysfunction in the brain contributes to the pathology of alcoholism, while immune dysfunction in the periphery contributes to systemic disease pathologies and worsened outcomes in the setting of critical illness.

Coleman will be mentored by both Fulton T. Crews, PhD (Director of the Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies) and Bruce Cairns, MD (Director of the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center) during the award period. The award supports additional research on Coleman’s discovery that alcohol increases expression of the immune signaling Toll-like Receptor 7 as well as a novel endogenous receptor agonist, e.g. the microRNA (let-7b), that contributes to neuroimmune gene induction and neurodegeneration. “We will also study these signaling systems in the periphery and how they impact alcoholism” Coleman said.

“Inflammation is a key aspect of many alcohol-related diseases,” Coleman said. “If we discover how alcohol abuse causes immune dysfunction, leading to inflammation, we could develop new therapies for both alcoholism and the peripheral diseases associated with alcohol abuse.”

Ultimately, the goal of this project is to better understand how alcohol abuse causes inflammation in the brain and other organs, and to identify novel therapeutic approaches for the treatment of alcoholism and alcohol-related diseases.