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Volume 21, Number 3, November 2010

Director’s Column

A. Leslie Morrow
Associate Director, Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies

Each year the Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies honors a scientist whose contributions to alcohol research have enduring value to the field. Last May, we honored Subhash Pandey for his key contributions to understanding the acute and epigenetic mechanisms that underlie alcohol drinking and its relationship to anxiety. The Bowles Lectureship Award benefits our faculty and students by the exposure to other leaders in our field. We think the Bowles Award also benefits the field by calling attention to the importance of alcohol research for all humanity. This disease must be stopped in our lifetime, so we work to promote the cause every day and in every way we know.

Crews’ work on the mechanisms of alcohol pathology has pointed to pro-inflammatory neuroimmune responses as a major contributor to the detrimental effects of binge alcohol exposure that leads to alcohol addiction. His lab has led the field in this area demonstrating the role of inflammatory cytokines in both animal models and post-mortem human brain. The activation of NF-Band the subsequent inflammatory signals promote not only neuronal loss but also behavioral maladaptations secondary to heavy alcohol exposure. More importantly, Crews’ work shows that effects of alcohol on the pro-inflammatory pathways in brain are long–lasting. He is uncovering new mechanisms that will lead to better therapeutics for alcohol-related disease.

This work has important public health implications. The dangers of heavy drinking may not be well recognized by society, particularly those who think they can recover from a big party weekend. Crews’ work establishes the long term consequences of heavy drinking – consequences that ultimately affect our mental health as well as performance in all life skills. The science of alcohol exposure is making it abundantly clear that binge drinking is dangerous to our health, with long term consequences that matter to both individuals and society. This knowledge is important for prevention efforts. Tell your friends and family.