Botanical Research Center Receives $7.5 Million NIH Grant

September 7, 2010

The Center for Botanical Lipids and Inflammatory Disease Prevention at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center has received a $7.5 million, five-year competitive award announced by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Floyd “Ski” Chilton III, Ph.D., director of the center, said the grant is focused on studying a certain type of dietary supplements, known as botanicals, and how they prevent or impact diseases that have an inflammatory component such as cardiovascular disease, asthma and diabetes.

Chilton said he is excited to also be working with institutional partners from Harvard Medical Center (Brigham and Women’s Hospital), Boston; Johns Hopkins University (Genomics Center, School of Public Health, Allergy and Clinical Immunology), Baltimore, Md.; University of Colorado Health Sciences, Aurora, Colorado; and Bent Creek Institute, Asheville, N.C.

“Over the past few decades research has shown that both systemic and localized inflammation plays an important role in the onset and progression of destructive, chronic conditions such as heart disease, asthma, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes and chronic joint disease,” Chilton said. “Obesity and poor diets have been shown to increase unwanted inflammation and are thought to play a key role in increasing the incidence of many of these diseases over the last 40 years.”

“A major focus of the work in the center will be to examine the influence of human genetic differences in the metabolism of specific types of fats that cause and prevent inflammation and to determine the human populations where certain dietary supplements are most likely to be effective,” he added. “Studies like these represent an important step toward realizing the benefits of personalized medicine, and, in particular, personalized nutrition.”

According to the NIH, botanical products are among the most popular and include non-vitamin, non-mineral, natural products. An estimated 18 percent of adults reported taking one, spending about $15 billion each year, and their use is on the increase. Nutrition Business Journal data show that sales of dietary supplements have steadily increased by about 24 percent from 2003 to 2008 and forecasts that sales of herbs/botanicals will increase about 19 percent over the next five years. These products contain a dietary ingredient intended to supplement the diet other than vitamins and minerals, such as single herbs or mixtures.

“Botanicals are usually complex mixtures of many active constituents,” said Josephine P. Briggs, M.D., director of NCCAM. “This complexity poses some unique research challenges that these centers are well positioned to address.”

The Wake Forest Baptist center is one of five interdisciplinary and collaborative national centers, known as the Botanical Research Centers Program, to be jointly funded by the Office of Dietary Supplements and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), two components of the NIH. The NIH’s National Cancer Institute is co-supporting two of the five centers, which are expected to advance understanding of how botanicals may affect human health.

The other four competitive awards - approximately $1.5 million each per year for five years - were made to Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Baton Rouge, La.; University of Illinois at Chicago; University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; and University of Missouri, Columbia.


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Bonnie Davis:, 336-713-1597