Upstate professor awarded $1.6 million NIH grant to study metabolic syndrome disorders
An Upstate Medical University professor has been awarded a $1.6 million four-year research project grant from the National Institutes of Health to identify strategies to treat inflammation, obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disorders. Upstate Professor of Medicine George G. Holz, PhD, is the principal investigator, and his co-investigator is Professor and Chair of Surgery, Robert N. Cooney, MD. Co-existence of these disorders underlies a "metabolic syndrome,” which affects 1 billion people around the world.
The title of the research project grant is “Alpha-7 Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptor Regulation of Glucagon-Like Peptide-1 Incretin Hormone Action,” commencing April 14, 2020. Funds support salaries and wages, materials, supplies and travel through January 2024. It is specifically funded through the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK).
The research is an outgrowth of Holz's interest in the hormone GLP-1 dating back nearly 30 years, with input from his collaborators Oleg G. Chepurny, PhD, research assistant professor of medicine, and Colin A. Leech, PhD, research associate professor of medicine. The project is also an extension of Cooney's interest in alpha-7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor agonists, with important input from Qinghe Meng, MD, instructor of surgery. The Holz/Cooney team has been working together on this particular project for the last four years. “This is an extension of our long term collaborations with the Holz laboratory on a really exciting, potentially new target for treating type 2 diabetes” Cooney said.
“The new grant is an important extension of our lab's prior research concerning GLP-1” Holz said. “Upstate has a substantial interest in therapeutics to combat the metabolic syndrome. It is a disease of epidemic proportions, and the Joslin Diabetes Center at Upstate focuses on treating adults and children with diabetes, many of whom have the metabolic syndrome.”
The project is also relevant to Upstate’s Bariatric Surgery Center since levels of GLP-1 in the blood are elevated substantially when gastric bypass surgery is used to treat obesity and diabetes, Holz said.
“We have proposed that investigational drugs called alpha-7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor agonists have the potential to counteract the metabolic syndrome so as to ameliorate this disorder,” Holz said. “Testing this hypothesis is the main goal of the grant. A key concept we have advanced is that alpha-7 nAChR agonists act in the endocrine system to stimulate the release and action of GLP-1, a hormone with anti-inflammatory, appetite-suppressing, blood glucose-lowering, and positive cardiovascular properties.”
For more information about Holz’s lab and his research, visit: www.upstate.edu/endo/research/laboratory-research/holz.php.
For more information about Cooney's research, visit: www.upstate.edu/search/?tab=people&ID=cooneyr&q=cooney
Caption: Work by Principal Investigator George Holz, PhD, right, and Co-Investigator Robert Cooney, MD, will help identify strategies to treat inflammation, obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disorders. Co-existence of these disorders underlies a "metabolic syndrome,” which affects 1 billion people around the world.