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National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM)

For Immediate Release
Friday, October 5, 2007


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NCCAM Expands Centers of Excellence in CAM Research Program

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) has added three new Centers of Excellence for Research on Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) to its centers program. These centers will explore the biological effects of a number of plant-derived compounds and preparations found in CAM products, such as dietary supplements, on pancreatic diseases, autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, and Alzheimer's disease. NCCAM, a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is the lead Federal agency for research on complementary and alternative medicine.

The Centers of Excellence apply cutting-edge technology to basic and clinical research on a wide range of CAM practices and products, and are one part of NCCAM's larger research centers program. The program also includes Developmental Centers for Research on CAM, which are partnerships between CAM institutions and established research institutions to conduct exploratory research, and International Centers for Research on CAM, which are collaborations of U.S. and foreign teams studying traditional medical systems.

"The addition of these centers increases the robustness of our Centers of Excellence research program and confirms our continuing commitment to rigorous CAM research," said Ruth L. Kirschstein, M.D., NCCAM Acting Director. "These multidisciplinary research teams will work to uncover new insights or novel treatments for health conditions that affect many people. The science conducted will be key to understanding what CAM approaches may or may not work and informing the integration of effective CAM practices into the health care delivery system."

  • UCLA Center of Excellence in Pancreatic Diseases
    Principal Investigator: Vay Liang Go, M.D.
    Institution: University of California, Los Angeles, CA

This center will study plant-derived compounds found in a variety of dietary and herbal supplements and traditional herbal medicines, including antioxidants such as curcumin (a component of the spice turmeric) and lycopene (the component that gives tomatoes their color), and preparations of green tea and Scutellaria baicalensis (a plant used in traditional Chinese medicine). Using animal models, the investigators will study the mechanisms and effects of these plant compounds on the prevention and/or treatment of pancreatic cancer and pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas).

  • Center for CAM Research on Autoimmune and Inflammatory Diseases
    Principal Investigator: Prakash Nagarkatti, Ph.D.
    Institution: University of South Carolina Research Foundation, Columbia, SC

This center will focus on the effects of plant and herbal products on preventing or arresting inflammation in diseases caused by immune system breakdown. Using an animal model, researchers will investigate the mechanisms by which resveratrol, a compound found in the skin of red grapes, might aid in the treatment of multiple sclerosis. The center will also examine anti-inflammatory mechanisms of the herb American ginseng in colitis and the actions of a compound from hemp in treating autoimmune hepatitis.

  • Protective Roles of Grape-Derived Polyphenols in Alzheimer's Disease
    Principal Investigator: Giulio Maria Pasinetti, M.D., Ph.D.
    Institution: Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY

This center will conduct preclinical studies to identify natural compounds extracted from grapes, known as polyphenols that might have a protective role in Alzheimer's disease. Using an animal model, the research team will then investigate the biological mechanisms by which these grape-derived compounds may affect changes in the brain that are characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease and associated with cognitive decline.

These center grants, which provide 5 years of support, bring the total number of Centers of Excellence for Research on CAM to 11. The existing Centers of Excellence look at a range of CAM practices and products, such as acupuncture and meditation. To learn more about NCCAM's Research Centers program, visit: http://nccam.nih.gov/training/centers/.

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine's mission is to explore complementary and alternative medical practices in the context of rigorous science, train CAM researchers, and disseminate authoritative information to the public and professionals. For additional information, call NCCAM's Clearinghouse toll free at 1-888-644-6226, or visit the NCCAM Web site at nccam.nih.gov.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) — The Nation's Medical Research Agency — includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research, and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.


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