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Associate Professor Anna Bukiya of UTHSC Receives $1.6 Million to Study How Cholesterol and Alcohol Interact in the Body

A $1.6 million grant from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism will allow Dr. Anna Bukiya and her research team to explore how cholesterol and alcohol interact in the body.

Anna Bukiya, PhD, an associate professor in the Department of Pharmacology in the College of Medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC), has received a five-year grant totaling $1.6 million to study how cholesterol and alcohol interact to modulate blood vessel function in the brain.

The award from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, a subsidiary of the National Institutes of Health, will be used to support a project titled, “Cholesterol Control of Alcohol-Induced Cerebral Artery Constriction.”

Alcohol consumption represents a risk factor for alterations in the blood flow in the brain. Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in food from animal sources. It is not known how cholesterol and alcohol interact to modulate blood vessel function in the brain. Dr. Bukiya will focus on that interaction.

Her earlier work showed that although cholesterol and alcohol each have deleterious effects on the body, they may “cancel out” each other’s harmful effects on the cerebral arteries when consumed together. The new funding will allow Dr. Bukiya and her research team to fully explore cholesterol-alcohol interactions in the body. Moreover, they will test how statins — widely used pharmacological drugs that decrease the cholesterol level in the blood — affect cholesterol-alcohol interaction in blood vessels in the brain.

“This is unprecedented work that may be relevant to any human being who has consumed alcohol at least once,” Dr. Bukiya explained. “Our work will be of tremendous importance for patients who have increased their cholesterol levels and hope to reduce vascular risks by taking statins. These patients would probably need to adjust their alcohol drinking patterns according to cholesterol status.”

The largest funder of alcohol research in the world, The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism is dedicated to researching the impact of alcohol and how it affects human health and well-being. The organization aims to fully understand the pros and cons of alcohol use, and develop effective prevention and treatment strategies to decrease the risks associated with alcohol use. For more information, visit www.niaaa.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. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.