Many of the botanical supplements proposed for study by these centers—such as black cohosh, bitter melon, chasteberry, fenugreek, grape seed extract, hops, maca, milk thistle, resveratrol, licorice, and valerian—are among the top 100 supplements consumed in the U.S. based on sales data. Nearly 1 in 5 U.S. adults use botanical supplements and other non-vitamin, non-mineral dietary supplements, such as fish oil/omega-3 fatty acids and probiotics, according to the 2012 National Health Interview Survey.
“Our Botanical Research Centers Program has been a unique driver of research on natural products for 16 years,” said Paul Coates, PhD, ODS director. “The two new Centers for Advancing Natural Products Innovation and Technology will develop pioneering methods and techniques to catalyze research on these products."
The three Botanical Dietary Supplements Research Centers will receive competitive awards of approximately $2 million per year for five years, pending available funds. These three interdisciplinary and collaborative centers will advance understanding of the mechanisms through which complex botanical dietary supplements may affect human health and resilience.
The two Centers for Advancing Natural Products Innovation and Technology have a combined budget of approximately $1.25 million per year for five years, pending available funds. These centers are expected to develop new research approaches and technologies that will have significant impact on the chemical and biological investigation of natural products. They will also provide leadership in coordinating scientific discourse and disseminating innovative methodology and good research practices to the research community on natural products.
“Natural products have a long and impressive history as sources of medicine and as important biological research tools,” said Josephine Briggs, MD, NCCIH director. “These centers will seek not only to understand potential mechanisms by which natural products may affect health, but also to address persistent technological challenges for this field by taking full advantage of innovative advances in biological and chemical methodology.”
Dietary Botanicals in the Preservation of Cognitive and Psychological Resilience
Principal Investigators: Giulio Pasinetti, MD, PhD, and Richard Dixon, PhD
Institution: Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York City
Partner Institutions: Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana; Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick; University of North Texas, Denton
This new center will focus on the mechanisms through which polyphenol-containing dietary supplements derived from grapes promote cognitive and psychological resilience to common psychological stresses including sleep deprivation. In addition to extending their previous research on the mechanisms of action of these botanical products in the brain, this Center will also seek to understand the role of the human gastrointestinal microflora (microbiome) in their activity and in cognitive and psychological health more generally.
Botanicals and Metabolic Resiliency
Principal Investigator: William Cefalu, MD
Institution: Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge
Partner Institutions: North Carolina State University, Kannapolis; Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick; University of Illinois at Chicago
Over the last five years this center focused on the evaluation of botanicals to prevent metabolic syndrome, a group of risk factors for diabetes and heart disease. In the next five years the team will focus on the ability of botanicals to promote metabolic resiliency, the ability to maintain health in the presence of stressors such as high-fat diet or inflammation, and to study the mechanisms of action of the most promising botanicals in this context. This center will also explore the role of the gastrointestinal microbiome in the biological effects of the products studied including bitter melon and fenugreek.
Botanical Dietary Supplements for Women’s Health
Principal Investigator: Richard van Breemen, PhD
Institution: University of Illinois at Chicago
Established in 1999, this center focuses on the safety and mechanisms of action of botanicals used by American women to maintain health and quality of life, especially during menopause. Previously, the team focused on the safety of commonly used dietary supplements such as black cohosh, hops, and licorice, and their effects on estrogenic hormones. In the next award period the team will advance its ground-breaking work on the characterization and standardization of complex botanical products, and on the interactions of those products with estrogens and with prescription drugs with a continuing focus on safety.
The Center for High-throughput Functional Annotation of Natural Products
Principal Investigators: John MacMillan, PhD, Roger Linington, PhD, and Michael White, PhD
Institutions: University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas; Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada; University of California, Santa Cruz
This team brings together experts in the chemistry of natural products, biological screening, data analytics, and bioinformatics to create a center focused on use of innovative strategies to study the biological effects of natural products. To improve the speed, breadth, and precision of the chemical and biological characterization of natural products, the team will develop innovative, cell-based screening approaches to uncover bioactive molecules of interest and their corresponding molecular targets. A vital component of this center will be the dissemination of primary data to the greater scientific community through a searchable, data-driven website.
The UIC Natural Products Technology Center
Principal Investigator: Guido Pauli, PhD
Institution: University of Illinois at Chicago
The primary objective of this center is to coordinate and disseminate state-of-the-art research technologies aimed at mining bioanalytical knowledge of natural products. These activities will produce documentation of good research practices for natural products and promote the coherence of outcomes between it and the above-mentioned Center for High-throughput Functional Annotation of Natural Products. This center will also develop and share cutting-edge bioanalytical methodologies that address important biomedical questions and advance a more holistic research approach regarding natural products and their metabolomic complexity.