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University Of Alabama At Birmingham expert grant for new study

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A researcher at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Pathology has received an R21 award from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. This grant will be used to better understand whether disruptions in circadian rhythm can negatively influence liver health and whether these disruptions are risk factors for alcohol-related liver disease.

Shannon Bailey, Ph.D., a professor in the department, received the two-year grant totaling $390,000. Bailey, an alcohol and liver disease researcher, will work with an interdisciplinary team to study a pre-clinical model aiming to understand how the loss of Bmal1 — the circadian clock protein — worsens alcohol-related changes in the body.

“The liver is a fascinating organ that switches between different metabolic programs over the course of the 24-hour day,” Bailey said. “One could say that the liver is a different organ at different times of day due to metabolic flexibility. Liver function is affected by alcohol consumption and can lead to alcohol-associated liver diseases like fatty liver and fibrosis/cirrhosis. Taking all this together is why we believe circadian rhythm disruption is one factor that can increase alcohol-associated liver disease.”

Bailey says this proposal will analyze the novel concept that circadian disruption presents an additional challenge to mitochondrial function and liver health in the alcohol consumer.

“Past research has shown links between circadian rhythm disruption and increased alcohol use,” Bailey said. “Similarly, genetic variants in clock genes in humans and rodents have shown to be associated with alcohol dependence and increased alcohol consumption. Thus, there is strong evidence to suggest circadian clock disruption promotes alcohol preference and alcohol drinking.”