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Lakatta Honored by Federation for Aging Research

Dr. Edward Lakatta, director of NIA's Laboratory of Cardiovascular Science, received the American Federation for Aging Research's Irving Wright Award of Distinction on June 3 for his research on cardiovascular diseases in the elderly. The laboratory has made a long-term commitment to unraveling the interactions that occur among the aging process, life style, cardiovascular disease, and more recently genetics; this research is part of the Baltimore Longitudinal Study on Aging. "Aging is proving to be a more powerful contributor to cardiovascular disease risk than other well-defined risk factors such as smoking and lack of exercise," Lakatta said. The award is conferred on those who make exceptional contributions to basic or clinical research and encourage such research in the field of aging.

NIDDK's Rice Wins Chemical Pioneer Award

Dr. Kenner Rice, chief of NIDDK's Laboratory of Medicinal Chemistry, received the Chemical Pioneer Award on June 2. Given annually by the American Institute of Chemists, the prize honors chemists or chemical engineers who have made a major impact in science and industry or to the chemical profession.

Considered among the best medicinal chemists in the world, Rice has spent most of his 28 years at NIH synthesizing hundreds of compounds that act on the central nervous system (CNS). They include chemical probes that aid in receptor mapping in the brain, the study of biochemical functions of the CNS, and medicines with the potential to treat addiction.

In response to a worldwide opium shortage in 1973-1975, Rice also invented the NIH Opiate Total Synthesis, one of his leading contributions to medicine. The process makes it possible to use petrochemicals as the starting material to synthesize all of the morphine alkaloids and derivatives normally produced from opium poppies. Codeine and morphine are among the most important ones. The technology, which is licensed to Mallinckrodt Inc., remains the only practical procedure available for large-scale production of synthetic opiates critical for patient care and research.

Researchers now can locate and count opioid receptors during PET scans of the brain thanks to Rice's synthesis of (-)-cyclofoxy. This agent is an antagonist that binds to receptors without activating them, enabling scientists to study the brains of normal subjects and people who have abused drugs or suffered some other damage to their opioid receptors. SNC 80, another chemical designed by Rice, is an important tool for researchers who study the delta opioid receptor, which has a role in regulating the immune system and in the development of drug dependence. Most drugs used to study opioid receptors bind to all three types of opioid receptors with similar affinities. SNC 80, however, binds to delta receptors almost exclusively and with ultra-high affinity. This selective binding pattern makes it easier for scientists to understand how drug action varies on the different receptor types.

Rice and his associates evaluated a chemical called GBR 12909, which was originated by the Dutch firm Gist-Brocades N.V., and demonstrated that monkeys would stop taking cocaine when given the drug. By changing the structure of GBR 12909, Rice's group has produced a longer acting drug. One dose was effective for nearly a month in monkeys. The National Institute on Drug Abuse is currently testing GBR 12909 for safety in humans prior to testing in cocaine addicts.

Rice is the author of 30 issued patents and approximately 450 papers.

"Many of us take for granted the technology and tools produced by Dr. Rice and his associates. Clearly, without his sustained design and synthesis of novel tools for biomedical research, progress in many areas could not proceed," said Red Cross senior research scientist Graham A. Jamieson, who nominated Rice for the award.

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