You know the advice — don't drink on an empty stomach. Now
Dr. Ulrike Heberlein and her group at the University of California,
San Francisco, think they have the basis for this slogan. On Thursday,
May 12, at noon in Lipsett Amphitheater, Bldg. 10, Heberlein will
be honored for her work by receiving the 2005 Mathilde Solowey Lecture
Award in the Neurosciences and delivering a lecture entitled, "Drugs,
Flies and Videotape: Can Fruit Flies Teach Us About Drug Addiction?"
|Dr. Ulrike Heberlein
By studying drunken fruit flies, Heberlein and colleagues discovered
that the hormone insulin, which surges after we eat, may make the
brain less sensitive to alcohol intoxication. If confirmed in humans,
the finding also suggests a promising way to treat alcoholism using
drugs that control insulin activity. The UCSF group showed that
when the normal function of insulin-like molecules in the brain
of fruit flies is reduced, the intoxicating effect of alcohol increases.
In her pioneering 10-year research effort to determine the genetic
basis of alcohol-induced behavior, Heberlein has employed an apparatus
she calls the inebriometer, in which normal fruit flies and those
with genetic mutations are placed at the top of a cylinder and
exposed to ethanol. The genetic contribution to alcohol sensitivity
is measured by how quickly the fruit flies lose their grip and
fall to the bottom of the device. Earlier research demonstrated
that fruit flies and humans display many of the same vulnerabilities
and behavioral responses to alcohol.
|The inebriometer intoxicates hapless flies.
Heberlein and her colleagues showed that the molecule protein
kinase A modulates sensitivity to alcohol. When its activity is
inhibited, the amount of alcohol needed to cause inebriation decreases.
Her group had also examined different regions of the fruit fly
brain to determine where protein kinase A had its effect. In the
new research, they zeroed in on a small group of neurons in the
brain that produce so-called insulin-like peptides, or DILPs.
In 1999, President Clinton named Heberlein as one of 60 young
researchers receiving Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists
and Engineers, the highest honor bestowed by the United States
government on young professionals at the outset of their independent
Heberlein received her Ph.D. in biochemistry
in 1987 from the University of California at Berkeley. In addition
to the PECASE award, she has received a McKnight Investigator
Award. She has published papers in Cell, Nature and Nature
Neuroscience. She is currently a professor in the department
of anatomy, UCSF.
For more information call the Foundation for Advanced Education
in the Sciences, Inc. at (301) 496-7975 or Dr. Miles Herkenham
at (301) 496-8287.
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