The BENFRA Center: Drs. Kretzschmar and Lim

botanicals buttercup flowers

Dr. Doris E. Kretzschmar Ph.D. and Dr. Miranda Lim, M.D., Ph.D., Institute scientists and OHSU collaborators have received a grant for the NIH-funded Botanical Dietary Supplements Research Center at OHSU. Many plants are used traditionally to support cognitive function, sleep and mood. The OHSU Botanical Research Center in the School of Medicine Department of Neurology at OHSU will focus on two plant extracts, Centella asiatica (also called Gotu Cola) and Withania somnifera (also called Ashwagandha) and test their effects in mice and fly models. In addition, these models will be used to identify the active compounds in these extracts which can then be used to obtain dietary supplements that are optimized for effectiveness in humans. Cognitive decline, mood disorders like depression and sleep disruptions are common symptoms in the elderly and these studies are therefore aimed at promoting resilience and healthy aging.

The OHSU Botanical Research Center is directed by Dr. Soumyanath, Ph.D. and includes a variety of investigators who are experts in different areas. There are currently two research projects, with one addressing effects of Centella asiatica extracts on cognition, mood and sleep in aging mice (led by Dr. Nora Gray and Dr. Miranda Lim). In addition, brain imaging will be used to determine protective effects on the aging brain.

The second project will be led by Dr. Kretzschmar and Dr. Soumyanath and will focus on identifying active compounds in Centella asiatica and Withania somnifera. Cultured neurons (a cell culture of neurons used as a model to study the central nervous system) will be used to address effects on neuronal health, antioxidant responses and mitochondrial function. This will be combined with studies using the fruit fly Drosophilato to determine whether they improve age-related changes in behavior, including movement and sleep. Similar to other animals and humans, aged Drosophila move less and wake up more often during the night and Drosophila therefore provides a more efficient and cost-effective model to test a panel of compounds. Future studies can then confirm the efficacy of active compounds in mice and eventually humans.

Dr. Kretzschmar’s research identifies genetic factors and mechanisms that lead to progressive degeneration of the adult nervous system using fruit fly Drosophilato as a model for aging and age-related human diseases. Dr. Miranda Lim, an affiliated faculty member of the Institute who is located at the Portland VA, studies the role of sleep in neurological disorders including aging/Alzheimer’s, traumatic brain injury (TBI) and autism spectrum disorder. Many of our Institute scientists have research collaborations nationally and internationally, as well as dual appointments in different programs around OHSU, such as School of Medicine and OHSU-PSU School of Public Health.

To learn more about the OHSU Botanical Research Center, read the article on OHSU news.

Blog written by: Helen Schuckers, M.P.H. and Doris E. Kretzschmar, Ph.D.

The BENFRA Center: Drs. Doris E. Kretzschmar and Miranda Lim