The National Institutes of Health today awarded a highly competitive research grant to Xiaolu (Lulu) Cambronne, Ph.D., a research assistant professor at the OHSU Vollum Institute. The grant, $1.5 million over five years, was given for Cambronne’s innovative approaches to addressing major challenges in biomedical research.
The grant is part of the NIH Director’s New Innovator Awards, established in 2007 to support early-career investigators who are conducting high-risk, high-impact research. Cambronne was one of 55 New Innovators awarded in 2017.
Cambronne will be looking at how changes in NAD availability might affect age-related pathologies. This is one of the biggest unknown mysteries in why age is a risk factor and, because NAD availability affects any disease in which age is a risk factor, her research has the potential to have very broad impacts in conditions ranging from neurodegenerative disorders to cardiovascular diseases and Type II diabetes.
Cambronne led a group to make a DNA-based fluorescent biosensor specific for free NAD, which allows the metabolite to be monitored. The research was reported in Science in June 2016. With these direct measurements of NAD, Cambronne and her group will address the current model and explore this hypothesis in both spatial and temporal resolution.
The research will not only generate knowledge about the metabolite but also determine, in a disease context, what the critical NAD concentration for health is and when and where this metabolite declines in a disease’s progress. More importantly, this will potentially provide information about intervention treatment and whether a particular treatment actually affects the metabolite availability.