- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Eicosanoids are a particular class of fats that, rather than being nutritional or structural, are regulatory. They regulate blood pressure, childbirth, pain, inflammation, tissue repair and other biologies. By mass, more than 75 percent of the world's medications work on the eicosanoid pathway. These include such familiar drugs as aspirin, Advil, Ibuprofin and Motrin.
Hammock, who holds a joint appointment with the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, received the award during the International Winder Eicosanoid (WEC) Conference, March 13-16 in Baltimore, Md. He delivered the McGiff Memorial Lecture on “Epoxide Hydrolase Inhibitors as Biochemical Probes and Drug Candidates.”
"Jack McGiff's generation told us how aspirin worked and provided humanity with a collection of new pharmaceuticals which has greatly improved the health of man and his companion animals," Hammock told his fellow scientists at the March conference. “Jack himself was an inspiring scientist explaining regulation of the renal and cardiovascular systems. He not only founded this international conference but for decades, he has been its inspiration, encouraging collegiality and collaboration while demanding uncompromising science."
“The current drugs that alter the eicosanoid pathways block the formation of drugs that block natural fats that increase hypertension, increase pain and increase inflammation,” Hammock explained. “We have been working on a third branch of the pathway that reduces blood pressure, inflammation and pain. By blocking the degradation of these natural molecules we block harmful biologies. These new drugs are promising for control of diabetes, hypertension and other diseases. We are working to move some of these compounds that work outside of the brain to the clinic for both man and companion animals to control inflammatory and chronic pain.”
Using the newly discovered chemical in the Hammock lab, the UC Davis and Hashimoto researchers drew international attention on March 14 for their publication in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The result could be a new, innovative tool to control depression, a severe and chronic disease that affects 350 million persons worldwide, they said.
“The research in animal models of depression suggests that sEH plays a key role in modulating inflammation, which is involved in depression,” according to the UC Davis-issued news release. “Inhibitors of sEH protect natural lipids in the brain that reduce inflammation, and neuropathic pain. Thus, these inhibitors could be potential therapeutic drugs for depression.”
Hammock, a decade-long participant at the conference, described WEC “as a group of scientists who have high standards of research, but freely collaborate and exchange reagents and ideas. It represents science at its best. “Never would we have made the advances we have at Davis without this friendship and collaboration of scientists from around the world.” This year's conference drew 150 scientists.
Darryl Zeldin, scientific director of the National Institute of Health's National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIH/NIEHS) and Michael Laniado Schwartzman, professor and chair of the Department of Pharmacology at the New York Medical College's School of Medicine, presented Hammock with the award.
"Bruce is credited with the discovery of soluble epoxide hydrolase (sEH) and elucidation of its catalytic mechanisms,” Zeldin said. “He has devoted a good portion of his career to development of sEH inhibitors, one of which has completed a phase II human trial and others are in human trials. He has also been instrumental in development of methods to detect and quantify bioactive lipids in biological samples, methods that are used throughout industry and academia. He has been a leader in the eicosanoid research community, and an outstanding collaborator and colleague."
“I think Jack would have been pleased to know that you were the first awardee,” Schwartzman, a longtime colleague of Jack McGiff told Hammock in an email. “This is a great start to a wonderful WEC tradition.”
Hammock collaborator Dipak Panigrahy, an assistant professor of pathology, Center for Vascular Biology Research, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, praised the UC Davis professor for his work and said the prestigious award is particularly fitting.
“Professor Hammock, a member of the National Academy of Science, has led a team of over 40 scientists and students with a multidisciplinary, integrated approach to research focused on insect biology, mammalian enzymology, and analytical chemistry,” Panigrahy said, noting that Hammock has produced more than a thousand publications on a wide range of topics in entomology, biochemistry, analytical and environmental chemistry in high quality journals, and that his laboratory has generated more than 50 patents.
About Bruce Hammock
The Hammock lab is the 30-year home of the UC Davis/NIEHS Superfund Research and Training Program, an interdisciplinary program funded by the National Institute of Environmental Sciences (NIEHS) that has brought in almost $60 million to the UC Davis campus. The Hammock lab is also the home of the NIH Training Grant in Biomolecular Technology. The lab alumni, totaling more than 100 graduates, hold positions of distinction in academia, industry and government as well as over 300 postdoctorals.
“The historical research funding base is diverse and includes long terms grants from NIH, USDA, Department of Defense, UC Mosquito Research Program and many private and research foundation contracts and grants,” Panigrahy pointed out.
“Dr. Hammock pioneered the first class of pharmaceuticals to directly address the cytochrome P450 (CYP) epoxygenase pathway of arachidonic acid metabolism,” Panigraphy related. “These soluble epoxide hydrolase (sEH) inhibitors are powerful pharmacological tools to raise the levels of epoxyeicosatrienoic acids or EETs. They are being evaluated in clinical trials for cardiovascular diseases and are being considered for long-term use in diabetes, stroke, cerebral ischemia, dyslipidemia, pain, immunological conditions, eye diseases, neurological diseases, renal disease, organ damage, vascular remodeling, atherosclerosis, ischemia-reperfusion, lung disease (chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases-COPD), graft stenosis, cancer, and other medical conditions.”
“In addition, Dr. Hammock's laboratory has demonstrated that omega 3 epoxides are more potent than EETs in many assays,” Panigraphy said. “Importantly, Dr, Hammock's studies are providing insight into the outcome of dramatically increasing omega 3 lipids in the U.S. diet.”
The UC Davis distinguished professor has authored or co-authored more than 1020 peer-reviewed publications, many in top journals. This includes 500 related to epoxide hydrolase, 80 related to esterase and amidase, ~260 related to immunoassay, and 240 related to insect biology.
Hammock is a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI), which honors academic invention and encourages translations of inventions to benefit society. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and the recipient of numerous other awards, including the Kenneth A. Spencer Award in Agricultural Chemistry, NIEHS Merit Award, Alexander von Humboldt Award, George and Judy Marcus Senior Fellow from the American Asthma Foundation, the Bernard Brodie Award in Drug Metabolism from the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, and the University of Michigan William E. H. Lands Lecturer in Biochemistry and Nutrition. He was also a visiting professor at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard University.
In addition to his directorship of the Superfund program, Hammock serves on the board of the National Accelerator Mass Spectrometry Facility, Lawrence National Laboratory. He is a fellow of the Entomological Society of America (ESA) and recipient of the ESA's Recognition Award for Insect Physiology, Biochemistry and Toxicology. The UC Davis Academic Senate honored him with its Distinguished Teaching Award for Graduate and Professional Teaching, and the Distinguished Research Faculty Award.
About Jack McGiff
John "Jack" McGiff (1927-2013), an internationally known cardiovascular and renal researcher, and distinguished pharmacologist, founded WEC in 1998. McGiff and John Vane (1982 Nobel laureate) worked together in the early 1970s to determine much of what is known about the mechanism of action of aspirin on renal function and blood pressure. McGiff went on independently to publish more than 250 papers on the role of eicosanoids and prostaglandins in health and disease.
Born John Charles “Jack” McGiff in August of 1927, he died in February 2013 at age 85 at his home in Patchogue, N.Y. He received his bachelor's degree from Georgetown University, Washington, D.C., and his medical degree from the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons, Cooperstown, N.Y. A veteran of the Marine Corps in the Korean War, he shined in a medical and research career that included chief of cardiology at St. Louis University; professor and chair of the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Tennessee Center for the Health Sciences in Memphis; and professor and chair (1979 to 2010) of the Department of Pharmacology at New York Medical College, Department of Pharmacology at New York Medical College, Valhalla. During his career, McGiff held a grant from the National Institutes of Health for 28 years.
The Eicosanoid Research Association, Inc. based in Peekskill, N.Y., sponsors the annual conference to promote scientific research and education in the field. The conferences are always held in March in Baltimore and serve as an interactive forum for the “exchange of ideas and learning of exciting new developments in the field of eicosanoids with a focus on cancer, inflammation, and cardiovascular disease,” a spokesperson said. Junior and senior researchers present their work, much of it unpublished. Eicosanoids are compounds involved in cellular activity and are derived from polyunsaturated fatty acids.