- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
It chronicles how Hammock's basic research on caterpillars--how caterpillars become butterflies--led to key discoveries about chronic pain, including diabetic pain.
It includes information on Hammock's collaborator, John Imig, professor of pharmacology and toxicology at the Medical College of Wisconsin, who recently received a $2.3 million grant from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases "to investigate the development of a drug to treat type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome."
"But what we didn't tell you is that this translational grant is all thanks to some caterpillars in California and decades of research," wrote communication specialist Karri Stock. "It's a tale of pure curiosity with a great lesson for budding scientists and the public alike: You can't always predict where basic science discoveries will lead."
She related how, more than 40 years ago, a young entomologist in California named Bruce Hammock found a key enzyme (epoxide hydrolase or EH) in the metamorphosis of caterpillars into butterflies. "The enzyme degrades a caterpillar's juvenile hormone, allowing it to move from the larval stage into an adult insect. Early in his career, Dr. Hammock found that if he exploited this EH and prevented larvae from becoming adults, he had on his hands an effective genetically engineered insecticide."
Then came the basic science and fundamental questions that Hammock asked. "Does the enzyme occur in plants? Does it occur in mammals?"
"And it turns out that it does, particularly as soluble epoxide hydrolase (sEH) in mammals, including mice and humans, and its distribution suggested it was involved in regulatory biology," Stock wrote. She went on to detail the collaboration of Hammock and Imig. Read the entire MCW story here.
Hammock's work has drawn national and international attention. Groundbreaking neuropathic pain research emanating from the Hammock lab made Discover magazine's Top 100 Science Stories of 2015 ranking among the Top 15 in the medicine/genetics category.
The UC Davis research was singled out for its “Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress in the Peripheral Nervous System is a Significant Driver of Neuropathic Pain,” published in July 2015 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. (See UC Davis news story).
Highly honored by his peers, Hammock is a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors, which honors academic invention and encourages translations of inventions to benefit society. He is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, a fellow of the Entomological Society of America, and the recipient of the Bernard B. Brodie Award in Drug Metabolism, sponsored by the America Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics. He directs the campuswide Superfund Research Program, National Institutes of Health Biotechnology Training Program, and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) Combined Analytical Laboratory.