(Embargo lifts at noon, Pacific Time, April 30)
The research, published April 30 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, indicates that inhibiting an enzyme, soluble epoxide hydrolase--discovered in the Bruce Hammock lab at UC Davis--may reduce the risk of obesity-related inflammation of the colon.
Co-first authors Weicang Wang and Jianan Zhang of the Guodong Zhang lab, Department of Food Science, University of Massachusetts (UMass) and Jun Yang of the Hammock lab and the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, noted that 30 percent of Americans are obese, and these individuals have a 30 to 60 percent higher risk of developing colon cancer. It is the third most common cancer and the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. Colon inflammation is an early symptom of cancer.
“But to date, the mechanisms by which obesity increases cancer risks are not well understood, and there are few effective strategies to prevent obesity-enhanced colon cancer, said co-author Guodong Zhang, a former postdoctoral researcher in the Hammock lab and now an assistant professor of food science at UMass where he focuses his research on prevention of colonic inflammation (inflammatory bowel disease) and colon cancer.
“Our study showed that soluble epoxide hydrolase and its metabolites are over-expressed in colon of obese mice,” Zhang said. “In addition, we found that pharmacological inhibition or genetic deletion of soluble epoxide hydrolase (sEH) abolishes obesity-induced inflammation and activation of pro-tumorigenic pathways in colon. These results showed that sEH is an essential enzyme involved in obesity-enhanced colonic inflammation and potentially colon cancer, and pharmacological inhibitors of sEH could be novel agents for prevention of these diseases.”
In the study, the 18-member team, including five UC Davis researchers, investigated the roles of sEH in obesity-induced colonic inflammation, which included using two different sEH inhibitors and a knockout mouse genetically modified not to produce sEH. Results proved similar in all cases.
They further conducted another study in both lean and obese mice with experimentally induced colon inflammation and used molecular analyses to follow a pathway called Wnt. About 90 percent of sporadic colorectal cancers have activating mutations within the Wnt pathway. The team found that obesity increases activation of Wnt signaling in the colon, but it can be abolished by the two different inhibitors and the knockout.
“The sEH inhibitor blocked obesity-induced colon inflammation,” said co-author Bruce Hammock, distinguished professor of entomology who holds a joint appointment with the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center. “This worked even for mice on high fat diets.”
“Colon inflammation is highly associated with a variety of diseases and the inflammation often progresses to colon cancer,” Hammock said. “Weicang Wang, Guodong Zhang and co-workers have done a meticulous job investigating the biologically active fats including fatty acid diols that are associated with the inflammation. By blocking the production of these diols they were able to block the inflammation.”
Co-authors Jun Yang, Debin Wan, Jia Sun of the Hammock lab, as well as Jun-Yan Liu of China, a former postdoctoral researcher in the Hammock lab, did the analytical chemistry, and co-author Sung Hee Hwang of the Hammock lab did the organic chemistry, making the compounds that were used.Jun-Yan Liu is already collecting human samples to test the hypothesis in man, Hammock revealed.
The soluble epoxide hydrolase inhibitors that block production of these diols will soon enter human clinical trials supported by the NIH-NINDS Blueprint Program (National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke). “These drugs could provide relief for patients with a wide variety of inflammatory bowel diseases and possibly reduce obesity driven colon cancer,” Hammock said.
The team hailed this as a promising treatment in humans, but acknowledged that “mice and humans are very different.” However, Jun-Yan Liu is already collecting human samples to extend the study, and Hammock pointed out that they hope that the soluble epoxide hydrolase inhibitor will be in human clinical trials this year.
“The study was an exciting discovery from lipidomics technique,” said co-lead author Jun Yang. “The consistent results from pharmacologic inhibition and genetic knockout (KO) as well as the signaling pathway mechanistic studies all support sEH as a potential treatment for obesity- induced colon inflammation. “
Noted pathologist Guang-Yu Yang, M.D., Ph.D. of the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, who was not involved in the study, observed that the Zhang and Hammock labs “have now sequentially demonstrated that 1) there is an increased expression of sEH and its eicosanoid metabolites in the colons of high fat diet-induced obese mice; and 2) the knockout or inhibition of sEH ablates obesity-induced colonic inflammation and decreases obesity-induced activation of Wnt signaling. This study raises interest in further investigating whether the ablation of obesity-induced colonic inflammation by sEH knockout or inhibition may lead to inhibition of obesity-promoted colorectal carcinogenesis.”
“Thus far, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and Cyclooxygenase 2 (COX-2) inhibitor (coxibs) have been the most promising agents for the prevention of colorectal cancer,” Yang said. “However, the side effect profile and risk of adverse events including gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding and cardiovascular events frequently prohibit their widespread clinical use.”
The pathologist said that “co-targeting sEH and COX-2 to manipulate eicosanoid metabolites has the high potential to synergistically enhance the inhibition of obesity-promoted inflammation and carcinogenesis while also reducing the adverse effects of coxibs and NSAIDs.”
The five UC Davis researchers—Bruce Hammock, Jun Yang, Jia Sun, and Sung Hee Hwang and Debin Wan—are all with the Hammock lab and the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Other UMass researchers were Yuxin Wang, Wiepeng Qi, Haixia Yang, and Professor Yeonhwa Park, Department of Food Science, Katherine. Sanidad, Food Science and Molecular and Cellular Biology Graduate Program, and Professor Daeyoung Kim ofthe Department of Mathematics and Statistics.
The abstract: “Obesity is associated with enhanced colonic inflammation, whichis a major risk factor for colorectal cancer. Considering the obesityepidemic in Western countries, it is important to identify noveltherapeutic targets for obesity-induced colonic inflammation, todevelop targeted strategies for prevention. Eicosanoids are endogenouslipid signaling molecules involved in regulating inflammationand immune responses. Using an LC-MS/MS–based lipidomics approach,we find that obesity-induced colonic inflammation is associatedwith increased expression of soluble epoxide hydrolase (sEH)and its eicosanoid metabolites, termed fatty acid diols, in colon tissue.Furthermore,we find that pharmacological inhibition or genetic ablation of sEH reduces colonic concentrations of fatty acid diols,attenuates obesity-induced colonic inflammation, and decreasesobesity-induced activation ofWnt signaling in mice. Together, theseresults support that sEH could be a novel therapeutic target forobesity-induced colonic inflammation and associated diseases.”
This work, titled “Lipidomic Profiling Reveals Soluble Epoxide Hydrolase as a Therapeutic Target of Obesity-Induced Colonic Inflammation,” drew grant support from the USDA's National Institute for Food and Agriculture; National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Environmental HealthSciences (NIH/NIEHS); NIEHS Superfund Research Program, and the National Natural Science Foundation of China.
Hammock, a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Inventors, directs two major UC Davis programs; the Superfund Program financed by the National Institute of Environmental Health's National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIH-NIEHS); and the NIH Biotechnology Training Program.
The Hammock laboratory has published almost 900 peer-reviewed papers on the sEH enzyme, discovered while Hammock and Sarjeet Gill (now of UC Riverside) were researching insect developmental biology and green insecticides at UC Berkeley. The work, begun in 1969, led to the discovery that many regulatory molecules are controlled as much by degradation as by biosynthesis, Hammock said. These epoxy fatty acid chemical mediators control blood pressure, fibrosis, immunity, tissue growth, and pain and inflammation.
For many years Gill and Hammock were alone in studying this enzyme but today its importance is well recognized in mammalian biology, with more than 17,000 peer-reviewed papers in the area. Hammock credits the NIEHS for supporting research in this area since the 1970s.
A Davis-based company, EicOsis, has received a large grant from the U.S. National Institutes of Health to move inhibitors to the clinic to treat diabetic neuropathic pain. “We are developing a non opiate analgesic to treat the chronic pain often associated with diabetes and hope to be in human trials over the next 12 months,” said William Schmidt, vice president of clinical development at EicOsis.
Researchers at the Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan China, used the drug developed at UC Davis to show that the neurofibrillary pathology of an Alzheimer's disease-related protein could be dramatically reduced. Their work was published in December in the Journal of Huazhong University of Science and Technology.
“They further demonstrated the mechanism of action of the UC Davis drug in blocking the oxidative stress-driven phosphorylation events associated with Alzheimer's disease,” Hammock said. The UC Davis drug stabilizes natural anti-inflammatory mediators by inhibiting an enzyme called soluble epoxide hydrolase (sEH) discovered at UC Davis and recently spotlighted in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Institutes of Health's PubMed.
“I was thrilled to see this paper on tau phosphorylation from Huazhong University shows that our drug could block a key event and a key enzyme called GSK-3 beta thought critical in the development of Alzheimer's disease,” said Hammock, who holds a joint appointment in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center.
“We were planning to do this study, but having another laboratory do it with our compound was even better,” he said. “Since our publication last year in PNAS that showed UC Davis soluble epoxide hydrolase inhibitors both prevented and reversed depression, we have been excited about trying to block the development of Alzheimer's disease.”
The PNAS paper, “Gene Deficiency and Pharmacological Inhibition of Soluble Epoxide Hydrolase Confers Resilience to Repeated Social Defeat Stress,” was co-authored by a 13-member research team led by Hammock and Kenji Hashimoto of Chiba University Center's Division of Clinical Neuroscience, Japan. They found that sEH plays a key role in the pathophysiology of depression, and that epoxy fatty acids, their mimics, as well as sEH inhibitors could be potential therapeutic or prophylactic drugs for depression and several other disorders of the central nervous system. Co-authors of the paper included Hammock lab researchers Christophe Morisseau, Jun Yang and Karen Wagner.
Hammock credited several UC Davis colleagues for their work leading to the publications. Research from the labs of Liang Zhang and Qing Li at the University of Hawaii--Qing is a former UC Davis doctoral student--pointed out some of the mechanisms involved in cognitive decline which associate professor Aldrin Gomes of the UC Davis Department of Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior and Fawaz Haj of the UC Davis Department of Nutrition “have shown to be blocked by the natural metabolites stabilized by the UC Davis drugs,” Hammock said.
One of the Hammock lab drugs is moving toward human clinical trials for neuropathic pain through a Davis-based company, EicOsis, LLC, and the financial support of the Blueprint Program through NIH's National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Hammock founded the company to develop inhibitors to the soluble epoxide hydrolase, a key regulatory enzyme involved in the metabolism of fatty acids, to treat unmet medical needs in human and animals.
“The clinical back-up candidate at EicOsis penetrates the blood brain barrier and should be a perfect compound to test if this class of chemistry can prevent cognitive decline and Alzheimer's disease,” Hammock said.
The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, National Institutes of Health, funded the research.
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.
“We think that this research will lead to a very positive outcome to improve the lives of cystic fibrosis patients,” said co-author Bruce Hammock, distinguished professor in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology who holds a joint appointment with the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center.
The research, published in the current edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, links a newly discovered class of bacterial enzymes to battling cystic fibrosis, a progressive, genetic disease characterized by persistent lung infections and inability to breathe normally.
Senior author Jennifer Bomberger of the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine explained that the opportunistic bacterium, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, outcompetes other microorganisms in a cystic fibrosis patient's lungs and establishes a stronghold.
The scientific discovery could lead to new therapies that would interrupt or correct the bacterial sabotage, Hammock and Bomberger said.
“This paper is the outcome of an exciting and interdisciplinary project,” said Hammock, who directs the UC Davis Superfund Program financed by the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIH-NIEHS).
“It started several years ago with the NIEHS Superfund Program funding both a group at Dartmouth and at UC Davis. A very productive and exciting collaboration resulted in looking at how to mitigate the effects of environmental chemicals on human health. Our collaborative work led to this joint publication which yields exciting hope for cystic fibrosis patients.”
Bomberger continues to work on the biology of the system while the Dartmouth and Davis groups have developed inhibitors of the action of CIF to stabilize pro-resolving mediators, reduce inflammation, and control periodic flare ups of bacterial infections.
"It will be key to devise a way to remove P. aeruginosa's ability to capitalize on the body's natural inflammatory response, without eliminating that response," said Bomberger. "Inflammation is happening for a reason—to clear infection. We just need it to temper the response when it is not effectively doing its job or is no longer needed."
Other co-authors of the paper include Hammock lab members Christophe Morisseau and Jun Yang, both from the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center. .Institutions involved in the study also included the Harvard School of Medicine.
The research, published March 14 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, involves studies of an inhibitor of soluble epoxide hydrolase in rodents. Soluble epoxide hydrolase, or sEH, is emerging as a therapeutic target that acts on a number of inflammatory or inflammation-linked diseases.
“The research in animal models of depression suggests that sEH plays a key role in modulating inflammation, which is involved in depression,” said Hammock, a distinguished professor of entomology with a joint appointment at the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center. “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.”
They found that TPPU displayed rapid effects in both inflammation and social defeat-stress models of depression. Expression of sEH protein was higher in key brain regions of chronically stressed mice was higher than in control mice, they found.
“Most drugs for psychiatric diseases target how neurons communicate; here we are targeting the wellness and environment of the neurons,” said UC Davis researcher Christophe Morisseau.
The researchers also discovered that postmortem brain samples of patients with psychiatric diseases, including depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia, showed a higher expression of sEH than controls.
The researchers found that pretreatment with TPPU prevented the onset of depression-like behaviors in mice after induced inflammation or repeated social-defeat stress. Mice lacking the sEH gene did not show depression-like behavior after repeated social-defeat stress.
“All these findings suggest that sEH plays a key role in the pathophysiology of depression and that epoxyfatty acids, and their mimics as well as sEH inhibitors, are potential therapeutic or prophylactic drugs for depression,” Hashimoto said.
Robert E. Hales, distinguished professor of clinical psychiatry and the Joe P. Tupin Endowed Chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at UC Davis School of Medicine, said new medication treatment approaches are needed to treat depression. Hales, who was not involved in the research, said the new paper represents “an important and novel approach to treating depression.”
“With lifetime prevalence rates of major depressive disorder being in the range of 16 percent and with nearly two-thirds of patients failing to respond to pharmacologic treatments, there is a pressing need to discover new medication treatment approaches,” Hales said. “Their findings lend support to the potential use of TPPU, a sEH inhibitor, as a new therapeutic medication to prevent and treat depression.”
Other authors on the paper are: Qian Ren, Min Ma, Tamaki Ishima, Ji-chun Zhang, Chun Yang, Wei Yao, Chao Dong, and Mei Han, Chiba University; and Jun Yang at UC Davis.
Morisseau, Yang and Wagner are inventors on University of California patents related to soluble epoxide hydrolase. Some of these patents have been licensed by EicOsis Human Health, a Davis company founded by Hammock to develop pharmaceuticals to alleviate neuropathic and inflammatory pain.
The research was funded by Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research on Innovative Areas of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Japan to Kenji Hashimoto, (#24116006), and a Research Fellowship for Young Scientists of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (Tokyo, Japan) to Qian Ren.
Partial support was provided by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) R01 ES002710, NIEHS Superfund Research Program grant P42 ES004699, and NIH U24 DK097154 West Coast Comprehensive Metabolomics Center.
Hammock and Professor Bruce German, UC Davis recently received a National Institutes of Health grant in collaboration with Pei-an Shih, UC San Diego Department of Psychiatry, to investigate the role of bioactive lipids in a related psychiatric disorder, anorexia nervosa.
The study is especially significant because of the desperate shortage of livers among thousands of very ill patients, said lead researcher Dipak Panigrahy of Harvard Medical School, in work published online in the July 29th edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
According to the American Liver Foundation website, 1,848 patients died in 2005 while waiting for a donated liver to become available. “Currently, about 17,000 adults and children have been medically approved for liver transplants and are waiting for donated livers to become available. The waiting list grows every year.”
The researchers found that a natural substance in blood vessels stimulates organ and tissue regeneration.
The 28-member team discovered that “systemic administration of EETs significantly increased liver and lung regeneration by 23 percent to 46 percent when compared to control mice post partial liver resection,” Panigrahy said.
“This can be very useful in transplant both for the donor and the recipient in getting full function back with liver transplant,” said researcher and co-author Bruce Hammock, a distinguished professor of entomology with a joint appointment at the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center.
In addition to liver transplants, “the research could lead to the success of other organ transplants and speed the recovery of both the patient and the donor,” Hammock said. It could also be a boon for other wound-healing procedures “where tissue repair and growth are crucial.”
“We are planning to evaluate EETs and soluble epoxide hydrolase (sEH) inhibitors in humans who need tissue regeneration such as organ regeneration and wound healing,” Panigraphy said. “We are working to evaluate soluble epoxide hydrolase inhibitors in humans by surgeons.” The surgeons include Mark Puder, Boston Children’s Hospital, lung regeneration; and Roger Jenkins of the Lahey Clinic, Boston, who performed New England's first successful liver transplant in July 1983. In addition, they plan to work with other clinicians for testing EETs in stimulating wound healing in diabetic and nondiabetic patients.
Panigrahy, noting the chronic shortage of livers for transplant, said that liver surgeons “urgently need novel ways to regenerate livers. With Bruce (Hammock) we are working with Dr. Roger Jenkins, who performed New England's first successful liver transplant in July 1983.”
The research, titled “Epoxyeicosanoids Promote Organ and Tissue Regeneration” and accomplished with animal models, showed acceleration of liver regeneration, kidney compensatory growth, lung compensatory growth, wound healing, corneal neovascularization, and retinal vascularization. Vascularization deals with blood vessel formation in abnormal tissue or in abnormal positions.
“There is a soluble epoxide hydrolase with investigational new drug status with the FDA that stabilizes these natural regulators and we could use them for compassionate trials in this area,” Hammock said. “One possible trial, with Mark Puder at Harvard, is for correcting a condition that blocks growth of lungs in newborns. We have a chance to dramatically increase the number of these babies that survive.”
“We are working on this fatal disease of newborns termed diaphramic hernia,” added Panigrahy. “So far this is all in experimental animals but we are planning to test if increasing EETs can be successful in encouraging poorly developed lungs of newborns to grow."
In their abstract, they wrote: “…we hypothesize that endothelial cells stimulate organ and tissue regeneration via production of bioactive EETs. To determine whether endothelial-derived EETs affect physiologic tissue growth in vivo, we used genetic and pharmacological tools to manipulate endogenous EET levels. We show that endothelial-derived EETs play a critical role in accelerating tissue growth in vivo, including liver regeneration, kidney compensatory growth, lung compensatory growth, wound healing, corneal neovascularization, and retinal vascularization. Administration of synthetic EETs recapitulated these results, whereas lowering EET levels, either genetically or pharmacologically, delayed tissue regeneration, demonstrating that pharmacological modulation of EETs can affect normal organ and tissue growth. We also show that soluble epoxide hydrolase inhibitors, which elevate endogenous EET levels, promote liver and lung regeneration. Thus, our observations indicate a central role for EETs in organ and tissue regeneration and their contribution to tissue homeostasis.
Among the co-researchers are Jun Yang and Bora Inceoglu of the Hammock lab.
“We are very excited about these findings,” Inceoglu said. “Traditionally wound repair and healing is an area where we clearly lack efficacious drugs. This work demonstrates that there are natural processes one can augment and promote to accelerate wound healing. This is a hopeful moment for many patients suffering from serious conditions that can be helped with these new drugs."
Said Yang: “The finding here implies the modulation of EETs in vivo might help wound healing especially for the organ transplant patients. In the study, the result based on liver transplant patients supports this argument, which is very exciting and provides the basis for the translation to the clinic."
Hammock, who directs the NIEHS Superfund Research Program on the UC Davis campus, received financial support from Superfund Program and from NIH grants. He also receives financial backing as a George and Judy Marcus Senior Fellow of the American Asthma Foundation.
Other funding sources supporting the 28-member team were the National Cancer Institute Grant, the Stop and Shop Pediatric Brain Tumor Fund, the C. J. Buckley Pediatric Brain Tumor Fund, the Joshua Ryan Rappaport Fellowship, the Children’s Hospital Boston Surgical Foundation and the Vascular Biology Program, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Research Fellowship, and the Intramural Research Program of NIH.
Panigrahy cautioned that the work is a work in progress. “Further studies are needed to carefully evaluate the benefits as well as the risks in the clinical modulation of these lipid mediators,” said Panigrahy. “EETs are a substance that can potentially link wound healing and cancer. Stimulating of EETs promotes wound healing. We have shown the ability of EET antagonists to inhibit tumor growth and metastasis. These results could pave the way for a new strategy for the prevention and treatment of metastatic disease — that is, inhibition of EET bioactivity. Specific EET antagonists, inhibitors of endothelial CYP epoxygenases, or the overexpression of EET-metabolizing enzymes may represent new strategies for the treatment of angiogenic diseases, including cancer.”