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NIH Botanical Research Centers Program

In response to a Congressional mandate, in 1999 the Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) initiated the Botanical Research Centers Program in partnership with the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM)external link icon. In addition to NCCAM, ODS has partnered with other NIH institutes/offices (National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, National Institute of General Medical Sciences, NIH Office of Research on Women's Health) to evolve the BRC Program over the past 10 years. In the current (and third) 5-year program cycle, the National Cancer Institute (NCI)external link icon for the first time joins ODS and NCCAM in cosponsoring the program. Five Centers are collectively referred to as the NIH Botanical Research Centers (BRC) Program.

The purpose of the BRC Program is to promote collaborative, integrated, interdisciplinary study of botanicals, particularly those found as ingredients in dietary supplements, and to conduct research of high potential for being translated into practical benefits for human health. Preclinical research that will inform future clinical studies is the primary research focus of this program. The Centers identify and characterize botanicals, assess bioavailability and bioactivity, explore mechanisms of action, conduct preclinical and clinical evaluations, help select botanicals to be tested in clinical trials and provide a rich environment for training and career development. They are expected to greatly advance the scientific base of knowledge about botanicals, including issues of their safety, effectiveness, and mechanism of action (or biological action). Safety is a major theme in some of the centers.

The Botanical Research Centers Program for 2010-2015 includes the following grantee institutions:

Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Louisiana State University System, Baton Rouge, LA

Center Theme: Botanicals and Metabolic Syndrome

Center Director: William Cefalu, M.D.

Center Website: http://www.botanical.pbrc.eduexternal link icon

Institutional Partners: Biotechnology Center for Agriculture and the Environment, Rutgers, New Brunswick, NJ; Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA

Research Projects:

  • Artemisia sp. and Insulin Action
  • Adipocytes and Botanicals
  • Pregnane Glycosides and Obesity

Description: This center has been supported for 5 years and in the current 5-year period aims to provide a comprehensive evaluation of specific, compelling hypotheses about the molecular, cellular and physiological mechanisms by which botanicals can modulate the development of the underlying pathophysiologic mechanisms of, and attenuate the development to, metabolic syndrome.

University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL

Center Theme: Botanical Dietary Supplements for Women's Health

Center Director: Richard B. van Breemen, Ph.D.

Center Website: http://www.uic.edu/pharmacy/centers/uic_nih_botanical_dietary_supplement_research/external link icon

Research Projects:

  • Metabolomic Characterization of Botanical Chemistry and Synergy
  • Botanical Modulation of Estrogen Carcinogenesis
  • Metabolism, Safety and Efficacy

Description: UIC is the longest continuously funded center having been supported for 10 years and being supported for another 5 years. In the current cycle, the center focuses on the safety of botanical dietary supplements that are widely available and used by women. The investigators are studying the synergy of multicomponent mixtures and the mechanisms of action, metabolism and pharmacokinetics, interactions with prescription drugs, and the impact of botanicals on endogenous estrogenic hormones.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL

Center Theme: Mechanisms, Dose and Target Tissues

Center Director: William Helferich, Ph.D.

Center Website: http://vetmed.illinois.edu/botanical/index.htmlexternal link icon

Institutional Partners: University of Mississippi, University, MS; Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR; National Center for Toxicological Research, Jefferson, AR

Research Projects:

  • Molecular Mechanisms and Cellular Pathways of Botanical Estrogen Activity
  • Botanical Estrogen Actions in Bone, Uterus, Mammary, and Breast Cancer Metastasis
  • Botanical Estrogens and Cognitive Function

Description: This new center addresses safety, efficacy, and mechanism of action of botanical estrogens currently being consumed by women. The projects look at molecular mechanisms and cellular pathways of botanical estrogens and their actions on bone, uterus, mammary tissue, breast cancer metastasis, and cognition.

University of Missouri, Columbia, MO

Center Theme: Botanical Interaction Studies

Center Director: Dennis Lubahn, Ph.D.

Center Website: http://botanicalresearch.missouri.eduexternal link icon

Institutional Partners: Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO

Research Projects:

  • Botanicals Targeting Signaling Pathways that Promote Prostate Cancer
  • Botanical Phenolics Targeting Oxidative/Nitrosative Signaling Pathways: Implication for Cerebral Ischemia
  • Antioxidant Botanicals and Antimicrobial Defenses

Description: This new center investigates the safety and efficacy of five botanical dietary supplements. The center's primary focus is antioxidant signaling and how it relates to other pathways and mechanisms of action in preventing prostate cancer and neurodegeneration, as well as improving resistance to infectious disease.

Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC

Center Theme: Botanical Lipids and Inflammatory Disease Prevention

Center Director: Floyd Chilton, Ph.D.

Center Website: http://www.mydietaryfats.orgexternal link icon

Institutional Partners: University of Colorado Health Sciences, Aurora, CO; Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, MA; Bent Creek Institute, Asheville, NC; Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD

Research Projects:

  • Atheroprotective Mechanisms of Borage and Echium Oils
  • Mechanisms of Actions of Botanical Lipids on Effector Cells of Asthma
  • Role of Fatty Acid Desaturase Polymorphisms in Determining the Effectiveness of PUFA-based Botanical Supplements in Humans

Description: The goal of this renewed center in its second 5-year cycle is to delineate the molecular mechanisms by which botanical oils prevent or impact disease (cardiovascular disease, asthma and metabolic syndrome) with a particular focus on immunity and inflammation. The center will study different populations to determine where botanical lipids are most likely to be effective.