David Heber, MD, PhD, Principal Investigator/Program Director

Professor of Medicine, UCLA School of Medicine and


UCLA Center for Human Nutrition

The UCLA Center for Dietary Supplements Research: Botanicals has as its specific objectives:

1. To develop and enhance the scientific research base in botanicals by conducting research on the mechanisms of action of botanical dietary supplements. In each of three well-developed research studies, the effects of a putative active ingredient (lovastatin in Chinese Red Yeast Rice, EGCG in Green Tea, Hypericin in St. Johnís wort) will be compared to the combination of compounds (Monacolins, Catechins, Hyperforin/Hypericin) which naturally occur in these botanicals. The actions of families of related compounds will be compared to those of single purified active ingredients in sensitive biological assay systems and in human studies of bioavailability. This work will address a number of issues which underscore the key advantages of botanical dietary supplements for use in public health disease prevention strategies.

2. To further strengthen the science base in botanical dietary supplement research by conducting pilot studies examining the specific immune enhancing actions of Echinacea, establishing a screening assay for plant estrogens, developing information on the bioavailability of flavonoids, and assessing the inhibitory effects of soy isoflavones compared to genistein on prostate cancer growth.

3. To attract scientists into the field of dietary supplement botanical research with an emphasis on multidisciplinary research addressing highly relevant issues on the role of botanicals in health promotion and disease prevention. This is accomplished through the provision of core services in Analytical Phytochemistry, Agriculture and Botany, and Biostatistics and Clinical Pharmacology, through the funding of pilot/feasibility projects and the provision of salary support to carefully selected junior faculty through New Investigator Awards.

4. To strengthen the training environment for medical students, graduate students in the nutritional sciences, housestaff, fellows, and faculty in the area of botanical dietary supplements research by providing a highly visible focus for supported research training in this field.

5. To enhance the utilization of botanical dietary supplements for health promotion and disease prevention through nutrition education of practicing physicians, allied health personnel, and the general public

6. To organize and conduct an information and education program on botanical dietary supplements for health professionals and the public through newsletters, scientific symposia, and special lectures. Support for the actual programs is provided by sponsors under the supervision of the UCLA Office of Continuing Medical Education, the UCLA Extension Program or the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition, Nutrition Education Committee as appropriate.

The CDSRB is composed of over 35 Participating Scientists, all of whom have a demonstrated interest in dietary supplement and/or botanical research. These individuals participate in the use of CDSRB shared resources, and collaborate in CDSRB-sponsored research initiatives. The Participating Scientists are drawn from the Schools of Medicine and Public Health at the UCLA Center for the Health Sciences, as well as from a number of UCLA-affiliated hospital campuses. In addition, investigators from Kansas University, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, and the University of Southern California have been recruited to the CDSRB as Participating Scientists. The Participating Scientists represent a number of disciplines within the basic, clinical, and behavioral sciences, ranging from plant molecular biology and agriculture to phytochemistry to experts in numerous clinical specialty areas drawn from the rich research environment of the UCLA School of Medicine.

The UCLA CDSRB is fulfilling a critical need for additional basic and clinical research on the bioavailability and bioactivity of botanical ingredients including phytochemical marker compounds and/or suspected or known active ingredients. It has also begun to fulfill the need to explore the mechanisms of action of putative or known biologically active constituents in well-defined biological systems and then to conduct preclinical studies in animals and clinical phase I and/or II evaluations of botanicals. In this report, we highlight the progress to date in the Administrative and Planning Core, the Agriculture and Botany Core, the Analytical Phytochemistry Core, and the Biostatistics/Clinical Pharmacology Core, in three well-developed RO1 Research Projects (Chinese Red Yeast Rice, Green Tea, and St.Johnís wort), and in four Pilot Studies (Echinacea, Flavonoids, Soy Isoflavones, and Plant Phytoestrogens). The UCLA School of Medicine is one of the top ten biomedical research institutions in the United States and provides a rich interdisciplinary environment where the primary mission of the Dietary Supplement Research Center in Botanicals can be pursued effectively.

Reference List

UCLA Center for Dietary Supplement Research: Botanicals

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Endo A. Monacolin K, a new hypocholesterolemic agent produced by Monascus sp. J. Antibiotics 1979;8:23-28.

Melchart D., Walther E., Linde K., Brandmaier R., Lersch C. Echinacea root extracts for the prevention of upper respiratory infections: a double-blind placebo-controlled randomized trial. Arch Fain Med 7:54 1-5, 1998.

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Hyder SM; Chiappetta C; Stancel GM. Interaction of human estrogen receptors alpha and beta with the same naturally occurring estrogen response elements. Biochemical Pharmacology, 1999 Mar 15, 57(6):597-601.

Kaul L, Heshmat MY, Kovi J et al. The role of diet in prostate cancer. Nutr Cancer 1987; 9: 123-128.

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