Drs. Brown, Hinchcliffe lead team behind discovery featured in top science journal

Dr. Edward Hinchcliffe  –  Cellular Dynamics Section
Dr. Rhoderick Brown – Membrane Biochemistry Section at the Hormel Institute

Drs. Brown, Hinchcliffe lead team behind discovery featured in top science journal

Researchers at The Hormel Institute led a group of scientists in discovering a “missing link” in the major cell pathway involved in chronic inflammation, a condition contributing to the development of cancer and many other diseases.

Led by Dr. Rhoderick Brown, leader of the Membrane Biochemistry section at The Hormel Institute, University of Minnesota, the research is featured in the world’s top scientific journal Nature – released online Wednesday and to be published in an upcoming print edition of the journal.

Brown and his team at The Hormel Institute made the initial discovery of a previously unknown protein in the body needed to prevent the over-accumulation of a sphingolipid known as ceramide-1-phosphate (C1P) at specific sites within cells. When the protein, named CPTP, is depleted from cells, the inflammatory process becomes activated.

After making the discovery, Brown’s team collaborated with three other research labs, including the Cellular Dynamics section led by Dr. Edward Hinchcliffe at The Hormel Institute. Other major collaborators include Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York and Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va.

Under the project coordinated by Brown, researchers found a new way to regulate the body’s pro-inflammatory eicosanoids, which contribute to the development of diseases, such as cancer, asthma or airway hyper-responsiveness, atherosclerosis and thrombosis. They discovered that non-vesicular trafficking of C1P by molecular transfer protein CPTP regulates eicosanoid production in cells.

“This is the kind of exciting basic research discovery that can lead to the development of new therapeutic treatments for controlling inflammation that is associated with various diseases, including cancer,” Dr. Brown said.

Cells require efficient targeting, trafficking and presentation of C1P to specific cellular sites to control eicosanoid action and avoid the damaging effects of chronic inflammation. Non-vesicular mechanisms for the sensing, transfer and presentation of a C1P previously had been unexplored.

The Hormel Institute, University of Minnesota, is a world-renowned medical research center in Austin, Minn., focused on discoveries leading to the prevention and control of cancer. Funding for the discovery by The Hormel Institute investigators was provided by National Institutes of Health and supported by The Hormel Foundation.

In July, The Hormel Foundation announced a $23 million commitment toward The Hormel Institute’s next major expansion set to break ground in 2014. The expansion will add needed laboratories and space for its International Center of Research Technology. The Hormel Foundation will provide $13.5 million in funding as a match to the State of Minnesota’s bonding for the expansion and an additional $9.5 million for recruiting top scientists, equipping labs with state-of-the-art technologies, and creating a cutting-edge environment for progressive cancer research.

Currently leaders at The Hormel Institute are hiring three new cancer research sections to fill the remaining lab space created by the Institute’s 2006-2008 major expansion. The Hormel Foundation contributed $16.7 million toward the 2006-2008 project, which tripled the size of The Hormel Institute and allowed space for doubling the number of faculty and staff jobs. The Hormel Institute’s Executive Director is Dr. Zigang Dong.