TTUHSC Preliminary Data Grant Program
Presidential Distinguished Lecture
Dr. Bert O'Malley
Professor and Chair
Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology
Baylor College of Medicine
"Steroid Receptor Co-activators: 'Master Genes' for Physiology and Pathology"
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FEATURED SCIENTIST: Dr. Bergeson's Lab is an integral component of the South Plains Alcohol and Addiction Research Center (SPAARC). Center membership includes researchers from both TTU and TTUHSC campuses who collaborate across disciplines and focus on translational approaches to better understand the complexities of alcoholism and addiction.
Dr. Susan Bergeson is an Associate Professor of Pharmacology and Neuroscience. She received her Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in 1997 from Oregon Health & Science University and has subsequently been predominantly funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). Her current studies involve microarray analysis of brain changes associated with alcohol related phenotypes including the propensity to excessively drink. As alcoholism is a genetic disorder, animal models that vary in drinking and response to alcohol are studied in alcohol naïve, intoxicated and dependent states. Adolescent mice, similarily to humans, have been found to drink more and be less sensitive to the negative aspects of drinking. Dr. Bergeson has begun to make inroads toward better understanding how alcohol-mediated brain changes are different in adolescents compared to adults and how drinking at a very young age may lead to a much increased risk for alcoholism. Some of these changes in gene expression occur as epigenetic consequences, or through "molecular memory"; that is, via chromatin remodeling and likely by DNA methylation changes. Collaborative efforts with SPAARC colleagues focus primarily on how binge drinking may lead to decreases in cognition. Memory testing and fMRI are coupled with analyses of protein changes in blood and genotyping for molecular genetic markers.
Dr. Bergeson is also an executive council member of the Lubbock branch of the Laura W. Bush Institute for Women's Health. Gender differences in alcohol responses are well documented and work by Dr. Bergeson is beginning to shed new light on how the brain differentially adapts in a sexually dimorphic manner following alcohol drinking.