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College of Medicine Investigator Talks About How Certain Plant-Derived Chemicals in Our Diet Can Decrease Aging Related Diseases

Dr. Bernhard Juurlink, a Professor of Anatomy & Cell Biology in the College of Medicine at Alfaisal University, gave an informative and stimulating talk on Wednesday 9 December 2009, about the effect of chemicals known as phase 2 protein inducers (P2PIs) in our diet on the aging process. As we grow old we have an increase in strong oxidant production relative to the ability of our cells to inactivate the oxidants. A consequence is that the molecules that are regulating gene expression ‘rust’ as we get older resulting in abnormal gene expression. This causes aging related problems such as hardening of the arteries, hypertension, kidney disease and type 2 diabetes.

This Research Colloquium presentation by Dr. Juurlink, entitled “Rage, Rage Against the Dying of the Light”, focused on dietary P2PIs and presented evidence, using rat and mouse models, that P2PIs can increase the expression of anti-oxidant genes resulting in healthier aging and having positive effects on fetal determinants of adult health.

There were numerous questions from the 40 member audience consisting of faculty, staff and students. At the end of the presentation there was an animated discussion on how research in the arts and sciences are related. Dr Simon Hull, Assistant Professor of English, said that “we welcomed the opportunity itself, which the talk briefly provided, to discuss the role of interdisciplinarity in the modern university. “ He, for example questioned the idea that only the sciences have matters of the ‘real world’ as the end or objective of research.

Dr. Juurlink obtained his doctorate in medical sciences from McMaster University in Canada in 1975. Prior to joining Alfaisal University he spent 35 years at the University of Saskatchewan in the College of Medicine reaching the rank of Full Professor, doing both teaching and research. He also held the positions of Head of Department and Associate Dean. Dr. Bernhard has published extensively with over 100 refereed journal publications to his credit. He has continued his success in Saudi Arabia by being awarded a Science & Technology Research Grant as part of a national competition (NCPSC) administered by KACST. The research projects awards competition are held twice a year and address areas of strategic interest to the Kingdom. Dr. Bernhard Juurlink’s research project entitled, Phase 2 Protein Induction, Sirt1 and Gluconeogenesis, may lead to new ways of treating type 2 diabetes and, even, possibly preventing the development of type 2 diabetes in pre-diabetic patients.

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