NIH grant

Research Associate Professor David N. Ruskin recently received a $459,000 National Institutes of Health (NIH) R15 Academic Research Enhancement Award (AREA) that includes collaboration with Vernon D. Roosa Professor of Applied Science Susan A. Masino and Associate Professor of Neuroscience Luis A. Martinez.

The three-year NIH grant will fund the continuation of their research on metabolic therapy, this time to modulate brain dopaminergic systems.

Ruskin, principal investigator on the grant, said the work is related to his previous R15 grant, “Metabolic Therapy to Relieve Pain in Females: Ketogenic Diet and the Estrous Cycle,” with the current grant continuing the theme of metabolic—or dietary—therapy.

Masino, co-investigator on the grant, said, “We’ve had a long-running research program testing the relationship between the neuromodulator adenosine and very low carbohydrate diets. Our initial emphasis was on basic neurobiology and on epilepsy, autism, and pain, but from the beginning we knew that there are clear interactions between adenosine and dopamine systems in the brain.” She added that this grant proposes to test the hypothesis directly that metabolic therapy with very low carbohydrate diets modulates dopamine-related processes, noting that dopamine is a neurotransmitter involved in many behaviors and also in the effects of abused drugs.

Ruskin and Masino have published some initial work in collaboration with Martinez and Trinity undergraduate students.

“All our work involves student researchers,” Ruskin said. “[They] learn to prepare and present their work in poster format both at the college and at local and national conferences. Some students earn authorship on major publications.”