I’ll give some background information about the kind of research that we’ve been doing for the past 15 or 20 years. Neuroinflammation is the main topic that we’re studying in the lab. That’s when you activate types of cells in your brain called glial cells; there are microglial cells and other types called astrocytes. These guys are normally sitting around there sort of patrolling your brain and doing useful things, like getting rid of junk and producing trophic factors [peptides or proteins that help neurons grow and survive]—making your neurons happy. In a variety of diseases, like Alzheimer’s, M.S., Parkinson’s and even with aging, the cells get activated in ways that can become toxic or detrimental.
Then about two years ago, I got involved in an alcohol project, which was looking at the effects of alcohol on these cells in the brains of animal models and also in cell cultures. Also, a lot of the work we’ve done over the years in my lab has focused on Alzheimer’s disease and what leads to plaque accumulation, but never previously looked at alcohol, so I just put these two things together for the first time, and luckily, we had some interesting results.