Volume I, Issue 6: May 2009
Around the Circle

Around the Circle

$21 million gift will name UC Irvine's new hospital

M.A. Douglas
Courtesy of the Douglas estate
M.A. Douglas

A $21 million posthumous gift from a man whose values included integrity and passion for life has enabled UC Irvine to reach its fundraising goal for the university hospital at UC Irvine Medical Center. The largest single cash gift in campus history comes from the estate of M.A. Douglas, formerly a resident of Orange. In recognition of the generous donation, the university's new seven-story hospital in Orange will be renamed UC Irvine Douglas Hospital. "Our long-held commitment is to deliver the finest healthcare to our Orange County community and beyond; this transformative gift dramatically improves our ability to do so," said Chancellor Michael Drake.

Douglas gift »

Giant anteaters arrive at Santa Ana Zoo

Male giant anteater
Two giant anteaters will go on display when the Tierra de las Pampas exhibit opens early next year. Here, the male checks out his temporary new digs.

A pair of giant anteaters — real-life cousins of UCI's famed mascot Peter — arrived April 1 at the Santa Ana Zoo, where they'll remain behind the scenes until taking up permanent residence at the new Tierra de las Pampas exhibit early next year. The 6-year-old male and female came from Guyana and are the first giant anteaters in Orange County. The 2-acre grassland exhibit will include a shallow pool and a termite mound and will also house the greater rheas — large, flightless birds — and guanacos, wild relatives of llamas. Naming rights to the anteaters are available for a $20,000 donation to the zoo; UCI Alumni Association is raising funds to name the male one Peter.

Peter campaign >>

Oncology program bridges mainstream, alternative medicine

Pet therapy dogs
Daniel A. Anderson / University Communications
The integrative oncology program will evaluate such alternative approaches as pet therapy. At UC Irvine Medical Center, dogs are provided by Therapeutic Animal Intervention for Lifting Spirits.

Chemotherapy, radiation, drugs and surgery aren't the only weapons used to fight cancer. Herbs, special diets and acupuncture have been added to the arsenal. Increasingly, cancer patients are supplementing traditional treatments with alternative therapies. Unconventional approaches to prevention have also gained in popularity. But do they work? That's what the integrative oncology program at UC Irvine's Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center is trying to determine. Dr. Randall Holcombe instituted the program to gauge the effectiveness of dietary and lifestyle therapies in cancer prevention and care. "We recognize that alternative therapies can be effective, and we hope to establish a standard of care for those that work," he says. Among the alternative approaches the program will evaluate: pet therapy, like the Therapeutic Animal Intervention for Lifting Spirits program (pictured) offered at UC Irvine Medical Center (see related story).

Integrative oncology program >>

Researchers find new way to fight cocaine addiction

Shinjae Chung and Olivier Civelli
Shinjae Chung (left) and Olivier Civelli led a UCI study that could result in new treatments for cocaine addiction.

UCI pharmacological researchers have discovered that blocking a hormone related to hunger regulation can limit cocaine cravings. Their findings could herald a new approach to overcoming addiction. Led by Shinjae Chung and Olivier Civelli, the study identified how the melanin-concentrating hormone works with dopamine in the brain's "pleasure center" to create an addictive response to cocaine use. Blocking MCH in these brain cells reduced desire for the drug, they found. "This discovery indicates that MCH is a key regulator of dopamine in a brain area associated with both pleasure and addiction," says Civelli, the Eric L. and Lila D. Nelson Professor of Neuropharmacology. "Efforts to target MCH may lead to new treatments to break addiction to cocaine and, possibly, other drugs, like amphetamines and nicotine."

Cocaine breakthrough »



Baram wins major epilepsy research award

Dr. Tallie Z. Baram
Dr. Tallie Z. Baram

Dr. Tallie Z. Baram, the Danette Shepard Chair in Neurological Sciences, has received the Epilepsy Research Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Pharmacology of Antiepileptic Drugs. Presented by the American Society for Pharmacology & Experimental Therapeutics, the award recognizes and fosters outstanding research leading to better clinical control of epileptic seizures. Baram is considered a leading investigator of the basic neural mechanisms involved in childhood febrile seizures — those caused by high fever — and how these prolonged seizures can lead to adult epilepsy. She received the ASPET award April 18 at the organization's annual meeting in New Orleans.

Epilepsy award »

Ogunseitan named to state Green Chemistry panel

Oladele A. Ogunseitan
Daniel A. Anderson / University Communications
Oladele A. Ogunseitan studies the effects of industrial pollutants.

Oladele A. Ogunseitan, population health & disease prevention professor and chair, has been selected to serve on the state's new Green Ribbon Science Panel. The advisory panel was created for California's Green Chemistry program, an innovative approach to removing toxic chemicals in products sold in the state. The panel will help direct the Department of Toxic Substances Control in reducing the adverse health and environmental effects of chemicals used in commerce and developing a green chemicals policy. Ogunseitan directs the Research and Education in Green Materials component of the University of California's Systemwide Toxic Substances Research & Teaching Program.

Green Ribbon Science Panel (pdf) »