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Meet Arthur Cederbaum, Ph.D

cederbaumArthur Cederbaum, Ph.D., professor of pharmacology and systems therapeutics, director of the Cederbaum Laboratory, and co-director of the Mount Sinai Liver Disease Research Center. Dr. Cederbaum recently won the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Research Society on Alcoholism's annual meeting in June 2011.

Writer Sherry Wasilow interviewed Dr. Cederbaum from his office at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City.

SW: Addiction research is a complex field. What is your area of expertise?

AC: My focus has long been: 'How can we help those individuals who drink to excess and develop liver injury, or may have a predisposition to develop liver injury?'

In our lab, instead of focusing on mechanisms or pathways which produce addiction to alcohol, we have searched for mechanisms or pathways which produce liver and tissue injury by alcohol. Just as understanding mechanisms or pathways which produce addiction to alcohol may yield new therapeutic interventions to decrease drinking, we hope our research on alcohol-induced oxidant stress, fatty liver, and liver injury may lead to new treatments to ameliorate alcohol-tissue injury.

SW: How did you begin your career in alcohol research?

AC: My training as a graduate student at Rutgers University was in biochemistry, specifically in mitochondrial bioenergetics. Mitochondria are the "powerhouses" of every cell (except red blood cells), transforming the chemical energy present in our food into cellular currency of energy ( ).

I came to Mount Sinai School of Medicine as a postdoctoral fellow in 1971. At that time, the medical school was only two years old (the hospital was more than 100 years old) and it was exciting to be in a new research institution. More exciting was the opportunity to work with two outstanding biomedical alcohol researchers, Drs. Emanuel Rubin of the Pathology Department and Charles Lieber of the Bronx VA Hospital, an affiliate of Mount Sinai.

Manny and Charles transformed biomedical research on alcohol, showing that alcohol had direct toxic effects on the liver and were toxic not only because of nutritional disturbances, the prevailing dogma in the field. Their seminal studies in the 1960s and 1970s led to the still ongoing research on understanding how alcohol is directly toxic to the liver. It was exciting to be in such an intense, dedicated, and research environment. Drs. Rubin and Lieber were the most influential scientists who trained me and motivated me into a 40-year career devoted to biomedical and toxicological effects of alcohol in the liver.

SW: Please describe your current research.

AC: Our current focus has been to evaluate the role of a liver enzyme called cytochrome P4502E1, or CYP2E1, in alcohol-induced liver injury and fat accumulation ( While all organs can be damaged by long-term alcohol abuse, the liver is the most susceptible. In fact, chronic alcohol abuse is the second leading cause of liver transplantation in the United States. Yet despite years of intense research, we still don't clearly understand the mechanisms by which alcohol is toxic to the liver, and it is only with such understanding that we can design therapeutic interventions to ameliorate alcohol-induced liver injury.

Only 20 to 30 percent of alcoholics develop health problems such as cirrhosis and liver failure ( ). While genetic and environmental factors likely play key roles in why certain alcoholics develop liver failure while others do not, these factors have not been specifically identified. Women are more susceptible to alcohol toxicity than males, developing liver injury with lower consumption of alcohol and for shorter times of consumption than males. Again, the factors promoting this enhanced susceptibility to alcohol in females are not clear.

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