SOT Welcomes Its Newest Honorary Member, Laura E. Nagy


By J Eric McDuffie posted 03-05-2020 08:18


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Laura E. Nagy, PhD, is an internationally recognized leader in the field of alcohol-induced organ diseases. In particular, she has made significant contributions to the understanding of the role of the innate immune system in the progression of alcohol-associated liver diseases (AALD). She also has done pioneering work on alcohol’s impact on adipose tissue and on the interaction between adipose tissue and the liver in the development of AALD. Her laboratory consistently produces new and unanticipated insights into mechanisms of alcohol damage to the liver by following unique avenues of research.

Laura E. Nagy.pngDr. Nagy obtained her PhD in nutrition from the University of California Berkeley. She currently is a Professor of molecular medicine at Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University and a staff member in the Department of Inflammation and Immunity and the Department of Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition at the Cleveland Clinic. In addition, she is an Adjunct Professor of nutrition at Case Western Reserve University.

Dr. Nagy began her career in alcohol-related research during postdoctoral work at the University of California San Francisco, through which she studied the effect of alcohol on adenosine receptor signaling, which has important roles in many biological processes, including inflammation and insulin function. Adenosine is a naturally occurring chemical that plays a role in energy transfer and a variety of signaling pathways in the body. Dr. Nagy’s work revealed that alcohol impairs the transport of adenosine in cultured cell lines and lymphocytes from people with alcohol use disorder.

Since starting her own laboratory, Dr. Nagy has made major contributions to the understanding of alcohol’s impact on the immune system and organs, especially their interactions. In the domain of liver-immune interactions, Dr. Nagy has published extensively on the cellular processes by which alcohol increases the production of the inflammatory cytokine TNFα in Kupffer cells, the most abundant immune cells in the liver, thus contributing to the development of AALD. She was the first to uncover a link between alcohol-induced apoptosis (programmed cell death) of Kupffer cells and activation of the complement pathway, an innate immune system component, in the early phase of the liver’s response to alcohol in mice. Regarding adipose-liver interactions, Dr. Nagy observed that alcohol disrupts insulin signaling in adipose tissue that contributes to fat accumulation in the liver. She also made the groundbreaking observation that alcohol impairs the action of adipose-secreted cytokines on damping the inflammatory response in the liver, which leads to greater liver injury.

Currently, Dr. Nagy’s research is focused on the contributions of the innate immune system in the initiation and progression of alcohol-induced liver injury. She developed a specific mouse model to examine the mechanisms by which alcohol accelerates the development of fibrosis, or scar tissue, in the liver. She also is making significant progress in elucidating the role of necroptosis, a unique programmed cell death pathway, in the liver of patients with severe alcoholic hepatitis (AH). In addition, Dr. Nagy is collaborating with clinicians to develop biomarkers to predict AH based on her discovery of complement pathway activation in animal models and human patients.

Throughout her career, Dr. Nagy has led and participated in collaborative groups addressing many aspects of AALD. She initiated the Northern Ohio Alcohol Center at the Cleveland Clinic, an interdisciplinary research group interested in understanding the mechanisms by which alcohol contributes to AALD. She also took the lead in establishing a collaboration with the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) intramural program to identify genetic risk and protective factors for AH among patients with and without the disease.

For more than 20 years, Dr. Nagy has received continuous funding from NIAAA and the US Department of Defense. Over the course of her distinguished career, she has been recognized for her achievements and service to the scientific community. This includes serving as Chair of NIAAA Board of Scientific Counselors and as a member of peer-review panels at the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Nagy is Associate Editor of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research and Hepatology and has been on the Editorial Board of several other scientific journals. She is a Past President of the Research Society on Alcoholism and has served as Co-Director of the Cell Biology Graduate Program at Case Western Reserve University, where she has been honored for mentoring. Dr. Nagy is a recipient of a Merit Award from NIAAA and the Maria and Sam Miller Professional Excellence Award—Basic Science from the Cleveland Clinic and is a Fellow of the American Gastroenterological Association and the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases.

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