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Centenary Professor Rodriguez Contributes to Nitrite Paper in Newest Issue of Nature Chemical Biology

Dr. Juan Rodriguez

SHREVEPORT, LA — Centenary Professor Juan Rodriguez is among researchers whose findings, just released in the prestigious journal Nature Chemical Biology, may have important implications for dietary guidelines for foods containing nitrite.

The research is highlighted in a number of other publications as well, including the Sept. 29 edition of Nature's Research Highlights, Science et Vie, a French scientific magazine and Le Quotidien du Medecin, the most-read medical paper in France.

"The team's results ...could have important implications for dietary guidelines for nitrite-containing foods," said Hum-molgen, one of the world's largest Internet sources for the latest information in human molecular genetics.

Rodriguez collaborated closely with Dr. Martin Feelisch and his group from Boston University School of Medicine and with Ronald E. Maloney of the LSU School of Medicine in Shreveport's Department of Molecular and Cellular Physiology. Collaborating researchers were also from the Whitaker Cardiovascular Institute and the Center for Molecular Stress Response at Boston University School of Medicine, and a former LSUHSC-S scientist, Tienush Rassaf, who is now at Heinrich-Heine University, Düsseldorf, Germany.

Nitrite is a common food preservative used widely in the meat industry and can also be derived from vegetables. "It has long been known that the human body produces this substance," Dr. Rodriguez said, but it was always assumed to be of no significance. "However, measurements produced by the group revealed that this substance has a significant impact in the way cells function in tissues. The study further demonstrated that dietary levels of nitrite also have a direct effect in tissues."

Study Raises 'Intriguing Questions'

Dr. Rodriguez said the study also raised intriguing questions about the mechanism responsible for the actions of nitrite in tissues. Many of those actions were similar to those produced by a closely related substance — nitric oxide — also produced within our bodies. That substance controls a wide range of functions, in the circulation and nervous and immune systems, among others.

"The similarity between the actions of nitrite and nitric oxide now presents a major challenge for the biological and biomedical communities," Dr. Rodriguez reports. "It is important now to find out whether many of the effects previously attributed to nitric oxide actually arise from nitrite, especially if nitrite can come from our diet."

Centenary Students Join the Research

To help solve this question, Dr. Rodriguez is now leading a research project to engineer a new way to trace these types of tissue responses to either nitrite and/or nitric oxide. This engineering project will involve Centenary students, in collaboration with Dr. Feelisch and Dr. Matthew Grisham, a free-radical physiologist from LSUHSC in Shreveport.

The early phase of this new project is being supported by the Louisiana Biomedical Research Network, a program funded by the National Institutes of Health and administered by LSU in Baton Rouge. The program is designed to enhance the quality of biomedical research conducted throughout the state of Louisiana.

Dr. Rodriguez holds the Wortham Chair of Engineering at Centenary and has been a member of the Centenary faculty since 1990. He earned a B.S. degree from Centenary (1980) and a Ph.D. from the University of Arkansas (1986).

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