He calls it “fire in the gut.” It’s the excitement, the burning drive to work through a problem and see the solution. It’s staying up at night, turning something over and over in your head and feeling exhilarated when you finally come up with an answer, says Chris Hardin, Professor and Chair of the Nutritional Sciences Department.
In a back corner of the University of Missouri’s medical building, a few floors above the hospital and tucked away to the right, Habib Zaghouani watches a cellular war. He has been up there for seven years, with an army of graduate students and a colony of mice, trying to understand why our bodies attack us and how we can make them stop.
Hardin’s research will have a number of applications down the road. His first project will affect the way we understand and treat diabetes. His second will help individuals taking drugs called statins to alleviate high cholesterol. He hopes to find some indicator in the human body that will tell whether the particular statins a patient takes are doing permanent damage to his/her muscles.
Danielle Tartar leads the project that works to treat Type I diabetes. In mice, the team has been able to isolate treatment and calm the immune cells that attack the insulin-producing cells. They are now working to create a form of that treatment that can be administered orally. Thus far, they have been able to treat the disease with weekly shots, and they plan to begin testing these treatments on humans very soon.
Habib Zaghouani, along with his team of graduate and post-doctoral fellows, is working on four different projects in the lab. The first examines why newborn babies are so susceptible to infection, the second tries to understand how the immune system’s memory works, while the third and fourth aim at developing treatments for specific diseases: type I diabetes and multiple sclerosis.