When neurosurgeon Behnam Badie, M.D., decided to take lunch a little bit earlier than normal back in 2005, he had no idea it would lead to a collaboration between his lab and diabetes researchers and scientists.
Badie, chief of neurosurgery and director of the Brain Tumor Program at City of Hope, had recently arrived at the institution from the University of Wisconsin and was studying inflammatory cells in brain tumors. These cells — called macrophages — are heavily studied in inflammation, infections and diseases such as multiple sclerosis, but never in malignant gliomas, a type of deadly brain tumor.
In 2001, his lab in Wisconsin began to study microglia, a subtype of brain macrophage that spreads inside and around the edges of gliomas. The function of these cells was relatively unknown and Badie wanted to find out if they could possibly promote tumor growth.
“Understanding the biology of glioma-microglia interaction could potentially help lead to new immune-based therapies against these fatal brain tumors,” said Badie.
Badie took his research with him to City of Hope and started to investigate the role of these macrophages in glioma.
It was during this time that Badie moved his lunch to 11 a.m., which happened to coincide with that of the late scientist Samuel Rahbar, M.D. Ph.D.
They began to eat together and, like with most scientists, their conversations eventually led back to their research.
At first, the two may have seemed like an unlikely pair – Badie, a neurosurgeon who researches ways to combat deadly brain tumors, and Rahbar, a scientist who studies the mechanisms of diabetes. But soon, it became apparent that the pair had much more in common scientifically than they thought.
Both were studying aspects of inflammation — Badie was looking into the mechanisms of macrophages and Rahbar was developing a drug that suppressed inflammation in those with it.
Eventually their discussions led to the topic of RAGE, a receptor of advanced glycation end product (AGE), which is a protein found in diabetes that causes inflammation when exposed to sugars.
“Our conversation gave me the idea to see if these proteins are in brain tumors, too. Because if they are, then that can mean we could prevent inflammation by blocking the activation of RAGE,” said Badie.
To help support Badie’s hypothesis, the National Institutes of Health awarded him with a Research Project (R01) grant in 2012, on which he worked closely with Rama Natarajan, Ph.D, the National Business Products Industry Professor in Diabetes Research and chair in the Department of Diabetes Complications and Metabolism at City of Hope, as well as her team of researchers.
Badie was recently awarded a renewal of the R01 grant for an additional $2.1 million. The highly competitive grant will help Badie look further into RAGE and the tumor’s microenvironment.
“So far we’ve found that RAGE inhibition can suppress the growth of gliomas in mice. So now we are trying to come up with the best way to inhibit RAGE as a potential new treatment for glimoas,” said Badie.
The family of SNARE proteins are an essential part of the body’s complex transport system, helping to regulate diverse biological processes. Thurmond investigates the role that certain members of that family play in metabolism — research that has the potential to result in new therapies for type 1 diabetes.