University of Louisville's Alcohol Research Center Leads the Way to Recovery

University of Louisville's Alcohol Research Center Leads the Way to Recovery


April is alcohol awareness month, and the University of Louisville Alcohol Research Center (ULARC) is paving the way to recovery with novel findings. The ULARC was created to serve as a regional and national resource to investigate interactions of nutrition and alcohol on alcohol-induced organ injury and to develop new agents/interventions to prevent/treat this organ injury, both of which represent important unmet research needs.

Led by Craig McClain, MD, director of the NIH-funded Alcohol Research Center and professor of Medicine and Pharmacology and Toxicology at the School of Medicine, the ULARC hopes to influence the commonwealth by addressing the effects alcohol has on a person’s body. Alcohol affects multiple organs and organ systems.  The ULARC studies the liver and the gut:liver:brain axis as well as fetal alcohol syndrome and lung injury through multidisciplinary research.

“Alcohol abuse, alcoholism and alcohol use disorder kill over 3 million people each year, accounting for up to 6% of global deaths,” said McClain. “During the COVID pandemic, we saw an increase in alcohol usage that has persisted since. One of our recent projects studies the effects of alcohol on COVID-19 infection. We are also in the process of publishing some of our findings as they relate to novel therapies for alcohol-associated hepatitis, including the use of a specific probiotic and a type of omega-3 fat supplementation.”

McClain’s passion for research in alcohol-associated liver injury and disease started at the University of Minnesota. His mentor was an expert on the subject which gave McClain an opportunity to work hands-on with this vulnerable patient population. As noted, alcohol effects the brain and other organs; it is associated with cancers, heart disease, premature aging, and dementia; and alcohol use can lead to automobile accidents, homicides, and suicides.

McClain was the first to find an association between pro-inflammatory cytokines and alcohol-associated liver injury. His group of researchers specialize in nutritional therapies for alcohol-associated liver injury/disease (ALD) and have used funding from the NIH to study the therapeutic effects of probiotics and over-the-counter nutrition supplements for ALD.

McClain’s advice for alcohol consumption is to “not exceed moderate drinking limits which is two standard drinks a day for men and one standard drink a day for women. A standard drink is 14 grams of alcohol.” He references the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism as a resource to help rethink drinking for anyone struggling with addiction.