Curtis Eckhert

A Short Biography:

Dr. Eckhert is an expert in vitamins and minerals and authored the chapter on Trace Elements of the 10th and 11th editions of Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease the authoritative text in human nutrition. He received his Ph.D. in biochemistry and nutrition from Cornell University (1974). Thereafter he conducted postdoctoral research in neurochemistry (Cornell), trace element metabolism (UC Davis) and visual biochemistry (Stanford). He is a former head of the UCLA FSPH Division of Nutrition (1987-1992) and Chair of the Department of Environmental Health Sciences (1998-2007).  During the later period when Dr. Eckhert was Chair the Department was tripartite with degree programs in environmental health, environmental science and engineering, and molecular toxicology.  The faculty of the department and its associated degree programs included two Nobel Laureates, three members of the National Academy of Science, three members of the Institute of Medicine and a winner of the National Medal of Science and was ranked number 5 in the nation.

Under his leadership the department launched a significant effort to identify agents that protect against genetic and cellular damage and to translate these discoveries into actions that reduce the incidence and severity of cancer and other diseases.  His current research continues to reflect that mission.   

 


Work Titles
UCLA Associate Director, JCCC Molecular Epidemiology Program Area Member, JCCC Healthy and At-Risk Populations Program Area Professor Emeritus, Environmental Health Sciences
Education:
Degrees:
Ph.D., Cornell University
M.S., University of Arizona
B.S., Westminster College

Contact Information:

Work Email Address:

ceckhert@ucla.edu


Website:

Pubmed Publications

Work Phone Number:

(310) 825-8429

Mailing Address:

UCLA Pub Hlth-Envir Hlth Sci
BOX 951772, 76-080 CHS
Los Angeles, CA 90095


Research Interest:

Natural Protection against DNA and oxidant damage

CURRENT RESEARCH INTEREST

PROBLEM:  Why are vegetables, nuts and fruits beneficial to health?  Studies have failed to how their benefit can be mimicked by supplementation with beta carotene, selenium, fiber and several other nutrients.  But, boron, an essential plant nutrient that is present in these foods has not been considered.  It was not considered because no one knew what it did.  In addition, although it was used as a food preservative for centuries when it was replaced in the early part of the 20th century it was dropped as a food constituent and not listed in food composition tables.

Boron was discovered to be essential for plant growth, flowering and seed formation in 1920s and to be present at high concentrations in vegetables, nuts, kelp and some fruit and their by-products such as coffee, wine, raisons and avocados.  It was known to be rapidly and nearly completely absorbed by humans and distributed as boric acid to all tissues. But it was not known what it did to human or other animal cells.  In a study using boron depleted zebrafish Dr. Eckhert discovered that when boron depleted female zebrafish eggs were fertilized with sperm from boron depleted males the fertilized zygote did not divide into two cells or continue cleavage into four cells and beyond.  However, cell division and embryonic development could be returned to normal by the addition of boron as boric acid the form of the element in human blood. This proved boron essentiality in an animal model at a critical stage of development. 

The finding that boron affected cell multiplication at the one and two cell stage suggested it was involved at a very fundamental level in animal cell biology.  Cancers are a disease of uncontrolled cell division so Dr. Eckhert developed a collaboration with FSPH Epidemiology Professor Zhang to screen for boron associated cancers.  They used a boron foods database developed by Charlene Rainey to screen a NIH dietary cancer database. The results identified a dose dependent reduction in prostate cancer risk as dietary boron intake increased.  This observation was subsequently supported by other researchers who observed boron also reduced the risk of other cancers, DNA damage from toxins and in addition it increased antioxidant status even though boric acid is not itself and antioxidant. Eckhert and his students proceeded to learn how boric acid protected cells.  In a series of studies they identified cADPR as the molecule boric acid interacted with in the cell and the downstream events that followed that interaction over a period of 4 hours.  This uncovered the boron acid signaling pathway.  Knowledge of the pathway has provided a framework that connects seemingly unconnected observations made by other researchers who had studied boron supplemented animals.  There observations include: prevention against DNA damage from toxins, increased in natural antioxidant status, increased in boron mass and strength, reduced time of wound healing, improved immune response and control of infections. Details of the boric acid signaling pathway are available in Dr. Eckhert's two recent publications: 2016 (DOI: 10.1007/s12011-016-0824-y) and 2018 (DOI: 10.1007/s12011-018-1498-4). 

Detailed Biography:

CURRENT RESEARCH INTEREST

PROBLEM:  Why are vegetables, nuts and fruits beneficial to health?  Studies have failed to explain their benefit can be mimicked by supplementation with beta carotene, selenium, fiber and several other nutrients.  But, boron, an essential plant nutrient that is present in these foods has not been considered because no one knew what it did and although it was used as a food perservative for centuries it was replaced in the early part of the 20th century. It was discovered to be essential for plant growth,flowering and seed formation in 1920s and to be present at high concentrations in vegetables, nuts, kelp and some fruit and their by-products such as coffee, wine, raisons and avocados.  But it was not known what it did to human cells after a meal of boron rich foods.  In a study using boron depleted zebrafish Dr. Eckhert discovered that when boron depleted female zebrafish eggs were fertilized with sperm from boron depleted males the fertilized zygote did not divide into two cells or continue cleavage into four cells and beyond.  However, cell divison and embryonic development could be returned to normal by the addition of boron as boric acid the form of the element in human blood. This proved boron essentiality in an animal model at a critical stage of development. 

The finding that boron affected cell multiplication at the one and two cell stage suggested it was involved at a very fundamental level in animal cell biology.  Cancers are a disease of uncontrolled cell division so Dr. Eckhert developed a collaboration with FSPH Epidemiology Professor Zhang to screen for boron associated cancers.  They used a boron foods database developed by Charlene Rainey to screen a NIH dietary cancer database.  The results identified a dose dependent reduction in prostate cancer risk as dietary boron intake increased.  This observation was subsequently supported by other researchers who observed boron also reduced the risk of other cancers, DNA damage from toxins and it also increased antioxidant status.  Dr. Eckhert and his students proceeded to learn how boric acid protected cells.  In a series of studies they identified cADPR as the molecule boric acid interacted with in the cell and the downstream events that followed that interaction over a period of 4 hours.  This uncovered the boron acid signaling pathway.  Knowledge of the pathway provided a framework that connected seemingly unconnected observations made by other researchers who had studied boron supplemented animals.  There observations include: prevention against DNA damage from toxins, increased in natural antioxidant status, increased in boron mass and strength, reduced time of wound healing, improved immune response and control of infections. Details of the boric acid signaling pathway are available in two of his recent publications: 2016 (DOI: 10.1007/s12011-016-0824-y) and 2018 (DOI: 10.1007/s12011-018-1498-4).  

Publications:

A selected list of publications:

Kobyewski, S.E., Henderson, K.A., Yamada, K.E. Eckhert, C.D.   Activation of the Eif2a/AFT4 and ATF6 Pathways in DU-145 Cells by Boric Acid at the Concentration Reported in Men at the US Mean Boron Intake, Biol Trace Elem Res, 2016; 176: 278-293.
Henderson Kimberly A, Kobylewski Sarah E, Yamada Kristin E, Eckhert Curtis D   Boric acid induces cytoplasmic stress granule formation, eIF2α phosphorylation, and ATF4 in prostate DU-145 cells Biometals : an international journal on the role of metal ions in biology, biochemistry, and medicine, 2015; 28(1): 133-41.
Kobylewski Sarah E, Henderson Kimberly A, Eckhert Curtis D   Identification of ryanodine receptor isoforms in prostate DU-145, LNCaP, and PWR-1E cells Biochemical and biophysical research communications, 2012; 425(2): 431-5.
Barranco Wade T, Kim Danny H, Stella Salvatore L, Eckhert Curtis D   Boric acid inhibits stored Ca2+ release in DU-145 prostate cancer cells Cell biology and toxicology, 2009; 25(4): 309-20.
Henderson Kimberly, Stella Salvatore L, Kobylewski Sarah, Eckhert Curtis D   Receptor activated Ca(2+) release is inhibited by boric acid in prostate cancer cells PloS one, 2009; 4(6): e6009.
Barranco WT, Kim DH, Stella SL, Eckhert CD   Boric Acid inhibits stored Ca2+ release in DU-145 prostate cancer cells. Cell Bio Tox, 2008; .
Barranco WT, Hudak PF and Eckhert CD.   Evaluation of ecological and in vitro effects of boron on prostate cancer risk, Cancer Causes Control, 2007; In Press.
Eckhert CD, Barranco WT, Kim DH.   Prostate cancer a model for understanding boron biology, Advances in Plant and Animal Boron Nutrition, 2007; .
Henderson K and Eckhert CD   The Effect of Boron on the UPR in Prostate Cancer Cells is Biphasic, FASEB J, 2007; .
Barranco Wade T, Hudak Paul F, Eckhert Curtis D   Evaluation of ecological and in vitro effects of boron on prostate cancer risk (United States) Cancer causes & control : CCC, 2007; 18(1): 71-7.
Kim DH, Que Hee S, Norris A, Faull KF and Eckhert CD.   Boric acid inhibits ADP-ribosyl cyclase non-competitively, J. Chromatography A, 2006; 1115: 246-252.
Barranco WT and Eckhert CD.   Cellular changes in boric acid-treated DU-145 prostate cancer cells. , Brit J. Cancer , 2006; 94: 884-890.
Kim Danny H, Hee Shane Que, Norris Andrew J, Faull Kym F, Eckhert Curtis D   Boric acid inhibits adenosine diphosphate-ribosyl cyclase non-competitively Journal of chromatography. A, 2006; 1115(1-2): 246-52.
Eckhert, CD   Other Trace Elements, Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease. 10th ed, 2005; .
Barranco WT, Eckhert CD   Boric acid inhibits human prostate cancer cell proliferation Cancer letters. , 2004; 216(1): 21-9.
Barranco Wade T, Eckhert Curtis D   Boric acid inhibits human prostate cancer cell proliferation Cancer letters, 2004; 216(1): 21-9.
Kim Danny H, Faull Kym F, Norris Andrew J, Eckhert Curtis D   Borate-nucleotide complex formation depends on charge and phosphorylation state Journal of mass spectrometry : JMS, 2004; 39(7): 743-51.
Kim DH, Faull KF, Norris AJ, Eckhert CD   Borate-nucleotide complex formation depends on charge and phosphorylation state Journal of mass spectrometry : JMS. , 2004; 39(7): 743-51.
Barranco WT, Eckhert CD   Boric acid acts as a cADPR / RyR antagonist during inhibition of human prostate cancer cell proliferation, FASEB J, 2004; 18: .
Eckhert C   Concentration and variation of boron, selenium and elements associated with cancer risk in non-tumor human prostate tissue, FASEB J, 2004; 18: .
Kim DH, Faull KF, Eckhert CD   Determination of borate complex with cyclic ADP-ribose (cADPR) by electrospray ionization mass spectometry (ESI-MS), FASEB J, 2004; 18: .
Cui Yan, Winton Meiko I, Zhang Zuo-Feng, Rainey Charlene, Marshall James, De Kernion Jean B, Eckhert Curtis D   Dietary boron intake and prostate cancer risk Oncology reports, 2004; 11(4): 887-92.
Cui Y, Winton MI, Zhang ZF, Rainey C, Marshall J, De Kernion JB, Eckhert CD   Dietary boron intake and prostate cancer risk Oncology reports. , 2004; 11(4): 887-92.
Kim Danny H, Marbois Beth N, Faull Kym F, Eckhert Curtis D   Esterification of borate with NAD+ and NADH as studied by electrospray ionization mass spectrometry and 11B NMR spectroscopy Journal of mass spectrometry : JMS, 2003; 38(6): 632-40.
Yamada KE, Eckhert, CD   Boric Acid Activation of eIF2a and Nrf2 Is Perk Dependent: A Mechanism that Explains How Boron Prevent DNA Damage and Enhances Antioxidant Status, Biol Trace Elem Res, 2018; .

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