Randall honored for contribution to alcohol research

MUSC Department of Psychiatry’s Carrie L. Randall, Ph.D., was awarded the 1998 Research Society on Alcoholism (RSA) Distinguished Research Award at the Research Society on Alcoholism Meeting June 23 on Hilton Head Island.

Randall, who is scientific director of the Charleston Alcohol Research Center at MUSC, is among a handful of individuals who have received this prestigious award for major contributions to the field of alcohol research.

More than 20 years ago, Randall began her rise to national and international prominence in alcohol research with her work in the area of fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). She has devoted most of her academic career to studying various biological factors, damaging consequences, and potential underlying mechanisms related to a fetus’ exposure to alcohol.

In 1990 Randall was elected president of the Fetal Alcohol Study Group. Further, in recognition of her dedicated work, she received the Betty Ford Award for contributions to substance abuse research (1992) and the Henry Rosett Award from the Fetal Alcohol Study Group (1994) for her contributions to fetal alcohol syndrome research.

Randall’s research on the teratogenic (developmental malformation) properties of alcohol has spawned numerous seminal findings that served to pave the way for future research.

In the “early” days when the acceptance of alcohol as a teratogenic agent was muddled with controversy, she led the way in establishing alcohol as a classic teratogen by employing animal models with rigorous control of potential confounding variables. Her research targeted the teasing apart of maternal and paternal contributions, demonstrating dose-related consequences in the absence of nutritional compounds. The teratogenic properties of alcohol became well documented, lending credibility to the increasing number of clinical reports on FAS.

With the acceptance of alcohol as a teratogen firmly established, Randall once again took a leadership role in advancing the field by espousing the importance of clarifying the mechanisms by which alcohol harms fetal growth and development. In this area, her pioneering work on the role of prostaglandins in alcohol-induced birth defects demonstrated the ability of prostaglandin synthesis (cyclooxygenase) inhibitors (e.g., aspirin, ibuprofen) to prevent alcohol-related fetal malformations.

She was the first to report on the ability of a pharmacologic intervention to impact on the teratogenic potential of another agent.

These significant findings in a mouse model were then extended to analysis of human tissue. In this work, Randall has provided evidence for prostaglandin involvement in alcohol’s effect on human placental and umbilical vasculature tissue.

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