Dr. Curtis Eckhert's research is focused on understanding how boron, a metalloid element that is present in high concentrations in fruits and vegetables, reduces the risk of prostate cancer in American men. His research also extends to understanding mechanisms involved in other biological functions of boron such as post-fertilization cell cleavage and maintenance of the adult retina.
Like the much heavier essential elements iodine and selenium, boron is a metalloid. Boron's growth-promoting effect in animals was first identified in Eckhert's laboratory using embryonic rainbow trout. The most critical time for boron in embryonic development was subsequently localized to the cleavage stage between fertilization and the formation of blastulae in experiments using zebrafish. In these experiments, approximately one-half of boron-depleted zebrafish embryos died before they entered the blastula stage. Eckhert and his associates determined that boron-depleted one-cell stage embryos could be rescued from death when provided the element shortly after fertilization. Using epidemiology as a screening tool, Eckhert and his colleague, Dr. Zuo-Feng Zhang, found that the dietary intake of boron by American men is associated with reduced risk for prostate cancer. Eckhert's laboratory has examined the biological plausibility of this observation and demonstrated that boron also reduces the proliferation of human prostate cells in the laboratory.
The ultimate goal of Eckhert's laboratory is to elucidate the mechanism responsible for this unexpected biological effect of boron. His approach uses human cells and biopsy tissue and a variety of techniques and procedures. Boron is quantitated by inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS), localized using NanoSIMS spectrometry, and its impact on cells is evaluated using gene arrays, RT-PCR, proteomics and live cell confocal image analysis.
Selected Cancer-Related Publications:
Barranco WT, Hudak PF, Eckhert CD. Evaluation of ecological and in vitro effects of boron on prostate cancer risk (United States). Cancer Causes Control. 2007; 18(1): 71-7.
Barranco WT, Eckhert CD. Boric acid inhibits human prostate cancer cell proliferation. Cancer Lett. 2004; 216(1): 21-9.
Cui Y, Winton MI, Zhang ZF, Rainey C, Marshall J, De Kernion JB, Eckhert CD. Dietary boron intake and prostate cancer risk. Oncol Rep. 2004; 11(4): 887-92.