Our group studies activation of the Nrf2 transcription factor by natural products and other small molecules. Upon activation, Nrf2 induces the expression of genes that encode for cytoprotective proteins, including those with detoxification, antioxidant, and damage repair functions. Over time, Nrf2 activation can help protect against chronic disease including various cancers, arthritis, diabetes, and neurodegenerative diseases. A wide variety of foods contain compounds that activate Nrf2, for example EGCG from green tea, shogaols from ginger, and sulfur compounds from garlic and onions as well as cruciferous vegetables. For more detail, here is a link to a review on Nrf2 activation by phytochemicals authored by Dr. Eggler.
Our primary focus of research is on enhancing the therapeutic effect of a particularly promising Nrf2 activator from broccoli sprouts, sulforaphane, by co-treating with a small molecule that generates reactive oxygen species. Through this research we are gaining understanding on how this pathway is activated by small molecules, and how to design synergistic activators. Our work has been supported by a Research Corporation Cottrell College Science Award and a Young Investigator award from the Elsevier–Phytochemistry Journal/Phytochemistry Society of North America.