photo of Toby Eisenstein '64, PhD '69

Neuroimmunologist's career lauded

Toby Eisenstein '64, PhD '69, microbiology, received a faculty research award in April 2003 from Temple University, where she is a professor of microbiology and immunology and co-director of the Center for Substance Abuse Research (CSAR).

The $2,500 award, given at the recommendation of a faculty committee and the provost, honored Eisenstein's achievements in research over the span of her 30-year career at Temple. Among her significant findings is the observation that mice given morphine continuously for 48 hours develop sepsis, a condition in which the normal bacteria resident in the gastrointestinal tract leak out into the systemic circulation and populate internal organs such as the liver and spleen. "Deaths from gram negative sepsis are a major problem in hospitals," Eisenstein says. "Our work in mice suggested that morphine post-operatively might be a co-factor in the development of sepsis." This study and others show clearly that opioids suppress immune function and sensitize mice to infection.

In 1998 Eisenstein co-founded CSAR with her colleague Martin Adler. CSAR is partially supported by a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and brings in more than $3 million a year in National Institutes of Health (NIH) research funds awarded to investigators associated with the center. CSAR investigates everything from topics in molecular biology to the impact of drug interactions on addiction.

Eisenstein believes CSAR's work is vital. "I think drug abuse is one of the nation's major health problems," she says. "Morbidity from drug abuse and addiction is tremendous. It has many implications for the workings of society in terms of addicts exhibiting certain behaviors. For example, nearly one-third of all patients in the United States with HIV are intravenous drug users."

Essential to Eisenstein's development as a scientific thinker was her graduate training. "Bryn Mawr trained me to evaluate data and the literature independently," she says. "My development as a scientist was not focused on being a laboratory person running experiments and collecting data, but on ideas and hypotheses, how to test them, and what they might mean. The emphasis on researching a topic and summarizing the state of the art of a field in seminars and in final examinations for courses encouraged critical thinking and evaluation of data ... I think the breadth of my training has allowed me to think expansively about biologic processes.

"The faculty in the biology department were also role models of teacher/educators doing research," she adds.

Eisenstein has followed that example. After Bryn Mawr, she spent a summer as a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford, then joined Temple's faculty as an instructor in its School of Medicine. There she continued her research on salmonella, the basis of her thesis, while teaching.

In the years since, Eisenstein has published articles in more than 100 peer-reviewed publications, and her work has been continuously funded by the NIH. In June she completed a term on the Executive Board of the Bryn Mawr Alumnae Association, representing the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. She has held positions with the American Society for Microbiology and the College on Problems of Drug Dependence and is a founding member of the Society on Neuroimmune Pharmacology.

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