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NIH Epigenetics Program, DNA banking, Research Festival Oct 14-17

Sept 29, 2008- NIH announced funding for the new NIH Roadmap Epigenomics Program. Epigenetic processes control normal growth and development, and epigenomics is a study of epigenetic processes at a genome-wide scale. NIH will invest more than $190 million over the next 5 years to accelerate this emerging field of biomedical research. The first grants will total approximately $18 million in 2008.
The overall hypothesis of the NIH Roadmap Epigenomics Program is that the origins of health and susceptibility to disease are, in part, the result of epigenetic regulation of the genetic blueprint. Researchers believe that understanding how and when epigenetic processes control genes during different stages of development and throughout life will lead to more effective ways to prevent and treat disease....

Diet and exposure to environmental chemicals throughout all stages of human development, among other factors, can cause epigenetic changes that may turn on or turn off certain genes. Changes in the regulation of genes could make people more or less susceptible to developing a disease later in life.(2)

Of related interest from NIH's website (3):DNA banks are becoming more common in the U.S. as scientists are recognizing the need for thousands of DNA samples from diverse populations to find the genes involved in complex conditions. For example, DNA banks in the US included:
EPR (Environmental Polymorphism Registry)(3),
NUgene Project (5) sponsored by Northwestern University (Chicago, Ill), and
Personalized Medicine Research Project (PMRP) (5) sponsored by the Marshfield Clinic (Marshfield, Wis). Both the Nugene and PMR Projects aim to recruit 100,000 participants and concurrently collect their health data by reviewing the patient's medical records. Similar to the EPR, participants for these projects are recruited at one of the many hospitals and clinics affiliated with each institution. The information and blood samples collected as part of these DNA registries will be used to examine the roles genes play in the development and treatment of common diseases.
DNA banks in foreign countries include for example:
U.K.'s BioBank (6)-a $73 million project and its objective is to recruit up to 500,000 volunteers ranging from 45 to 69 years in age and prospectively follow them for 10 years through their medical records (within the national health care system).
Iceland's deCODE Genetics project(7) has existed for several years and it plans to enroll the majority of that country's 270,000 citizens.Investigators working on the deCODE project have published major findings of genes associated with arthritis, osteoporosis, diabetes, stroke, and numerous other common conditions.

2008 NIH Research Festival Oct 14-17, 2008 Tentative General Schedule of Events includes Concurrent Symposia Sessions such as:
Genetic Susceptibility - The Link between Environmental Exposure and Human Disease
Bridging the Gap between Research Discoveries and Clinical Evaluation
Racial Disparities in Chronic Disease: Clues to Pathogenesis
Cancer Stem Cells and Tumor Biology: Challenges Today and Promises for the Future
Imaging at the Nano-scale.(8)

See scientific illustration of how epigenetic mechanisms can affect health.
http://nihroadmap.nih.gov/epigenomics/faq.asp#2 FAQs 2 and 27 see below


Q 2. What is meant by transformative research for the Epigenomics of Disease RFA?
Transformative is defined in this RFA as having a substantial impact on our understanding of the etiology, progression, or severity of a specific disease, or a disease-related process or condition, by creating a new paradigm or challenging an existing one. To determine whether your project has the potential to be transformative, consider the current state of the field of disease research which you are addressing. For example, knowledge of the epigenetics/epigenomics of cancer is much better developed than for most other diseases. In contrast, little is known about the epigenomic contributions to abnormal child development, aging, brain and psychiatric disorders, metabolic dysregulation, cardiovascular and respiratory disorders. Thus, a study that may transform the understanding of these diseases may not have the same impact in cancer research. The potential impact of the proposed research must be substantial with regard to the scientific community affected and state of understanding of the particular disease under study.
Q 27. Will the Epigenomics of Disease applications be reviewed by experts in my field?
Every effort will be made to ensure appropriate reviewer expertise, however, it is likely that not all of the reviewers assigned to your application will be considered experts in your specific field. We anticipate that investigators will submit Epigenomics of Disease applications on a wide range of topics, representing the breadth of the participating NIH institutes’ interests. The reviewers will have general expertise that is relevant to your application, but the odds are low that all of the people who review your application will be experts in your field. It is extremely important to keep this in mind when you are writing your application. When you are describing what you want to do, avoid jargon, and use language that scientists in other fields can understand. You will also have to convince scientists in other fields that what you are proposing to do is exciting and exceptionally innovative, and that the proposed research will have a profound impact on a large number of people.
The Epigenomics Program is a trans-NIH effort led by several NIH institutes including the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, and the National Center for Biotechnology Information of the National Library of Medicine. Efforts of these Institutes are coordinated by the Office of Portfolio Analysis and Strategic Initiatives as part of the NIH Roadmap.

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