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NIH funds grantees focusing on epigenomics of human health and disease
Date:9/16/2009

The National Institutes of Health announced today that it will fund 22 grants on genome-wide studies of how epigenetic changes -- chemical modifications to genes that result from diet, aging, stress, or environmental exposures -- define and contribute to specific human diseases and biological processes.

The awards will build on the important work undertaken as part of the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research's Epigenomics Program. Approximately $62 million will be awarded over the next five years to study the epigenome in a number of diseases and conditions, including tumor development, hardening of the arteries, autism, glaucoma, asthma, aging, and abnormal growth and development.

"Epigenomics represents the next phase in our understanding of genetic regulation of health and disease," says NIH Director Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D. "These awards will address the extent to which diet and environmental exposures produce long lasting effects through changes in DNA regulation." The initiative was launched through the NIH Director's Office and, as part of the Roadmap, is expected to profoundly alter the way we understand, diagnose, and treat disease.

"This is the largest effort to date to apply epigenetics on a genome-wide scale to specific diseases," said James F. Battey, M.D., Ph.D., director of the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, one of the lead NIH institutes for this Roadmap program.

The Roadmap Epigenomics Program was designed to characterize epigenetic modifications and to correlate the presence or absence of specific modifications with disease status. DNA methylation is a fundamental epigenetic modification that regulates gene expression and chromosome stability. This and other epigenetic modifications control gene activity by changing the three-dimensional structure of chromosomes. (See scientific illustration of epigenetic mechanisms at http://nihroadmap.nih.gov/epigenomics/epigeneticmech
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Contact: Karen Silver
silverk@mail.nih.gov
301-435-2435
NIH/National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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