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NYU Langone Medical Center awarded NIH grants totaling $1,560,000

New York, NY, June 24, 2009 Two NYU Langone Medical Center researchers have received $1,560,000 in grant support for their first year of studies focused on microbiome and psoriasis and on microbiome and esophageal cancer from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The studies being conducted at NYU Langone Medical Center are two of several projects being conducted through the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research as part of the Human Microbiome Project (HMP) taking place at institutions across the country.

Since 2007, the HMP has awarded more than $70 million to expand its exploration of how the trillions of microscopic organisms that live in and on our bodies affect our health. The human microbiome is all the microorganisms that reside in or on the human body, as well as all their DNA, or genomes.

In the new round of funding, the HPM will support pilot demonstration projects by researchers that will sample the microbiomes of healthy volunteers and volunteers with specific diseases over the next year. As part of that funding, Martin J. Blaser, MD, the Frederick H. King Professor of Internal Medicine, chair of the Department of Medicine, and professor of microbiology, will receive support for his study titled "Evaluation of the Cutaneous Microbiome in Psoriasis." Psoriasis, affecting more than 7.5 million people in the United States, is a chronic disease involving the immune system that appears on the skin, usually in the form of thick, red, scaly patches, and its cause is unknown. The goal of this study is to assess whether changes in the skin microbiome may contribute to psoriasis.

Additionally, Zhiheng Pei, MD, PhD, assistant professor of pathology and medicine, will receive a grant to support his study on microbiome and esophageal cancer. Dr. Pei's work focuses on the type of cancer linked to heartburn due to gastroesophageal reflux diseases, the fastest rising malignancy in the United States. The recent increases in this cancer cannot be explained by any known environmental or host factors. He postulates that gastroesophageal reflux alters the esophageal microbiome and chronic exposure to an abnormal (altered) microbiome is carcinogenic. Initial research has shown that patients carrying particular types of microbiomes are more likely to have the early stages of esophageal adenocarcinoma than those who do not. His team will sample the oral cavity, esophagus, and stomach to study the relationship between the microbiome from these body sites and esophageal cancer.

Dr. Blaser and Dr. Pei lead two of only 15 teams selected in the United States to conduct pilot demonstration projects on behalf of the HMP.

"The Human Microbiome Project offers a fascinating opportunity to transform our understanding of the relationships between microbes and humans in health and disease," said Vivian S. Lee, MD, PhD, MBA, senior vice president, vice dean for science and chief scientific officer. "We congratulate Drs. Blaser and Pei as they continue to lead this frontier of medical research. The studies they are conducting transform the ways we understand human health and the critical interactions between microbiome and host across a wide range of conditions."

Each pilot demonstration project will be reviewed after one year to evaluate its progress toward milestones, as well as its ability to demonstrate a definable relationship between a body-site microbiome and disease.

In the first phases of the HMP, jumpstart funding was awarded to create a framework and data resources. Funding has also previously been awarded for the development of innovative technologies and computational tools, coordination of data analysis, and an examination of some of the ethical, legal and social implications of human microbiome research. The HMP plans to award more than $115 million in research grants during the project to sequence up to 600 microbial genomes and for selected demonstration projects that will examine the relationship between the microbiome in a specific niche of the body with a particular disease. The goal is to determine whether individuals share a core microbiome, and to examine how changes in microbial populations correlate with changes in human health.


Contact: Lisa Greiner
NYU Langone Medical Center / New York University School of Medicine

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