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UCLA receives $12.5M to lead international project to study proteins implicated in heart disease

UCLA has received a five-year, $12.5 million contract award from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute to spearhead an international consortium of medical experts that will study proteins that may be involved in the development of cardiovascular disease.

Heart disease is a leading killer worldwide, but little is known about cardiac function at the molecular level or how the inner sub-units of a cardiac cell work together as an integrated system. More research in this area, including studying the proteins that trigger all cell activity and functions, may help researchers better understand how proteins can malfunction or cause disease.

Proteomics, the study of the entire set of proteins expressed by the genome, is the next stage of biological research, which builds on the established work of the Human Genome Project. Focusing on the proteins involved in cardiac cells may offer new insights into the development of atherosclerosis and heart failure.

Researchers will also aim to better understand the function of two cardiac cell components that appear to be instrumental in the development of heart disease when they malfunction: mitochondria, the "powerhouses" that provide energy for all cell functions, and proteasomes, which are cell workers that rid the cell of unneeded or damaged proteins. An accumulation of unwanted proteins caused by defects in these two cell sub-units may contribute to heart disease.

"In one of the first efforts of its kind, country borders disappeared as we assembled the very best scientists and physicians from the global community to study the proteome biology of cardiovascular medicine," said Peipei Ping, Ph.D., program director of the National Institutes of Health/National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute Proteomics Project and a professor of physiology, medicine and cardiology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

The international consortium includes leading scientists from seven institutions: UCLA, the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif.; the European Bioinformatics Institute in Cambridge, U.K.; the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden; the AlbaNova University Center in Stockholm, Sweden; Uppsala University in Uppsala, Sweden; and Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China.

"Such collaborations represent the future of medicine," said Dr. Leonard Rome, senior associate dean of research at the Geffen School of Medicine. "This ambitious research effort will help shape and define the emerging field of proteomics, which is still in its infancy."

The proteomic research program will involve several major projects that will draw from the expertise of basic scientists, clinicians, genetic experts and technology innovators. It will include the development of a mass spectrometry tool to determine the elemental composition, structure and mass of proteins. Imaging techniques will be created to help visualize the proteins in human and animal cardiac tissue. Scientists will also map the cardiac-related proteins and their functions and create a database tool accessible to scientists and clinicians worldwide similar to human genome maps.

"UCLA's leadership in forging partnerships speaks to the strength of our commitment to providing the best environment for teamwork in cutting-edge fields like proteomics," said Dr. A. Eugene Washington, UCLA vice chancellor for health sciences and dean of the Geffen School of Medicine.


Contact: Rachel Champeau
University of California -- Los Angeles

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