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Two NIH initiatives launch intensive efforts to find roots of common diseases

ar arrangement will be worked out with Affymetrix. Federally funded genotyping for GEI will be managed by an NIH coordinating committee under the usual government rules, subject to competition between research facilities, and begin in FY 2007.

The research will lead directly to the identification of major genetic susceptibility factors for common diseases of substantial public health impact ?disorders such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, stroke, Alzheimer's disease, schizophrenia, osteoporosis, asthma, cataracts, hypertension, Parkinson's disease, autism and obesity. The target diseases and the populations studied have yet to be selected and will be subject to a peer-review process.

Environmental Factors

Genes alone do not tell the whole story. Recent increases in chronic diseases like diabetes, childhood asthma, obesity or autism cannot be due to major shifts in the human gene pool. They must be due to changes in the environment, including diet and physical activity, which may produce disease in genetically predisposed persons. Therefore, GEI will also invest in innovative new technologies to measure environmental toxins, dietary intake and physical activity, and to determine an individual's biological response to those influences, using new tools of genomics, proteomics and metabolomics.

"Differences in our genetic makeup certainly influence our risks of developing various illnesses," said David A. Schwartz, M.D., Director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, also part of NIH, and co-chairman of the NIH Coordinating Committee for GEI. We only have to look at family medical histories to know that is true. But whether a genetic predisposition actually makes a person sick depends on the interaction between genes and the environment. We need better tools to evaluate environmental exposures, dietary intake and activity levels, and then to determine how those risk factors interact with specific genotypes
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Source:NIH/National Human Genome Research Institute


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