The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) has launched a major initiative to advance genomic research related to heart, lung, blood, and sleep health and disorders. On September 30, the NHLBI issued grants totaling $37 million to establish 11 Programs for Genomic Applications (PGAs).
The purpose of the PGAs is to identify the human genes particularly relevant to heart, lung, blood, and sleep functions. The NHLBI initiative will apply and expand upon the data and technologies developed to map and sequence the human genome.
Initial sequencing of the human genome the first step in the full decoding of the genome was completed last June. To optimally apply this knowledge, however, scientists must still decipher many of the individual genes and their specific functions.
"The PGA initiative is one of the NHLBI's most ambitious, wide-ranging efforts to date," says NHLBI Director Dr. Claude Lenfant. "Our challenge is to clearly identify the subsets of genes linked to heart, lung, blood, and sleep function, then to build upon this knowledge to develop better methods for prevention, diagnosis and therapy."
PGA research addresses a biological process or system that is associated with heart, lung, blood, or sleep function and dysfunction. Each PGA is approved for a four-year period beginning in fiscal year 2000, with possible renewal for an additional four-year period. Specific goals include:
- Studies to link genes to biological function on a genomic scale.
- Free and immediate access to all information and reagents by the research community, thereby allowing other scientists to develop separate relevant studies cost effectively.
- Short-term advanced training and educational programs for other researchers on the use of the data and related technologies.
PGAs may be composed of multiple grants to investigators at several sites, or they may consist of a single grant awarded to one site. Thirty-seven grants awarded to investigators at 35 universities and research settings comprise the funded PGAs.
"The NHLBI will facilitate interactions within and between programs to encourage strong collaboration among the various PGAs," notes Dr. Susan Old, a health science administrator in the NHLBI's Division of Heart and Vascular Diseases. "We also hope to engage the investigators in exploring shared areas of concern, such as quality control, data representation, and training and education."
In addition, the NHLBI plans to develop a section on its Website (www.nhlbi.nih.gov) to include information about the PGA initiative and related resource and training opportunities, as well as descriptions of each PGA.
The inaugural PGAs are listed below in alphabetical order, followed by the name and institutional affiliation of the PGA director:
- Applied Genomics In Cardiopulmonary Disease. Joe G. Garcia, M.D., Johns Hopkins University.
- Comparative Genomic Analysis Of Cardiovascular Gene Regulation. Edward M. Rubin, M.D., Ph.D., University of California-Lawrence Berkeley Lab.
- Expression Profiling Of Rodent Models Of Human Disease. John Quackenbush, Ph.D., The Institute for Genomic Research.
- Genomic Analysis Of Stress And Inflammation. Brian Seed, Ph.D., Massachusetts General Hospital.
- Genomics And Proteomics Of Cell Injury & Inflammation. Stephen A. Johnston, Ph.D., University of Texas Southwest Medical Center/Dallas.
- Genomics Of Cardiovascular Development, Adaptation And Remodeling. Seigo Izumo, M.D., Harvard Medical School-Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
- Innate Immunity In Heart, Lung, & Blood Disease. Fernando D. Martinez, M.D., University of Arizona.
- Mouse Models Of Heart, Lung, And Blood Diseases. Luanne L. Peters, Ph.D., Jackson Laboratory.
- The NHLBI Bay Area Functional Genomics Consortium. Stephen G. Young, M.D., J. David Gladstone Institutes
- Physiogenomics Of Stressors In Derived Consomic Rats. Howard J. Jacob, Ph.D., Medical College of Wisconsin.
- UW-FHCRC Variation Discovery Resource. Deborah A. Nickerson, Ph.D., University of Washington.
Part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the NHLBI is committed to providing tools and resources needed for future genetics research. The Institute has long been at the forefront of conducting genetic research and providing scientific resources to facilitate genomic studies. Other activities include:
- Research aimed at understanding how genetic variation contributes to disease and to individual responses to drugs, in areas such as high blood pressure, asthma, sickle cell disease, and thrombosis.
- Active involvement in NIH genomic efforts, such as the Rat Genome Database, mouse mutagenesis and phenotyping efforts, the NIH Mammalian Gene Collection, and the NIH SNP Discovery Program.
- Resources for genetic studies, including the NHLBI Mammalian Genotyping Service, the Stored Genetics Sample Inventory Database, and the Genetically Altered Animal Models Database.
"As the world begins to benefit from the culmination of work spearheaded by the Human Genome Project," comments Dr. Lenfant, "we hope that NHLBI's genomics initiatives will provide the impetus to stir our creativity and thereby bring new light and new hope to the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of heart, lung, blood and sleep disorders."