Grant to Scripps Translational Science Institute will fund first ‘disease in a dish’ research

Press Release

The National Institutes of Health on Friday awarded a $7.9 million grant to the Scripps Translational Science Institute (STSI) of San Diego and Sangamo BioSciences (of Richmond, Calif., to conduct the nation’s first-ever, heart-based “disease in a dish” research.

The study involves the use of induced pluripotent stem cells (non-embryonic stem cells created from mature cell types, such as skin cells) to recreate participants’ own heart artery-lining cells in a dish. Researchers will use genome editing technology aimed at potentially directing certain cells away from a disease state.

In the study, scientists will recreate artery-lining cells for two distinct patient groups, each totaling approximately 1,000 people. The first group includes those who already have coronary artery disease, which is a precursor to heart attack. The second cohort comprises those who have lived to at least age 80 without any heart disease or other major illnesses.

STSI is a major research initiative of the nonprofit Scripps Health system, in collaboration with The Scripps Research Institute, both of San Diego.

Medical research confirms that the human genome’s 9p21 “gene desert” region, which everyone possesses, is strongly linked to people’s risk of developing heart disease. But researchers don’t understand what takes place in this trouble spot that causes some people’s cells to eventually become diseased. This portion of genetic code is known as a “gene desert” because there are no genes in this region.

“We’re trying to figure out for the first time how this region works and which other parts of the genome or genes it’s interacting with to make some people’s cells become diseased,” said Dr. Eric J. Topol, the study’s principal investigator and director of STSI.

This “disease in a dish” approach to research has been employed with rare diseases in recent years, but the Scripps initiative marks the first time the combination of disease in a dish and genome editing are being applied for a common health condition.

Samuel Levy, the study’s lead investigator and director of genomic sciences with STSI, said, “You can’t possibly test the full impact of someone’s genetics by doing these experiments in mice. A mouse’s genome is radically different from a person’s genome. And people’s genomes are radically different from one another. In our research we’ll be working internally on each person’s genome to understand what’s going on, which is unique and very exciting.”

— Source: Scripps Health

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Posted by Staff on Jul 1, 2011. Filed under Health & Science. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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