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Canadian, Japanese Teams Reap $21M for Gene Expression Projects

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Nine teams of Canadian and Japanese scientists will use C$21.8 (US $20.8 million) in new funding to study how gene expression caused by environmental factors can impact human health.

Six of the research efforts will be run by Canadian teams, and three of the projects will include partners in Japan, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research said today.

The studies are being funded for five years by the Canadian Government, Genome BC, Fonds de recherche du Québec-Santé (FRQS), and the Japan Science and Technology Agency.

"These teams will explore how the environment influences the development of breast cancer and metabolic diseases. The teams' research projects will provide a better understanding of how these diseases develop, so that treatments for them can be improved,” FSRQ Scientific Director Renaldo Battista said in a statement.

The Canadian projects include one being carried out by investigators at the University of Toronto to measure the influence of the microbiome on inflammatory bowel disease; a University of British Columbia project to explore how the environment affects epigenetic mechanisms involved in asthma; a University of Manitoba initiative to discover epigenetic signatures associated with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder; a BC Cancer Agency project to examine what epigenetic modifications are involved in regulating hepatocellular carcinoma and hepatocyte differentiation; and research at McGill University to perform full resolution epigenomic mapping in metabolic disease and to study the role of epigenetics in breast cancer and its implications in drug resistance.

The Canadian and Japanese partnerships that received funding will focus on the epigenetics of stem cells. Investigators at the University of Toronto and the University of Tokyo will try to find ways to improve methods for engineering stem cells made from hematopoietic stem cells, with the aim of identifying new therapeutic targets and to create an epigenetic map of the blood system and leukemia.

Partners at the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute in Toronto and Kyoto University will look at the reprogramming process in order to find cells that are the most suitable for regenerative medicine, and which are efficient and safe from a tumorigenic perspective.

In another study, investigators at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto and the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology will seek to develop a complete understanding of the molecular epigenetic networks that distinguish pluripotency and trophoblast development. The goal is to learn more about placental development and pregnancy disorders.