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NICHD Seeks Studies That Explore Role of Epigenetics in Development

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development will grant $1.2 million in fiscal year 2010 to support research into the role that epigenetic processes play in human and mammalian development.

The National Institutes of Health Exploratory/Developmental grants will award up to $275,000 to institutions and organizations conducting studies of epigenetic processes that are associated with developmental milestones. The studies also may compare epigenetic states between distinct developmental stages in order to “elucidate potential epigenetic mechanisms underlying development,” according to an NIH request for applications.

Direct costs for the grants are limited to $200,000 per year.

NICHD seeks to advance knowledge of the epigenetic basis of normal and abnormal development, with "development" referring to biological, physiological, cognitive, and behavioral development in all stages of life, from fertilization to reproduction, but only in the NICHD’s established mission areas.

Applicants should propose to identify and define the epigenetics associated with development during distinct windows of normal development, between two or more stages of normal development, or between a normal and abnormal developmental state.

Studies that use human and mammalian subjects or tissues are “strongly encouraged,” NIH said.

“The goal is to transform our understanding of normal development by correlating changes in the epigenome with the altered cellular state,” NIH said.

Examples of the types of research NICHD will support include, but are not limited, to:

• Studies of global changes in the epigenome at key developmental points, such as the establishment of the germ line, development of the neural tube, or the recovery of normal function through physical rehabilitation after disease or injury;
• The effect of changes in the cellular or organismal environment that alter the epigenome during critical developmental windows, such as the effects of poor nutrition around the time of conception or during pregnancy on the epigenome;
• And the role of the epigenome in the development of intellectual disabilities, or on the timing of physiological or cognitive milestones, such as the onset of puberty or the onset of speech.
• Applicants also may focus on identifying the role of various epigenetic modifications such as regions or patterns of methylated DNA and/or CpG motifs, histone tail modifications, and non-coding RNAs.

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