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NIDA to Fund Genetic, Molecular Studies of Chronic Drug Abuse

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The National Institute on Drug Abuse plans to fund new research projects that aim to discover more about the changes that chronic exposure to drugs cause in the brain, including efforts focused on changes at the genetic, molecular, and cellular levels.

NIDA also plans to support efforts to understand how pharmacological, behavioral, and other therapeutic interventions affect the brain, and how the brain protects itself from the effects of abused drugs.

Addiction is "a chronic, relapsing neurobehavioral disorder," and "significant progress" has been made in identifying some of the receptors and mechanisms involved in each of the major drugs of abuse, NIDA said in the funding announcement. But the institute sees a need to know much more about the specific changes that occur both during and after chronic exposure. Specifically, NIDA would like to fund basic, translational, or clinical research projects that delve into the neurobiological changes that occur during chronic drug use, withdrawal, and relapse.

Under three related funding announcements, the institute will support R01 research project grants with budgets that are not limited but reflect the needs of the studies, R21 exploratory and development grants with up to $275,000 over two years, and R03 small grants, or short-term projects, with up to $100,000 over two years.

These projects may involve a wide array of approaches, including efforts focused on the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying addiction. In particular, the institute cited human genetics, epigenetics, and pharmacogenetics as areas of interest.

Investigators may use the funding to study genetic and epigenetic screening and addiction-related variations, or to pursue replication and validation studies using genetics, genomics, and proteomics to understand the effects of drugs on the biology of glia and neurons.

They also may use patient-and-disease-specific inducible pluripotent stem cells as a model system for studying unique cellular and molecular events that occur in drug-abusing individuals, or look at the interactions of drugs with genes at different stages of central nervous system maturation. Other efforts focused on the molecular level may aim to identify and validate novel targets or ligands on neuorns and glia, or to develop novel genetic tools to map neurobiological circuits that are critical to understanding drug abuse.

These grants also will support projects beyond the molecular and cellular levels, including studies using computational modeling and data analysis, development of tools and reagents for use in studying neuroscience and substance abuse, and behavioral and developmental research approaches.