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NIH Awards MicroRNA-Related Grants

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The National Institutes of Health awarded three grants to academic researchers investigating the roles of microRNAs in cocaine addiction, liver development and disease, and sickle cell diseases.

The first grant supports a two-year project headed by Rockefeller University research associate Anne Schaefer, who seeks to build on the discovery that the "development of addiction is associated with aberrant expression of miRNAs," according to the grant's abstract. "We will test whether normalization of … miRNA expression, altered by cocaine treatment, will normalize brain function and cure addiction" in mice.

The second grant was awarded to Joshua Friedman, an associate professor of pediatrics at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, to fund a five-year effort to examine the functions of certain liver-specific miRNAs, including miR-30a, and determine whether they play a role in biliary atresia, a rare neonatal condition in which the common bile duct is either obstructed or absent, a defect that can lead to liver failure.

"These studies have the potential to shed light on biliary atresia pathogenesis and may result in new treatments," the grant's abstract states. Further, the work is expected to "reveal novel regulatory pathways in normal liver development and in biliary atresia."

The third grant, which was issued to Duke University assistant professor Jen-Tsan Ashley Chi, funds efforts to examine how erythrocyte miRNAs contribute to sickle cell diseases and susceptibility to malaria.

With the support of the two-year NIH grant, this work "will result in a better understanding of the role of miRNAs in determining erythrocyte phenotypes in hemoglobinpathies and infectious diseases, as well as provide better therapeutic strategies for [sickle cell diseases] and malaria infection," according to the grant's abstract.

— Doug Macron

RNAi Notes

Genovis has a new reagent on the market, called NIMT FeOfection Purple. It is designed to transfect siRNAs into K562 and Jurkat cells.

Applied Biosystems developed a sequencing-based kit for genomic analysis of whole transcriptomes that is to be able to identify non-coding RNAs, alternative splicing events, fusion transcripts, and more.
 
Rosetta Genomics will be working with the National Institutes of Health to find microRNAs involved in HIV replication. Rosetta says it will be using its detection and quantification technologies along with publicly known miRNAs to uncover their role in HIV replication and determine if they could be drug targets.

Datapoint

$4.4 million
Amount of the proceeds from the sale of 2.5 million units of common stock and stock-purchase warrants of Arrowhead Research, parent company of Calando Pharmaceuticals.

Funded Grants

$97,200/FY 2008
RNA Silencing in the Oral Cavity
Grantee: Andrew George Jakymiw, University of Florida
Began: Sep. 1, 2008; Ends: Aug. 31, 2010
Jakymiw is focused on studying of GW182, an mRNA-binding protein, and GWB function to determine their roles in RNAi activation and how they regulate off-target effects. In the grant abstract, Jakymiw says this work should lead to better drug designs for RNAi-based therapeutics. He will also study RNAi function in oral cancer cells, and work on drug and viral gene delivery techniques in vitro and in vivo.

$78,000/FY 2008
Development of RNA interference for treatment of myotonic dystrophy in the HSALR
Grantee: Joel Chamberlain, University of Washington
Began: May 10, 2008; Ends: Apr. 30, 2011
Chamberlain will be developing RNAi technologies to reduce the expression of an RNA containing a repeat expansion that contributes to the effects of myotonic dystrophy. The CTG repeat is found in the myotonic dystrophy protein kinase gene in the 3' untranslated region of the mRNA. The therapy will be engineered to target muscle and eliminate the disease effects in mice.

The Scan

Interfering With Invasive Mussels

The Chicago Tribune reports that researchers are studying whether RNA interference- or CRISPR-based approaches can combat invasive freshwater mussels.

Participation Analysis

A new study finds that women tend to participate less at scientific meetings but that some changes can lead to increased involvement, the Guardian reports.

Right Whales' Decline

A research study plans to use genetic analysis to gain insight into population decline among North American right whales, according to CBC.

Science Papers Tie Rare Mutations to Short Stature, Immunodeficiency; Present Single-Cell Transcriptomics Map

In Science this week: pair of mutations in one gene uncovered in brothers with short stature and immunodeficiency, and more.