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NIH to Fund Projects Harnessing Omics Advances to Study Birth Defects

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The National Institutes of Health plans to fund collaborative research projects that aim to better understand the genetic and molecular causes of structural birth defects, which affect about five percent of all live births in the US.

Led by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the program will fund investigator-initiated R01 projects that take advantage of the many rapid advances in functional genomics and proteomics and use them to uncover the causes of structural birth defects.

Gaining a better understanding of the underlying mechanisms that cause these human structural birth defects is a "high priority" aspect of NICHD's aim to eventually develop better screening, therapeutic, and preventive strategies for addressing them, NIH said yesterday.

The core ambition driving these studies is the identification of specific genetic, epigenetic, environmental, or gene-environment interactions associated with susceptibility to structural birth defects.

Applicants for the funding will join the NICHD Birth Defects Working Group to share resources, collaborate, and exchange ideas, and to develop and use innovative genetic and molecular biotechnology tools and methods for identifying factors involved in birth defects.

NIH is encouraging applicants to develop interdisciplinary proposals and to collaborate with existing birth defects registries, databases, and surveillance programs.

These projects may include, but are not limited to, research into the relationship between genetic polymorphisms and birth defects; gene-environment interactions, particularly the use of biomarkers of exposure or susceptibility; genes and non-coding RNAs related to birth defects; modifier genes that influence susceptibility for defects; altered gene expression and other epigenetic factors involved in defects; the complex networks of interactions between numerous genes and proteins that control normal and abnormal development; the genetic basis for complex malformations; and others.

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