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UW to Spend $9M on Proteomics, Bioinformatics, and Gene Expression for Liver-Disease Study

NEW YORK, Dec. 5 - The University of Washington will spend $9 million over the next five years on genomics, proteomics, and bioinformatics technologies to help learn why chronic hepatitis C progresses to end-stage liver disease.


The funding, awarded by the NIH's National Institute on Drug Abuse, will also pay for a new research center on campus where researchers in the study will try to apply high-throughput gene-expression tools and mass spec to liver biopsies taken during and after liver transplants, according to the study PI.


"Because there's no good animal models or tissue-culture system for hepatitis C--that's quite unusual for virologists--this study offers us the opportunity to dissect the molecular events that occur during the evolution of HCV infection and disease inside a human liver," said the PI, Michael Katze.


According to Katze, the grant is split into a trio of paired biotech disciplines: a microarray and virology unit, which Katze will oversee; a bioinformatics and biostatistics arm, which will be run by Roger Bumgarner, the project's co-director; and a proteomics and modeling portion, which will be headed by Ruedi Aebersold, from the Institute for Systems Biology.


For Aebersold, this research is a "first opportunity to take a lot of evolving proteomics approaches and apply them to human disease," said Katze. Since most of the studies planned here have previously only been done in yeast, the liver research "gives us the chance to say, 'OK, what's going on inside a human liver,' and 'Can we dissect the regulatory pathways, the evolution of disease, protein-protein interactions,'" said Katze.


Aebersold agreed: "We are excited about the successful funding of the program because it is the first time that we will be able to apply high-throughput proteomic technologies and computational tools developed here to an acute clinical problem."


Katze also said the center, called the Center for Functional Genomics and Hepatitis C Virus-Associated Liver Disease, intends to create an annotated peptide database of a liver proteome.

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