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NIH to Fund Research into Environmental Stress Biomarkers

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences will lead a program to give a total of $2.6 million for five or six projects over two years that seek to validate candidate biomarkers and technologies that measure biological responses to chemical toxicants and other environmental stressors.

The specific goal of this research program, which also is supported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse, is to validate markers and technologies by using existing epidemiological studies with extensive exposure information.

Called "Validation and Field Testing of Novel Biomarkers of Response to Environmental Stressors," this grant program will give up to $300,000 in direct costs per year over two years.

The range of biomarkers studied under these grants could include gene expression signatures, protein markers, metabolites, measures of DNA damage, or epigenetic marks, provided that they can be detected in minimally invasive samples and potentially could be scaled up for large-scale studies.

These studies could include pilot testing and validation of biomarkers of response to exposures such as chemical toxicants, primary and secondary tobacco smoke, dietary constituents and contaminants, alcohol, and physiological measures of stress.

Research approaches could include, but are not limited to verifying that the markers or signatures can be detected in multiple populations with similar exposures; evaluating performance of biomarker tools and assays with samples collected under real world conditions; testing candidate markers to understand how biomarkers change over time, and whether a subset of biomarkers represent persistent changes associated with exposure; and comparing results from novel biomarker profiles to current methodologies or existing reference measures, where they are appropriate.

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