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NINR to Fund Epigenetics of Chronic Illness Studies

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The National Institutes of Health plans to grant a total of $1.25 million to two or three research programs in 2010 that will study epigenetic influences on the symptoms and complications that affect chronic disease patients.

The National Institute of Nursing Research will give up to $500,000 per year in direct costs for studies lasting up to five years that will help elucidate the role of environment and epigenetics in the symptoms and complications for a range of chronic diseases.

Another aim of the program is to develop and test interventions for these symptoms and complications that are based on epigenetic processes.

NINR expects that the findings from this program will help to identify individuals who are at the highest risk for developing severe symptoms and complications, will maximize symptom management, and will reduce, prevent, or reverse the occurrence of complications.

Chronic diseases and their symptoms affect nearly 25 million Americans. These diseases include autoimmune diseases, asthma, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Many of these diseases have symptoms that vary widely in their onset, frequency, and severity, and complications that are highly variable, according to NINR.

For example, the more than 70,000 people suffering from sickle cell disease in the US experience painful symptoms that vary widely in frequency, duration, location, and severity. And diabetes patients often develop complications such as cardiovascular disease, neuropathy, and retinopathy, and evidence suggests that environmental factors may be associated with expression of these complications.

Researchers may use these grants to pursue studies to elucidate epigenetic processes associated with symptoms and complications; to identify environmental triggers associated with epigenetic determinants of specific phenotypes and complications; and to develop and test interventions using epigenetic predictors for certain symptoms and complications.

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