NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute will spend up to $11.5 million over four years on grants that use 'omics data and other systems biology approaches to develop computational models for use in studying lung response to Mycobacterium tuberculosis and host-microbe reactions that cause disease latency and reactivation.
A related $2.3 million grant will go to create a data coordination center to handle and store much of the information that will be used in these projects.
The "Systems Biology Approach to the Mechanisms of TB Latency and Reactivation" grants will give up to $480,000 per year for up to four years to support several TB Systems Biology Centers and up to $380,000 a year for four years to develop and conduct joint research protocols.
Investigators should use the funding to integrate data from 'omics studies with biological and immunological data to develop models that could be tested in humans or non-human primates. NHLBI also is encouraging the researchers to use multiple principal investigators and collaborations from different disciplines, including those who specialize in microbiology, genomics, genetics, tuberculosis, lung biology, and other areas.
The aim is to discover critical components of pathways and gene regulatory networks that determine what host-microbial interactions trigger and maintain latency and which permit the bacteria to become reactivated.
These studies could focus on discovering molecular phenotypes in Mtb granulomas at different stages of development and build and test models that identify markers such as genes or proteins that are unique for the formation, growth, and replication of this Mtb within the cells.
They also could use theoretical models using 'omics data from microbial growth studies and data on Mtb growth in small animal hosts that can be controlled or manipulated, such as mice, rabbits, guinea pigs, etc., and it could use data from human in vitro systems to design and test gene regulatory networks associated with latency and activation.
There may be a number of approaches researchers may pursue, but the central aim is to develop tools for investigating gene networks and pathways that induce latency in the host's lungs, or which determine parameters that permit the Mtb to be reactivated.