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U of Buffalo Awarded DoD Funding for MS Gene-Interaction Studies

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The University of Buffalo will use a $634,000 grant from the US Department of Defense to study three gene-environment interactions that may influence the progression of disease in multiple sclerosis patients.

The two-year grant will test the hypothesis that nicotine metabolism, byproducts of vitamin D metabolism, and increased levels of anti-Epstein-Barr virus interact with genetic variants to cause increased neurodegeneration and increased lesions in MS patients.

The research involves a collaboration between UB and researchers at Charles University in Prague and samples will be obtained at both universities.

Researchers will study molecular interactions to assess the risk of developing MS and how long it takes to develop the disease, and it will measure brain atrophy and the extent of brain injury caused by lesions in order to gauge the level of neurodegeneration in MS patients. The hope is that in identifying and understanding these interactions they may be used to develop preventive interventions and treatments for the disease.

"Identifying gene-environmental interactions is critical for developing better strategies for slowing the progression of MS, because it could enable patients with preexisting genetic risk factors to reduce the rate of disease progression through lifestyle modification," Professor Murali Ramanathan of UB’s School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences and the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, and principal investigator on the grant, said in a statement.

"We will use a novel approach to measure the levels of vitamin D and its metabolites, EBV exposure, and nicotine metabolites from cigarette smoking," Ramanathan said. "We have developed sensitive and selective measurements for key metabolites in the vitamin D and nicotine metabolism pathways using mass spectrometry, a method that has not been used previously to study vitamin D metabolism."

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