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Virginia Tech Scientist Wins $1.3M to Develop ChIP-based Assays for Disease Progression Research

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – A research team at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University have received a $1.3 million grant from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering to develop microfluidic tools for studying interactions between proteins and DNA in living cells in a single animal at different times.

Associate Professor Chang Lu will lead the effort, which aims to develop better tools for studying gene regulation and disease development in live animal experiments, Virginia Tech said today. These tools will require a very small number of cells – as few as 10 to 100, as opposed to a previous standard of as many as millions of cells – and will enable scientists to conduct periodic examinations of the same live mouse as disease progresses.

Specifically, Lu and his partners plan to use his microfluidic chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) technique, for which Virginia Tech Intellectual Properties has filed a patent on his behalf, enabling investigators to study protein binding to DNA sites.

Lu plans to develop ChIP-qPCR and ChIP-seq assays that can test tiny amounts of blood and do not affect the state of the animal model or the disease process. These tools will allow Lu and his team to examine in greater detail the temporal dynamics involved in transcription factor and promoter bindings and histone modifications.

"We believe that the single live animal data will grant unique insights into the molecular events involved in these biological processes and provide an important basis for diagnosis, prognosis, drug design and discovery, and treatment strategy. Such data also most closely mimic what occurs in human patients during disease development and treatment, thus offering direct clinical relevance," Lu said in a statement.

Lu's collaborators on the four-year grant include fellow Virginia Tech Professor Liwu Li, and Associate Professor Kai Tan at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine.