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Texas Biomed-led Team Wins $2.7M NIH Grant to Conduct Mass Spec-based Research in Heart Disease

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – A research team led by scientists from the Texas Biomedical Research Institute has been awarded a four-year, $2.7 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to perform mass spectrometry-based research into the genetic regulation of cholesterol and other heart disease risk factors.

The award from the National Institute for General Medical Sciences is going to Michael Olivier, a scientist at Texas Biomed's genetics department, whose laboratory is developing new ways of studying how proteins interact with cellular DNA to regulate gene expression. With the grant, he and his colleagues will develop and implement new methods to elucidate how differences in the sequence of the human genome contribute to heart disease.

In a statement, Olivier said that gene regulation requires a large number of different proteins, many of which remain unknown. "This is why we are trying to develop a method that allows us to look at one specific piece of DNA, such as one gene, and to identify all the proteins that are bound to that particular sequence."

In collaboration with Texas Biomed colleagues and Lloyd Smith, a professor of chemistry and director of the Wisconsin Genome Center at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, the scientists will use mass spectrometry to examine cells from participants in an effort called the San Antonio Family Study to identify proteins that regulate genes that are crucial in regulating cholesterol and other risk factors for heart disease.

Texas BioMed said that previous work has helped identify changes in DNA sequence that raised cholesterol levels of participants in the San Antonio Family Study. Olivier's research will identify how the sequence changes modify the regulation of specific genes and which proteins are important in that regulation.

"Identifying the proteins that are important for this regulation of genes will not only help us understand how these sequence changes lead to higher cholesterol levels in these participants," Olivier said, "it will also help us to identify new drugs that may help correct these changes, and help reduce the risk for a heart attack or stroke."