NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – The National Institutes of Health announced today it has awarded grants totaling $7.9 million in 2014 to 25 research teams who are studying the workings of single cells, as part of an effort to spur development of personalized treatments that target disease at the cellular level.
"Most cells are healthy, but this can change. They can become cancerous, get infected by viruses, undergo cycles and aging. With these awards, we are making an investment that holds promise for widespread advances across medicine," said James Anderson, director of the NIH's Division of Program Coordination, Planning, and Strategic Initiatives.
One group of grants will fund projects to validate and refine established technologies including those to detect genetic changes in live animals, detect the slightest differences in genetic variation, and profile gene expression in a cell's nucleus to identify early protein signatures.
The Exceptionally Innovative Tools and Technologies for Single Cell Analysis grants explore brand new technologies including a genetic imaging tool to label vast numbers of cell lineages, light-induced genetic alterations in a single cell, and gene expression sensors that report changes among cells in living tissue.
Yet another set of grants adds a single-cell component to already active projects including ones looking at tracking environmentally triggered changes in a gene in a formative human cell, finding genetic mechanisms by which intestinal lining cells are regenerated, understanding targeted genetic alteration of a key cellular process by which genes are switched off, and uncovering how a gene regulator exerts effects on different classes of target genes.
The grants are supported by the NIH Common Fund's Single Cell Analysis Program, in partnership with the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering and the National Institute of Mental Health.