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NIH Earmarks $3M to Study Epigenomic Regulation in HIV/AIDS, Substance Abuse

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – The National Institutes of Health announced that it has set aside $3 million in fiscal 2016 grant funding to support up to eight research projects examining the roles of epigenomic or non-coding RNA regulatory mechanisms in HIV/AIDS infection in the context of substance abuse and addiction.

According to the NIH, epigenomic changes are known to lead to stable gene silencing or activation, and recent studies have demonstrated that this can affect the establishment and maintenance of HIB latency. Meanwhile, ncRNAs are emerging as important regulators of the immune system, with one type — microRNAs — found to influence different HIV/AIDS processes.

"It is also been shown that epigenomic regulation mediates cellular responses to external stimuli such as environmental toxins, infection, psychosocial stress, and drugs of abuse," the agency said.

To build upon these findings, the NIH said that it will soon begin accepting grant applications around research studying epigenomic or ncRNA regulation in high-priority areas in HIV/SIV biology, including next-generation therapies and the reduction of disease incidence. At least one sub-aim of these projects must involve exposure to substances of abuse or the analysis of samples from patients exposed to such substances.

Areas of particular interest to the NIH include convergent epigenomic changes caused by exposure to drugs of abuse that impact HIV infection or AIDS progression; the impact of epigenomic factors on disease phenotypes; the potential use of single-cell epigenomic or ncRNA approaches for characterizing HIV genomic integration sites or the position of these sites within the nucleus; and the impact of epigenomic processes or ncRNA regulation on host copy number variation or viral copy number as it relates to disease progression.

Additional details about the funding opportunity can be found here.