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​Epigenetics

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New Tools and Technologies to Study the Epigenetic Basis of Disease 

Many common diseases in the United States, such as cancer, neurological disorders and cardiovascular disease, are thought to involve epigenetic processes that control the activity of genes, but do not involve changes such as mutations to the DNA sequence of the genome.

Our understanding of how epigenetic changes occur and how they may contribute to development of specific diseases is at its infancy. This is partly due to the limited supply of available technologies and tools to characterize the epigenetic features of a cell on a global (genome-wide) scale so as to define the "epigenome"; of a cell under normal conditions and during aging, development, and disease. These tools would enable researchers to identify new molecular signatures and biomarkers of disease initiation, progression, and response to therapeutics. Several Common Fund ARRA projects address this need for new technologies and tools in epigenetics research by:

Researcher Research Description
Dr. Jacob Jaffe
Broad Institute, Inc.
Developing new technology for global (genome-wide) analysis of modifications to histone proteins in cells. (Jaffe, Jacob, 1-R21-DA-025720-01)
Dr. Mark Parthun
Ohio State University
Developing new technology for global (genome-wide) analysis of all sites of histone protein interaction in yeast cells. (Parthun, Mark, 1-R21-DK082634-01)
Dr. Sohail Tavazoie
Rockefeller University
Defining molecular signatures or profiles of epigenetic changes (microRNAs) that can be used to predict response to chemotherapeutics in animals and humans. (Tavazoie, Sohail, 1-DP2-OD006506-01)

Using Epigenetics to Develop New Diagnostics and Therapies

Understanding how epigenetics plays a role in susceptibility and risk of diseases such as cancer, neurological disorders, and cardiovascular disease paves the way for the development of new diagnostics and treatments for these conditions. An important first step in this process is the identification of chemical compounds, such as small chemicals and genes, which can be further developed into effective and reliable diagnostics and therapeutics. Several Common Fund ARRA grantees are using high throughput screening (HTS) approaches to identify small molecules that bind to proteins within cells, such as histones, that are involved in epigenetic processes known to underlie health and disease. These small molecules can be used as "research tools"; to better understand epigenetic processes involved in health and disease, and as potential targets for new drug therapies. These new Common Fund ARRA projects are:

Researcher Research Description
Dr. Stephen Vernon Frye
University Of North Carolina Chapel Hill
 
Dr. Gregory Perlich
Albert Einstein College Of Medicine Yeshiva University
 
Dr. Lin Chen
University Of Southern California
Conducting HTS to identify small molecules that can bind to proteins involved in modifying histone structure and its ability to regulate the activity of genes involved in cancer, cardiovascular disease, and neurological disorders. (Frye, Stephen Vernon, 1-RC1-GM0907320-01; Prelich, Gregory, 1-RC1-DA028786-01; Chen, Lin, 1-RC1-DA028790-01)
Dr. Or P. Gozani
Stanford University
Developing a new protein array technology and computational tools for global, high throughput discovery of proteins that bind to histones and affect their ability to control the activity of genes that may be related to cancer. (Gozani, Or P., 1-R21-DA025800-01)

View ARRA funded research...

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