NIH Awards Environmental Disease Center to University of Louisville
News Aug 13, 2007
The center, one of only 22 NIH-designated environmental health centers nationwide, will study the interaction between genes and environmental factors that negatively impact human health, whether through disease or through developmental problems.
“This prestigious award places UofL among a handful of institutions such as Johns Hopkins, Harvard and the University of North Carolina that are studying the specifics of gene-environment interaction with the goal of developing treatments and programs that will lessen the impact of environmental contamination on Kentucky’s citizens,” said UofL President James Ramsey.
The center will focus on three areas in which the university has research strengths: environmental cardiology, the interaction between the environment and humans that cause cancer, and the developmental origins of health and disease.
While scientists have observed the connections between environmental exposure and disease in population-based research, the true cause and effect is poorly understood.
“Instead of studying these problems after the fact, the center will focus on what happens in the human body between an exposure to environmental contaminants and the development of disease and translate those findings to new treatments,” said Larry Cook, executive vice president for health affairs.
Three teams will make up the core research areas within the center, according to Kenneth Ramos, center director.
“By bringing together disciplines such as bioinformatics, biostatistics and computational biology, we hope to pinpoint the genetic effects of environmental exposures. Our laboratory work should eventually translate into new treatments and approaches to public health that will reduce health disparities among underserved populations in Louisville and the surrounding area,” Ramos said.
As genome editing technologies advance toward clinical therapies, they are raising hopes of a completely new way to treat disease. However, challenges need to be addressed before potential treatments can be widely used in patients. To tackle these challenges, the National Institutes of Health has launched the Somatic Cell Genome Editing program, which has awarded multiple grants including more than $3.6 million to assess the safety of genome editing in human cells and tissues.