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NIEHS initiates national Toxicogenomics Research Consortium. (Extramurally Speaking ...).

The NIEHS has announced the funding of five academic research centers to establish a major new national extramural program, the Toxicogenomics Research Consortium (TRC), for advancing environmental health sciences research into the frontier of toxicogenomics research. Toxicogenomics is a new scientific field that studies how genomes respond to environmental stressors/toxicants. It combines genome-wide mRNA gene expression profiling with protein expression pattern profiling using bioinformatics to understand the role of gene-environment interactions in disease. Additional resources from the NIEHS National Center for Toxicogenomics (NCT) will be used to complement the five extramural centers.

"We already know that many human diseases are directly linked to environmental toxicants," said Kenneth Olden, director of the NIEHS. "To translate that awareness into significant benefits to human health, however, we need to understand how these pollutants affect genes." The TRC program effort contributes strongly to the institute's NCT effort to define variations in genes that make some individuals especially sensitive to environmental exposures. Said Olden, "This is a major undertaking that will take years to complete for all the common toxicants. The payoff will be well worth the investment." The powerful new technology employed by the NIEHS-coordinated efforts could reduce potential toxicant testing to a few days with an associated reduction in costs as well as speed up regulatory decision making based on sound scientific data. In addition, the research need for laboratory animals will be greatly reduced.

The overall goal of the NCT and the TRC is to conduct a coordinated, multidisciplinary, multi-institutional effort to define how the entire genetic complement of relevant organisms responds to environmental agents, including chemicals, physical agents, and physiologic stresses. The coordination possible from the TRC will accelerate research in the broad area of environmental stress responses. The TRC will use microarray gene expression profiling signatures (GEPS) to characterize classes of exposures, develop robust standards and practices that will allow the analysis of GEPS data across platforms, and provide intra- and interlaboratory validations that will contribute to the development of a validated relational database for GEPS data. It is anticipated that the research outcomes discovered by the TRC will substantially advance the development of new approaches for the therapeutic intervention or prevention of environment-related diseases.

The cooperative research members of the NIEHS TRC are:

* The University of North Carolina--Chapel Hill, North Carolina

William Kaufmann, principal investigator

* Massachusetts Institute of Technology--Cambridge, Massachusetts

Leona Sampson, principal investigator

* Duke University--Durham, North Carolina

David Schwartz, principal investigator

* Oregon Health Sciences University--Portland, Oregon

Peter Spencer, principal investigator

* The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center--Seattle, Washington

Helmut Zarbl, principal investigator

Program contact: Michael E. McClure, e-mail:
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Publication:Environmental Health Perspectives
Date:Feb 1, 2002
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