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NIH awards environmental disease center to UofL

August 9th, 2007

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded a $4.4 million grant to the University of Louisville to establish the Center for Environmental Genomics and Integrative Biology.

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 unique 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.

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