The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) recently funded three medical research centers-creating the NINDS/NIMH Microarray Consortium-to broaden the scope of genetic research by studying the origins and behavior of brain diseases. The participating centers-Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, DC, Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, and the University of California in Los Angeles-received a total of $9 million from NINDS and NIMH.
The primary goal of the consortium, which will combine gene expression profiling resources from the three centers, is to advance translational research through acquisition and dissemination of high quality expression array data. Gene expression profiling makes use of the recently announced human genome sequence to visualize how genes interact with one another in an aberrant fashion to cause human diseases.
“The establishment of this consortium expands the possibility of identifying what genes are involved in certain brain diseases,” said Thomas Miller, Ph.D., program director in the NINDS Extramural Technology Development Program. “By pooling the genomic capabilities of the three centers and sharing findings through publicly accessible web sites, we increase the chance of finding viable cures and therapies for many debilitating illnesses.”
Each consortium center specializes in one of three microarray technologies-cDNA, oligonucleotide, or Affymetrix-which provide information about the genes turned on or off in the diseased tissues being studied. Scientists use these microarray technologies to compare genetic patterns between an individual with a disease and an unaffected person. Using this information, investigators hope to be able to identify the genes responsible for certain disorders so that treatments can be developed that have a direct impact on the disease mechanisms.
Using this state of the art technology, the consortium plans to unravel the molecular mechanisms involved in the multitude of brain diseases, including Alzheimer’s, autism, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Tourette syndrome, cerebral palsy, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Data generated by the consortium will become publicly available six months after its initial generation so the entire scientific community can benefit from this publicly funded endeavor. The consortium will also encourage NINDS and NIMH grantees to visit one of the centers to learn the techniques involved in gene expression profiling.
For more information on the consortium visit the web site at: http://arrayconsortium.tgen.org.
NIMH and NINDS conduct and support the majority of the nation’s biomedical research on the brain. Both are components of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).