NIEHS and UNC to collaborate on registry of 20,000 subjects

Scientists at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in Research Triangle Park, N.C., one of the National Institutes of Health, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are collaborating on a registry that will eventually include 20,000 patients at various UNC medical facilities and will allow researchers to better study the relationship between environmental exposures, genetic susceptibility, and human disease.

The Environmental Polymorphism Registry was initiated by NIEHS Director of Clinical Research Perry Blackshear, M.D., D. Phil., and NIEHS Health Scientist Administrator Patricia Chulada, Ph.D., M.H.S. Their collaborators at UNC are Director of the General Clinical Research Center Paul Watkins, M.D., and Director of Training and Career Development Susan Pusek.

A pilot study launching the registry requested consent from 600 patients at UNC outpatient clinics. About 80 percent of those asked agreed to allow a portion of blood drawn for other medical purposes to be used for the isolation of DNA that was placed in the registry depository. The samples are coded to protect the identity of donors and then made available for researchers at the National Institutes of Health, including NIEHS, and UNC, and their collaborators, to screen for the presence of genetic variants, called polymorphisms (literally "many forms"), in a category of genes known as "environmentally sensitive" genes.

These genes control how our bodies handle substances from the environment, encoding proteins that regulate a wide variety of cell functions such as toxicant and drug metabolism, cell proliferation and differentiation, cell cycle, cell death, DNA repair, signal transduction, hormone receptors, immune and inflammatory responses, and others.

In recruiting volunteers for the registry, health status is not a requirement, whether a patient has a disease or condition or not. The only requirement is that the patient be 18 years of age o

Contact: Tom Hawkins
NIH/National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

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