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Biological Sciences Division
Research Highlights

October 2007

NIH Funds New Biomarkers Center at PNNL

Center to identify biological response markers for chronic inflammatory stress to cigarette smoke and obesity

Results: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory has been awarded a $5.9 million grant by the National Institutes of Health's Genes and Environment Initiative for a Center for Novel Biomarkers of Response. Scientists in this new center intend to create new exposure assessment tools to better understand the role of gene-environment interactions in human disease. They are studying cigarette smoke and obesity as causes of chronic inflammatory stress.

Methods: Using state-of-the-art proteomics and sensors, researchers at PNNL and the University of Utah will identify and validate proteins in human plasma that give specific information about biological responses to these environmental stressors and early markers of disease. This work will contribute to an understanding of the modes of action of disease and the organs they target. This research focuses on environmental stress response in humans using mice as models to define biological stress responses to specific exposures.  In addition, the results comparing humans and mice will improve the scientific community’s ability to compare, contrast and extrapolate biomarkers—signals of biological stress—between humans and mice.

Plasma samples for the study will be obtained from 500 individuals participating in a study being conducted by the University of Utah. That study includes non-smokers, smokers, smokers with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and people exposed to second-hand smoke. Researchers at the W.R. Wiley Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory, a DOE national scientific user facility located at PNNL, will identify the peptides from these samples using state-of-the art tandem mass spectrometry.

Acknowledgments: PNNL senior scientist Joel Pounds is director of the center, and Rick Corley and Diana Bigelow are associate directors. Jon Jacobs, Rick Zangar and Yuehe Lin are principal investigators on the proteomics, ELISA microarray and sensor cores, respectively; and Dick Smith (PNNL) and John Hoidal (University of Utah) are on the internal steering committee and are investigators. Cheryl Baird, James Follansbee, Monica Lee, Guodong Liu, Colette Sacksteder, Weijun Qian, Susan Varnum, Jun Wang, Katrina Waters and Bobbie-Jo Webb-Robertson (all PNNL) and Mary Beth Scholand and Martin Villegas (University of Utah) are co-investigators.

For more information, See the PNNL news release "Linking cigarette smoke and obesity: What our genes and environmental factors tell us," which was issued October 3, 2007.


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