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BIDMC Cardiovascular Institute Researchers Will Lead $4 Million NIH Grant to Study MicroRNAs

A cardiovascular research team from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) and Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), led by BIDMC Principal Investigator Saumya Das, MD, PhD, has been awarded a $4 million Common Fund grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as part of a newly formed program on Extracellular RNA Communication. The five-year grant will focus on identifying microRNA biomarkers in heart disease.

Each year, complications from heart attacks (myocardial infarctions) contribute to more than half a million cases of heart failure and 300,000 cases of sudden cardiac arrest, when the heart suddenly stops. Both of these conditions are closely related to a process known as remodeling, in which the structure and function of the heart changes – or remodels — following a heart attack.

“Our goal is to explore the role that microRNAs play in predicting which heart-attack patients will go on to experience complications,” explains Das, an electrophysiologist in BIDMC’s Cardiovascular Institute and co-director of the cardiovascular genetics program within the Outpatient Cardiovascular Clinic.

“Current strategies used to identify the highest risk patients have often been inaccurate,” he adds. “We think that a blood test that makes use of microRNA biomarkers could replace existing strategies and more accurately predict which patients might experience poor outcomes and thereby identify who would most benefit from frequent monitoring and medical care.” Other investigators who are part of the NIH grant, “Plasma miRNA Predictors of Adverse Mechanical and Electrical Remodeling After Myocardial Infarction,” include BIDMC Director of Cardiovascular Research Anthony Rosenzweig, MD, and BWH investigators Raymond Y. Kwong, MD, MPH, and Mark Sabatine, MD, MPH.

microRNAs are one type of extracellular RNA. Once considered nothing more than genomic “junk,” microRNAs have more recently been recognized as playing a key role in cellular functions. Several years ago, scientists began to recognize that these small, noncoding RNAs were not only found inside cells, but could also be found in blood and other tissue fluids.

Using patient plasma samples from extensively characterized patients who have suffered heart attacks, the scientific team will first identify which specific microRNAs are related to poor heart remodeling. They will then use cell culture and animal models of heart disease to further prioritize which microRNAs play a functional role in disease progression. Finally, the investigators will validate these prioritized microRNAs as prognostic markers for poor health outcomes after heart attacks in a large prospective clinical trial.

“Ultimately, we think that miRNA-based tests could replace current tests to predict which patients might be at risk of complications and, therefore, be good candidates to receive an implanted defibrillator,” says Das. “At the same time, we hope to be able to better predict which individuals are at less risk of complications – and thereby spare them unnecessary and costly procedures.”

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is a patient care, teaching and research affiliate of Harvard Medical School, and currently ranks third in National Institutes of Health funding among independent hospitals nationwide.

BIDMC has a network of community partners that includes Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Milton, Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Needham, Anna Jaques Hospital, Cambridge Health Alliance, Lawrence General Hospital, Signature Health Care, Commonwealth Hematology-Oncology, Beth Israel Deaconess HealthCare, Community Care Alliance, and Atrius Health. BIDMC is also clinically affiliated with the Joslin Diabetes Center and Hebrew Senior Life and is a research partner of Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center. BIDMC is the official hospital of the Boston Red Sox. For more information, visit www.bidmc.org.

Source: Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

ImmusanT Initiates Study at Joslin Diabetes Center to Investigate Relationship Between Celiac Disease and Type 1 Diabetes

ImmusanT recently announced that it has initiated a clinical research study to explore the immunologic relationship between celiac disease and Type 1 diabetes (T1D) and to further understand the underlying cause of T1D. The research will focus on characterizing immune responses in patients affected by both T1D and celiac disease. The study will be performed by the Joslin Diabetes Center.

It is estimated that celiac disease affects about one in 100 Americans, but in people with T1D about one in 10 are affected by the disease. Celiac disease is caused by an immune response to dietary gluten, but the trigger for the immune response causing T1D is not as clear. Studies suggest that genes putting people at risk of T1D and celiac disease are the same, and shared by several other common autoimmune diseases. Further research into whether the immune response causing celiac disease is related to the autoimmune response causing T1D may reveal new information about autoimmune disease in general.

The study with Joslin will assess patients with celiac disease only and patients who have both celiac disease and T1D. The goal of the study is to compare biomarker response in both sets of patients, which may elucidate drivers of T1D. In the long-term, this study could provide insights into potential treatments for T1D.

“Type 1 diabetes and celiac disease appear to be closely related, so it is natural that the next disease that ImmusanT would examine is T1D,” noted Bob Anderson, Chief Scientific Officer of ImmusanT and the inventor of Nexvax2®. “By better understanding the mechanisms that are common to T1D and celiac disease, we may be able to leverage our expertise gained from developing Nexvax2 to identify a way to halt or prevent the autoimmune response in patients with Type 1 diabetes.”

“ImmusanT pioneered the development of the only antigen-specific immunotherapeutic approach to celiac disease and we are eager to broaden our knowledge with others to uncover mechanisms common to other immune diseases,” commented Leslie Williams, President and Chief Executive Officer of ImmusanT.

Source: PR Newswire

EKF Diagnostics Signs Licensing Agreement for Kidney Biomarkers

EKF Diagnostics Holdings plc (AIM: EKF), a worldwide manufacturer of point of care in-vitro diagnostic devices, announces that it has signed an exclusive license agreement with the Joslin Diabetes Center (“Joslin”), a teaching, research and clinical care affiliate of Harvard Medical School, to license certain novel kidney biomarker technology. The licensed biomarkers were developed by Dr. Andrzej Krolewski, MD, PhD, Head of Section on Genetics and Epidemiology, and his laboratory team at Joslin.

Glycated Albumin Presented as a Novel Biomarker for Diabetes Monitoring

The American Association for Clinical Chemistry (AACC) presented a webinar on February 24th, 2011, titled “Novel Biomarkers for the Diagnosis and Management of Diabetes,” in which glycated albumin (GA) was described as a promising biomarker for patients who are underserved by usual diabetes monitoring methods. Glycated albumin is the cornerstone of Epinex’s flagship product — the G1A™ Rapid Diabetes Monitoring Index Test.