in Philadelphia has announced a $1 million grant from the for a project that will examine the unexplored areas of the human genome to determine what role genes play in the onset and progression of disease.
A multidisciplinary team led by Isidore Rigoutsos, the director of Jefferson's Computational Medicine Center, will study a particular group of DNA motifs — genetic combinations of letters that repeat more frequently than expected by chance — called "pyknons," which Rigoutsos discovered in 2005. In its initial research, the team will try to determine what function pyknons serve in the context of several forms of cancer, platelet aggregation properties, two autoimmune disorders, and type-1 diabetes.
Since their discovery, evidence has been accumulating that pyknon motifs mark transcribed, non-coding RNA sequences with potential functional relevance in human disease. The team aims to investigate the presence of pyknon-marked non-coding RNAs in samples of a diverse collection of human conditions — including prostate, colon, and pancreatic cancer; chronic lymphocytic leukemia; type-1 diabetes; hyper- and hypo-reactivity in platelets; multiple sclerosis; and systemic sclerosis 8111 by using a combination of computational analyses and modern experimental techniques.
"It is a great honor to be recognized by the W.M. Keck Foundation, which has a long history of supporting innovative and pioneering medical research," said dean Mark L. Tykocinski. "This is a unique award for a unique area of human genome research that, with our multidisciplinary approach, will undoubtedly pave the way for breakthrough discoveries to help better treat and prevent diverse diseases."