News Release

October 5, 2011

CONTACT: Gregory Richter

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Penn Researchers Receive $9 Million NIH Grant to Study Relationship Between Gene Variants and Cardiovascular Disease

Study Expected to Offer a Noninvasive Way to More Accurately Model and Study Cardiovascular Disease

Philadelphia -- Daniel J. Rader, MD, chief, Division of Translational Medicine and Human Genetics, and Edward Morrisey, PhD, professor of Medicine and Cell and Developmental Biology, Perelman School of Medicine, and Scientific Director at the Penn Institute for Regenerative Medicine,  and researchers at the Medical College of Wisconsin received a five-year, $9 million grant for stem cell research from the National Institutes of Health’s National Human Genome Research (NHGRI) and the National Heart Lung and Blood (NHLBI) Institutes.

The funding will be used in a collaborative study between both institutions on the role of genetics in cardiovascular disease. Rader and Morrisey will take fat cells and change them into induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPS cells, which will be turned into liver cells to learn more about the causes of coronary artery disease and metabolic disorders.

Cardiovascular disease causes more American deaths than any other disease. Genetic studies conducted in 100,000 participants found 95 specific genetic locations showing a link to high lipid levels, which the liver controls. The researchers will study iPS-derived liver cells from 300 patients with particular genetic profiles to find out why some of those with certain genetic mutations produce high levels of plasma lipids.

"These studies will illuminate how specific genes behave in different tissues and should clarify the mechanisms by which a gene associated with a disease affects the biology of different tissues," said Susan B. Shurin, M.D., acting director of the NIH's National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.  "Understanding the cellular and tissue biology will allow us to develop and test new therapies and prevention methods.  These approaches using iPS cells on a large scale could improve the predictive value of preclinical testing, benefit regenerative medicine, and reduce the need for animal models of disease."

Stephen, A. Duncan, PhD, professor of cell biology, neurobiology and anatomy, and director of the Medical College of Wisconsin’s Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Biology program, is a co-principal investigator.

The NHLBI release is available here: