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Scripps awarded $7.9 million NIH grant for research to find root cause of heart attack

SAN DIEGO (July 1, 2011) Researchers looking to find a root cause for heart attacks and coronary artery disease will soon begin using a novel investigative approach that borders on science fiction as they work toward the holy grail of American medicine: preventing the nation's No. 1 killer.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded a $7.9 million grant to the Scripps Translational Science Institute (STSI) of San Diego and Sangamo BioSciences (NASDAQ: SGMO) of Richmond, Calif. to conduct the nation's first-ever, heart-based "disease in a dish" research.

The study will involve the use of induced pluripotent stem cells (non-embryonic stem cells created from mature cell types, such as skin cells) to recreate participants' own heart artery-lining cells in a dish, along with genome editing technology aimed at potentially directing certain cells away from a disease state.

STSI is a major research initiative of the nonprofit Scripps Health system, in collaboration with The Scripps Research Institute, both of San Diego.

Medical research confirms that the human genome's 9p21 "gene desert" region, which everyone possesses, is strongly linked to people's risk of developing heart disease. But researchers don't understand what takes place in this trouble spot that causes some people's cells to eventually become diseased. This portion of genetic code is known as a "gene desert" because there are no genes in this region.

"We're trying to figure out for the first time how this region works and which other parts of the genome or genes it's interacting with to make some people's cells become diseased," said Dr. Eric J. Topol, the study's principal investigator and director of STSI.

In the study, scientists will recreate artery-lining cells for two distinct patient groups, each totaling approximately 1,000 people. The first group includes those who already have coronary artery disease, which is a precursor

Contact: Mika Ono
Scripps Research Institute

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Scripps awarded $7.9 million NIH grant for research to find root cause of heart attack
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