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The National Disease Research Interchange has landed a $3.6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health and will take part in the NIH’s “GTEx” project, aimed at helping scientists learn more about genetic variations and how gene expression is regulated in different tissues throughout the body.
NDRI’s role will be to use its established methods and partners to collect multiple human tissue samples from a large number of consenting donors. The tissue samples will be analyzed for genetic variability.
“GTEx will begin to provide researchers with a comprehensive view of genetic variation and a more precise understanding of how it affects genes critical to the normal function of tissue and organs,” said NIH Director Dr. Francis S. Collins. “This resource will add a new dimension to our understanding of human biology and the mechanisms that lead to disease.”
NDRI was founded in Philadelphia 30 years ago by Lee Ducat, the mother of a diabetic son who also helped launch the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. The interchange provides scientists with tissue and other human biomaterials for research studies. Ducat said those human biomaterials that once were trashed, incinerated or stored in formaldehyde are now used by researchers working on the cutting-edge treatments for diabetes and other diseases.
Since 1980, NDRI has provided about 5,000 scientists with more than 300,000 human biomaterials, leading to more than 2,600 papers published in research journals on diseases from diabetes to cancer to HIV and rare disorders.
For the GTEx project, NDRI is working with Rick Hask at the Philadelphia-based Gift of Life Donor Program, the region’s organ procurement organization; and Dr. Fernando U. Garcia, a professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at Drexel University College of Medicine. Drexel will be involved in collecting surgical samples from consenting surgical patients.
Gary Walters, senior director of Tissue Recovery and Kidney Perfusion at LifeNet Health in Virginia, will also be working with NDRI on the project.
“This is a monumental, ground-breaking study,” Ducat said. “This has never been done before.”