Scientists will explore the effect of drug use on the disease.

Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine obtained a $989,108 grant from NIDA to study the effects of drug use on the biology of HIV/AIDS. Funding could total slightly over $3 million by 2011.

The money was given to the Center for Proteomics and Bioinformatics and the Case Center for AIDS Research. They could receive another $1,004,415 in 2010 and $1,014,423 in 2011. The grants will allow the Center for Proteomics and Bioinformatics to expand its activities in the HIV/AIDS area, which represents approximately 30% of its current projects. The funding will also provide the Center for AIDS Research an opportunity to introduce advanced proteomic technology into its research portfolio.

The centers will work toward the development of reliable proteomic and epigenetic biomarkers for chronic immune activation during HIV disease. They will research the effects of current or prior drug use and hepatitis C co-infection on disease progression and therapy. The funding will also be used for technology development in proteomics and systems biology research tools.

“We will develop several pilot projects in collaboration with the CFAR (Case Center for AIDS Research) investigator team to explore the proteomes of patients who have HIV or HCV, who may be on antiretroviral therapy, and who may be drug users or in drug treatment programs,” reports Mark Chance, director, Center for Proteomics and Bioinformatics and lead PI of the study. “At the same time, specific changes in genes or epigenetic changes will also be explored. A proteomics and bioinformatics core will support these pilot projects with study design and biostatistical expertise, proteomics services, and systems biology data analysis.”

During the pilot phase, the Center will fund and coordinate a set of inter-related projects designed to provide a better understanding of the impact on immune function and activity in HIV-infected individuals who are also exposed to addictive drugs, and the importance of viral HCV. In each of these projects there will be a direct examination of the proteomic responses in either cells lining the digestive tract or immune cells and parallel examination of plasma readouts from affected patients.

The data will be rationalized using techniques to identify specific inflammatory pathways that are activated. Technologies for analyzing epigenetic changes in the immune system will be developed, with a goal of being able to correlate changes in the genome with those in the proteome. The ultimate goal of these projects will be the development of informative biomarkers and methods that can be used in large-scale population studies to further evaluate the impact of drug use on HIV disease.

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