NIH backs database-driven approach to neuromuscular research

Cedars-Sinai's Clive Svendsen

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded a clutch of big-name academic centers funding to create a database for studying motor neuron disorders. By embarking on a large-scale data generation drive and analyzing the resulting information, the collaborators hope to build profiles for Lou Gehrig's disease and other neuromuscular conditions.

A team at the University of California, Irvine, is coordinating the project, which will also receive contributions from the Gladstone Institutes at the University of California, San Francisco, Johns Hopkins University, the Broad Institute and the Cedars-Sinai Board of Governors Regenerative Medicine Institute. The project is divided into two main components: the gathering of data on what happens when biological processes are perturbed and subsequent analysis to understand the disease.

"We may be looking at many thousands of data points, but using algorithms to create a 'cloud' of information, we expect to see a 'signature' emerge that shows us the relationships between proteins, genes and RNA in the cell. There will be a specific signature for healthy controls and a different one for the disease, such as Lou Gehrig's," Clive Svendsen, principal investigator of Cedars-Sinai's part of the study, said in a statement.

The neuromuscular initiative is one of 6 projects funded by NIH's Library of Integrated Network-Based Cellular Signatures (LINCS) program. The NIH is also applying the database model to research into diabetes, cancer and other diseases. The teams will share their resulting data and signatures with the broader research community, potentially providing a starting point for future drug discovery programs.

- read Cedars-Sinai's release
- here's the NIH request