FYI from the NHLBI Index
September 2005: Vol. 6, Issue 2
In the News
News from Capitol Hill
At a hearing on July 19, NIH Director Dr. Elias Zerhouni and members of the House
Committee on Energy and Commerce discussed draft legislation to reauthorize the
NIH. The proposed bill included a provision to establish within the NIH Director’s
office a Division of Program Coordination, Planning, and Strategic Initiatives,
which would coordinate research on topics that do not have a “home”
under the present NIH structure and would develop new trans-NIH programs.
Fiscal Year (FY) 2006 Appropriations Acts
On June 24, 2005, the House of Representatives passed its version of the Departments
of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education 2005 appropriations act (H.R.
3010). As requested in the President’s budget, the bill includes $2,951,270,000
for the NHLBI. This is an increase of 0.3 percent over the $2,941,201,000 that the
NHLBI received in FY 2005. The Senate version, which the appropriations committee
approved on July 14, includes $3,023,381,000 for the NHLBI.
House Report 109 143 and Senate Report 109 103 mention numerous diseases of
interest to the NHLBI, including alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, aplastic anemia,
asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), Cooley’s anemia,
cystic fibrosis, diabetes, Diamond-Blackfan anemia, Duchenne muscular dystrophy,
heart failure, hemophilia, hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia, lupus, lymphangioleiomyomatosis
(LAM), lymphedema, Marfan syndrome, pulmonary fibrosis, pulmonary hypertension,
scleroderma, stroke, thrombophilia, and thrombosis. Blood safety, gene therapy,
obesity, sleep, stem cells, and transplantation research also are addressed.
Several bills relevant to the NIH were introduced this summer, including the Pulmonary
Hypertension Research Act of 2005 (H.R. 3005), the Family Asthma Act (S. 1489),
and the Lupus Research, Education, Awareness, Communication, and Healthcare Amendments
of 2005 (H.R. 3307). New resolutions of interest to the NHLBI address topics such
as congenital heart defects (H.Res. 305), idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (H.Con.Res.
178), and bone marrow failure diseases (H.Con.Res. 179).
Recent Advances from the NHLBI
Using Genomic Research to Solve a Clinical Dilemma
New results from the NHLBI Programs for Genomic Applications may change prescribing
practices of clinicians who order blood thinners to prevent dangerous blood
clots. Physicians have been giving warfarin to patients since the 1950s, but
they still use trial-and-error to determine the appropriate dose. In search
of a way to predict the amount of warfarin that would adequately protect a patient
from excessive blood clotting without causing uncontrolled bleeding, investigators
analyzed blood samples from patients who were being treated with warfarin. They
were able to identify genetic markers that correlated with whether a patient
responded best to a low, intermediate, or high dose of the drug. This observation
may pave the way for development of a blood test to guide physicians in prescribing
safe and effective doses of blood thinners.
Researchers Identify Genetic Profiles in Childhood Asthma
In the first study to link clusters of genes to specific forms of childhood
asthma, researchers supported by the NHLBI used “gene-chip” microarray
technology to compare respiratory epithelial cells from normal children, children
with controlled (stable) asthma, and children with asthma exacerbations (acute
asthma). They sifted through over 54,000 genes for each child studied and found
eight distinct gene clusters that were differentially regulated in stable and
acute asthma. One cluster was exclusively linked to acute asthma, while another
was linked to stable asthma, suggesting that children with an active asthma
exacerbation have a gene expression profile that is clearly different from that
of controlled asthma. The findings open the door for molecular subclassification
of asthma and the possibility of developing precisely targeted treatments based
on unique genetic profiles in patients.
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