Disease Investigation through Specialized Clinically Oriented Ventures in Environmental Research (DISCOVER) [P50]

Environmental Health Perspectives, April 2006 | Go to article overview

Disease Investigation through Specialized Clinically Oriented Ventures in Environmental Research (DISCOVER) [P50]


The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) invites qualified investigators from academic institutions or nonprofit research institutions to submit an application for a Disease Investigation through Specialized Clinically Oriented Ventures in Environmental Research (DISCOVER) Center. Each DISCOVER Center will develop an overarching theme that is based on a specific environmentally influenced disease or dysfunction and will craft an interdisciplinary research approach that integrates patient-oriented or public health research with basic mechanistic studies to address disease etiology, pathogenesis, susceptibility, and/or progression. An extraordinary level of synergy, integration, and potential for advancement of environmental health sciences is expected. By fostering collaborative research these centers will increase the relevance of basic scientific discoveries in environmental health sciences to human disease, and move this knowledge into clinical and public health application to ultimately improve human health.

NIEHS recognizes that to accomplish this research agenda, two types of activities need to converge. First, the research team must focus on a particular human disease or dysfunction that is likely to be caused or influenced by environmental exposure(s). Second, a team of physician scientists, research scientists trained in the basic biomedical disciplines, and public health researchers will work collaboratively to use toxicant exposures or environmental perturbations to understand human disease. Thus, the research conducted by a DISCOVER Center will capitalize on multiple aspects of environmental health sciences research including exposure biology, environmental genetics and genomics, patient-oriented clinical research, and public health sciences, such as epidemiology, as well as computational and engineering approaches to define the functional contributions of environmental and genetic determinants in 1) assessing the risk of developing disease, 2) identifying the underlying physiological mechanisms in disease pathogenesis and progression, 3) characterizing disease phenotype, 4) understanding the environmental and endogenous factors that affect the distribution of disease in populations, and 5) applying the knowledge gained to develop therapeutic, diagnostic, prognostic, and preventative strategies.

The mission of the NIEHS is to promote research that will reduce the harmful effects of environmental exposures on human health and disease. The link between environmental agents and disease risk has been recognized for over a century. It has also been recognized that there is considerable variability in an individual's response and ultimately an individual's risk to developing disease as a consequence of exposure to environmental or lifestyle factors. The completion of the Human Genome Project has been heralded as the beginning of a new age of science where the resultant genetic advances will imminently lead to improvements in human health. However, our understanding of environmental health and the development of disease suggests a multifactorial process involving a complex interplay between genetic variability, external exposures (i.e., the environment), temporal vulnerability (i.e., age), and other unique host factors such as preexisting conditions, nutritional status, lifestyle choices, and social status. This leads to a daunting challenge for the environmental health sciences community to assess the risk of developing disease from exposures to toxicants/stressors, and to apply this knowledge for improving human health.

Most common chronic diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, asthma, diabetes, reproductive diseases/disorders, autoimmune diseases, and neurobehavioral and neurodegenerative disorders are believed to have multiple genetic and environmental factors contributing to their observed phenotype. For example, more than 35 genes have been identified that are likely to contribute to asthma susceptibility, indicating the complex etiology and biology of this disease. …

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Disease Investigation through Specialized Clinically Oriented Ventures in Environmental Research (DISCOVER) [P50]
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