The MCRC has a robust Pilot Project Program utilizing institutional funds. Institutional commitments support comptetive pilot projects addressing the MCRC mission.
Current Pilot Projects:
Pilot Project 1
Paula Ramos, PhD
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) disproportionately affects African Americans (AA). In spite of its higher prevalence and severity, little is known about the etiology of SLE in AA, and the reason for the health disparity is unknown. Since human genome structure at a population level is shaped by adaptation to environmental pressures, one plausible reason for their higher disease risk may be a direct effect of population-specific positive natural selection, causing increased frequency of alleles under positive selection. As such, understanding the contribution of positive selection to the genetic structure of the AA population will provide insights into the areas of genetic anthropology and disease etiology. Given their African and European ancestry, the identification of signatures of selection is complicated by their admixture. Since regions under recent selection may be more easily detected in homogeneous populations, we will use data on the Gullah, which are the most homogeneous population of African ancestry in the U.S. Their ancestors were forcibly brought from the Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast area in West Africa, and were kept in the geographically isolated Sea Islands along the South Carolina and Georgia coasts. Interestingly, an increased familial clustering of autoimmunity in the Gullah suggests that this unique population might be useful for the identification of SLE risk loci in AAs. The long-term goal of this project is to delineate the role of natural selection in the Gullah and understand its contribution to the high prevalence of SLE.
Pilot Project 2
Tammy Nowling, PhD
The study will provide valuable preliminary data supporting applications for extramural funding to elucidate the molecular mechanisms by which the glycosphingolipid metabolic pathway contributes to the progression of nephritis, the efficacy of FDA-approved inhibitors of the pathway in protecting and/or slowing progression of nephritis and whether molecules in this pathway may serve as more sensitive markers of nephritis and/or nephritis flares.We hypothesize that elevated GluCer and LacCer levels increase inflammatory pathways and renal damage in lupus nephritis. Our long-term goal is to reduce the renal damage and slow the progression of nephritis in lupus by utilizing existing novel therapeutic approaches for treating inflammatory renal diseases.
Pilot Project 3
Sibnath Ghatak, PhD
Our long term goal is to determine the roles of TGF-β and/or CD44v6 (hyaluronan receptor) specific microRNAs involved in the pathogenesis of diffuse cutaneous systemic sclerosis (dcSSc) fibrosis that will help us to understand the pathogenesis of dcSSc and to identify novel methods for the diagnosis and treatment of the disease. Increased mortality is associated with African Americans with SSc compared to Caucacians. Ethnic differences in TGF-β effects on related molecules involved in SSc is an important factor underlying the severity of SSc in African Americans.
For more information about the Pilot Project Program please contact Dr. Gary Gilkeson (email@example.com).