NIH Taps into “Omics” Capabilities in Atlanta
What happens to the myriad molecules in our bodies when we move? The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has great interest in answering this question—to the tune of $170 million in research awards through 2022. Some of these research dollars will go to a metabolomics and proteomics (“omics”) analytics team from Emory University and Georgia Tech.
NIH’s Molecular Transducers of Physical Activity in Humans Program (MoTrPAC) tasks researchers to create a comprehensive map of the molecular changes that occur in response to physical activity. The information could help researchers and doctors develop personalized exercise recommendations.
To create this comprehensive map, researchers across the country will collect samples from peoples of various races, ethnic groups, sex, ages, and fitness levels. Analyzing samples is where Emory and Georgia Tech researchers come in the picture.
The Atlanta researchers will take “omics” measurements from a variety of biofluid samples, says Facundo M. Fernández, a professor in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry who is leading the effort from the Georgia Tech side. Emory’s Dean P. Jones is the principal investigator for the Emory-Georgia Tech team, which is formally called Georgia Comprehensive Metabolomics and Proteomics Unit for MoTrPAC.
“Specifically, Georgia Tech will be looking at changes in protein relative abundances, while Emory will be looking at protein post-translational modifications of those proteins. Georgia Tech will examine changes in lipids in a broad fashion, whereas Emory will look at specific lipids and other metabolites, such as glucose and amino acids,” Fernández says. “Both Georgia Tech and Emory have invested significantly in mass spectrometry and nuclear magnetic resonance technology that enables these measurements.”
According to Fernández, the Emory-Georgia Tech team will receive $13.5 million over six years to support their work for the NIH program. “This is a unique opportunity to build an integrated regional consortium that leverages the measurement capabilities at Georgia Tech and the clinical expertise at Emory,” Fernández says. “As we continue to develop new ‘omics’ tools, MoTrPAC will be an excellent test bed for advanced methods, such as bioinformatics approaches for deep machine learning, interference-free ionization methods, gas-phase separations, and algorithms for studying metabolic network enrichment.”
A. Maureen Rouhi
A. Maureen Rouhi