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Ye receives NIH award to pursue precision medicine

Alan Flurry

University of Georgia researcher Kaixiong Ye has received a Maximizing Investigators Research Award from the National Institutes of Health. The nearly $2 million, five-year award will support efforts to characterize gene-environment interactions, or genetic effects modified by environment, underlying complex traits in humans.

The MIRA is a grant to provide support for a program of research in an early-stage investigator’s laboratory that falls within the mission of National Institute of General Medical Sciences, which supports basic research that increases our understanding of biological processes and lays the foundation for advances in disease diagnosis, treatment, and prevention.

Ye’s lab will develop statistical tests to identify historical genetic responses to the Agricultural Revolution during human evolution, to inform an understanding and study of the current epidemics of complex diseases, likely the result of gene-lifestyle mismatches.

“Genetic variations, environmental factors, and their interactions underlie the etiology of all human diseases, such as obesity and heart diseases,” said Ye, an assistant professor in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences’ genetics department. “While many studies have identified specific genetic variations and environmental factors associated with a disease, few studies examine their interactions – how the same environmental factor has different effects on a disease in individuals with different genetic backgrounds.”

The work will build on existing investigations by Ye’s lab, including a recent study published in PLOS Genetics that found the effect of fish oil supplementation in reducing blood triglycerides is much stronger in individuals with a specific genotype.

“These kinds of findings will inform the customization of dietary and clinical interventions to one’s genetic background. This is one of the promises of Precision Medicine,” Ye said.

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