Mete Civelek, PhD, an associate professor of Biomedical Engineering and a resident faculty of the Center for Public Health Genomics, was awarded a $2.0 million grant for a project titled “Systems Genetics of Vascular Smooth Muscle Phenotypes.”
The goal of the work is to identify the coronary artery disease-associated genetic variants that regulate vascular smooth muscle cell gene expression and function. While some of the disease-associated variants are also associated with known risk factors, such as plasma cholesterol, how the majority of them affect the vascular wall where coronary artery disease develops is unknown. Dr. Civelek’s team will perform massively parallel reporter assays to identify the variants that modulate gene expression in smooth muscle cells, a key cell type in the disease initiation and progression. They will also take advantage of the natural variation in gene expression to construct networks to understand how the disease-associated genes function in smooth muscle cells. The results of these studies will lead to mechanistic predictions of the gene networks that are perturbed by coronary artery disease.
Collaborators on the project include Gary Owens, PhD, in the Department of Molecular Physiology and Biological Physics, Ani Manichaikul, PhD, in the Center for Public Health Genomics, at UVA, and Aloke Finn, MD, at the CVPath Institute.