News and Events
renewed for another five years, which means that JI started its phase II in October and will continue through 2020.
In this issue, you will find a report from the JI Executive Board, a synopsis of the milestones for the first five years, and highlights from the symposium. In addition, we share some recent education and training news of UM and PUHSC students. As we move into 2016, a call for new proposals will be announced in January. Read the December 2015 Newsletter here.
In this issue, we announce the newly funded JI investigative teams and projects. We also share with you some of the research and educational exchanges between PUHSC and UMMS that have taken place over the past few months. In addition, we highlight the activities of the Acute Aortic Dissection (AAD) project and provide updates on other research programs. Finally, we are pleased to share information about President Schlissel’s recent visit to PUHSC. Read the September 2015 Newsletter here.
Halfway through a one-year pilot study on how the respiratory microbiome is affected by known contributors to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), four countries are beginning to submit their samples to the University of Michigan for genetic sequencing and analysis. The study, which is funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), is the first multi-country study focused on this particular microbiome and comes as a direct result of work began in 2010 when the University of Michigan Health System (UMHS) partnered with the Peking University Health Science Center (PUHSC) in Beijing, China to form the Joint Institute for Translational and Clinical Research (JI).
Dr. Margaret Gyetko, Senior Associate Dean for Faculty and Faculty Development and Professor of Internal Medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School is the Principal Investigator for the grant “A Multi-Center International Study of the Lung Microbiome in COPD”. Dr. Gyetko also serves as the co-lead for the pulmonary disease program within the JI along with her PUHSC counterpart, Professor Bei He (read about this JI program and the investigators here).
According to Gyetko, prior to the Joint Institute research, the pulmonary microbiome had barely been described in the US and had not been described in any shape or form outside of the US; nor had there been any international studies to date. She explains, “Because of our work within the JI, we were invited to attend a global network meeting of the NHLBI to present our early findings in China.” “At the time,” she adds, “most everything they were doing had to do with cardiovascular disease and they very much wanted to bring in some solid work on the lung.” Gyetko and other team members shared their lung microbiome work to an NHLBI global network sub-committee and representatives from more than 10 international sites that were doing pulmonary work. NIH officials subsequently invited the JI investigators to submit a pilot grant using a multi-international center model.
Despite the fact that sequestration had already hit, in early Summer 2013 the UnitedHealth Group & NHLBI Collaborating Centers of Excellence awarded nearly $600,000 in direct costs to support their proposal for a 4-country, one-year pilot.
The study, which is administered and coordinated through the University of Michigan, examines the effects of known contributors to COPD (including smoking, use of biomass fuel for cooking and heating, and air pollution) in four countries: China, Peru, Nepal, and Bangladesh. Sputum samples from 50 subjects at each site (half of whom have COPD, and half who do not) from some of the collaborating sites are completed, while the others are near completion.
“One of the things that makes this project so exciting,” shares Gyetko, “is that the four study sites are extremely diverse.” She notes that in China, for instance, COPD is an enormous problem exacerbated in the urban areas by the compounded effects of the high rate of smoking plus the heavy air pollution. In the more rural areas, the use of biomass fuels such as coal and dung used in the home under poorly ventilated systems are a grave concern. Similarly, in Nepal and Peru the kitchens are inside the home, but biomass fuels are used for heat in addition to cooking providing even greater exposure to risk. In Bangladesh, on the other hand, cooking is done outside of the home because of the warmer temperatures, and so may offer an interesting comparison. “The data we collect,” says Gyetko, “will help us—for the first time—assess the question of whether or not (and the extent to which) the use of biomass fuel affects the pulmonary microbiome.”
Although the University of Michigan is not a recruitment site for this particular study, it is handling all of the coordination and training in addition to serving as hub for sequencing, bioinformatics, and biostatistics of the data. Analysis and gene sequencing should be completed by March 2014, with data being presented at the NHBLI global health meeting in April. Investigators hope that the results gleaned from this project and the related JI work will position them well for future funding opportunities.
Related publication from the JI project:
Erb-Downward John R, Sadighi Akha Amir A, Wang Juan, Shen Ning, He Bei, Martinez Fernando J, Gyetko Margaret R, Curtis Jeffrey L, Huffnagle Gary B: Use of Direct Gradient Analysis to Uncover Biological Hypotheses in 16S Survey Data and Beyond. Sci Rep 2: 774, 2012. PM23336065.