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Dr. Elin Grundberg Receives $3.2 Million NIH Grant to Study Social Stress, (Epi)genetics and Their Link to Viral Infection and Asthma

STORIES

Dr. Elin Grundberg Receives $3.2 Million NIH Grant to Study Social Stress, (Epi)genetics and Their Link to Viral Infection and Asthma

Elin Grundberg, PhD
Roberta D. Harding & William F. Bradley Jr. Endowed Chair in Genomic Research; Research Faculty PhD; Research Associate Professor of Pathology, University of Kansas School of Medicine; Associate Professor of Pediatrics, University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine
Full Biography

Elin Grundberg, PhD, Genomics, was recently awarded a 5-year, $3,211,673 R01 Research Project Grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) – National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) and the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI).

Dr. Grundberg’s study, "Understanding Mechanisms Underlying Chronic Stress-Induced Asthma in Children by Population and Single-Cell Epigenomics Approaches," will examine how exposure to psychosocial factors such as chronic stress is linked to pathophysiology of asthma.

“Asthma is a severe chronic illness in childhood triggered by viral infections (most commonly Rhinovirus) and with significant racial and ethnic disparities where African-American and Hispanic children are more likely to have a diagnosis of asthma and significantly higher asthma-related morbidity in comparisons with non-Hispanic white children,” Dr. Grundberg said. “Genetic factors alone or in combination with differences in environment exposures or lifestyle are important but have not been able to fully explain observed disparities.”

Dr. Grundberg hypothesizes that social disadvantages during childhood result in long-lasting epigenetic alterations in key regulatory regions impacting immune cell gene function that negatively impacts antiviral defense and subsequently increase the risk of asthma.

The study will use high-resolution epigenetic approaches at population and single-cell level to reveal epigenetic changes in immune cells predicting antiviral response and development of asthma. The goal is to combine population-based epigenome mapping in nasal mucosal samples with single immune cell analysis in large pediatric asthma cohorts of African American children with detailed information about asthma and viral status as well as chronic stress exposures of several domains.

“We have established a team of leading allergist, social scientist, epigeneticists, microbiologist and population geneticists leveraging multi-disciplinary expertise and resources to gain detailed insight into asthma pathophysiology as a consequence of chronic stress.,” said Dr. Grundberg. “Overall, our program will provide new insight into how genes and the social environment combine to influence heterogeneity in the response to environmental stressors and contribute to the health disparity seen in children with asthma.”

Co-investigators from Children’s Mercy include Tomi Pastinen, MD, PhD, Rangaraj Selvarangan, PhD, Mary Moffatt, MD, and Bridgette Jones, MD, MSCR.