Merry-Lynn McDonald, Ph.D., Assistant Professor in UAB’s Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Medicine received a grant to investigate “Genomics of Weight Loss in a Ferret Model of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).” This was put together by a dynamic Respiratory Disease Working Group with expertise in genomics, bioinformatics, statistical genetics, animal models of respiratory disease, respiratory disease and cachexia. Although COPD is primarily diagnosed using lung function – muscle wasting, cachexia and frailty greatly reduce quality of life and increase risk of mortality. To further understand the etiology of COPD, the investigators will use RNA-Sequencing to characterize transcriptomic signatures influencing the development of COPD and weight loss in the smoke exposed ferret. They will analyze RNA-Seq data from lung and muscle tissue samples at baseline and after 6 months of exposure to cigarette smoke. They will utilize a systems biology approach to test whether gene expression modules are associated with percent change in weight, emphysema and chronic bronchitis and to gain insight into driver genes.

“We are ecstatic to have been awarded this grant,” said Dr. McDonald. “We have been enabled to achieve transformational impact relevant to COPD, one of the few major chronic diseases whose prevalence continues to rise. This grant will enable the discovery of transcriptomic signatures relevant to COPD and provide a means for following up genomics findings in COPD patients.”

This working group comprises Dr. McDonald as the PI and eight other investigators from UAB.