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Disease knows no boundaries: U-M & Chinese researchers report progress at Joint Institute's 2nd anniversary

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Lung disease. Liver disease. Cardiovascular disease.   Whether you live in China or in the United States, you’re likely to develop a chronic condition affecting at least one of these systems sometime in your life. So are hundreds of millions of others.  That’s why researchers are working hard to find ways to better understand, prevent, treat and manage these long-term diseases.  This week, researchers from the U-M Medical School and their Chinese partners are reporting new results from collaborative research on these conditions and more, at a three-day event sponsored by a top Chinese medical school and the U-M Health System. It’s the second anniversary symposium of the UMHS-Peking University Health Science Center Joint Institute for Translational and Clinical Research. The event has attracted a large delegation of Chinese researchers to U-M. The Joint Institute forms a platform for collaboration between the two universities, and both sides fund cooperative translational and clinical research projects as well as research cores to support the science. Two years into this partnership, the institute’s research programs and cores are now fully operational, and six Joint Institute projects have institution-appropriate approval from Institutional Review Boards that oversee research involving human volunteers. Research volunteer enrollment has begun and sample collection and analysis are under way. Teams made up of scientists from U-M and PUHSC are studying the genetics of several cardiovascular disease components, including high density lipoprotein (HDL) dysfunction, high blood pressure, and myocardial infarction. They’re looking at liver diseases such as hepatitis C infection -- to identify biomarkers that could predict and monitor progression to fatty liver disease, cirrhosis, and cancer -- as well as performing research into the social, cultural, and economic aspects of liver transplantation. In lung disease, they’re focusing on the role that the respiratory microbiome – the assortment of microorganisms that populate the lungs -- plays in the development and course of lung disease including COPD. This week’s events feature a keynote address from Roger Glass, M.D., Ph.D., the director of the Fogarty International Center and Associate Director for International Research at the National Institutes of Health. A poster session featuring more than 30 teams presenting their work is also being held, as are a number of talks and other sessions. This year’s event brings a delegation of more than more than 50 colleagues from PUHSC to Michigan, including representatives from the PUHSC Schools of Basic Medical Sciences, Pharmaceutical Sciences, Public Health, Nursing, and Foundational Education, and five affiliated hospitals. This year’s event follows last year’s trip by a 60-person U-M delegation to Beijing for the Joint Institute’s first symposium. Read more about that trip in this blog: In addition, PUHSC has been selected as a host and training institution for Fellows of the Fogarty International Center-funded Northern Pacific Global Health Research Fellowship Program, and two Fellows are currently in training.  A generous donation from longtime benefactors Richard and Susan Rogel has been used to create a Global Health Innovation Fellowship program within the U-M Medical Innovation Center to support postgraduate fellows from PUHSC to come to Michigan to be trained alongside U-M Fellows in tackling challenges in healthcare. The first two Fellows were named in Summer 2012. Exchanges of visiting scholars, medical students and residents have also begun. PUHSC is the most prestigious comprehensive medical institution in China, and is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. For more on the Joint Institute and this week’s event, visit

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