Congressman Vicente Gonzalez (TX-15) announced that the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) has awarded approximately $3.6 million in federal funding to the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) School of Medicine’s South Texas Diabetes and Obesity Institute (STDOI). Funding will be used to evaluate 1,000 Mexican Americans from large families and examine how environmental factors can contribute to the development of fatty liver disease.

“This funding will facilitate research being done by South Texans for South Texans,” Congressman Gonzalez said. “It is my hope that this research will give public health professionals the tools they need to address a health crisis affecting South Texas.”

Dr. John Blangero, a professor at UTRGV and the Director of the Genomics Computing Center at the STDOI, is the current Principal Investigator for the study.

“Fatty liver disease is a significant public health problem in South Texas and represents a major risk factor for liver cancer,” Dr. Blangero said. “Our project is focused on identifying environmental factors involved in fatty liver disease risk using a novel approach in which we increase these environmental signals by controlling for genetic factors. This is the first time this method has ever been used and is a previously unrealized benefit of the human genome project. Advanced molecular and chemical assays will allow us to capture a vast array of environmental effects potentially influencing fatty liver disease risk.”

NIMHD, a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has awarded UTRGV the funding in block installments through November 30, 2022.