A new National Institutes of Health program recognizing new research includes work done by a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill professor.

Brian Strahl, an associate professor of biochemistry and biophysics, received an $800,000 grant covering the next four years. Strahl is researching the so-called “histone code.”

Histones are proteins that help packaging of DNA.

The grant is part of the program. The NIH awarded 38 such grants.

“Defects in the enzymes that modify histones cause a wide variety of human diseases, including cancer,” said Strahl, a member of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. “Evidence also exists that these enzymes play a role in aging, neurodegeneration, molecular mechanisms regulating drug addiction, and stem cell biology.

“However, we only have limited information about how histone modifications interact with one another to elicit their biological effects on health and disease,” he added.