Drs. Leslie Baier and Robert Hanson Identify Genetic Risk Factors in American Indians
Monday, November 29, 2021
November is both Diabetes Awareness Month and Native American Heritage Month. Unfortunately, the month of November is not the only link between Indigenous populations and diabetes. Members of minority groups have a much higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes and its many complications compared to the general population, and this is especially true of some American Indian tribes, whose members are twice as likely to have type 2 diabetes as white Americans.
At the Phoenix Epidemiology and Clinical Research Branch in Arizona, part of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), IRP senior investigators Leslie J. Baier, Ph.D., and Robert Hanson, M.D., M.P.H., are working to understand why American Indians living in the southwestern U.S. are disproportionately affected by type 2 diabetes and obesity. Using family histories, medical records, and other data collected during a decades-long study of these communities, combined with extensive analysis of some of their participants’ DNA, their team has identified several genes that contribute to risk for those two conditions, along with some surprising findings about their prevalence.
World-Renowned Geneticist Discusses His Experience Leading NIH
Monday, November 22, 2021
Francis S. Collins, who is stepping down from his post as NIH Director by the end of the year, spoke recently with staff from The NIH Catalyst, the NIH Record, and the “I am Intramural” Blog. Read on for a few highlights from that conversation, or read the full interview originally published The NIH Catalyst.
On NIH’s efforts to improve diversity in the scientific workforce
“Diversity is a hugely important issue for our workforce, our grantee community, and our clinical-trials participation. Several years ago I put together a diversity working group of my advisory committee, and out of that came the creation of a new position, the Chief Officer for Scientific Workforce Diversity. The initial holder of that post was Dr. Hannah Valantine, and now Dr. Marie Bernard leads the office. In addition, we have made real strides in increasing diversity in our intramural program through the Distinguished Scholars Program.
Dr. Kelvin Choi Studies Commercial Tobacco Use in Underserved Communities
Monday, November 15, 2021
Each year, millions of smokers in the U.S. attempt to kick the habit. Many begin their journey towards a healthier life with the annual Great American Smokeout, which falls on the third Thursday of November — November 18 this year — and marks a day when all Americans who use commercial tobacco products like cigarettes are encouraged to stop.
While smoking rates in the U.S. have dropped from a hefty 42 percent of the population in 1965 to 14 percent in 2019, it remains the main cause of preventable death globally. In the U.S., 34 million adults still smoke cigarettes, and young people are being lured in by flavored e-cigarettes, which also pose health risks and can lead to smoking cigarettes. These tobacco-related behaviors are also unevenly distributed across the population, meaning some populations suffer the consequences of smoking disproportionately compared with others. IRP senior investigator Kelvin Choi, Ph.D., is working to understand why some groups are more likely to smoke, the effects of continued smoking, and the reciprocal interplay between those factors and health.
Pair Leads Public Health Efforts Focused on Underserved Communities
Monday, November 8, 2021
In the spring of 2020, as the U.S. government implemented public health measures to address the COVID-19 pandemic, it quickly became clear that people in Black, Latino, and American Indian communities were significantly more likely to be hospitalized or die from the new disease than White, non-Hispanic Americans. While the work many scientists did to understand the virus and devise vaccines, diagnostic tests, and treatments made the news regularly, efforts to study and address racial disparities in COVID-19’s impacts were equally important.
When called to lead efforts to shrink those gaps, Gary H. Gibbons, M.D., and Eliseo J. Pérez-Stable, M.D., rose to the challenge. The two IRP investigators, who respectively lead the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD), helped direct two federal programs dedicated to providing underserved communities with information about, and access to, COVID-19 testing, clinical trials, and vaccines. In recognition of their life-saving work, Drs. Gibbons and Pérez-Stable have been awarded the COVID-19 Response Medal, a special honor bestowed this year as part of the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals. Also known as the “Sammies,” these annual awards recognize and celebrate exceptional work by government employees
Mouse Study Suggests Approach to Combat Patients’ Debilitating Tiredness
Tuesday, November 2, 2021
The human body is like any delicate ecosystem — disrupting just one part of it can have unexpected, widespread repercussions. Cancer patients know this well, not just because a tumor confined to one organ can cause a range of symptoms, but also because radiation treatment aimed specifically at the tumor sometimes leaves patients feeling utterly exhausted. New IRP research suggests that an inflammatory response to targeted radiation therapy is responsible for this common side effect of the treatment.
Groundbreaking Immunotherapy Research Revolutionizes Cancer Treatment
Monday, October 25, 2021
Like many young boys, IRP senior investigator Steven A. Rosenberg, M.D., Ph.D., initially believed he would grow up to become a cowboy, a dream he shared with his older brother, Jerry. That plan changed after World War II ended and stories began coming out of Europe about members of his family who had perished in concentration camps.
“I just became so upset about the evil that people could perpetrate on one another,” he recalls. “Right then and there, I knew I wanted to do the opposite. I wanted to do things that would help people, and I developed almost a spiritual desire to become a doctor.”
He ultimately did become a doctor, and his pioneering research into how cancer interacts with the immune system has led to treatments that are reducing suffering for many people with cancer. In recognition of this groundbreaking work, Dr. Rosenberg was awarded the HHS Secretary’s Award for Distinguished Service in August 2021. The highest honor given by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the award celebrates excellence in leadership, ability, and service.
New Strategy Could Enhance Benefits of Therapeutic Brain Stimulation
Tuesday, October 19, 2021
Electricity can do crazy things to the brain. While it can’t bring back the dead à la Frankenstein or give you new memories like in Total Recall, many scientists believe electrical stimulation could one day help patients with movement or memory problems regain those capabilities. New IRP research bolsters this idea by showing that a brain stimulation technology called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) significantly boosts motor skill learning when precisely administered during specific periods of brain activity.
Friday, October 8, 2021
The NIH community is profoundly saddened by the recent passing of Thomas A. Waldmann, M.D., Chief Emeritus of the Lymphoid Malignancies Branch and NIH Distinguished Investigator.
Considered a giant in the field, Tom was a renowned immunologist whose more than 60-year career at the National Cancer Institute led to numerous high-impact discoveries that advanced the fields of organ transplantation, autoimmune disease and cancer. He was a leader in the study of cytokines and their receptors and of monoclonal antibodies, now a dominant form of cancer immunotherapy.
Research Suggests Sleep- and Activity-Based Approaches to Treatment
Tuesday, October 5, 2021
Mental Illness Awareness Week, observed this year from October 3 through 9, brings attention and support to the many patients and families who are coping with a variety of psychological conditions. Although an estimated 20 percent of U.S. adults and nearly 17 percent of youth have some type of mental health ailment, these conditions are still not well understood. However, research conducted at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) is transforming our knowledge of one such mental health condition that affects more than two million Americans: bipolar disorder.
Differences in Flu-Fighting Antibodies Could Explain Women’s Greater Susceptibility
Tuesday, September 28, 2021
It is well-known that COVID-19 infections are more often life-threatening in the elderly and individuals with chronic medical conditions like obesity, but the novel coronavirus isn’t the only infectious disease that more severely affects certain groups of people. A new IRP study explored a possible biological reason why women tend to experience worse flu infections and suggests a way to potentially improve the effectiveness of flu vaccines for everyone.