Annual Event Highlights Contributions of IRP Postdoctoral Fellows
Monday, September 16, 2019
At lunchtime last Wednesday, the NIH Clinical Center’s FAES Terrace echoed with the joyful sounds of scientists nourishing their bodies and their brains. While those stopping by the annual NIH Research Festival poster session could be forgiven for making a beeline straight for the food — including the submissions to this year’s Scientific Directors’ baking competition — once their plates were full, they took advantage of the opportunity to satiate their scientific curiosity as well by checking out the dozens of posters on display.
Five Questions with Dr. Catherine Bushnell
Monday, September 9, 2019
Yoga is all the rage these days, with millions of people taking part in the practice for relaxation, meditation, and increasing flexibility and muscle strength. However, the benefits of yoga go beyond what most might think. In fact, the mind-body practice of yoga could have a significant impact on the lives of those living with chronic pain, a condition that affects tens of millions of Americans.
In the past, doctors often prescribed opioids to treat chronic pain. However, research has shown that people with chronic pain have anatomical and neurochemical alterations in the brain that make them less responsive to opioids. In addition, both the medical and political systems are currently contending with a public health crisis stemming from the over-use of opioid pain medications. As a result, researchers have been working to identify ways to better manage chronic pain, particularly without the use of medication.
Examining DNA Methylation Could Facilitate Targeted Cancer Therapy
Tuesday, September 3, 2019
As an amateur home chef, I know from experience that the ingredients you use can dramatically alter the way a recipe turns out. Leave out oregano and your tomato sauce will be bland; add too much red pepper and your plate of pasta will scorch your tongue.
In this way, it turns out, cooking is a lot like the process by which your genes manufacture the proteins that keep your body running. Just like the same recipe can result in a delicious or disappointing meal depending on how you modify it, a certain gene can produce several varieties of a single protein that behave in different ways. In some cases, these alterations may lead to disease. New IRP research has revealed that a genetic regulatory process called DNA methylation can contribute to cancer by changing which forms of a protein a gene produces.1
Five Questions with Dr. Nehal Mehta
Thursday, August 29, 2019
Most Americans know someone who has been affected by heart disease. Despite its status as the leading cause of death in the U.S. today, rates of heart disease have actually been steadily falling since they hit their peak in 1968. In fact, between 1970 and 2005, the life expectancy of the average American increased over 70 percent due in part to reductions in heart disease-related deaths.
Research conducted by IRP scientists has played a key role in curbing the heart disease epidemic by helping identify now well-known risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure, obesity, and physical inactivity. However, not all risk factors are so commonly known. A 2017 study by IRP Lasker Clinical Research Scholar Nehal Mehta, M.D., M.S.C.E., revealed that untreated psoriasis — a chronic, relapsing, inflammatory skin disease — is linked to an elevated risk for premature coronary artery disease. Dr. Mehta’s research demonstrated a strong link between psoriasis-induced skin inflammation and and inflammation of the blood vessels, a precursor to heart disease. Through this study, the largest ongoing study of individuals with psoriasis to-date, Dr. Mehta’s team has concluded that controlling psoriasis-associated skin disease could be an important means of reducing cardiac risk in this population.
Genetic Research in Dogs Sheds Light on Human Disease
Monday, August 26, 2019
The National Academy of Sciences, a private society established in 1863, is made up of the United States’ most distinguished scientific scholars, including nearly 500 members who have won Nobel Prizes. Members of the NAS are elected by their peers and charged with the responsibility of providing independent, objective advice on national matters related to science and technology in an effort to further scientific innovation in the U.S.
IRP Senior Investigator Elaine Ostrander, Ph.D., is one of four IRP researchers who were elected to the Academy over the past two years. As head of the Cancer Genetics and Comparative Genomics Branch at the NIH’s National Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), Dr. Ostrander focuses on expanding our understanding of the genetic basis of human disease. However, her team does not just study humans. In fact, Dr. Ostrander works with dog owners, breeders, and veterinarians to study our canine companions and understand which genes control the variations seen across dog breeds. She specifically focuses on genes that control growth and genes associated with cancer susceptibility in an effort to understand why changes in those particular genes can cause illness in humans.
Six Questions With Dr. Matthew Memoli
Thursday, August 22, 2019
We all know flu season as the time of year where people are loading up on hand sanitizer and heading to the doctor for their flu shot. However, many underestimate the severity of the flu. During a typical flu season, five to twenty percent of Americans fall ill, leading to more than 200,000 hospitalizations and 36,000 deaths. Because of this serious threat to the public, the IRP has a long track record of researching vaccines, antivirals, diagnostics, and other resources in an effort to prevent individuals from catching the flu and improve care for those who do.
Discovery Could Improve Therapy for Multiple Autoimmune Diseases
Tuesday, August 20, 2019
Hiding among YouTube’s vast collection of cooking demos and funny cat videos are clips of patients and their advocates designed to raise awareness of specific diseases. It was just such a video that led IRP Senior Investigator Peter Grayson, M.D., M.Sc., to begin studying an extremely rare illness called deficiency of adenosine deaminase 2, or DADA2 for short. The recently published findings of that research could help improve treatment not just for patients with DADA2 but also many more individuals with similar ailments.
Tuesday, August 13, 2019
Overcoming complex diseases, from viruses to cancers to mental health and beyond, requires teams of people in a variety of settings. At the NIH IRP, researchers with very different expertise and backgrounds tackle the most difficult biomedical questions by working together.
If you’re planning to engage in team science or collaborations of any sort, keep these four words in mind, as they are what newly organized team members should expect on the road to success: forming, storming, norming and performing. Each step, outlined in this blog entry with insights from two leading IRP investigators, is a phase of team development, as originally introduced in the 1960s by Bruce Tuckman (See page 46 of NIH’s Collaboration and Team Science Field Guide).
Annual Event Shares Research by IRP’s Summer Interns
Tuesday, August 13, 2019
NIH’s Natcher Conference Center was packed once again last Thursday for the annual Summer Poster Day. This year, more than 1,200 college and high school students spent their summer performing research in an IRP lab through the NIH’s Summer Internship Program.
I navigated through the more than 900 posters presented this year to get a taste of the impressive work done by these young men and women in less than three months. If they can make these kinds of discoveries in just one summer, imagine what they might one day accomplish as full-time scientists and clinicians!
Targeting Brain’s Stress Circuitry Curbs Rats’ Alcohol Consumption
Tuesday, August 6, 2019
For social drinkers, alcohol brings to mind barbecues and bar-hopping with friends, but for the roughly 16 million Americans with alcohol use disorder (AUD), drinking is a source of significant stress. Unfortunately, those negative emotions — particularly those experienced during withdrawal — drive people with AUD to drink even more. A recent IRP study points to a potential way to curb the desire to drink in people who abuse alcohol by altering the behavior of a brain structure that governs negative emotions.