Tuesday, November 27, 2018
The human genome comprises roughly three billion base pairs and around 20,000 protein-coding genes, according to recent estimates. That’s a lot of information crammed into the tiny nucleus of a cell, and it doesn’t even include the many genes that do not produce a protein or the fact that most genes come in multiple flavors that vary in different individuals. Add to that the phenomenon of an identical gene being either more or less active in two different people and you can quickly end up with genomic datasets that would overload nearly any computer. Fortunately for IRP senior investigator Daniel Levy, M.D., the NIH IRP has one of the few computer systems in the world that can handle this mountain of information.
Thursday, November 15, 2018
In 2016, more than one in twenty American adults and one in ten adolescents experienced at least one major depressive episode. For nearly 45,000 of these individuals, their condition was severe enough that it led them to take their own lives. Unfortunately, the medications currently available to treat depression are not always effective and can take up to six weeks to substantially reduce symptoms.
To improve treatment and accelerate symptom relief, IRP senior investigator Carlos Zarate Jr., M.D., is working towards the development of new medications for depression, along with the identification of new drug targets and objective measures called biomarkers that yield information about how a patient is responding to treatment. In recent years, his lab has extensively investigated and assessed the effects of the anesthetic drug ketamine on depression and suicidal thoughts. Many of the patients in his trials have had marked and rapid responses to ketamine, sometimes within a single day or just a couple of hours.
On Tuesday, November 13, Dr. Zarate participated in a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” (AMA) to answer questions from the public about the way depression is currently treated and the latest efforts to develop cutting-edge therapies for the condition. Read on for some of the most interesting exchanges that took place or check out the full AMA on Reddit.
Tuesday, November 13, 2018
The three-quarters of Americans who own a smartphone use them not just for communicating but also keeping a calendar, playing games, scouring the Internet for funny cat memes, and — soon — maybe even evaluating their neurological health. A new study conducted by IRP and University of Maryland researchers has confirmed the potential of smartphone apps for gauging symptoms of the neurological disease multiple sclerosis.
Tuesday, October 30, 2018
Every good gardener knows the importance of fertilizing the soil before planting seeds, and evidence is accumulating that a similar concept applies to the human body when it comes to experimental stem cell therapies. A new IRP study has uncovered how a medical technology called pulsed-focused ultrasound boosts the healing potency of a particular stem cell treatment.
Tuesday, October 16, 2018
The recent spate of state laws legalizing marijuana for medical or recreational purposes has prompted concerns that increased marijuana use will boost the number of people who become dependent on and abuse the drug, a condition known as cannabis use disorder (CUD). Treating the growing number of patients with CUD will require a greater understanding of how chronic marijuana use can lead to addiction. New IRP research has revealed that star-shaped brain cells called astrocytes may play a role in the pleasurable effects of marijuana and contribute to the drug’s addictive properties.
Tuesday, October 9, 2018
It seems like every day there is a new story in a prominent news outlet about the revolutionary gene-editing approach known as CRISPR/Cas9. What these reports often fail to mention is all the scientific discoveries that paved the way for that groundbreaking technology, including the key contributions of government scientists working in the Intramural Research Program of NIH’s National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI). Last week, the NHGRI IRP celebrated its 25th anniversary with a day-long symposium headlined by a keynote from the co-discoverer of CRISPR/Cas9, University of California, Berkeley professor Dr. Jennifer Doudna.
Tuesday, September 25, 2018
The Human Genome Project gave scientists an incredible roadmap of the thousands of genes used to construct the human body. However, many individuals harbor DNA that differs markedly from the standard reference sequence produced by that initiative, and these variations can have profound implications for a person’s health. A recent study led by IRP scientists has uncovered yet another of these genetic variants, a rare mutation that causes the eye disease retinitis pigmentosa.
Tuesday, September 11, 2018
Between fast-food outlets, vending machines, and food trucks — not to mention good old-fashioned home cooking — many people face no shortage of opportunities to eat. But as satisfying as a crisp potato chip or a moist pork chop may be, people with asthma and many other conditions may prefer to resist tasty temptations if it means alleviating some of their symptoms. In a small pilot study, IRP researchers found evidence that abstaining from food for 24 hours could inhibit some of the cellular processes that cause asthmatics’ breathing problems.
Tuesday, August 28, 2018
Much of the time, new therapies are built from the ground up, with researchers closely scrutinizing a specific molecule or cellular process and designing compounds that can influence it. In some cases, however, scientists take the opposite approach, throwing a multitude of therapeutic darts at the disease dartboard to see what sticks, and then working backwards to unravel why a drug was effective. IRP researchers recently used this method to identify potential treatments for drug-resistant ovarian cancer and determine how some of those tumors become impervious to a particular chemotherapy.
Thursday, August 16, 2018
Upon entering the sunny foyer of the NIH’s Natcher Conference Center last Thursday, I was immediately struck by a burst of loud, excited chatter. As it always is on NIH’s annual Summer Poster Day, the building was filled with hundreds of high school and college students and the scientists, families, and friends who had turned out to see what these young men and women had spent the summer doing.