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.
Tuesday, August 14, 2018
As an impatient eater, I find myself burning or biting the inside of my mouth more often than I’d like. Fortunately, these injuries tend to heal within a day or two, whereas wounds like nicking my finger with a knife or scraping my knee seem to take a week or longer to disappear. My personal impressions have now been confirmed by a new NIH study that uncovered major differences in the way the mouth and skin repair themselves, pointing to potential therapeutic targets that could speed healing.
Thursday, August 2, 2018
For most of their history, computers have been limited to mindlessly executing the instructions their programmers give them. However, recent advances have given rise to the intertwined fields of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, which focus on the creation of computer programs that can operate independently and even teach themselves to perform specific, specialized tasks. In 2013, the online PubMed database listed only 200 research publications related to ‘deep learning,’ a new type of machine learning that has shown success for particularly difficult tasks like object and speech recognition. Just four years later, in 2017, that number exceeded 1,100.
Tuesday, July 31, 2018
While many people can easily stop after a beer or two, for others one drink begets many more, ultimately leading to an addiction that drives continuously increasing alcohol consumption over time. New IRP research has identified a specific type of neuronal receptor involved in the development of alcohol dependence in mice, suggesting a possible approach to curbing problematic drinking behaviors in humans addicted to alcohol.
Tuesday, July 17, 2018
The constant combat between cancer and the body’s defenses can wear a tumor out. Unfortunately, cancer cells can pause their life cycle to repair themselves before re-entering the fray with renewed vigor. According to new IRP research, preventing cancer from taking a time-out can make it more susceptible to attack by the immune system.