COVID-19 Research at NIH Show No Signs of Slowing
Wednesday, February 9, 2022
It’s been more than two years since the first outbreak of COVID-19 occurred in China. During that time, amazing scientific advances have dramatically altered prevention and treatment for the illness, including the development of remarkably safe and effective vaccines. However, even with widespread vaccination, scientists predict that the disease will continue to circulate in society indefinitely, with seasonal ebbs and flows like the flu.
As a result, even as COVID-19 vaccine shots rolled out by the hundreds of millions, numerous IRP researchers continued studying the disease and the virus responsible for it. Many of these projects have been funded by the NIH’s Intramural Targeted Anti-COVID-19 Program (ITAC), an initiative that provides IRP researchers with funding for research related to COVID-19. Over the past year and a half, ITAC has provided more than $12 million to support a wide variety of projects — more than can be covered in just one blog post. Read on to learn about just a handful of the many ways IRP researchers are contributing to the fight against COVID-19, and stay tuned next week for another blog describing even more ITAC-funded COVID research.
Research in Cells Shows Promise for an Alternative Way to Halt Sperm Production
Tuesday, February 1, 2022
Birth control has long been mostly one-sided, as the vast majority of contraceptive methods are intended exclusively for women. However, recent IRP research has shown the potential of a new approach towards creating a reversible method of male contraception.
Women have a vast array of contraceptive options available to them, from ‘the pill’ to intrauterine devices (IUDs) and other products. However, for men, the only options aside from condoms are safe but irreversible surgical procedures. More than 40 percent of pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended, and additional options for male birth control could help reduce that number.
Early-Career Scientists Power Through Pandemic to Launch Labs
Monday, January 24, 2022
NIH has long prided itself on its ability to accelerate the careers of the brightest young physicians and scientists in the country. One of these many efforts is the Lasker Clinical Research Scholars Program, which provides a select group of individuals relatively early in their scientific careers with the funding and institutional support to start their own labs at NIH. After five to seven years of independent research in the IRP, Lasker Scholars are given the option to apply for three years of funding for work outside of NIH or to remain as investigators at NIH.
While launching a lab in the midst of a global pandemic is no easy task, five Lasker Scholars have done just that over the past year. Their research on cancer, Parkinson’s disease, childhood blindness, and inflammatory conditions is now well underway and promises to eventually improve the lives of many patients. Keep reading to learn more about how NIH’s newest Lasker Scholars are changing the way we treat those illnesses.
Immune System Genes Linked to Severe Side Effects in Patients with Rare Disease
Tuesday, January 11, 2022
When you run the largest-ever study of a rare childhood disease, you become the go-to person when your peers notice something peculiar in patients with the illness. It was not too surprising, then, when a researcher from Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, asked IRP investigator Michael Ombrello, M.D., to help her team follow a new lead in the mystery of why some patients with a rare inflammatory condition called Still’s disease were coming down with a life-threatening lung ailment. The results of their collaboration could lead to a new precision medicine approach that individualizes therapy for Still’s disease based on patients’ DNA.
Chronic Stress Diminishes Energy Production in the Brain
Tuesday, December 7, 2021
When power lines come down and the electricity shuts off, it’s understandably a worrying situation. As it turns out, people may become anxious not just when their homes are cut off from energy, but also when their brains find themselves short on power, according to recent IRP research done in mice.
While the misfortune of a blackout is temporary, many people experience chronic stress that bothers them continuously. In some individuals, repetitive stressors can contribute to the development of debilitating anxiety that interferes with everyday life. Intriguingly, past research has found evidence that problems with the biological batteries that power our cells, called mitochondria, might be involved in anxiety disorders, as well as some other psychiatric illnesses.
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.
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.
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.
Examining Molecular Markers of Aging Could Improve Patient Outcomes
Tuesday, September 14, 2021
In 2003, 92-year-old Fauja Singh ran the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in slightly under six hours, a feat that many people decades younger could not accomplish. Such examples reveal the problems with making assumptions about a person’s health based solely on age. Similarly, new IRP research suggests that assessing cellular characteristics associated with aging, rather than a person’s chronologic age in years, could improve outcomes for the more than 20,000 patients who receive bone marrow or blood stem cell transplants each year.
Budding Scientists Present Their Research During Three-Day Virtual Event
Monday, August 30, 2021
Although NIH’s 2021 Summer Internship Program (SIP) was fully virtual this year, that didn’t stop the hundreds of participating high school, college, and graduate students from contributing to a variety of important IRP research projects. More than 500 students who worked in NIH labs this summer presented their work during this year’s Summer Presentation Week, which took place August 3-5.
I sifted through the lengthy list of presenters at the event and spoke with a diverse group of young men and women who spent their summers expanding our knowledge of human health and biology. Read on to learn about these promising future scientists and doctors and the research they completed this summer.