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.
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.
Five Questions With Dr. Jessica Gill
Wednesday, July 17, 2019
Each year, millions of Americans suffer sports-related concussions, and the number of youth suffering from these traumatic brain injuries has been rising. Blows to the head are common in sports such as football and hockey, and when these forces are strong enough to cause a concussion, they can harm the brain and impair cognitive functioning. Although concussions occur in staggering numbers, scientists do not fully understand what happens to the brain at the time of concussion or during the recovery period. However, that doesn’t mean they’re not trying.
IRP Investigator Bevil Conway Discusses the Science Behind the Headlines
Monday, July 15, 2019
What started as a friendly bet between investigators soon produced a major scientific discovery that calls into question the long-standing notion that non-human primates serve as accurate models for the way human brains function. The study, conducted by IRP investigator Bevil Conway, Ph.D., made headlines recently with reports in outlets such as NPR and U.S. News and World Report. We’re going Behind the Headlines with Dr. Conway to dive deeper into the story, understand the significance of his findings, and see where his work could lead.
A Conversation with Dr. Paolo Lusso
Thursday, June 27, 2019
First discovered in 1981, human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, caused one of the most deadly and persistent epidemics in history. HIV destroys CD4+ T cells, a type of white blood cell essential for fighting infection. In doing so, HIV destroys the body’s ability to fight off disease, which often leads to life-threatening consequences.
Today, medications have allowed people living with HIV to lead healthier lives. However, HIV still remains a major public health concern and continues to be studied by researchers within the IRP and beyond.
IRP research has produced findings essential to the development of current HIV treatments and tools for diagnosis. However, there is still a lot left to learn. One recent IRP contribution to HIV research was a 2017 study led by IRP senior investigator Paolo Lusso, M.D., Ph.D., which suggests that treatments targeting a protein called integrin α4β7 could potentially become an addition to current treatment options for those with HIV, or provide new measures to prevent infection.
A Conversation with Dr. Lori Beason-Held
Tuesday, June 18, 2019
Expert estimates suggest that more than 5.5 million Americans may have dementia caused by Alzheimer’s, a disease currently ranked as the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States. Because of the condition’s growing prevalence and profound consequences for patients, understanding Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of cognitive decline is an important goal within the Intramural Research Program.
One example of the IRP’s many contributions to the field of Alzheimer’s research is a 2013 study that detected brain changes in older adults who would go on to develop cognitive impairment years before their memory began to fail. This research, led by IRP staff scientist Lori Beason-Held, Ph.D., aimed to understand who might be susceptible to developing Alzheimer’s disease and what factors contribute to the development of the disease before symptoms appear.