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My blog usually celebrates biomedical advances made possible by NIH-supported research. But every August, I like to try something different and highlight an aspect of the scientific world that might not make headlines. This year, I’d like to take a moment to pay tribute to just a few of the many NIH family members around the country who, without pay or fanfare, freely give of themselves to make a difference in their communities. I’d like to start by recognizing my wife Diane Baker, a genetic counselor who has always found time during her busy career to volunteer.
When Taezia was 4 years old, an MRI showed a myriad of tumors crowding her organs and wrapping themselves around her spine. Without emergency surgery, Taezia would lose her ability to walk and become paralyzed from the neck down. Doctors knew they couldn’t remove the entire tumor, but their goal was to “debulk” it enough to preserve Taezia’s ability to walk and move around.
There are new reports of an outbreak of Ebola virus disease in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This news comes just two years after international control efforts eventually contained an Ebola outbreak in West Africa, though before control was achieved, more than 11,000 people died—the largest known Ebola outbreak in human history. Many questions remain about why some people die from Ebola and others survive. Now, some answers are beginning to emerge thanks to a new detailed analysis of the immune responses of a unique Ebola survivor, a 34-year-old American health-care worker who was critically ill and cared for at the NIH Special Clinical Studies Unit in 2015.
The struggle to maintain a healthy weight is a lifelong challenge for many of us. In fact, the average American packs on an extra 30 pounds from early adulthood to age 50. What’s responsible for this tendency toward middle-age spread? For most of us, too many calories and too little exercise definitely play a role. But now comes word that another reason may lie in a strong—and previously unknown—biochemical mechanism related to the normal aging process.
Studying the neural control of behavior is a challenge. Researchers must consider an animal’s environment, past experiences, and motivations. Work in relatively simple organisms, for example the invertebrate C. elegans, has teased apart the neural circuitry of highly stereotyped behaviors, like foraging. But in mammals, very little is known, “and that’s surprising given just how important behaviors like this are,” said Dr. Eric Horstick, who studies the molecular mechanisms underlying animal behavior.
My 8-year-old nephew Luke has a sixth-grade reading level, while still in the third grade. Yet, he often struggles to finish his chores. He carries a timer in his backpack to keep himself on task. His school provides Luke with special assistance, including extra time for tests and repeated, detailed instruction. The challenges arise because Luke, like his mother Rebecca, has attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Isaac was born to fight. Arriving more than five weeks early by emergency C-section, it wasn’t just his way of coming into the world that made him different from his three brothers. While he initially looked healthy, his parents soon realized Isaac’s health was something he and the entire family would need to be fighting for every single day.
Roberto Weigert is a cell biologist who specializes in intravital microscopy (IVM), an extremely high-resolution imaging tool that traces its origins to the 19th century. What’s unique about IVM is its phenomenal resolution can be used in living animals, allowing researchers to watch biological processes unfold in organs under real physiological conditions and in real time.
For gene therapy research, the perennial challenge has been devising a reliable way to insert safely a working copy of a gene into relevant cells that can take over for a faulty one. But with the recent discovery of powerful gene editing tools, the landscape of opportunity is starting to change. Instead of threading the needle through the cell membrane with a bulky gene, researchers are starting to design ways to apply these tools in the nucleus—to edit out the disease-causing error in a gene and allow it to work correctly.
In a new study of families affected by Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), National Institutes of Health (NIH) Intramural researchers have identified different connections in the brain that children may inherit from their parents and are linked to the disorder.