Unconventional Genetic Strategy Could Enhance Production of Medical Treatments
Tuesday, March 23, 2021
We all have bad days on the job — your colleague keeps bugging you, your boss yelled at you for an innocent mistake, and you skipped lunch because you have 10 different deadlines coming up. Understandably, many people find it much harder to get their work done under such stressful circumstances. Microbes that produce chemicals for medicine and scientific research experience similar struggles, but a recent IRP study has found that short-circuiting their stress response makes them far more efficient at that task.
Virtual Symposium Showcases Scientists-in-Training
Monday, March 8, 2021
Even in the midst of a global pandemic, life at NIH goes on. IRP researchers continue to run experiments, publish scientific papers, and train the next generation of scientists, including the many graduate students performing research in IRP labs through the Graduate Partnership Program. On February 17 and 18, more than 100 of these scientists-in-training presented their work virtually at the NIH’s 17th annual Graduate Student Research Symposium. Like last year’s entirely online Postbac Poster Day, the event overcame the constraints of COVID-19 precautions to showcase a broad range of research, including several studies focused on the novel coronavirus.
The IRP’s Mario Roederer and Robert Seder Discuss the Science Behind the Headlines
Monday, March 23, 2020
Some say that if something’s not broken, then don’t fix it, but that doesn’t mean there’s no room for improvement. At least, those were the thoughts of IRP senior investigators Mario Roederer, Ph.D., and Robert Alan Seder, M.D., who recently found that the century-old tuberculosis (TB) vaccine is far more effective when administered via injection into a vein (IV) rather than into the skin, which has long been the standard way it is given. This major breakthrough received extensive media coverage, including a story in the New York Times. We went Behind the Headlines to get the inside scoop on this potentially life-saving discovery.
Four Questions with Dr. Niki Moutsopoulos
Friday, March 20, 2020
Our mouths are teeming with bacteria, a microbial ecosystem known as the oral microbiome. While these microbes are typically benign, under certain circumstances they can turn harmful and contribute to oral diseases such as periodontitis, a form of chronic gum disease characterized by microbe-driven inflammation of the soft tissues and bone that support our teeth. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), roughly 65 million Americans aged 30 or older have some degree of periodontitis. In its early stage, known as gingivitis, the gums become swollen and red due to inflammation, which is the body’s natural response to the presence of bacteria. If the condition worsens, it can lead to loose teeth and, eventually, bone or tooth loss.
NIH senior investigator Niki Moutsopoulos, Ph.D., head of the Oral Immunity and Inflammation Section at the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), studies periodontitis and aims to understand the immune system’s role in driving this destruction. In a 2018 study, she and her team of IRP researchers and outside collaborators discovered that an abnormal and unhealthy population of microbes in the mouth causes specialized immune cells, known as T helper 17 (Th17) cells, to trigger inflammation and destroy tissue, leading to periodontitis.
Five Questions with Dr. Heidi Kong and Dr. Julia Segre
Monday, November 25, 2019
When people think of skin health, they often think of protecting it from harmful UV rays or finding ways to avoid the fine lines and wrinkles that often come with aging and sun exposure. However, there are many factors and illnesses that impact skin health, including eczema, a chronic condition that affects tens of millions of Americans and causes the skin to become red and so itchy that it can interfere with patients’ sleep.
To combat such conditions, IRP researchers have spent decades investigating what causes them in humans through techniques such as immunology, genetics, molecular biology, and structural biology. In a 2014 study of healthy volunteers, IRP investigators Julia Segre, Ph.D., and Heidi Kong, M.D., M.H.Sc., used the latest genomic techniques to investigate the collection of microorganisms living on healthy human skin, known as the skin microbiome, in an attempt to understand how this collection of bacteria, fungi, and viruses may contribute to skin health. From their interdisciplinary research, the team was able to show that the array of microbes living on human skin is extremely diverse, varying greatly from individual to individual and between different areas of the body. This research opened doors for additional studies exploring how changes in the skin microbiome contribute to both common and rare skin diseases.
Four Questions with Dr. Tim Greten
Tuesday, November 19, 2019
There are over 100 different types of cancer, with liver, breast, and colon cancers among the most common. At the NIH, researchers across the organization have long been committed to furthering cancer research in an effort to increase the number of cancer survivors. They consistently push the boundaries of this field each day in the hopes that their work could lead to better diagnoses, better treatment, and better outcomes for cancer patients.
A 2018 study by IRP senior investigator Tim Greten, M.D., and his IRP colleagues did just that and more. Their research pushed the norms of cancer research by studying how a treatment as simple as antibiotics affects cancerous liver tumors. By utilizing antibiotics to wipe out the collection of microorganisms living in the digestive tracts of mice — known as the gut microbiome — the team identified a link between the gut microbiome and the behavior of the liver’s immune cells, which play a role in defending the organ against cancer. The IRP team ultimately showed that antibiotic treatment reduced the development of liver tumors in these ‘germ-free’ mice, and it also reduced the likelihood that tumors in other areas of the body would metastasize — or spread — to the animals’ livers, a finding that could one day prove beneficial to future cancer patients.
Tuesday, December 11, 2018
The more scientists have learned about the community of benign bacteria inside our bodies, known as the microbiome, the more effort they have put into recruiting it in the fight against disease. What’s more, scientists occasionally discover that treatments long thought to work completely independently of our native microbes also relieve symptoms by interacting with them. New IRP research into the most commonly used medication for type 2 diabetes has led to just such a revelation by demonstrating that its benefits stem in part from its ability to kill off a particular species of bacteria in the human digestive tract.
Friday, November 9, 2018
Scientific research is not all writing grants, giving presentations, and publishing papers. There are real risks to probing the secrets of biology, and sometimes scientists lose their lives during the course of their work. In honor of Veterans Day, we woud like to commemorate NIH staff who made the ultimate sacrifice in pursuit of knowledge that can help us prevent and treat diseases that impact so many lives.
Tuesday, April 4, 2017
Last month I moderated our annual retreat with the NIH Scientific Directors, those individuals tasked with leading their Institute or Center (IC)-based intramural research program. We were joined by many of the IC Clinical Directors. And this year we decided to do something a little different: listen to a series of talks about exciting, new IRP research.
Thursday, January 26, 2017
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.