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.
Thursday, December 15, 2016
Yasmine Belkaid, chief of the Mucosal Immunology Section in the NIAID Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases, has won the Sanofi–Institut Pasteur 2016 International Mid-Career Award for “outstanding research in the life sciences…contributing to progress in global public health,” announced on December 13, 2016 in Paris.
Thursday, July 14, 2016
As a theoretician in the lab of Dr. Ralph Nossal (NICHD), I use mathematical modeling to study how cells get to places in the body. Most of my time is focused on completing clearly written goals born from project plans. A system of timers, project plans, and goals keeps me on track to do what I need to do so that I can get back to the fun part of my job that I would happily do for free.
Wednesday, March 16, 2016
This month we’ll be looking at lesser-known early women scientists at the National Institutes of Health. They did solid work and were leaders in their field, but for some reason, they aren’t well-known.
Thursday, December 24, 2015
At the beginning of every episode of the sci-fi series Star Trek, William Shatner repeated the words, “Space: the final frontier.” However, in all of Star Trek’s 79 episodes, Captain James T. Kirk and crew never encountered anything like the number and diversity of species that exists within the human microbiome.