Results Suggest Dual Functions for Memory-Related Brain Area
Tuesday, August 16, 2022
Scientists studying memory have been closely scrutinizing a brain structure called the hippocampus ever since a man named Henry Molaison — better known as ‘patient H.M.’ — lost his ability to create new memories after surgeons removed that portion of his brain as a last-ditch treatment for his unrelenting epileptic seizures. For the most part, that research has treated the hippocampus as one homogenous structure. However, a recent IRP study lends support to the growing recognition that recall is a multi-stage process in which different parts of the hippocampus play different roles.
IRP Researchers Engage and Educate at Competition Finals
Wednesday, July 13, 2022
English is generally considered the ‘international language of science,’ since nearly all scientific papers are published in English. Yet, even to a native English speaker, scientists seem to be using another language entirely to talk about their research. Most Americans, after all, don’t know an ‘autophagosome’ from a ‘lysosome’ and would be hard-pressed to explain the difference between an ‘oocyst’ and a ’sporozoite.’
Fortunately, efforts like NIH’s annual Three-Minute Talks (TmT) competition are helping scientists learn how to communicate about their research in a manner that is much easier to understand. On June 30, after months spent whittling down dozens of competitors from across the IRP, 10 finalists raced against the clock to explain their work and its importance in a clear and compelling way.
Drug Candidate Could Slow Progression and Reduce Side Effects
Wednesday, June 15, 2022
If you know someone with Parkinson’s disease, you’re probably familiar with the progressive tremors and movement difficulties it causes. Unfortunately, the most common treatment for the disease — a drug called levodopa, or L-DOPA for short — can make some movement problems worse when taken for long periods of time. That’s why IRP senior investigator David R. Sibley, Ph.D., and postdoctoral fellow Amy Moritz, Ph.D., have taken on the challenge of discovering new drugs that could be given to patients in conjunction with existing treatments to more effectively slow the disease’s progression while reducing side effects.
Budding Scientists Showcase Research at Annual Event
Wednesday, May 25, 2022
Any scientist who wants to make game-changing discoveries has to start somewhere — even Albert Einstein worked in a patent office before landing his first job in academia. Through its Postbaccalaureate IRTA program, NIH hopes to give aspiring scientists more of a leg up than Einstein had by bringing them into IRP labs after they complete their undergraduate studies.
On April 26, 27, and 28, more than 900 recent college graduates participating in the program presented at this year’s virtual Postbac Poster Days. Read on to learn about a few of these young researchers and their contributions to the groundbreaking work being done at NIH.
IRP Researchers Discover Unexpected Stress-Blunting Effects of Some Neurons
Wednesday, April 27, 2022
The past few years have not been easy for anyone. With world events like the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine causing everyone to worry, it’s no surprise that during this April’s annual Stress Awareness Month observance, so many people experienced high levels of stress and anxiety. While stress management techniques and talk therapy may help some people, nearly 10 million Americans need prescription anti-anxiety drugs to quell those feelings.
One important target for anti-anxiety medications is norepinephrine, a chemical released by certain neurons in the brain. Norepinephrine — also known as noradrenaline — has traditionally been considered to be a ‘stress chemical’ that triggers anxiety. However, drugs designed to target the neurons that produce it don’t always work as predicted. That’s why IRP senior investigator Patricia Jensen, Ph.D., and her colleagues in the Developmental Neurobiology Group at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) are delving deep into the mouse brain to better understand these neurons and what exactly they do.
Pushing Cells to Their Limits Could Enable Earlier Diagnosis and Treatment
Tuesday, March 29, 2022
If the many stories of mothers lifting cars to save their trapped children prove anything, it’s that we cannot know the true capabilities of our bodies until they are put to the test. This concept, it turns out, could be the key to much earlier diagnosis for Parkinson’s disease. By stimulating specific neurons to push them to their limits, IRP researchers were able to detect Parkinson’s in mice in its very early stages, opening up the possibility that a similar test could one day allow human patients to begin treatment before the disease has caused too much damage.
IRP Researchers Find Link Between Dementia and Byproducts of Cholesterol Breakdown
Monday, March 14, 2022
When most people think about Alzheimer’s disease, the liver is probably the organ least likely to come to mind. Yet recent IRP research suggests that molecules called bile acids, which are synthesized in the liver, may influence the development of Alzheimer’s disease. In honor of Brain Awareness Week this week, we’re diving into that work to learn how such an unlikely target could help lead to new treatments for Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
To date, efforts to develop therapies for Alzheimer’s disease, which affects more than 6 million Americans over the age of 65, have achieved little success. Many scientists are focused on proteins in the brain as potential treatment targets, including the ‘amyloid-beta’ protein now infamous amongst Alzheimer’s researchers. In contrast, IRP senior investigator Madhav Thambisetty, M.D., Ph.D., has been exploring the role that cholesterol might play in the development of Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia, which is marked by microscopic bleeding and blood vessel blockage and is the second most common form of dementia.
IRP’s Ph.D. and Medical Students Present Research at Virtual Event
Thursday, March 10, 2022
The IRP isn’t concerned only with discovering the secrets of how our bodies work and developing new therapies to treat disease. Senior scientists and many other employees at NIH also are actively involved in training the next generation of researchers. One place where the benefits of those efforts is strikingly clear is at NIH’s annual Graduate Student Research Symposium, where graduate students performing research in NIH labs show of the fruits of their partnerships with IRP researchers.
On February 16 and 17, more than 100 of the IRP’s graduate students presented their work virtually at the 18th edition of the event. These young scientists discussed the results of studies on a huge range of topics, from how hunger changes during pregnancy to how viruses cause cancer. Read on to learn about a small sampling of the projects they’ve been hard at work on.
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.
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.