Annual Event Highlights Contributions of IRP Postdoctoral Fellows
Monday, September 16, 2019
At lunchtime last Wednesday, the NIH Clinical Center’s FAES Terrace echoed with the joyful sounds of scientists nourishing their bodies and their brains. While those stopping by the annual NIH Research Festival poster session could be forgiven for making a beeline straight for the food — including the submissions to this year’s Scientific Directors’ baking competition — once their plates were full, they took advantage of the opportunity to satiate their scientific curiosity as well by checking out the dozens of posters on display.
Examining DNA Methylation Could Facilitate Targeted Cancer Therapy
Tuesday, September 3, 2019
As an amateur home chef, I know from experience that the ingredients you use can dramatically alter the way a recipe turns out. Leave out oregano and your tomato sauce will be bland; add too much red pepper and your plate of pasta will scorch your tongue.
In this way, it turns out, cooking is a lot like the process by which your genes manufacture the proteins that keep your body running. Just like the same recipe can result in a delicious or disappointing meal depending on how you modify it, a certain gene can produce several varieties of a single protein that behave in different ways. In some cases, these alterations may lead to disease. New IRP research has revealed that a genetic regulatory process called DNA methylation can contribute to cancer by changing which forms of a protein a gene produces.1
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.
DNA Day Reddit “Ask Me Anything” Prompts Rousing Discussion
Monday, May 6, 2019
Each year on April 25, we celebrate National DNA Day, which commemorates the completion of the Human Genome Project in 2003 and the discovery of DNA's double helix in 1953. On this day students, teachers, and the public learn more about genetics and genomics. In honor of DNA Day this year, on April 24, the NIH IRP partnered with the NIH's National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) to host a Reddit "Ask Me Anything" (AMA) with three experts on the many ways that advances in the genomic sciences are changing our lives.
Supercomputing Helps IRP Researchers Complete Our Genetic Blueprints
Monday, April 22, 2019
While the Human Genome Project accomplished a remarkable feat in sequencing all the genes in the human genome, technological limitations still left significant swaths of our genetic blueprints unexplored. Recent advances in DNA sequencing are starting to fill in those gaps, but these new technologies require new computational tools to make sense of the data they generate. That’s where computer scientists like the IRP’s Adam Phillippy, Ph.D., come in.
Alternative to CRISPR/Cas9 May Cause Fewer Undesired Changes
Tuesday, March 5, 2019
IRP researchers have always worked on the cutting edge of biomedical science, from testing the first successful treatment for childhood schizophrenia to pioneering the first screening technique for HIV. In a new study, an IRP team recently achieved yet another first: simultaneously editing two genetic sites in mice using a brand-new approach called base editing that may prove to be more precise – and therefore safer – than other gene editing methods.
Tuesday, October 9, 2018
It seems like every day there is a new story in a prominent news outlet about the revolutionary gene-editing approach known as CRISPR/Cas9. What these reports often fail to mention is all the scientific discoveries that paved the way for that groundbreaking technology, including the key contributions of government scientists working in the Intramural Research Program of NIH’s National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI). Last week, the NHGRI IRP celebrated its 25th anniversary with a day-long symposium headlined by a keynote from the co-discoverer of CRISPR/Cas9, University of California, Berkeley professor Dr. Jennifer Doudna.
Tuesday, September 25, 2018
The Human Genome Project gave scientists an incredible roadmap of the thousands of genes used to construct the human body. However, many individuals harbor DNA that differs markedly from the standard reference sequence produced by that initiative, and these variations can have profound implications for a person’s health. A recent study led by IRP scientists has uncovered yet another of these genetic variants, a rare mutation that causes the eye disease retinitis pigmentosa.
Tuesday, May 22, 2018
It might seem easy to blame your parents for the way you turned out; after all, they raised you and gave you all of your DNA. But, before throwing blame around, consider saving some for the place where you grew up. According to new IRP research, being raised in an urban environment can dramatically alter how your genes influence your brain.1
Monday, February 26, 2018
For over a decade, my family shared our home with a short, fat beagle named Kayla Sue. She had big floppy ears, a tail as straight as an exclamation point, and a coat of fur that was a patchwork of white, brown, and black splotches. Her love of chasing small animals was matched only by her enthusiasm for eating, napping, and belly rubs. One of my best friends growing up, on the other hand, had a mean-spirited Dachshund named Rocky who would not let anyone outside his family touch his long, brown, sausage-shaped body. Meanwhile, one of my brother’s close childhood friends had two humongous, overly-friendly, black-and-brown German shepherds that would immediately bowl you over when you walked through the front door.
It doesn’t take a particularly sharp observer to notice that, despite being the same species, the more than 300 breeds of dog have remarkably different physical and behavioral traits. But what remains less clear even today are the specific biological roots that produce these widely varying attributes. And, perhaps more importantly, scientists seek to understand how learning about that immense diversity might help us improve the health of our canine companions – and ourselves.