Smoking While Pregnant Affects a Woman’s Genes Differently From Her Baby’s
Tuesday, January 7, 2020
Decades of public health campaigns have made the health consequences of smoking common knowledge. However, for the few women who smoke while pregnant, the habit can affect not only their own bodies but also those of their unborn children. Intriguingly, according to a new study led by IRP researchers, so-called ‘epigenetic’ changes to DNA that can alter the behavior of genes differ significantly in smoking mothers compared to their babies, suggesting that maternal smoking may have unique, long-lasting effects on the way a child’s body functions.
Exceptional Early-Stage Investigators Push the Boundaries of Translational Research
Thursday, December 5, 2019
Online and print publications are constantly touting momentous discoveries by superstar scientists like CRISPR-Cas9 co-discover Jennifer Doudna or the IRP’s own Kevin Hall, who changed the way we think about weight loss. It can be easy to forget that today’s biomedical pioneers were once young researchers toiling to establish themselves in the competitive environment of modern science.
Each year, a small, exceptionally promising group of scientific up-and-comers become Lasker Clinical Research Scholars through a highly competitive program jointly funded by the NIH and the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation. The program presents early-stage physician-scientists with the opportunity to carry out independent clinical research at the NIH for five to ten years. The 2019 class of Lasker Scholars consists of five extremely talented researchers who are now beginning a critical new phase in their careers. Let’s meet them.
Study Finds Heavy Alcohol Use Accelerates Cellular Aging
Tuesday, October 29, 2019
In an era when 80-year-olds are running marathons while 30-year-olds suffer from obesity-induced heart attacks, inferring the condition of people’s bodies from their birth years is a bit outdated (pun intended). As a result, scientists and clinicians are increasingly examining biological signposts to gauge how well a person’s tissues are functioning. By looking at chemical markers on DNA, IRP researchers recently found that heavy alcohol use accelerates aging at the cellular level.
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.