Globe-Spanning Collaboration Connected ‘Viking Gene’ to Dementia and ALS
Monday, June 21, 2021
June was an important month in the life of baseball great Lou Gehrig. It was the month he was born and the month he was first picked for the Yankees’ starting lineup. Sadly, it was also the month in 1939 when he was diagnosed with the neurological disease that bears his name — Lou Gehrig’s disease, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) — and the month he died of that disease two years later. It is appropriate then that ALS Awareness Day is observed on June 21 as a day of hope for those searching for effective treatments and, ultimately, a cure.
IRP senior investigator Bryan J. Traynor, M.D., Ph.D., a neurologist at the National Institute on Aging (NIA), is one of the people leading that search. Best known for his work unraveling the genetic causes of ALS and frontotemporal dementia (FTD), he led an international consortium of researchers that uncovered a mutation on chromosome 9 that is the most common ‘familial’ cause of both ALS and FTD. In fact, this mutation, which disrupts the function of the C90RF72 gene, is responsible for 40 percent of all familial cases of ALS and FTD in European and North American populations, meaning cases in which a family member also has the disease. The discovery, published in 2011, revolutionized the scientific understanding of neurodegenerative diseases and the relationships between them. It also suggested a potential target for future gene therapies.
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.
Inhibiting Energy Production Pathway Delays Tumor Formation in Mice
Tuesday, November 10, 2020
Despite the common misconception that sugary treats send kids bouncing off the walls, fat actually provides more than twice as much energy as sugar and other carbohydrates. This energy can be a double-edged sword, fueling not just healthy cells but also cancerous ones. A new IRP study in mice suggests that reducing the body’s ability to burn fat molecules for energy could slow the formation of tumors, potentially extending the lives of individuals with strong genetic predispositions to cancer.
Scientists Parse Wide-Ranging Effects of Endometrial Cancer Mutation
Tuesday, May 12, 2020
The so-called ‘butterfly effect’ supposes that a butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil can cause a tornado in Texas. While the jury is still out on insect-induced natural disasters, it is clear that a single genetic mutation can have wide-ranging and unexpected consequences throughout a cell. By examining the ripple effects caused by changes in a particular gene, IRP researchers have identified a potential treatment target for a particularly deadly variety of cancer.
Event Spotlights Students Completing Their Ph.D. Research in IRP Labs
Tuesday, February 25, 2020
The NIH provides an extraordinarily rich environment for learning and honing the skills needed to pursue a scientific career. It’s no wonder, then, that Ph.D. students from institutions all across the United States and the rest of the world come here to conduct their dissertation research under the mentorship of the IRP’s many renowned investigators.
Nearly 150 of those students presented the fruits of their scientific work at the NIH’s 16th annual Graduate Student Research Symposium on Thursday, February 20. The insights they have produced on topics from cancer to autoimmune disease to environmental contaminants were supremely impressive and will likely contribute to important improvements in medical care in the future. For anyone who missed this exciting event, read on to learn about a few of the many research projects that were 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
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.
Delivery Method Could Eventually Help Correct Mutations That Cause Hearing Loss
Tuesday, February 19, 2019
Most people probably think of viruses as villains that bring illnesses like measles, HIV, and the flu, but some viruses are proving to be valuable allies in the fight against genetic diseases. In a new study, a team of scientists from the NIH IRP and their colleagues showed the promise of a lab-designed virus for delivering gene therapies aimed at correcting hereditary hearing loss.