Tuesday, February 26, 2019
What does a postbac actually do in the NIH IRP? Maybe you have an image of someone mixing colorful chemicals together like a mad scientist (which sometimes isn’t too far from the truth).
Although I am not creating any diabolical concoctions, I am kept quite busy running tests to examine whether our treatments reverse the effects of lung fibrosis, a thickening and scarring of lung tissue. Here’s what a typical week looks like for me.
Tuesday, August 14, 2018
As an impatient eater, I find myself burning or biting the inside of my mouth more often than I’d like. Fortunately, these injuries tend to heal within a day or two, whereas wounds like nicking my finger with a knife or scraping my knee seem to take a week or longer to disappear. My personal impressions have now been confirmed by a new NIH study that uncovered major differences in the way the mouth and skin repair themselves, pointing to potential therapeutic targets that could speed healing.
Tuesday, March 13, 2018
Food companies have long marketed carbohydrate-rich drinks and energy bars to athletes with the message that the energy those snacks provide is key to lifting heavier and running farther. A new mouse study by IRP researchers, however, suggests that skipping a meal (or several) might be far more effective for increasing athletic prowess1.
Unlike modern Americans used to three square meals a day, our ancient ancestors couldn’t exactly throw a TV dinner in the microwave whenever they felt a bit peckish. As a result, they probably found themselves hunting wooly mammoths and fending off saber-toothed tigers on an empty stomach.
“From an evolutionary perspective, animals in the wild – particularly predators – need to be able to function at a high level when they’re in a food-deprived state,” says IRP Senior Investigator Mark P. Mattson, Ph.D., the study’s senior author. “Individuals who were able to perform at a high level in a fasted state had a survival advantage.”
Tuesday, February 27, 2018
In one of Aesop’s classic fables, a clever wolf dons a sheep’s skin in order to move through the herd undetected. As it turns out, IRP researchers have discovered that in people with a specific set of immune system genes, the HIV virus uses a similar approach to hide from the body’s defenses.1
Nearly all cells in our bodies are coated with proteins called human leukocyte antigens (HLAs). These proteins allow the immune system to distinguish between healthy, native cells and those contaminated by unwelcome visitors like viruses or bacteria that must be destroyed. Each of the various HLA proteins is encoded by a different HLA gene and these genes vary considerably between individuals, causing different people to have different variants of each HLA protein.
“There are thousands of different forms of these HLA genes, and that variation allows us, as a species, to deal with virtually all infectious pathogens,” says IRP Senior Investigator Mary N. Carrington, Ph.D., the senior author of the new paper. “We’re really interested in the diversity of that part of the genome, since the risk of essentially every autoimmune disease, many cancers, and probably every infectious disease is associated with this set of genes.”
Tuesday, February 13, 2018
Researchers have a long history of fattening up mice to gain insight into the causes and consequences of weight gain in the human body. In one of the more recent studies of this kind, a team of IRP researchers found that that a high-fat diet consistently altered the collection of microbes residing in mice’s digestive tracts and that this diet-microbe combination might pre-dispose the mice – and, potentially, obese humans – to colon cancer by triggering certain changes in how genes behave.
Monday, January 12, 2015
When I started this project, it was not my objective to develop a model for any specific disease, nor did I even suspect that the ultimate result would be some insight into autoimmune disease. The basic research question I was asking was why there are sequences in the 3’ untranslated region of the interferon-gamma mRNA that are more highly conserved than the coding region of the gene.
Monday, December 15, 2014
During my Ph.D., I decided to pursue my thesis project in a lab working in the RNA field and, more specifically, on the mechanisms of alternative splicing regulation. Moving onto my post-doctoral training, I decided to stay in this field mainly because I found it fascinating to work with RNA. It is such a flexible and diverse molecule, but also largely unexplored. I believed that this relatively new area of research would attract more interest among scientists, and the last few years show that I was thinking in the right direction.