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.
Dr. Noor White Traces Evolution to Identify Genes Critical for Vision
Monday, April 11, 2022
The eye has existed in some form for roughly 600 million years. Its many intricate components and the general ability of organisms to sense light have continued to adapt and evolve over huge spans of time into what we know as vision today. By mapping out the evolution of vision, Noor White, Ph.D., hopes to shed light on the genetic causes of diseases that affect the retina, the part of the eye that turns light into electrical signals the brain can use to build an image of our surroundings.
“If we can take a step back and look at the bigger picture, then we can identify the critical genetic components of vision,” explains Dr. White, who was an IRP postdoctoral fellow for four years before becoming a Staff Scientist in March.
Immune System Genes Linked to Severe Side Effects in Patients with Rare Disease
Tuesday, January 11, 2022
When you run the largest-ever study of a rare childhood disease, you become the go-to person when your peers notice something peculiar in patients with the illness. It was not too surprising, then, when a researcher from Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, asked IRP investigator Michael Ombrello, M.D., to help her team follow a new lead in the mystery of why some patients with a rare inflammatory condition called Still’s disease were coming down with a life-threatening lung ailment. The results of their collaboration could lead to a new precision medicine approach that individualizes therapy for Still’s disease based on patients’ DNA.
IRP Research Identifies Genetic Risk Factors for Highly Lethal Disease
Tuesday, June 29, 2021
We may share our food and even our beds with them, but despite what many dog lovers might like to believe, our canine companions are not humans who just happen to walk on four legs. One thing we do have in common, though, is the array of genetic diseases that afflict both man and man’s best friend. As a result, scientists can learn a great deal about human illnesses by studying dogs. Using this approach, IRP researchers recently discovered genetic variants that likely play an important role in a rare and poorly understood form of cancer.
Pioneering Genetic Epidemiologist Takes a Global Approach to Fighting Health Disparities
Wednesday, June 16, 2021
IRP distinguished investigator Charles Rotimi, Ph.D., was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences this year in recognition of his pioneering work exploring the health implications of genetic diversity in populations with African ancestry, as well as for globalizing the study of genomics, particularly in African nations. Dr. Rotimi joined NIH in 2008 as the founding director of the Intramural Center for Genomics and Health Disparities in the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), which was later renamed the Center for Research on Genomics and Global Health, in part to reflect Dr. Rotimi’s globe-spanning research programs.
Scientists-in-Training Impress at Virtual Event
Monday, May 10, 2021
Despite the challenges of working during a global pandemic, IRP scientists continue to make groundbreaking discoveries and mentor the next generation of researchers. This includes the hundreds of recent college graduates conducting research in NIH labs through the Postbaccalaureate IRTA program. On April 28, 29, and 30, many of these budding scientists presented the fruits of their efforts at this year’s virtual Postbac Poster Day. Read on to learn about a small sampling of the scientific strides NIH’s postbacs are making.
Decades Later, IRP Researcher’s Discovery Is Used in Labs Around the World
Wednesday, April 21, 2021
National DNA Day, held on April 25, commemorates the completion of the Human Genome Project in 2003 and the day in 1953 when a research team led by Drs. James Watson, Francis Crick, Maurice Wilkins, and Rosalind Franklin published their groundbreaking paper on the structure of DNA in the journal Nature.
The mapping of DNA’s structure opened the door to modern genetics and our current understanding of how DNA affects the health and survival of all living things. Since then, there have been numerous additional major leaps forward in the field of genetics. Among them was the discovery of a universal hallmark of DNA damage by IRP Scientist Emeritus William Bonner, Ph.D., an advance that revolutionized the study of how cells sense and repair genetic defects. Dr. Bonner’s findings paved the way for a deeper understanding of cell biology, as well as clinical advances for treating cancer and for assessing risks from radiation in the environment.
New Approach Could Enhance Existing Treatments for Debilitating Genetic Disease
Tuesday, April 6, 2021
The prospect of editing our DNA to treat genetic diseases may have captured the imaginations of scientists and the public in recent years, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other ways of combating these illnesses. Many promising therapies act not on DNA itself but rather on DNA’s often overlooked cousin, RNA. For instance, experiments in cells performed by IRP researchers have shown promising results or a RNA-targeting therapeutic developed to treat the debilitating genetic disease spinal muscular atrophy.
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.
Custom-Built Molecule May Improve On Its Natural Counterpart
Monday, February 22, 2021
Ten years ago, a young woman from Chicago came to the National Institutes of Health with a rare genetic condition. A mutation in her DNA was making her metabolic system malfunction, causing levels of fat molecules called triglycerides in her blood to skyrocket far out of the normal range. This triggered inflammation in her pancreas, a painful and potentially life-threatening condition known as pancreatitis. She couldn’t understand why there wasn’t any kind of treatment to help her.
IRP senior investigator Alan T. Remaley, M.D., Ph.D., took on the challenge with the help of Anna Wolska, Ph.D., a research fellow in his lab. Dr. Remaley leads the Lipoprotein Metabolism Section in the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), where he and Dr. Wolska study lipoproteins, small particles that transport fats such as cholesterol and triglycerides through the bloodstream to be broken down and used by cells for energy. Their efforts to help that young woman ultimately led to the discovery — published last January — of a new strategy for reducing triglycerides in order to treat serious ailments like pancreatitis and heart disease.