Brigitte Widemann Recognized for Pioneering Work on Debilitating Disease
Wednesday, August 18, 2021
Getting diagnosed with a serious illness as an adult can be devastating, so one can hardly imagine the impact of receiving such news as a child, particularly when the disease has no good treatments. Until recently, this was the case for many children with the potentially severe and frequently disfiguring condition neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1). However, pioneering research led by IRP senior investigator Brigitte C. Widemann, M.D., led to the first-ever drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat the condition. For this groundbreaking work, Dr. Widemann, her IRP research team, and her collaborators outside NIH were named as finalists for the 2020 Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals, also known as the ‘Sammies,’ an award that honors exceptional work by government employees.
Individuals From Around the World Drive IRP Breakthroughs
Wednesday, August 11, 2021
Come to NIH and you’ll hear many accents. Scientists from around the world have always contributed significantly to the NIH mission. The resulting diversity of backgrounds and perspectives makes the NIH Intramural Research Program an extremely stimulating and productive environment. Read on to learn about some of the many scientists of the past and present who brought their talents from abroad to one of the world’s leading institutions for biomedical research.
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.
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.
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.
IRP Study Could Help Identify Women at Greater Risk for Fertility Problems
Tuesday, February 2, 2021
As the calendar page turned from 2020 to 2021, many people adopted major lifestyle changes like healthier eating or significantly increasing their physical activity. While these New Year’s resolutions will likely improve their overall health, they could also wreak havoc on the reproductive cycles of a small set of women. New IRP research sheds light on the genetic factors that make some women susceptible to diet- or exercise-induced disruptions to their reproductive systems.