The IRP’s Mario Roederer and Robert Seder Discuss the Science Behind the Headlines
Monday, March 23, 2020
Some say that if something’s not broken, then don’t fix it, but that doesn’t mean there’s no room for improvement. At least, those were the thoughts of IRP senior investigators Mario Roederer, Ph.D., and Robert Alan Seder, M.D., who recently found that the century-old tuberculosis (TB) vaccine is far more effective when administered via injection into a vein (IV) rather than into the skin, which has long been the standard way it is given. This major breakthrough received extensive media coverage, including a story in the New York Times. We went Behind the Headlines to get the inside scoop on this potentially life-saving discovery.
Four Questions with Dr. Niki Moutsopoulos
Friday, March 20, 2020
Our mouths are teeming with bacteria, a microbial ecosystem known as the oral microbiome. While these microbes are typically benign, under certain circumstances they can turn harmful and contribute to oral diseases such as periodontitis, a form of chronic gum disease characterized by microbe-driven inflammation of the soft tissues and bone that support our teeth. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), roughly 65 million Americans aged 30 or older have some degree of periodontitis. In its early stage, known as gingivitis, the gums become swollen and red due to inflammation, which is the body’s natural response to the presence of bacteria. If the condition worsens, it can lead to loose teeth and, eventually, bone or tooth loss.
NIH senior investigator Niki Moutsopoulos, Ph.D., head of the Oral Immunity and Inflammation Section at the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), studies periodontitis and aims to understand the immune system’s role in driving this destruction. In a 2018 study, she and her team of IRP researchers and outside collaborators discovered that an abnormal and unhealthy population of microbes in the mouth causes specialized immune cells, known as T helper 17 (Th17) cells, to trigger inflammation and destroy tissue, leading to periodontitis.
Narrower Research Focus Could Aid Treatment for Autoimmune Diseases
Tuesday, March 10, 2020
Police pursuing a dangerous criminal rely on witness descriptions of the suspect’s specific traits — height, weight, hair color, tattoos — to pick out the perpetrator from a vast population of mostly innocent individuals. Scientists can likewise distinguish between highly similar cell types using cutting-edge laboratory procedures. Using such techniques, IRP researchers have identified a particular variety of cell in a specific stage of its life cycle as a primary culprit behind the autoimmune disease known as lupus.
NIH Researcher Recognized for Enhancing the Molecular Understanding of Immune Responses
Tuesday, March 3, 2020
The National Academy of Sciences (NAS), established in 1863, is comprised of the United States’ most distinguished scientific scholars, including nearly 500 Nobel Prize winners. Members of the NAS are elected by their peers and entrusted with the responsibility of providing independent, objective advice on national matters related to science and technology in an effort to advance innovations in the United States.
IRP senior investigator Michael Lenardo, M.D., is one of four IRP researchers elected to the NAS over the past two years. At the NIH, Dr. Lenardo serves as Chief of the Molecular Development of the Immune System Section at the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), where he studies how the cells in the immune system mount protective responses to various pathogens, including viruses and bacteria. A major focus of Dr. Lenardo’s work is the investigation of genetic abnormalities in the immune system, which have the potential to cause life-threatening diseases.
Four Questions with Dr. John Mascola
Friday, November 29, 2019
The disease known as human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, attacks and destroys cells vital to the immune system. This leaves the millions of people living with HIV less able to fight other infections and can lead to an extremely severe form of immune system deficiency called acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), which was responsible for nearly 770,000 deaths in 2018 alone. As of 2019, there are approximately 37.9 million people around the world living with HIV/AIDS.
Although HIV/AIDS has been recognized as a serious public health crisis, finding effective treatments, or a vaccine to prevent infection in the first place, is not a simple task. The HIV virus has many different types and strains — similar to the flu — which makes developing vaccines and treatments extremely challenging, as the virus is constantly changing. At the NIH, there are a number of ongoing collaborative research projects aimed at providing new options for those diagnosed with HIV/AIDS and those at risk for contracting the virus in the future.
Four Questions with Dr. Tim Greten
Tuesday, November 19, 2019
There are over 100 different types of cancer, with liver, breast, and colon cancers among the most common. At the NIH, researchers across the organization have long been committed to furthering cancer research in an effort to increase the number of cancer survivors. They consistently push the boundaries of this field each day in the hopes that their work could lead to better diagnoses, better treatment, and better outcomes for cancer patients.
A 2018 study by IRP senior investigator Tim Greten, M.D., and his IRP colleagues did just that and more. Their research pushed the norms of cancer research by studying how a treatment as simple as antibiotics affects cancerous liver tumors. By utilizing antibiotics to wipe out the collection of microorganisms living in the digestive tracts of mice — known as the gut microbiome — the team identified a link between the gut microbiome and the behavior of the liver’s immune cells, which play a role in defending the organ against cancer. The IRP team ultimately showed that antibiotic treatment reduced the development of liver tumors in these ‘germ-free’ mice, and it also reduced the likelihood that tumors in other areas of the body would metastasize — or spread — to the animals’ livers, a finding that could one day prove beneficial to future cancer patients.
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.
Discovery Could Improve Therapy for Multiple Autoimmune Diseases
Tuesday, August 20, 2019
Hiding among YouTube’s vast collection of cooking demos and funny cat videos are clips of patients and their advocates designed to raise awareness of specific diseases. It was just such a video that led IRP Senior Investigator Peter Grayson, M.D., M.Sc., to begin studying an extremely rare illness called deficiency of adenosine deaminase 2, or DADA2 for short. The recently published findings of that research could help improve treatment not just for patients with DADA2 but also many more individuals with similar ailments.
Annual Event Shares Research by IRP’s Summer Interns
Tuesday, August 13, 2019
NIH’s Natcher Conference Center was packed once again last Thursday for the annual Summer Poster Day. This year, more than 1,200 college and high school students spent their summer performing research in an IRP lab through the NIH’s Summer Internship Program.
I navigated through the more than 900 posters presented this year to get a taste of the impressive work done by these young men and women in less than three months. If they can make these kinds of discoveries in just one summer, imagine what they might one day accomplish as full-time scientists and clinicians!
A Conversation with Dr. Paolo Lusso
Thursday, June 27, 2019
First discovered in 1981, human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, caused one of the most deadly and persistent epidemics in history. HIV destroys CD4+ T cells, a type of white blood cell essential for fighting infection. In doing so, HIV destroys the body’s ability to fight off disease, which often leads to life-threatening consequences.
Today, medications have allowed people living with HIV to lead healthier lives. However, HIV still remains a major public health concern and continues to be studied by researchers within the IRP and beyond.
IRP research has produced findings essential to the development of current HIV treatments and tools for diagnosis. However, there is still a lot left to learn. One recent IRP contribution to HIV research was a 2017 study led by IRP senior investigator Paolo Lusso, M.D., Ph.D., which suggests that treatments targeting a protein called integrin α4β7 could potentially become an addition to current treatment options for those with HIV, or provide new measures to prevent infection.