Dedicated Staff and Cutting-Edge Technology Helps Solve Pain’s Many Mysteries
Thursday, May 5, 2022
For such a common ailment, pain remains a significant mystery. Part of the challenge of studying it is that it occurs in so many conditions and can vary from a mild ache to life-altering misery. Fortunately for both pain patients and IRP researchers studying pain, the NIH Pain Research Center has the technology and expertise to power new discoveries about pain in its many, complex forms.
On March 31 and April 1, NIH’s National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) hosted a two-day virtual symposium titled “Tackling Pain at the National Institutes of Health: Updates From the Bench, the Clinic, and the New NIH Pain Research Center,” which featured presentations from a number of IRP scientists exploring important questions related to pain. Read on to learn more about some of the research discussed during that event, including efforts examining pain in patients with rare diseases, early-phase clinical trials of a new pain treatment, and investigations of how psychological factors can affect the way people experience pain.
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.
Pushing Cells to Their Limits Could Enable Earlier Diagnosis and Treatment
Tuesday, March 29, 2022
If the many stories of mothers lifting cars to save their trapped children prove anything, it’s that we cannot know the true capabilities of our bodies until they are put to the test. This concept, it turns out, could be the key to much earlier diagnosis for Parkinson’s disease. By stimulating specific neurons to push them to their limits, IRP researchers were able to detect Parkinson’s in mice in its very early stages, opening up the possibility that a similar test could one day allow human patients to begin treatment before the disease has caused too much damage.
Early-Career Scientists Power Through Pandemic to Launch Labs
Monday, January 24, 2022
NIH has long prided itself on its ability to accelerate the careers of the brightest young physicians and scientists in the country. One of these many efforts is the Lasker Clinical Research Scholars Program, which provides a select group of individuals relatively early in their scientific careers with the funding and institutional support to start their own labs at NIH. After five to seven years of independent research in the IRP, Lasker Scholars are given the option to apply for three years of funding for work outside of NIH or to remain as investigators at NIH.
While launching a lab in the midst of a global pandemic is no easy task, five Lasker Scholars have done just that over the past year. Their research on cancer, Parkinson’s disease, childhood blindness, and inflammatory conditions is now well underway and promises to eventually improve the lives of many patients. Keep reading to learn more about how NIH’s newest Lasker Scholars are changing the way we treat those illnesses.
Chronic Stress Diminishes Energy Production in the Brain
Tuesday, December 7, 2021
When power lines come down and the electricity shuts off, it’s understandably a worrying situation. As it turns out, people may become anxious not just when their homes are cut off from energy, but also when their brains find themselves short on power, according to recent IRP research done in mice.
While the misfortune of a blackout is temporary, many people experience chronic stress that bothers them continuously. In some individuals, repetitive stressors can contribute to the development of debilitating anxiety that interferes with everyday life. Intriguingly, past research has found evidence that problems with the biological batteries that power our cells, called mitochondria, might be involved in anxiety disorders, as well as some other psychiatric illnesses.
New Strategy Could Enhance Benefits of Therapeutic Brain Stimulation
Tuesday, October 19, 2021
Electricity can do crazy things to the brain. While it can’t bring back the dead à la Frankenstein or give you new memories like in Total Recall, many scientists believe electrical stimulation could one day help patients with movement or memory problems regain those capabilities. New IRP research bolsters this idea by showing that a brain stimulation technology called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) significantly boosts motor skill learning when precisely administered during specific periods of brain activity.
Budding Scientists Present Their Research During Three-Day Virtual Event
Monday, August 30, 2021
Although NIH’s 2021 Summer Internship Program (SIP) was fully virtual this year, that didn’t stop the hundreds of participating high school, college, and graduate students from contributing to a variety of important IRP research projects. More than 500 students who worked in NIH labs this summer presented their work during this year’s Summer Presentation Week, which took place August 3-5.
I sifted through the lengthy list of presenters at the event and spoke with a diverse group of young men and women who spent their summers expanding our knowledge of human health and biology. Read on to learn about these promising future scientists and doctors and the research they completed this summer.
Approach Could Protect or Even Regenerate Neurons in Eye and Spinal Cord
Tuesday, August 24, 2021
At the end of Aesop’s fable The Lion and the Mouse, the titular rodent saves his much larger friend from a hunter’s trap. Just like Aesop, scientists know well that even something tiny and often overlooked can lend a helping hand. Extremely short strands of genetic material called microRNAs, for instance, could make for useful therapeutic targets for glaucoma and other degenerative eye ailments, according to new IRP research.
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.
Human and Animal Studies Point to New Treatment Strategy
Tuesday, June 8, 2021
Interest in the low-carb ‘ketogenetic’ diet has exploded in recent years, with legions of enthusiasts jumping on the bandwagon. The popular dietary regimen has even caught the attention of scientists seeking new treatments for an array of health conditions. For instance, a recent IRP study suggests that a ketogenic diet might make it easier for people with alcohol use disorder to stop drinking.