Monday, May 7, 2018
On Wednesday, May 2, hundreds of researchers gathered at NIH’s Natcher Conference Center to show off their recent discoveries. But unlike a typical scientific conference, the letters “M.D.” and “Ph.D.” were noticeably absent from these scientists’ credentials. Instead, the event — NIH’s annual Postbac Poster Day — celebrated the accomplishments of individuals participating in the NIH Postbaccalaureate Intramural Research Training Award (IRTA) Program.
Typically called ‘IRTAs’ (pronounced ‘er-tahs’) by the NIH community, all of the programs’ participants recently completed their undergraduate studies and have spent the past year performing research in IRP laboratories all across the NIH. Read on to get to know a handful of these promising future scientists and clinicians.
Sarah Ahmed: Pursuing Parkinson’s Genes
Sarah’s research group is trying to unravel how genes contribute to the development of neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis. Because her work mixes genetics and neuroscience, she collaborates with a large number of researchers specializing in different disciplines.
Tuesday, April 24, 2018
In the midst of the 1957 Asian flu pandemic, doctors and researchers were understandably focused on treating patients and developing ways to contain the outbreak. It wasn’t until 30 years later that scientists began reporting that women who were pregnant when they caught the virus were more likely to have children who would later be diagnosed with schizophrenia.1 While that relationship remains controversial,2 numerous studies have since linked activation of a pregnant woman’s immune system with an increased risk that her child will develop certain psychiatric disorders, including not just schizophrenia but also autism spectrum disorder and major depressive disorder.3 A new IRP study has now expanded on this work by showing that exposure to higher levels of two immune system molecules in utero can noticeably alter the neurological and cognitive development of young children.4
Factors from infections to stress to genetics all play a role in how active a person’s immune system is, and a more vigorous immune system releases greater amounts of chemicals called cytokines that can ramp up or tamp down inflammation. When a woman is pregnant, these molecules affect not just her own body but also that of her unborn child. Some cytokines can even pass through the blood-brain barrier and exert direct effects on the developing brain, which may explain the link between a mother’s immune response and her child’s future risk of developing a psychiatric illness.
“That link is very concerning because psychiatric disorders can have a substantial impact on functioning as well as longevity,” says IRP investigator Stephen E. Gilman, Sc.D., the study’s senior author. “Therefore, we wanted to know if the activity of a mother’s immune system can also affect cognitive development more generally before a major psychiatric disorder emerges.”
Wednesday, October 5, 2016
During the first trimester of pregnancy, many women experience what’s commonly known as “morning sickness.” As distressing as this nausea and vomiting can be, a team of NIH researchers has gathered some of the most convincing evidence to date that such symptoms may actually be a sign of something very positive: a lower risk of miscarriage.
Thursday, September 8, 2016
By testing 6,000 FDA-approved drugs and experimental chemical compounds on Zika-infected human cells in the lab, a team that includes IRP scientists has shown that some existing drugs might be repurposed to fight Zika infection and prevent the virus from harming the developing brain.
Tuesday, January 5, 2016
Speaking at the NIH Research Festival in September, Michael Gottesman, M.D., the NIH Deputy Director for Intramural Research said, “The real research is being done by the fellows, by the students.” The FARE awards are meant to commend those researchers doing outstanding work at the NIH.