IRP Research Brings Hope to Patients with Deadly Cancer
Among the many forms of brain cancer, glioma may be the most well-known, having recently taken the lives of Ted Kennedy in 2009, John McCain in 2018, and actor Tim Conway in 2019. Despite the attention drawn to it by the deaths of these public figures, glioma remains both mysterious and highly lethal. Fortunately, IRP researchers are fighting back against this stubborn foe. In preparation for World Brain Day on July 22, we talked with IRP Lasker Clinical Research Scholar Jing Wu, M.D., Ph.D., about her efforts to better understand glioma and identify potential therapies to treat the deadly disease.
IRP Study Answers Key Questions About Bone Development and Healing
The idea that there can be “too much of a good thing” applies just as much to the human body as it does to an overly sweet dessert or excessive holiday decorations. For instance, you might think that rapid bone growth would be helpful for fixing fractures, but it can actually make bones weaker in the long run. A recent IRP study revealed how a certain molecule manages the way bones develop in a growing fetus and heal after damage to make sure they don’t trade strength for speed.
IRP Researchers Leave Jargon Behind for Three-Minute Talks Competition
Scientific research is often said to take place in an “ivory tower” — not exactly an image associated with accessibility, trust, or empathy. Yet it is essential that members of the public be able to understand the work that researchers devote their lives to.
In recognition of that need, dozens of IRP postbacs, graduate students, and postdocs participate each year in NIH’s Three Minute Talks (TmT) competition. On June 22, this year’s eleven finalists offered clear and concise descriptions of their efforts to unfold the mysteries of proteins’ shapes, discover the lethal role of inflammation in infections, repackage cancer therapies to enhance their effectiveness, and much more.
IRP Researchers Explore How the Brain Shrugs Off Severe Stress
Deep within the brain, a structure called the hippocampus serves as a hub where memory and emotion collide, helping us to learn what not to do if we want to stay safe. However, for the 12 million people in the U.S. with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), those self-preservation instincts kick into overdrive, with severe consequences for quality of life.
June is PTSD Awareness Month, which draws attention to an often-debilitating condition that occurs when people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event or period in their lives continue to experience severe depression and anxiety for months or years afterward. While there are a variety of medications and therapies that can help people with PTSD, not everyone benefits from those treatments. Before scientists can develop additional treatment options, they must learn more about the biological roots of the condition, so IRP senior investigator Heather Cameron, Ph.D., is doing her part by examining how stress affects the hippocampus, one of the few brain regions where new neurons are continuously born.
A Look Inside NIH’s Department of Transfusion Medicine
The essential role of blood in our bodies has been recognized as far back as the time of ancient Greece, when the Greek physician Hippocrates included it in his list of four ‘humors’ that influence our health and emotions. Since then, scientists have vastly expanded our understanding of the dark red liquid running through our veins and arteries. Nowadays, researchers and technicians like those in NIH’s Department of Transfusion Medicine (DTM) can not only safely remove blood from one person and transfuse it into another, but they can also transform it into incredible forms of therapy.
The NIH IRP is full of vampires. Hundreds of patients at the NIH Clinical Center — not to mention scientists in roughly 200 IRP labs — depend on blood provided by NIH’s very own blood bank.
Conveniently located in the NIH Clinical Center, the NIH Blood Bank collects roughly 4,000 units of ‘whole blood’ each year — the process most people think of when they think of donating blood. It also receives more than 2,000 annual donations of specific blood components, which are collected via a process that separates them from other parts of the blood and returns the rest to the donor’s body. Most of those donations gather blood-clotting platelets, but the NIH Blood Bank also occasionally collects oxygen-carrying red blood cells and infection-fighting ‘convalescent plasma.’
Mouse Study Demonstrates Promise of New Therapy for Rare Genetic Conditions
If you ask a scientist how old you are, you may be surprised to get a different answer depending on who you’re talking to. That’s because age can be measured both ‘chronologically’ — in terms of time — and at a cellular level. Indeed, certain genetic mutations cause cells to age faster, leading to a host of health problems. Fortunately, a recent IRP study performed in mice suggests that boosting levels of a specific molecule could help alleviate some of those patients’ symptoms.
IRP Research Examines Under-Appreciated Factors in Alzheimer’s Disease
This June, the observance of Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness month reminds us just how devastating the impact of Alzheimer’s and other dementias is across the world. About 55 million people are currently living with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementias such as frontotemporal dementia and Lewy body dementia. This includes the estimated 6.7 million people in the U.S. over age 65 with Alzheimer’s disease, a population whose cognitive decline imposes huge financial costs on the American economy and often unrecognized burdens on the unpaid family members who provide care for those patients.
While the disease has been a target of intensive investigation ever since Alois Alzheimer first discovered clumps of amyloid beta protein and tangles of tau in the brain of a deceased patient in 1906, scientists have made only modest progress in treating it. Efforts to design drugs targeting the abnormal globs of amyloid and tau thought to cause Alzheimer’s have met with only limited success. That’s why IRP investigator Keenan Walker, Ph.D., is taking a different approach: exploring the link between dementia risk and the immune system.
Highlighting Drugs and Vaccines Stemming from NIH Discoveries
On May 3, more than six decades of IRP research culminated in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approving the world’s first vaccine for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), a disease that puts tens of thousands of Americans in the hospital each year and kills thousands. While the new vaccine, called Arexy, has been getting all the headlines recently, it is only the latest example of a slew of FDA-approved medications and vaccines that might never have existed without the tireless efforts of scientists at NIH.
Indeed, a recently published study led by Mark Rohrbaugh, Ph.D., J.D., a special advisor in the NIH Office of Science Policy, found that inventions developed at NIH have contributed to more FDA-approved products than those created at any other nonprofit research institution in the world over the past five decades. NIH tops the study’s list with 27 FDA-approved products, six more than the study attributed to the combined efforts of all the schools in the University of California system.
Budding Scientists Assemble for First Time Since 2019
In many ways, working at NIH feels like being at a world-renowned university, complete with a variety of classes, intellectually stimulating lectures, social events, and opportunities for professional development. It’s no wonder, then, that NIH has long been a destination for young people who have just departed from their alma maters with their newly earned undergraduate degrees.
These new graduates come to the IRP to hone their scientific skills in NIH’s Postbac IRTA program, conducting research in IRP labs for one or two years under the expert guidance of the IRP’s seasoned investigators. The program also provides the opportunity once per year for participants to present the fruits of their efforts to all their IRP colleagues at Postbac Poster Day, and this year’s event on April 19 and 20 was the first to include an in-person component since 2019. Read on to learn about a few of the nearly 1,000 postbacs who showed off their research at this year’s event, which spanned fields from neuroscience and cancer to genetics and virtual reality.
This page was last updated on Friday, January 14, 2022