Nursing Research Leader Sheds Light on How Neighborhoods Influence Health
Monday, April 4, 2022
When you think about public health, city planning might not be the first thing that comes to mind. Yet where we live — the quality of the buildings, the availability of places to walk and play safely, and the types of schools and stores in the neighborhood — can profoundly affect our health. This relationship has been emphasized by the COVID-19 pandemic, as close, stuffy living conditions, the need to take public transportation to essential jobs, and inequities in access to testing and vaccination sites all contributed to the larger reduction in life expectancy for Black and Latino Americans compared to Caucasians over the last two years.
Shannon N. Zenk, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.N., F.A.A.N., Director of the National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR), was elected to the National Academy of Medicine in 2021 for her research into how neighborhood characteristics affect the health of residents and contribute to the health disparities seen between communities with different racial and ethnic makeups and different levels of income.
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.
IRP Researchers Aim to Regenerate Damaged Salivary Glands
Friday, March 18, 2022
It’s easy to take our saliva for granted. Most people have so much of it that they think nothing of spitting it out into a trash can when they finish chewing a stick of gum. Perhaps only people who have lived without it truly understand the great gift that is a perpetually moist mouth.
“Persistent dry mouth causes lots of problems with quality of life, and people forget how important saliva is until they lose it,” says IRP senior investigator Matthew Hoffman, B.D.S., Ph.D.
In honor of World Oral Health Day on March 20, a celebration of scientific efforts to reduce the burden of oral disease, I talked with Dr. Hoffman about his lab’s efforts to understand the biology of salivary gland dysfunction and translate that knowledge into treatments that bring relief to the many people suffering from it.
IRP Researchers Find Link Between Dementia and Byproducts of Cholesterol Breakdown
Monday, March 14, 2022
When most people think about Alzheimer’s disease, the liver is probably the organ least likely to come to mind. Yet recent IRP research suggests that molecules called bile acids, which are synthesized in the liver, may influence the development of Alzheimer’s disease. In honor of Brain Awareness Week this week, we’re diving into that work to learn how such an unlikely target could help lead to new treatments for Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
To date, efforts to develop therapies for Alzheimer’s disease, which affects more than 6 million Americans over the age of 65, have achieved little success. Many scientists are focused on proteins in the brain as potential treatment targets, including the ‘amyloid-beta’ protein now infamous amongst Alzheimer’s researchers. In contrast, IRP senior investigator Madhav Thambisetty, M.D., Ph.D., has been exploring the role that cholesterol might play in the development of Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia, which is marked by microscopic bleeding and blood vessel blockage and is the second most common form of dementia.
IRP’s Ph.D. and Medical Students Present Research at Virtual Event
Thursday, March 10, 2022
The IRP isn’t concerned only with discovering the secrets of how our bodies work and developing new therapies to treat disease. Senior scientists and many other employees at NIH also are actively involved in training the next generation of researchers. One place where the benefits of those efforts is strikingly clear is at NIH’s annual Graduate Student Research Symposium, where graduate students performing research in NIH labs show of the fruits of their partnerships with IRP researchers.
On February 16 and 17, more than 100 of the IRP’s graduate students presented their work virtually at the 18th edition of the event. These young scientists discussed the results of studies on a huge range of topics, from how hunger changes during pregnancy to how viruses cause cancer. Read on to learn about a small sampling of the projects they’ve been hard at work on.
Mouse Study Suggests Treatment Strategy Could Benefit Patients with Obesity
Tuesday, March 8, 2022
It’s bad enough that the excess abdominal fat carried by most individuals with obesity causes widespread inflammation throughout their bodies. To add insult to injury, that inflammation actually makes it harder to use up overloaded fat stores. However, a new IRP mouse study supports a two-pronged pharmaceutical approach that could break this vicious cycle and help improve the health of people with obesity.
IRP Researchers Discover Genetic Disorder Affecting the Brain and Skull
Thursday, March 3, 2022
A baby is born with a birth defect every four and a half minutes in the United States, adding up to one in every 33 babies born each year in this country. While some birth defects can be corrected or treated, many result in life-altering disabilities, and sometimes the child doesn’t survive. In fact, birth defects account for about 20 percent of infant deaths in the U.S. World Birth Defects Day, celebrated on March 3 each year, honors the people and organizations who are working to understand, prevent, and treat birth defects.
One of these organizations is the Undiagnosed Diseases Program (UDP) at NIH, which connects experts across the IRP’s 23 Institutes and Centers in a joint effort to find explanations for the “most puzzling medical cases" referred to the NIH Clinical Center.
NIH History Office Highlights Contributions of Black Employees
Wednesday, February 23, 2022
Every February, we celebrate Black History Month to spotlight the huge contributions Black Americans have made to our nation’s culture, as well as commemorate their ongoing fight for fair treatment under the law. Just as Black individuals have had tremendous influence on the U.S. as a whole, they have also achieved great things at NIH, demonstrating the critical importance of diversity within the scientific community.
In honor of Black History Month, we’re highlighting people and programs that championed diversity at NIH. Read on to learn about just a few examples of how diversity has evolved at NIH and how Black employees have helped advance its mission.
Many NIH Labs Remain Focused on COVID Research
Monday, February 14, 2022
Since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, IRP researchers have been hard at work learning about the virus and developing ways to prevent and treat infections. That research remains as important as ever, particularly as the new Omicron variant of the virus continues to spread rapidly.
Fortunately, NIH’s Intramural Targeted Anti-COVID-19 Program (ITAC) has been providing IRP scientists with millions of dollars to support their research on the pandemic virus, known as SARS-CoV-2. Last week, the “I Am Intramural” blog discussed ITAC-funded efforts to learn about the biology of the virus and how it affects the body. This week, we’ll look at IRP projects focused on ways to track, treat, and prevent infections.
COVID-19 Research at NIH Show No Signs of Slowing
Wednesday, February 9, 2022
It’s been more than two years since the first outbreak of COVID-19 occurred in China. During that time, amazing scientific advances have dramatically altered prevention and treatment for the illness, including the development of remarkably safe and effective vaccines. However, even with widespread vaccination, scientists predict that the disease will continue to circulate in society indefinitely, with seasonal ebbs and flows like the flu.
As a result, even as COVID-19 vaccine shots rolled out by the hundreds of millions, numerous IRP researchers continued studying the disease and the virus responsible for it. Many of these projects have been funded by the NIH’s Intramural Targeted Anti-COVID-19 Program (ITAC), an initiative that provides IRP researchers with funding for research related to COVID-19. Over the past year and a half, ITAC has provided more than $12 million to support a wide variety of projects — more than can be covered in just one blog post. Read on to learn about just a handful of the many ways IRP researchers are contributing to the fight against COVID-19, and stay tuned next week for another blog describing even more ITAC-funded COVID research.