Dr. Shameka Poetry Thomas Documents Black Women’s Experiences With Race and Racism
Thursday, February 3, 2022
The numbers are clear: Black women are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than White women in the United States. However, the reasons why are less clear. By listening to patient’s stories, IRP postdoctoral fellow Shameka Thomas, Ph.D. hopes to pinpoint potential explanations for this racial health disparity.
“We are losing mothers and children because we are simply not listening,” Dr. Thomas says.
Trained as a medical sociologist at the University of Miami, Dr. Thomas has devoted her career to documenting the lived experiences of patients of color, particularly women, who are perceived as Black. Dr. Thomas contextualizes patient’s narratives within a framework of ‘street race,’ which refers to how a person’s racial identity is perceived by others, regardless of their self-reported racial identity. Examining the influence of street race on women’s healthcare experiences, she explains, allows researchers to determine how health disparities are influenced by “how others see you.”
Research in Cells Shows Promise for an Alternative Way to Halt Sperm Production
Tuesday, February 1, 2022
Birth control has long been mostly one-sided, as the vast majority of contraceptive methods are intended exclusively for women. However, recent IRP research has shown the potential of a new approach towards creating a reversible method of male contraception.
Women have a vast array of contraceptive options available to them, from ‘the pill’ to intrauterine devices (IUDs) and other products. However, for men, the only options aside from condoms are safe but irreversible surgical procedures. More than 40 percent of pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended, and additional options for male birth control could help reduce that number.
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.
IRP Research Challenges Long-Held Ideas About Muscle Structure
Wednesday, January 19, 2022
It’s not every day an accidental observation overturns 100 years of biological knowledge. But that’s what happened when IRP Stadtman Investigator Brian Glancy, Ph.D., noticed something funny while reviewing high-definition 3D videos of muscle cells.
“To be honest, you could almost call this study an accident,” he says.
Dr. Glancy, who leads the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)’s Muscle Energetics Lab, often uses the high-powered microscopes available through the NHLBI Electron Microscopy Core to study how energy is distributed through skeletal muscle cells — the ones that control voluntary movement — when they expand and contract.
Although he was focused on examining the cells’ energy-producing mitochondria, he could also see the other structures inside them, including the long, tube-like structures called myofibrils that are involved in muscle contraction. As he advanced the video and traveled down the length of the muscle, it looked to him like the myofibrils were changing shape.
Immune System Genes Linked to Severe Side Effects in Patients with Rare Disease
Tuesday, January 11, 2022
When you run the largest-ever study of a rare childhood disease, you become the go-to person when your peers notice something peculiar in patients with the illness. It was not too surprising, then, when a researcher from Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, asked IRP investigator Michael Ombrello, M.D., to help her team follow a new lead in the mystery of why some patients with a rare inflammatory condition called Still’s disease were coming down with a life-threatening lung ailment. The results of their collaboration could lead to a new precision medicine approach that individualizes therapy for Still’s disease based on patients’ DNA.
NIH Researcher Recognized for Important Insights Into Malaria Transmission
Wednesday, January 5, 2022
In many parts of the world, the high-pitched buzz of a mosquito is a harbinger of more than an annoying itch — it’s a warning of possible malaria infection. Malaria, a disease spread by mosquitos that causes high fever and flu-like illness, is a serious risk for nearly half of the world’s population. According to the World Health Organization, there were 241 million cases of malaria and 627,000 deaths in 2020 alone. More than 95 percent of them occurred in Africa.
Efforts to combat malaria using measures like preventative treatments and environmental mitigation have helped to reduce infections and deaths over the past decade, but those improvements have recently plateaued, according to IRP Distinguished Investigator Carolina Barillas-Mury, M.D., Ph.D., section chief in the Laboratory of Malaria and Vector Research in the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).
Dr. Shuai Xie Brings a New Perspective to Research on Environmental Exposures
Monday, December 13, 2021
“Engineering is about solving problems,” says IRP postdoctoral fellow Shuai Xie, Ph.D., M.P.H.
Dr. Xie speaks from experience. One of the problems she was interested in solving during her graduate studies in chemical and environmental engineering was how to accurately measure the way airborne contaminants adhere to and release from indoor building materials. This is a particularly important problem to solve because those interactions can affect measurements of indoor air pollution, potentially rendering them inaccurate. Of course, Dr. Xie was not trying to solve this engineering problem for its own sake; accurately gauging contamination of indoor air is important for human health.
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.
Drs. Leslie Baier and Robert Hanson Identify Genetic Risk Factors in American Indians
Monday, November 29, 2021
November is both Diabetes Awareness Month and Native American Heritage Month. Unfortunately, the month of November is not the only link between Indigenous populations and diabetes. Members of minority groups have a much higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes and its many complications compared to the general population, and this is especially true of some American Indian tribes, whose members are twice as likely to have type 2 diabetes as white Americans.
At the Phoenix Epidemiology and Clinical Research Branch in Arizona, part of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), IRP senior investigators Leslie J. Baier, Ph.D., and Robert Hanson, M.D., M.P.H., are working to understand why American Indians living in the southwestern U.S. are disproportionately affected by type 2 diabetes and obesity. Using family histories, medical records, and other data collected during a decades-long study of these communities, combined with extensive analysis of some of their participants’ DNA, their team has identified several genes that contribute to risk for those two conditions, along with some surprising findings about their prevalence.
World-Renowned Geneticist Discusses His Experience Leading NIH
Monday, November 22, 2021
Francis S. Collins, who is stepping down from his post as NIH Director by the end of the year, spoke recently with staff from The NIH Catalyst, the NIH Record, and the “I am Intramural” Blog. Read on for a few highlights from that conversation, or read the full interview originally published The NIH Catalyst.
On NIH’s efforts to improve diversity in the scientific workforce
“Diversity is a hugely important issue for our workforce, our grantee community, and our clinical-trials participation. Several years ago I put together a diversity working group of my advisory committee, and out of that came the creation of a new position, the Chief Officer for Scientific Workforce Diversity. The initial holder of that post was Dr. Hannah Valantine, and now Dr. Marie Bernard leads the office. In addition, we have made real strides in increasing diversity in our intramural program through the Distinguished Scholars Program.