IRP Researchers Refine Tools to Maximize the Benefit from Life-Saving Tests
Eleven years ago, IRP senior investigator Hormuzd Katki, Ph.D., had a bit of an eureka moment during a press event announcing the results of the National Lung Cancer Screening Trial, which demonstrated that annual screenings cut the risks of dying from lung cancer in heavy smokers by 20 percent.
“It struck me as I read the trial results that not only was this a very important trial, but that it was possible that different people will have different benefits from lung cancer screening,” Dr. Katki remembers. “Even within this group of very high-risk smokers who were part of the trial, you can identify some people who get much more benefit than other people, and that has implications for who should be offered this kind of screening.”
Mouse Study Suggests Simple Ingredient Swap Could Improve Public Health
When it comes to consuming a healthy diet, “everything in moderation” is a common piece of advice. In fact, evidence is accumulating that eating lots of a particular dietary fat thought to promote cardiovascular health may actually be problematic. A recent IRP study performed in mice suggests that vegetable oil made from a modified soybean may decrease the risk for cardiovascular disease by helping people strike the right balance in their consumption of two different types of fat.
Renowned Cancer Scientist Stepped Down After 29 Years in Position
Dr. Michael Gottesman has been a member of the NIH community since 1976. He has held many positions throughout his tenure, including spending 29 years as the Deputy Director of Intramural Research (DDIR). He stepped down as DDIR this past year and has returned to focusing solely on being Chief of the Lab of Cell Biology at the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Dr. Gottesman recently participated in an interview with the NIH Office of Technology Transfer, excerpts of which we are re-posting here on the "I Am Intramural" blog.
Museum Collection Contains Many Eye-Catching Objects and Photographs
Anyone who has engaged in a marathon of gruesome Halloween movies knows that the human body can be portrayed in ways that are frightening. Even in real life, the tools and techniques researchers use to understand disease may seem like something out of a work of fiction. In honor of Halloween this year, let’s sneak inside the archives of the Office of NIH History & Stetten Museum to see the spookiest nooks and crannies of our collection. Whatever you do, don’t turn out the lights!
Signs of Past Viral Exposure Predict Liver Cancer Risk
The liver has a difficult but important job. It serves as the central processing plant for all the food, drinks, and drugs we take in, separating and breaking them down into usable nutrients and toxic wastes that need to be removed from the body. It’s no surprise, then, that diseases affecting the liver can have life-threatening consequences. In particular, infections like hepatitis B and C and liver damage caused by alcohol, drugs, or fatty liver disease can all lead to liver cancer. Unfortunately, even though the presence of these conditions are harbingers of possible liver cancer, the disease often passes unnoticed until it is at an advanced, less treatable stage.
IRP senior investigator Xin Wei Wang, Ph.D., and his NIH research team are developing ways to detect liver cancers much earlier, when existing treatments are much more likely to stop their growth. In honor of Liver Cancer Awareness Month this October, I talked to Dr. Wang about his research and the novel blood test his lab has developed to predict liver cancer risk.
Four NIH Scientists Received Prestigious Recognition in 2022
The complexities of cancer, which is actually a collection of many diseases, has made conquering it an enormous challenge. Fortunately, researchers in the NIH Intramural Research Program are up to the task. This year, four IRP investigators in NIH’s National Cancer Institute (NCI) have been recognized for their groundbreaking contributions to answering fundamental questions about the disease and the immune system’s response to similar threats.
Dr. Tiffany Zarrella Examines Communication Between Bacteria to Combat Persistent Infections
Facebook’s nearly 3 billion users may seem like a huge social network, but it pales in comparison to the conversations among the trillions of microbes that live inside a single human body. Few people know this better than IRP postdoctoral fellow Tiffany Zarrella, Ph.D., who spends her days eavesdropping on the messages bacteria send to one another to improve treatment for stubborn infections.
Dr. Zarrella was drawn to the bacterial world in microbiology lab courses while earning a biochemistry degree at Syracuse University in New York. After graduation, she obtained a research technician position at Albany Medical College, where she worked on projects centered around infectious bacteria and how they respond to their environments. She continued this thread of research in graduate school, moving on to a new study to discover how Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria, which often cause ear infections and pneumonia, use a particular signaling molecule to resist antibiotic treatments and evade vaccines.
Widely Available Molecule Could Aid Development of Therapies for Blinding Diseases
As scientists inch closer to growing fully functioning organs outside the body, it’s easy to forget that it’s already possible to grow miniature, simplified versions of some organs in the lab. These ‘organoids’ are an extremely useful research tool, but producing them can be tricky. New IRP research could make it much easier to grow organoids that mimic the eye’s retina, thereby accelerating discoveries about a variety of vision-impairing diseases.
IRP Research Shows Benefits of More Intensive Treatments for Certain Patients
Fate can be cruel, especially when it comes to a rare, highly fatal blood cancer called acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Even when months of intensive chemotherapy appear to cause a complete remission of the disease — meaning doctors cannot detect any remaining cancer cells in a patient’s body — roughly half of those patients see the cancer return within two years, or even as soon as six months. Sadly, most of them don’t survive their second bout with the disease.
As a medical student, IRP senior investigator Christopher Hourigan, M.D., D.Phil., thought this outcome was unfair. More than that, he thought it indicated that the standard ways doctors determined if an AML patient was in remission were inadequate, and that remission might not even be the right goal. That’s why he has focused his career on finding ways to detect, prevent, and treat AML recurrence, known in his field as ‘relapse’.
“I was a scientist before I became a doctor, and it was really eye-opening to me, when I started to practice medicine, how difficult some of the treatment decisions were and how limited the information available was to inform those decisions,” Dr. Hourigan says.
Innovation Awards Accelerate Development of New Research Techniques
Scientists spend years, even decades, intensely studying a specific disease or biological system, an approach that yields unrivaled knowledge. However, many important scientific questions require a deep understanding of several subjects. As a result, the IRP has numerous programs dedicated to encouraging scientists with different areas of expertise to work together.
One such program is the NIH Director’s Challenge Innovation Awards, which funds innovative, high-impact projects that require the cooperation of researchers in more than one of NIH’s Institutes and Centers. This year, the program selected six promising proposals with one foot in the disciplines of biology and medicine and another in engineering or the physical sciences.
This page was last updated on Friday, January 14, 2022