Individuals From Around the World Drive IRP Breakthroughs
Come to NIH and you’ll hear many accents. Scientists from around the world have always contributed significantly to the NIH mission. The resulting diversity of backgrounds and perspectives makes the NIH Intramural Research Program an extremely stimulating and productive environment. Read on to learn about some of the many scientists of the past and present who brought their talents from abroad to one of the world’s leading institutions for biomedical research.
New Study Hones in on Causes of Hearing and Balance Problems
The US military presence in Afghanistan is coming to an end, yet the soldiers involved in the conflict will continue to experience its repercussions well into the future. Among other health effects, encountering the explosive devices widely deployed in the conflict can cause long-lasting hearing and balance difficulties. A recent collaboration between IRP researchers and scientists at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research has produced important insights into the biological basis of those disabilities, which could eventually lead to better methods of preventing and treating them.
IRP Research Highlights a Novel Target to Stop Viral Infections
On July 28, health providers, researchers, patients, advocates, and governments across the globe observe World Hepatitis Day. Like this year’s theme, ‘Hepatitis Can’t Wait,’ IRP researchers are wasting no time utilizing the unique resources at the National Institutes of Health to identify innovative ways to combat the virus.
IRP Distinguished Investigator T. Jake Liang, M.D., for example, has focused his life’s work on understanding how hepatitis viruses infect, replicate, and persist in cells. The viruses he studies, hepatitis B and C, together affect more than 10 percent of the worlds’ population and are the most common causes of chronic liver disease and liver cancer. The two viruses were originally discovered in the 1980s by another IRP scientist, Harvey J. Alter, M.D., who shared the Nobel Prize in Medicine for that work in 2020. Nearly three decades later, Dr. Liang’s lab at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) worked with scientists at the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) to develop a novel test to screen thousands of molecules using a technology called high-throughput screening, which led to the discovery of several compounds with the potential to block hepatitis C infection.
Treatment Approach Could Combat Obesity and Its Consequences
When your phone or laptop is low on power, you simply connect it to a charger and find the nearest electrical outlet, but the process of restoring lagging energy production in our cells is not nearly as simple. However, a new IRP study has identified a promising approach for doing just that, which could lead to new treatments for obesity and related metabolic ailments like heart disease and diabetes.
Kizzmekia Corbett and Barney Graham Recognized for Leading IRP Vaccine Research
At the end of 2019, most people were planning for a typical busy year in 2020. The world was looking forward to the Summer Olympics in Japan, the U.S. was deep into election campaigns, and IRP scientists at NIH’s Vaccine Research Center (VRC) were designing vaccines for several coronaviruses in collaboration with a small biotech company called Moderna.
That all changed on a Saturday morning in early January. Chinese scientists had isolated a new coronavirus that was causing a serious epidemic in China’s Wuhan province and released its genetic sequence to the scientific community around the world. Barney Graham, M.D., Ph.D., director of the VRC’s Viral Pathogenesis Laboratory (VPL), and VRC research fellow Kizzmekia Corbett, Ph.D., dropped everything and immediately began working on a vaccine for the illness that would become known as COVID-19.
IRP Scientists Keep it Short and Sweet in Competition’s Final Round
Science is so closely associated with long, jargon-laden lectures that scientists like Neil deGrasse Tyson and the IRP’s own Anthony Fauci have become celebrities for their ability to explain complex scientific concepts in a succinct and understandable way. On June 25, 17 postbacs, graduate students, and postdocs from across NIH showcased their own communication chops in the final round of the IRP’s annual Three-Minute Talks (TmT) competition.
IRP Research Identifies Genetic Risk Factors for Highly Lethal Disease
We may share our food and even our beds with them, but despite what many dog lovers might like to believe, our canine companions are not humans who just happen to walk on four legs. One thing we do have in common, though, is the array of genetic diseases that afflict both man and man’s best friend. As a result, scientists can learn a great deal about human illnesses by studying dogs. Using this approach, IRP researchers recently discovered genetic variants that likely play an important role in a rare and poorly understood form of cancer.
George Harold Patterson, a senior investigator and chief of the Section on Biophotonics at NIH’s National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB), died of complications from pancreatic cancer on June 20, 2021. He was only 50 years old, recently tenured, with a wife, two small children, and a promising career before him. We are just so sad about the loss of this warm friend and brilliant and creative scientist taken away far too soon.
George's research focused on the development of probes and techniques for diffraction-limited and sub-diffraction-limited fluorescence imaging of cells and tissues. Indeed, as a staff scientist in the NIH lab of Jennifer Lippincott-Schwartz, George worked intimately with Eric Betzig in the development of the nanometer-level resolution techniques that earned Eric a Nobel Prize in 2014.
Globe-Spanning Collaboration Connected ‘Viking Gene’ to Dementia and ALS
June was an important month in the life of baseball great Lou Gehrig. It was the month he was born and the month he was first picked for the Yankees’ starting lineup. Sadly, it was also the month in 1939 when he was diagnosed with the neurological disease that bears his name — Lou Gehrig’s disease, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) — and the month he died of that disease two years later. It is appropriate then that ALS Awareness Day is observed on June 21 as a day of hope for those searching for effective treatments and, ultimately, a cure.
IRP senior investigator Bryan J. Traynor, M.D., Ph.D., a neurologist at the National Institute on Aging (NIA), is one of the people leading that search. Best known for his work unraveling the genetic causes of ALS and frontotemporal dementia (FTD), he led an international consortium of researchers that uncovered a mutation on chromosome 9 that is the most common ‘familial’ cause of both ALS and FTD. In fact, this mutation, which disrupts the function of the C90RF72 gene, is responsible for 40 percent of all familial cases of ALS and FTD in European and North American populations, meaning cases in which a family member also has the disease. The discovery, published in 2011, revolutionized the scientific understanding of neurodegenerative diseases and the relationships between them. It also suggested a potential target for future gene therapies.
Pioneering Genetic Epidemiologist Takes a Global Approach to Fighting Health Disparities
IRP distinguished investigator Charles Rotimi, Ph.D., was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences this year in recognition of his pioneering work exploring the health implications of genetic diversity in populations with African ancestry, as well as for globalizing the study of genomics, particularly in African nations. Dr. Rotimi joined NIH in 2008 as the founding director of the Intramural Center for Genomics and Health Disparities in the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), which was later renamed the Center for Research on Genomics and Global Health, in part to reflect Dr. Rotimi’s globe-spanning research programs.
This page was last updated on Friday, January 14, 2022