Study Reveals Medications Associated With Lower Odds of Severe Infection
Many researchers studying COVID-19 have spent the past two years poring over test tubes and isolated cells. However, large troves of data about people’s interactions with the healthcare system can also be a rich source of useful insights. Using one such database, IRP researchers found that older adults taking certain medications were less likely to catch COVID or experience severe repercussions from the virus.
Dr. Stefan Barisic Turns Laboratory Discoveries into Kidney Cancer Treatments
The Laboratory of Transplantation Immunotherapy sits at the heart of the NIH Clinical Center, just down the hallway from the Southeast inpatient unit. Here, IRP postdoctoral research fellow Stefan Barisic, M.D., labors at the bench with the goal of creating practical treatments for kidney cancer patients. Having such proximity to his patients was one of the chief attractions of working at NIH for Dr. Barisic.
“The NIH Clinical Center is an amazing place because it has all the resources you need to go from the bench to the bedside and back to the bench all in one building,” says Dr. Barisic.
Drug Candidate Could Slow Progression and Reduce Side Effects
If you know someone with Parkinson’s disease, you’re probably familiar with the progressive tremors and movement difficulties it causes. Unfortunately, the most common treatment for the disease — a drug called levodopa, or L-DOPA for short — can make some movement problems worse when taken for long periods of time. That’s why IRP senior investigator David R. Sibley, Ph.D., and postdoctoral fellow Amy Moritz, Ph.D., have taken on the challenge of discovering new drugs that could be given to patients in conjunction with existing treatments to more effectively slow the disease’s progression while reducing side effects.
Mouse Study Points to Approach for Preventing Diabetes-Related Heart Failure
Our cells love to lap up sugar from our blood, but as is often the case, too much of a good thing can cause problems. In people with diabetes, chronically high blood sugar can harm organs, including the heart. In an effort to combat this life-threatening problem, IRP researchers demonstrated in mice that activating a specific biological pathway in heart cells can reduce diabetes’ damaging effects on the vital organ.
IRP Researchers Develop Drug to Recapture Immune Cells Hijacked by Tumors
In the 1958 cult classic The Blob, a giant gelatinous creature from outer space lands on Earth and begins engulfing a small town and everything in it. While that may sound far out, a similar entity within our bodies does much the same thing, but for good instead of ill. These Pac-Man-like blobs are called macrophages — Greek for ‘big eaters’ — and they serve a vital role in keeping us healthy by clearing away dead cells and digesting foreign invaders like bacteria and cancer cells.
However, cancer cells aren’t content to just let themselves be eaten. They have evolved ways to overwhelm and commandeer the immune system, redirecting immune cells to support tumor growth rather than suppress it. Although highly personalized ‘immunotherapies’ that reboot the immune response and harness it to fight cancer have made significant advances in treating some forms of the disease, most cancers do not respond to these treatments. Fortunately, reinforcements are on the way: IRP senior investigators Udo Rudloff, M.D., Ph.D., and Juan Marugan, Ph.D., have identified a way to reclaim the loyalty of macrophages that are aiding and abetting tumors, turning them back into the cancer-consuming gluttons they were meant to be. Importantly, this approach may be effective on a broader array of cancers than other immunotherapies.
Budding Scientists Showcase Research at Annual Event
Any scientist who wants to make game-changing discoveries has to start somewhere — even Albert Einstein worked in a patent office before landing his first job in academia. Through its Postbaccalaureate IRTA program, NIH hopes to give aspiring scientists more of a leg up than Einstein had by bringing them into IRP labs after they complete their undergraduate studies.
On April 26, 27, and 28, more than 900 recent college graduates participating in the program presented at this year’s virtual Postbac Poster Days. Read on to learn about a few of these young researchers and their contributions to the groundbreaking work being done at NIH.
Women Scientists Advisors Select Three Young Researchers for Recognition
While women have now overtaken men in terms of admission and enrollment in undergraduate education, they remain underrepresented in the sciences. This includes at NIH, where 74 percent of senior investigators and 54 percent of tenure-track investigators are male, according to the most recent statistics available. Consequently, NIH is putting considerable effort into supporting women scientists at all stages of their careers.
One NIH entity dedicated to this important work is the NIH Women Scientists Advisors (WSA), a group of women elected to represent the interests of women scientists in the IRP. Among its many initiatives, each year the WSA chooses several female postdoctoral fellows or graduate students in the IRP to receive the WSA Scholar Award in recognition of their outstanding scientific achievements. The awardees present their research at the annual WSA Scholars Symposium, which this year was held on April 25 and recognized young women leading efforts to better understand how disease-related genes evolved, an investigation of how a fatty liver can give rise to liver cancer, and the evaluation of a way to deliver gene therapy for a rare genetic disease. Read on to learn more about this year’s WSA Scholars and the impressive discoveries they have made during their time in the IRP.
Study Identifies Compounds That Could Aid Body’s Removal of Toxic Cancer Drugs
When it comes to cancer, the treatment can sometimes feel worse than the disease. Not only do chemotherapy drugs cause grueling side effects, but certain products made by otherwise benign bacteria living in our digestive system can interfere with the body’s ability to get rid of those toxic chemicals. A new IRP study used a cutting-edge computational approach to help identify compounds that inhibit one of those meddling bacterial molecules, which could eventually lead to the creation of medications that reduce some of chemotherapy’s side effects.
The IRP community is profoundly saddened by the recent passing of Joost “Joe” Oppenheim, M.D., Senior Investigator and Head of the Cellular Immunology Section in the Cancer Innovation Laboratory at NIH‘s National Cancer Institute (NCI). He died on May 14, 2022, at the age of 87.
Dr. Oppenheim was engaged in cellular immunology research at NIH for five decades and was instrumental in the discovery of cytokines, chemokines, and alarmins, which are substances produced by immune cells that enable them to communicate and act as ‘first responders” to injury or infection.
Fresh off celebrating Mother’s Day this past Sunday, as well as Women’s Health Week this week, it’s important to acknowledge that being a new mom isn’t easy. As joyful and exciting as a new baby might be, it can be exhausting and worrisome, too. Many new moms experience some level of baby blues, but for some women, those blues can take a downward turn into symptoms of more serious depression.
Approximately one out of every eight women in the U.S. experiences symptoms of postpartum depression, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What’s more, a recent study led by IRP staff scientist Diane Putnick, Ph.D., has shown that the course of postpartum depression can differ significantly among women. The study of nearly 5,000 women not only showed that 25 percent of them experienced symptoms of postpartum depression, but it also found that depression symptoms followed several different patterns and could persist for at least three years after giving birth. Understanding these different patterns of symptoms and some of the risk factors associated with them may help physicians recognize and monitor mothers who are at higher risk for persistent depression.
This page was last updated on Friday, January 14, 2022