“I’m not sure of what ‘intramural’ means,” confessed a clinical trials patient as she was testing out a new Web site for NIH’s Intramural Research Program (IRP) recently.
The tester’s comment reinforced what NIH scientific directors and researchers have long suspected: The intramural program is all but invisible and not well understood by the outside world. Some people know that NIH funds biomedical research at medical schools and other institutions. But few realize that nearly 10 percent of the agency’s $30 billion budget is dedicated to “intramural research”—the basic and clinical research conducted on NIH campuses in Maryland, Arizona, Montana, and North Carolina.
NICHD researcher Mel DePamphilis hates cancer. One year ago, his then 39-year-old daughter, Kimberly—married with two children and a loving husband—was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a double mastectomy. In the months that followed, she received intense chemotherapy and radiation treatments in the hope of destroying the last vestige of her disease. “Cancer touches so many lives,” he rasped, overcome with emotion as he related the story. He took a breath and steadied himself, his eyes narrowed in determination. For DePamphilis, the battle against cancer was no longer academic; it was personal.
Stem cells, with the proper coaxing, have near–limitless potential. The same goes for stem cell programs. NIH’s own initiative for induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, begun a little over a year ago, is maturing quite nicely. What was once called the NIH induced Pluripotent Stem Cell Center (NiPC) is now the NIH Center for Regenerative Medicine (NIH-CRM). In August, the center got a new director—Mahendra Rao, a former senior investigator at NIA who left the NIH in 2005 and started a successful stem cell division for the company Invitrogen. He has returned for “an opportunity to make a difference on a larger scale than with any one company,” he said.
It’s been a little more than a year since my guest editorial announcing a new stem cell initiative on campus: the Common Fund–supported NIH Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell Center (NiPC). And there is a lot of news to share!
Senior Investigator; Head, Breast and Prostate Unit, Laboratory of Human Carcinogenesis
Education: University of Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany (M.S. in biochemistry); Institute of Toxicology, University of Würzburg, Würzburg, Germany (Ph.D. in pharmacology and toxicology); Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore (M.P.H.)
NIDDK, NHLBI, ORS, NCI, NIAID: Potential to Curb Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes
An NIH-led team of scientists may have found a new way to burn calories. They have uncovered a pathway in mice that allows white fat—a contributor to obesity and type 2 diabetes—to burn calories in the same way that brown fat and muscle do. Changing white fat into brown fat or muscle is a potential new approach to treating obesity and type 2 diabetes, although the research is a long way from being applicable to people.