Speaking of Science Podcast

Dr. Lauren Porter — Molecular “Transformers:” Switching Form and Function

Science is receptive to new information that can refine the theories we use to make sense of the world. Such is the case with Dr. Lauren Porter, a Stadtman investigator jointly appointed at the National Library of Medicine and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, who is helping redefine the way we understand how proteins behave. She is looking at a new class of proteins that can change their structure and function much like the famous Transformer robots that morph into different machines. Understanding how these proteins switch their shape could help scientists understand the molecular basis of certain diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s.

Drs. Elaine Ostrander and Heidi Parker — Unleashing the Dog Genome

Centuries of selective breeding have given rise to a staggering variety of dog breeds, each with its own traits and behaviors. But shallow gene pools have also put some breeds at higher risk for disease. Dr. Elaine Ostrander runs the Dog Genome Project at the National Human Genome Research Institute. Her team includes Dr. Heidi Parker. Together, they are digging for clues to understand how genes code for dogs' diversity and disease. Clues that might also inform the health of their two-legged caregivers.

Dr. Matthew Memoli — A Better Shot Against the Flu

The annual flu vaccine is the best way to prevent yourself and others from getting sick. But sometimes the antigens the vaccine trains your body to fight are not similar enough to the strains of influenza circulating that year. This mismatch allows viruses to fly under the radar and spread undetected. It's a problem scientists hope to solve with a universal flu vaccine. Dr. Matthew Memoli is an influenza expert at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). He is preparing to test a new vaccine candidate that could offer broader protection from more flu strains and for more people.

Dr. Bevil Conway — Coloring Inside the Minds

There is more to color than meets the eye. According to Dr. Bevil Conway, how we perceive color can inform how our brains receive, interpret, and generate knowledge about the world. Dr. Conway is a visual artist and a neuroscientist at the National Eye Institute. He is working to decode the neural basis of color. In a recent study, his lab mapped how different colors can stimulate different patterns of brain activity.

Drs. Natasha Caplen and Richard Maraia — What's Next in the RNAge?

The success of mRNA vaccines against the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, has brought RNA biology into the limelight. Now, with the world's attention, what's next for this biomedical rising star? NIH scientists, Dr. Richard Maraia and Dr. Natasha Caplen, have long recognized the potential of RNA in improving human health. In this episode, they discuss the prospects of RNA biology and how their work could inform the future of RNA as an innovative class of medicine.

Dr. Anna Nápoles — A New Dawn for Minority Health

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, racial and ethnic minority groups were disproportionately hit. Those health inequities pulled at the seams of a system that was already frayed. Dr. Anna Nápoles works to close gaps in healthcare as the first Latina scientific director of the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD). She is reducing the types of hurdles that once hindered her parents so that all populations can live long, healthy, and productive lives.

Dr. Diana Bianchi — Caring for Two: The Mom-Baby Unit

Pregnancy is by no means necessary for motherhood, but it is necessary for life. And it's no picnic. A pregnant person can experience complications like anemia, UTIs, hypertension, diabetes, and exhaustion. Maintaining maternal health during pregnancy can be challenging, but it is integral for the health of the fetus. Dr. Diana Bianchi is a physician-scientist and the director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), where she works to improve care for the mommy-baby unit.

Dr. Louis Staudt — The ABCs of B Cell Lymphomas

Small errors can quickly escalate to have large repercussions. When it comes to cancer, molecular changes to DNA can trigger chain reactions that cause cells to go awry and spread uncontrollably. Dr. Louis Staudt works to identify such changes, known as genetic mutations, and find ways to stop them from snowballing into a deadly disease. In this episode, Dr. Staudt recounts the story of how he differentiated subtypes of lymphomas to develop a treatment for patients as an early success of precision medicine.

Dr. Kevin Hall — Dueling Diets

Nutrition is a contentious topic. It’s hard to tell fact from fiction. One day eggs are good for you, the next they have too much fat. But what about the keto craze? Doesn’t it say you should eat mostly fats? Fortunately, there are scientist like Dr. Kevin Hall who are working to debunk the myths and give us the real skinny on how the foods we eat affect our health. Most recently, Dr. Hall published a study that put two well-known diets head-to-head to see which led people to consume more calories.

Dr. Carlos Zarate — Ketamine to Combat Depression

Ketamine is often thought of as an illicit party drug — something people take for a momentary high. But it wasn’t designed to be a mind-altering drug. Originally, ketamine was developed as anesthetic to relieve temporary pain. And now it seems the drug can provide solace not just from physical distress. At the NIH, Dr. Carlos Zarate is investigating how ketamine can rapidly reduce depressive symptoms in people with treatment-resistant depression or bipolar depression, for whom other options have not helped.

This page was last updated on Friday, January 14, 2022