Yoga Helps Pain and Brain

5 days 23 hours ago
Five Questions with Dr. Catherine Bushnell

Yoga is all the rage these days, with millions of people taking part in the practice for relaxation, meditation, and increasing flexibility and muscle strength. However, the benefits of yoga go beyond what most might think. In fact, the mind-body practice of yoga could have a significant impact on the lives of those living with chronic pain, a condition that affects tens of millions of Americans.

In the past, doctors often prescribed opioids to treat chronic pain. However, research has shown that people with chronic pain have anatomical and neurochemical alterations in the brain that make them less responsive to opioids. In addition, both the medical and political systems are currently contending with a public health crisis stemming from the over-use of opioid pain medications. As a result, researchers have been working to identify ways to better manage chronic pain, particularly without the use of medication.

Brooke Worthing

Genome Modifications Affect Protein Variation in Tumors

1 week 5 days ago
Examining DNA Methylation Could Facilitate Targeted Cancer Therapy

As an amateur home chef, I know from experience that the ingredients you use can dramatically alter the way a recipe turns out. Leave out oregano and your tomato sauce will be bland; add too much red pepper and your plate of pasta will scorch your tongue.

In this way, it turns out, cooking is a lot like the process by which your genes manufacture the proteins that keep your body running. Just like the same recipe can result in a delicious or disappointing meal depending on how you modify it, a certain gene can produce several varieties of a single protein that behave in different ways. In some cases, these alterations may lead to disease. New IRP research has revealed that a genetic regulatory process called DNA methylation can contribute to cancer by changing which forms of a protein a gene produces.1

Brandon Levy

Tracing the Path From Inflamed Skin to Heart Disease

2 weeks 3 days ago
Five Questions with Dr. Nehal Mehta

Most Americans know someone who has been affected by heart disease. Despite its status as the leading cause of death in the U.S. today, rates of heart disease have actually been steadily falling since they hit their peak in 1968. In fact, between 1970 and 2005, the life expectancy of the average American increased over 70 percent due in part to reductions in heart disease-related deaths.

Research conducted by IRP scientists has played a key role in curbing the heart disease epidemic by helping identify now well-known risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure, obesity, and physical inactivity. However, not all risk factors are so commonly known. A 2017 study by IRP Lasker Clinical Research Scholar Nehal Mehta, M.D., M.S.C.E., revealed that untreated psoriasis — a chronic, relapsing, inflammatory skin disease — is linked to an elevated risk for premature coronary artery disease. Dr. Mehta’s research demonstrated a strong link between psoriasis-induced skin inflammation and and inflammation of the blood vessels, a precursor to heart disease. Through this study, the largest ongoing study of individuals with psoriasis to-date, Dr. Mehta’s team has concluded that controlling psoriasis-associated skin disease could be an important means of reducing cardiac risk in this population.  

Brooke Worthing

IRP’s Elaine Ostrander Elected to National Academy of Sciences

2 weeks 6 days ago
Genetic Research in Dogs Sheds Light on Human Disease

The National Academy of Sciences, a private society established in 1863, is made up of the United States’ most distinguished scientific scholars, including nearly 500 members who have won Nobel Prizes. Members of the NAS are elected by their peers and charged with the responsibility of providing independent, objective advice on national matters related to science and technology in an effort to further scientific innovation in the U.S.

IRP Senior Investigator Elaine Ostrander, Ph.D., is one of four IRP researchers who were elected to the Academy over the past two years. As head of the Cancer Genetics and Comparative Genomics Branch at the NIH’s National Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), Dr. Ostrander focuses on expanding our understanding of the genetic basis of human disease. However, her team does not just study humans. In fact, Dr. Ostrander works with dog owners, breeders, and veterinarians to study our canine companions and understand which genes control the variations seen across dog breeds. She specifically focuses on genes that control growth and genes associated with cancer susceptibility in an effort to understand why changes in those particular genes can cause illness in humans.

Brooke Worthing

A New Approach to Fighting the Flu

3 weeks 3 days ago
Six Questions With Dr. Matthew Memoli

We all know flu season as the time of year where people are loading up on hand sanitizer and heading to the doctor for their flu shot. However, many underestimate the severity of the flu. During a typical flu season, five to twenty percent of Americans fall ill, leading to more than 200,000 hospitalizations and 36,000 deaths. Because of this serious threat to the public, the IRP has a long track record of researching vaccines, antivirals, diagnostics, and other resources in an effort to prevent individuals from catching the flu and improve care for those who do.

Brooke Worthing

Rare Disease Research Reveals Why Immune Cells Go Wild

3 weeks 5 days ago
Discovery Could Improve Therapy for Multiple Autoimmune Diseases

Hiding among YouTube’s vast collection of cooking demos and funny cat videos are clips of patients and their advocates designed to raise awareness of specific diseases. It was just such a video that led IRP Senior Investigator Peter Grayson, M.D., M.Sc., to begin studying an extremely rare illness called deficiency of adenosine deaminase 2, or DADA2 for short. The recently published findings of that research could help improve treatment not just for patients with DADA2 but also many more individuals with similar ailments.

Brandon Levy

Poster Day Showcases Summer Student Science

1 month ago
Annual Event Shares Research by IRP’s Summer Interns

NIH’s Natcher Conference Center was packed once again last Thursday for the annual Summer Poster Day. This year, more than 1,200 college and high school students spent their summer performing research in an IRP lab through the NIH’s Summer Internship Program. 

I navigated through the more than 900 posters presented this year to get a taste of the impressive work done by these young men and women in less than three months. If they can make these kinds of discoveries in just one summer, imagine what they might one day accomplish as full-time scientists and clinicians!

Brandon Levy

Developing Science Teams Form, Storm, Norm, and Perform

1 month ago

Overcoming complex diseases, from viruses to cancers to mental health and beyond, requires teams of people in a variety of settings. At the NIH IRP, researchers with very different expertise and backgrounds tackle the most difficult biomedical questions by working together.

If you’re planning to engage in team science or collaborations of any sort, keep these four words in mind, as they are what newly organized team members should expect on the road to success: forming, storming, norming and performing. Each step, outlined in this blog entry with insights from two leading IRP investigators, is a phase of team development, as originally introduced in the 1960s by Bruce Tuckman (See page 46 of NIH’s Collaboration and Team Science Field Guide).

L. Michelle Bennett, Christophe Marchand

Stress-Relieving Chemical Could Combat Alcohol Use Disorder

1 month 1 week ago
Targeting Brain’s Stress Circuitry Curbs Rats’ Alcohol Consumption

For social drinkers, alcohol brings to mind barbecues and bar-hopping with friends, but for the roughly 16 million Americans with alcohol use disorder (AUD), drinking is a source of significant stress. Unfortunately, those negative emotions — particularly those experienced during withdrawal — drive people with AUD to drink even more. A recent IRP study points to a potential way to curb the desire to drink in people who abuse alcohol by altering the behavior of a brain structure that governs negative emotions.

Brandon Levy

Mirror Therapy Alters Brain Response in Phantom Limb Patients

1 month 3 weeks ago
Neuroimaging Could Help Tailor Treatment for Amputees

Our brains frequently cause us to perceive things that are not real, from high-pitched ringing in an empty room to dancing spots in our vision after staring at a bright light. Even more strangely, people with phantom limb syndrome feel sensations, including pain, in arms and legs that they no longer have. New IRP research into the brain mechanisms underlying phantom limb pain could help hone treatment for individuals living with the condition.

Brandon Levy

On the Cusp of Customized Concussion Care

1 month 4 weeks ago
Five Questions With Dr. Jessica Gill

Each year, millions of Americans suffer sports-related concussions, and the number of youth suffering from these traumatic brain injuries has been rising. Blows to the head are common in sports such as football and hockey, and when these forces are strong enough to cause a concussion, they can harm the brain and impair cognitive functioning. Although concussions occur in staggering numbers, scientists do not fully understand what happens to the brain at the time of concussion or during the recovery period. However, that doesn’t mean they’re not trying.

Brooke Worthing

A Friendly Bet Turned Major Scientific Discovery

2 months ago
IRP Investigator Bevil Conway Discusses the Science Behind the Headlines

What started as a friendly bet between investigators soon produced a major scientific discovery that calls into question the long-standing notion that non-human primates serve as accurate models for the way human brains function. The study, conducted by IRP investigator Bevil Conway, Ph.D., made headlines recently with reports in outlets such as NPR and U.S. News and World Report. We’re going Behind the Headlines with Dr. Conway to dive deeper into the story, understand the significance of his findings, and see where his work could lead.

Brooke Worthing

Scientific Detour Advances Understanding of Fatty Liver Disease

2 months ago
IRP Study Suggests a Way to Prevent Unhealthy Fat Buildup

Many important scientific discoveries happen when a scientist stumbles across something curious and decides to investigate further. Alexander Fleming, for example, famously discovered penicillin by examining mold that grew in one of his petri dishes while he was away on vacation. A recent IRP study spurred by a similarly unexpected observation could eventually lead to a method of preventing or reversing unhealthy amounts of fat storage in the liver.

Brandon Levy

NIH History Heats Up

2 months 2 weeks ago

Summer has finally arrived, and it's once again time to shine some light on NIH's rich history. Over the past couple months, NIH has celebrated several important anniversaries, including the 20th birthday of NIH's Vaccine Research Center and the 70th anniversary of the NIH Record newsletter. Read on to learn more about these milestones and other fun facts and intriguing objects from NIH's past!

Michele Lyons

HIV Research Yields an Unexpected Discovery

2 months 2 weeks ago
A Conversation with Dr. Paolo Lusso

First discovered in 1981, human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, caused one of the most deadly and persistent epidemics in history. HIV destroys CD4+ T cells, a type of white blood cell essential for fighting infection. In doing so, HIV destroys the body’s ability to fight off disease, which often leads to life-threatening consequences. 

Today, medications have allowed people living with HIV to lead healthier lives. However, HIV still remains a major public health concern and continues to be studied by researchers within the IRP and beyond.

IRP research has produced findings essential to the development of current HIV treatments and tools for diagnosis. However, there is still a lot left to learn. One recent IRP contribution to HIV research was a 2017 study led by IRP senior investigator Paolo Lusso, M.D., Ph.D., which suggests that treatments targeting a protein called integrin α4β7 could potentially become an addition to current treatment options for those with HIV, or provide new measures to prevent infection.

Brooke Worthing

Non-Toxic Drug Could Increase Availability of Organ Transplants

2 months 2 weeks ago
Treatment Regimen Allows Genetically Mismatched Skin Grafts in Mice

Thousands of patients who need an organ transplant die each year before a donor can be found. A new IRP study has identified a safer way to prevent a transplant recipient’s body from attacking a genetically dissimilar donor organ, which could dramatically expand the pool of potential organ donors.

Brandon Levy

NIH Mourns the Passing of Former Director James B. Wyngaarden

2 months 3 weeks ago

Along with scientists around the country and the world, the IRP community is mourning the loss of former NIH Director James B. Wyngaarden, M.D, who passed away on June 14. Dr. Wyngaarden served as the 12th NIH Director from 1982 to 1989. During that time, he guided the NIH's instrumental role in responding to the HIV/AIDS epidemic and initiating the Human Genome Project. He also played a key role in the creation of the NIH Children's Inn. 

IRP Staff Blogger

Another Piece of the Alzheimer’s Puzzle

2 months 3 weeks ago
A Conversation with Dr. Lori Beason-Held

Expert estimates suggest that more than 5.5 million Americans may have dementia caused by Alzheimer’s, a disease currently ranked as the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States. Because of the condition’s growing prevalence and profound consequences for patients, understanding Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of cognitive decline is an important goal within the Intramural Research Program. 

One example of the IRP’s many contributions to the field of Alzheimer’s research is a 2013 study that detected brain changes in older adults who would go on to develop cognitive impairment years before their memory began to fail. This research, led by IRP staff scientist Lori Beason-Held, Ph.D., aimed to understand who might be susceptible to developing Alzheimer’s disease and what factors contribute to the development of the disease before symptoms appear.

Brooke Worthing

Tracing the Pathway From Skin Irritation to Itching

3 months ago
Disrupting Itch-Related Process Could Relieve Relentless Itching

For most people, the arrival of spring time means more time spent outdoors — and greater exposure to nuisances like biting insects and poison ivy that make us itch. New IRP research has revealed a detailed picture of how a particular type of cell causes itching, findings that may ultimately help researchers develop treatments for disorders that cause severe and long-lasting itch.

Brandon Levy

Overlooked Immune Cells Trigger Preterm Labor

3 months 2 weeks ago
New Insights Could Help Reduce Premature Births

Any baby born less than 37 weeks after conception is considered premature, but not all premature births have the same root cause. In a new study, IRP researchers have detailed how a particular component of the immune system can trigger premature labor, which could help doctors prevent more preterm births.

Brandon Levy