Postdoc Profile: COVID-19 Provides New Opportunities for Virus Science

2 days 5 hours ago
Dr. Alberto D. López-Muñoz Pivots to New Research Focus Amidst Pandemic

Like all virologists, IRP postdoctoral fellow Alberto D. López-Muñoz, Ph.D., knew a global pandemic was sadly inevitable. No one could predict exactly when, but it was just a matter of time until a novel virus would make its way around the globe. Nevertheless, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, caused by a virus called SARS-CoV-2, even Dr. López-Muñoz was surprised by how rapidly his career transformed as he switched gears study the novel contagion.

Alison Jane Martingano

Changing the Face of the IRP

5 days 5 hours ago
Marie A. Bernard Leads NIH Efforts to Recruit “Great Minds That Think Differently”

The summer of 2020 will likely be remembered as a turning point in America. The murder of George Floyd and the disproportionate effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on communities of color brought the simmering scourge of racism and race-related disparities to the center of public debate and convinced many Americans that something needs to be done.

The biomedical research enterprise has long dealt with its own inequities as well, including outright discrimination against people from certain groups. As a result, a top priority of the National Institutes of Health is to bring greater equity to the scientific and medical workforce and the patients and communities it serves. In her new role as NIH’s Chief Officer for Scientific Workforce Diversity (COSWD), Marie A. Bernard, M.D., has big plans to push the needle further towards reaching that goal.

Melissa Glim

Older Cells Make for Riskier Transplants

1 week 4 days ago
Examining Molecular Markers of Aging Could Improve Patient Outcomes

In 2003, 92-year-old Fauja Singh ran the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in slightly under six hours, a feat that many people decades younger could not accomplish. Such examples reveal the problems with making assumptions about a person’s health based solely on age. Similarly, new IRP research suggests that assessing cellular characteristics associated with aging, rather than a person’s chronologic age in years, could improve outcomes for the more than 20,000 patients who receive bone marrow or blood stem cell transplants each year.

Brandon Levy

NIH Summer Interns Show Off in Poster Exhibitions

3 weeks 5 days ago
Budding Scientists Present Their Research During Three-Day Virtual Event

Although NIH’s 2021 Summer Internship Program (SIP) was fully virtual this year, that didn’t stop the hundreds of participating high school, college, and graduate students from contributing to a variety of important IRP research projects. More than 500 students who worked in NIH labs this summer presented their work during this year’s Summer Presentation Week, which took place August 3-5.

I sifted through the lengthy list of presenters at the event and spoke with a diverse group of young men and women who spent their summers expanding our knowledge of human health and biology. Read on to learn about these promising future scientists and doctors and the research they completed this summer.

Brandon Levy

Tiny Molecules Have Big Potential for Treating Eye Diseases

1 month ago
Approach Could Protect or Even Regenerate Neurons in Eye and Spinal Cord

At the end of Aesop’s fable The Lion and the Mouse, the titular rodent saves his much larger friend from a hunter’s trap. Just like Aesop, scientists know well that even something tiny and often overlooked can lend a helping hand. Extremely short strands of genetic material called microRNAs, for instance, could make for useful therapeutic targets for glaucoma and other degenerative eye ailments, according to new IRP research.

Brandon Levy

Breakthrough Treatment Brings Hope to Children with Tumor Disorder

1 month 1 week ago
Brigitte Widemann Recognized for Pioneering Work on Debilitating Disease

Getting diagnosed with a serious illness as an adult can be devastating, so one can hardly imagine the impact of receiving such news as a child, particularly when the disease has no good treatments. Until recently, this was the case for many children with the potentially severe and frequently disfiguring condition neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1). However, pioneering research led by IRP senior investigator Brigitte C. Widemann, M.D., led to the first-ever drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat the condition. For this groundbreaking work, Dr. Widemann, her IRP research team, and her collaborators outside NIH were named as finalists for the 2020 Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals, also known as the ‘Sammies,’ an award that honors exceptional work by government employees.

Melissa Glim

Global Scientists Come Together at the National Institutes of Health

1 month 1 week ago
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.

Michele Lyons

Explosive Blasts Wreak Havoc in Inner Ear

1 month 3 weeks ago
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.

Brandon Levy

Old Drugs Find New Potential Against Hepatitis C

1 month 4 weeks ago
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.

Melissa Glim

Experimental Compound Supercharges Cellular Power Plants

2 months ago
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.

Brandon Levy

A Record-Breaking Sprint to Create a COVID-19 Vaccine

2 months 1 week ago
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.

Melissa Glim

Three-Minute Talks Pit Researchers Against the Clock

2 months 2 weeks ago
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.

Brandon Levy

NIH Mourns the Passing of George Patterson

2 months 3 weeks ago

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.  

Bruce Tromberg, Richard Leapman

Dog Genome Yields Clues to Human Cancer

2 months 3 weeks ago
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.

Brandon Levy

NIH Mourns the Passing of George Harold Patterson

3 months ago

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.  

Bruce Tromberg, Richard Leapman

Rare Genetic Mutation Links Two Neurological Diseases

3 months ago
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.

Melissa Glim

IRP’s Charles Rotimi Elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences

3 months 1 week ago
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.

Melissa Glim

Ketogenic Diet May Soothe Alcohol Withdrawal

3 months 2 weeks ago
Human and Animal Studies Point to New Treatment Strategy

Interest in the low-carb ‘ketogenetic’ diet has exploded in recent years, with legions of enthusiasts jumping on the bandwagon. The popular dietary regimen has even caught the attention of scientists seeking new treatments for an array of health conditions. For instance, a recent IRP study suggests that a ketogenic diet might make it easier for people with alcohol use disorder to stop drinking.

Brandon Levy