The recent spate of state laws legalizing marijuana for medical or recreational purposes has prompted concerns that increased marijuana use will boost the number of people who become dependent on and abuse the drug, a condition known as cannabis use disorder (CUD). Treating the growing number of patients with CUD will require a greater understanding of how chronic marijuana use can lead to addiction. New IRP research has revealed that star-shaped brain cells called astrocytes may play a role in the pleasurable effects of marijuana and contribute to the drug’s addictive properties.
It seems like every day there is a new story in a prominent news outlet about the revolutionary gene-editing approach known as CRISPR/Cas9. What these reports often fail to mention is all the scientific discoveries that paved the way for that groundbreaking technology, including the key contributions of government scientists working in the Intramural Research Program of NIH’s National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI). Last week, the NHGRI IRP celebrated its 25th anniversary with a day-long symposium headlined by a keynote from the co-discoverer of CRISPR/Cas9, University of California, Berkeley professor Dr. Jennifer Doudna.
What attracts talented scientists to the IRP? And, once they are here, why do they stay? One major factor is the proximity to brilliant colleagues and collaborative relationships across the spectrum of biomedical research.
Seeking to understand the key elements that contribute to successful team science, we studied a number of NIH research teams to discover the secrets of their success. The results are examined in the second edition of Collaboration and Team Science: A Field Guide, which contains new insights from individuals, teams, and organizations around the world.
What are the 10 Elements of Successful Teams? Read on to find out.
The Human Genome Project gave scientists an incredible roadmap of the thousands of genes used to construct the human body. However, many individuals harbor DNA that differs markedly from the standard reference sequence produced by that initiative, and these variations can have profound implications for a person’s health. A recent study led by IRP scientists has uncovered yet another of these genetic variants, a rare mutation that causes the eye disease retinitis pigmentosa.
Between fast-food outlets, vending machines, and food trucks — not to mention good old-fashioned home cooking — many people face no shortage of opportunities to eat. But as satisfying as a crisp potato chip or a moist pork chop may be, people with asthma and many other conditions may prefer to resist tasty temptations if it means alleviating some of their symptoms. In a small pilot study, IRP researchers found evidence that abstaining from food for 24 hours could inhibit some of the cellular processes that cause asthmatics’ breathing problems.
With summer winding down, it's about time we took another dive into some NIH history! These new additions to the NIH Stetten Museum collection feature some of the most prominent investigators ever to walk the NIH campus, including a Nobel prize winner and a scientist who made important discoveries about how electricity travels between neurons.
Much of the time, new therapies are built from the ground up, with researchers closely scrutinizing a specific molecule or cellular process and designing compounds that can influence it. In some cases, however, scientists take the opposite approach, throwing a multitude of therapeutic darts at the disease dartboard to see what sticks, and then working backwards to unravel why a drug was effective. IRP researchers recently used this method to identify potential treatments for drug-resistant ovarian cancer and determine how some of those tumors become impervious to a particular chemotherapy.
Upon entering the sunny foyer of the NIH’s Natcher Conference Center last Thursday, I was immediately struck by a burst of loud, excited chatter. As it always is on NIH’s annual Summer Poster Day, the building was filled with hundreds of high school and college students and the scientists, families, and friends who had turned out to see what these young men and women had spent the summer doing.
As an impatient eater, I find myself burning or biting the inside of my mouth more often than I’d like. Fortunately, these injuries tend to heal within a day or two, whereas wounds like nicking my finger with a knife or scraping my knee seem to take a week or longer to disappear. My personal impressions have now been confirmed by a new NIH study that uncovered major differences in the way the mouth and skin repair themselves, pointing to potential therapeutic targets that could speed healing.
For most of their history, computers have been limited to mindlessly executing the instructions their programmers give them. However, recent advances have given rise to the intertwined fields of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, which focus on the creation of computer programs that can operate independently and even teach themselves to perform specific, specialized tasks. In 2013, the online PubMed database listed only 200 research publications related to ‘deep learning,’ a new type of machine learning that has shown success for particularly difficult tasks like object and speech recognition. Just four years later, in 2017, that number exceeded 1,100.
While many people can easily stop after a beer or two, for others one drink begets many more, ultimately leading to an addiction that drives continuously increasing alcohol consumption over time. New IRP research has identified a specific type of neuronal receptor involved in the development of alcohol dependence in mice, suggesting a possible approach to curbing problematic drinking behaviors in humans addicted to alcohol.
I knew very little about neuroscience before beginning my graduate studies, but the topic of neurodegeneration looked very interesting. Having applied to several labs, I landed a Ph.D. student position in a neuroscience lab at the Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics, a government research institute in India, that would propel me on my way to the NIH IRP. In the first year of my Ph.D. program, I learned several things about the central nervous system (CNS), but what intrigued me the most was its lack of ability to regenerate after injury.
The constant combat between cancer and the body’s defenses can wear a tumor out. Unfortunately, cancer cells can pause their life cycle to repair themselves before re-entering the fray with renewed vigor. According to new IRP research, preventing cancer from taking a time-out can make it more susceptible to attack by the immune system.
The NIH community and cancer scientists around the world were saddened to learn that Alan Rabson, M.D., a prominent former IRP researcher and Deputy Director of the NIH’s National Cancer Institute (NCI), passed away on July 4 at the age of 92.
Dr. Rabson first joined the NIH in 1955 as a pathologic anatomy resident in the NIH Clinical Center, which had opened just two years before, and he began studying cancer-causing viruses in an NCI intramural laboratory a year later. Over the course of his ensuing six decades with NIH, Dr. Rabson accumulated a great many stories, a few of which we have shared in his own words, pulled from a 1997 “NCI Oral History Project” interview.
Everyone has a different pain threshold; a plate that’s too hot for one person to touch might be easily handled by someone else, for example. Now, IRP researchers have found the first evidence that a person’s sensation of a painful temperature more strongly influences the body’s automatic response to it than does the actual temperature.