Bringing Out the Big Guns Against Blood Cancer

10 hours 13 minutes ago
IRP Research Shows Benefits of More Intensive Treatments for Certain Patients

Fate can be cruel, especially when it comes to a rare, highly fatal blood cancer called acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Even when months of intensive chemotherapy appear to cause a complete remission of the disease — meaning doctors cannot detect any remaining cancer cells in a patient’s body — roughly half of those patients see the cancer return within two years, or even as soon as six months. Sadly, most of them don’t survive their second bout with the disease.

As a medical student, IRP senior investigator Christopher Hourigan, M.D., D.Phil., thought this outcome was unfair. More than that, he thought it indicated that the standard ways doctors determined if an AML patient was in remission were inadequate, and that remission might not even be the right goal. That’s why he has focused his career on finding ways to detect, prevent, and treat AML recurrence, known in his field as ‘relapse’.

“I was a scientist before I became a doctor, and it was really eye-opening to me, when I started to practice medicine, how difficult some of the treatment decisions were and how limited the information available was to inform those decisions,” Dr. Hourigan says.

Melissa Glim

Teaming Up to Tackle Engineering Challenges

1 week 2 days ago
Innovation Awards Accelerate Development of New Research Techniques

Scientists spend years, even decades, intensely studying a specific disease or biological system, an approach that yields unrivaled knowledge. However, many important scientific questions require a deep understanding of several subjects. As a result, the IRP has numerous programs dedicated to encouraging scientists with different areas of expertise to work together.

One such program is the NIH Director’s Challenge Innovation Awards, which funds innovative, high-impact projects that require the cooperation of researchers in more than one of NIH’s Institutes and Centers. This year, the program selected six promising proposals with one foot in the disciplines of biology and medicine and another in engineering or the physical sciences.

Brandon Levy

Overzealous Immune Cells Hamper Healing

2 weeks 1 day ago
Study Points to Treatment Targets for Impaired Healing Due to Diabetes

Whether we’ve nicked a finger while chopping vegetables or wiped out riding a skateboard, we tend to take for granted that our injuries will eventually mend themselves. However, for a type of wound that often plagues patients with diabetes, healing is no sure thing. IRP researchers recently identified why certain immune cells shift from helpful healers into saboteurs in those injuries.

Brandon Levy

Beat the Heat With Some NIH History

4 weeks ago
Measuring and Manipulating Temperature Is Key to IRP Research

Many parts of the country were hit by record-breaking heat this summer. Controlling temperature is not only important for staying healthy, but it's also crucial for many types of research. Grab your water bottle and sit down in a shady spot to take a look at some photos from the Office of NIH History & Stetten Museum on the theme of hot and cold.

Devon Valera

Research Helps Guide Families Safely Through Pandemic

4 weeks 2 days ago
IRP’s Diana Bianchi Honored for Leading Pediatric COVID Response

When the first reports of COVID-19 came out, infectious disease experts and healthcare providers thought children might be spared its most dire effects. After all, the news reports and health statistics showed that nearly all serious cases occurred in the elderly, people with certain pre-existing conditions, and those who spent their days and nights caring for COVID patients. However, as case counts rose and disruptions in daily life grew, the medical and psychological effects of COVID on children became apparent — and the impact was alarming. It soon became clear that something had to be done to understand the disease's effects on infants, children and teens, as well as pregnant women and traditionally underserved communities.

It was, appropriately, Mother’s Day when then-NIH Director Francis Collins sought help from Diana W. Bianchi, M.D., Director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and a senior investigator in the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI). An expert in infant health and genetic conditions like Down syndrome, Dr. Bianchi was just the person to initiate large-scale studies across the country to assess the severity of COVID in specific populations, the safety and efficacy of vaccination and treatment, and the impact of mitigation efforts such as masking. For this critical leadership, Dr. Bianchi was named a finalist for the 2022 Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal for COVID-19 Response.

Melissa Glim

Poster Sessions Celebrate Summer Science

1 month ago
Annual Event Brandishes the Next Generation of Clinicians and Scientists

A year after hundreds of high school, undergraduate, and graduate students were only able to participate from afar in NIH’s 2021 Summer Internship Program, IRP researchers were excited to welcome some of the program’s 2022 participants to campus. Regardless of whether they were working in the lab or remotely, these budding scientists received a full-time immersion into the world of IRP science and, surely, learned a great deal from the mentorship of NIH’s many world-renowned researchers.

To celebrate the interns’ hard work, NIH’s Summer Poster Days on August 3 and 4 gave more than 600 of them the opportunity to virtually present posters explaining their projects. With so many bright young men and women displaying the fruits of their scientific labors, it was difficult to select just a handful to highlight in this blog. Read on to learn about how five of NIH’s 2022 summer interns shed light on topics from the microbes living on our skin to the blood-clotting platelets that flow through our veins.

Brandon Levy

Neuroimaging Study Supports Two-Stage Theory of Recall

1 month 1 week ago
Results Suggest Dual Functions for Memory-Related Brain Area

Scientists studying memory have been closely scrutinizing a brain structure called the hippocampus ever since a man named Henry Molaison — better known as ‘patient H.M.’ — lost his ability to create new memories after surgeons removed that portion of his brain as a last-ditch treatment for his unrelenting epileptic seizures. For the most part, that research has treated the hippocampus as one homogenous structure. However, a recent IRP study lends support to the growing recognition that recall is a multi-stage process in which different parts of the hippocampus play different roles.

Brandon Levy

Understanding the Foundations of Immune Defenses

1 month 2 weeks ago
IRP’s Mary Carrington Elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences for Insights Into Immune System Variations

Some people never seem to get sick, while others catch a new bug of some sort every other week. Humans are immensely variable both in their capacity to shrug off illness and in the ways their bodies respond to medical treatments. IRP senior investigator Mary Carrington, Ph.D., has spent her entire career exploring the biological roots of these differences, and the discoveries she has made earned her election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences earlier this year.

Melissa Glim

Mosquitos With Human Gene Hinder Malaria Transmission

1 month 3 weeks ago
Genetically Modified Insects Could Help Curb Infections

“Scientists create genetically modified mosquitos” sounds like the plot of a bad sci-fi movie, but it’s actually the reality in labs all around the world. Researchers are producing these ‘transgenic’ mosquitos in the hopes that the bugs could help combat the scourge of malaria, and in a recent study, IRP scientists demonstrated that their unique strategy in this realm has strong potential to accomplish that goal.

Brandon Levy

Leading the Charge Against Infectious Disease

2 months ago
Government Awards Recognize H. Clifford Lane’s Four Decades of Research Achievements

The remarkable career of H. Clifford Lane, M.D., might have gone very differently if a NIH scientist hadn’t accidentally eavesdropped on Dr. Lane’s conversation with a colleague in 1979. After hearing Dr. Lane mention that he had missed the deadline to apply for a position at NIH, the NIH researcher made some calls and discovered a spot there had just opened up — one that was perfect for Dr. Lane, who would spend the ensuing decades conducting life-saving research to understand and combat some of the world’s most dangerous infectious diseases.

Now the Clinical Director at the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID), Dr. Lane has been named a finalist for the 2022 Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals’ Career Achievement Award in recognition of his crucial contributions to the fight against HIV/AIDS, Ebola, COVID-19, and other illnesses. Also known as the “Sammies,” the awards recognize federal employees who are “breaking down barriers, overcoming huge challenges, and getting results.”

Melissa Glim

African Ancestry May Influence Immune Response to Prostate Cancer

2 months 1 week ago
IRP Study Could Help Explain Racial Disparities in Disease Outcomes

Even as advances in therapy are extending the lives of many cancer patients, there are still stark differences in how likely patients of different races and ethnicities are to die from the disease. A recent IRP study suggests that a weaker immune response against cancer could explain the worse clinical outcomes for Black men with prostate cancer, pointing to potential strategies that could help close this gap.

Brandon Levy

Three-Minute Talks Showcase Smooth-Talking Scientists

2 months 2 weeks ago
IRP Researchers Engage and Educate at Competition Finals

English is generally considered the ‘international language of science,’ since nearly all scientific papers are published in English. Yet, even to a native English speaker, scientists seem to be using another language entirely to talk about their research. Most Americans, after all, don’t know an ‘autophagosome’ from a ‘lysosome’ and would be hard-pressed to explain the difference between an ‘oocyst’ and a ’sporozoite.’

Fortunately, efforts like NIH’s annual Three-Minute Talks (TmT) competition are helping scientists learn how to communicate about their research in a manner that is much easier to understand. On June 30, after months spent whittling down dozens of competitors from across the IRP, 10 finalists raced against the clock to explain their work and its importance in a clear and compelling way.

Brandon Levy

Mining Medical Data to Improve COVID-19 Treatment

3 months ago
Study Reveals Medications Associated With Lower Odds of Severe Infection

Many researchers studying COVID-19 have spent the past two years poring over test tubes and isolated cells. However, large troves of data about people’s interactions with the healthcare system can also be a rich source of useful insights. Using one such database, IRP researchers found that older adults taking certain medications were less likely to catch COVID or experience severe repercussions from the virus.

Brandon Levy

Postdoc Profile: From Bench to Bedside and Back Again

3 months ago
Dr. Stefan Barisic Turns Laboratory Discoveries into Kidney Cancer Treatments

The Laboratory of Transplantation Immunotherapy sits at the heart of the NIH Clinical Center, just down the hallway from the Southeast inpatient unit. Here, IRP postdoctoral research fellow Stefan Barisic, M.D., labors at the bench with the goal of creating practical treatments for kidney cancer patients. Having such proximity to his patients was one of the chief attractions of working at NIH for Dr. Barisic.

“The NIH Clinical Center is an amazing place because it has all the resources you need to go from the bench to the bedside and back to the bench all in one building,” says Dr. Barisic.

Alison Jane Martingano, Anindita Ray

Treating Parkinson’s Disease with Pinpoint Precision

3 months 1 week ago
Drug Candidate Could Slow Progression and Reduce Side Effects

If you know someone with Parkinson’s disease, you’re probably familiar with the progressive tremors and movement difficulties it causes. Unfortunately, the most common treatment for the disease — a drug called levodopa, or L-DOPA for short — can make some movement problems worse when taken for long periods of time. That’s why IRP senior investigator David R. Sibley, Ph.D., and postdoctoral fellow Amy Moritz, Ph.D., have taken on the challenge of discovering new drugs that could be given to patients in conjunction with existing treatments to more effectively slow the disease’s progression while reducing side effects.

Melissa Glim