Remembering Dr. Alan Rabson, a Leader in Cancer Care

6 days 15 hours ago

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.

Brandon Levy

Perceived Pain Drives Body’s Automatic Nervous System Response

1 week 6 days ago

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.1

Brandon Levy

Molecular Marker May Curb Obesity-Related Inflammation

3 weeks 6 days ago

Hundreds of scientific studies have established that obesity often leads to severe health problems and cuts short many lives. Nevertheless, a significant number of obese people remain healthy despite their excess weight. A new IRP study has now identified a possible molecular marker that distinguishes obese but healthy individuals from those whose weight has negatively affected their health.1

Brandon Levy

Microbes Within Us: A Chat With Science Writer Ed Yong

1 month ago

Research into the collection of microorganisms that live in and on our bodies — known as the microbiome — has dramatically expanded in recent years. In fact, the field is one of 12 domains designated as top long-term IRP research priorities. Since the establishment of the NIH’s Human Microbiome Project in 2007, investment in microbiome research across the IRP has increased over forty-fold and now occurs in dozens of labs across more than 20 institutes and centers.

Brandon Levy

Top-of-the-Line Supercomputer Turbocharges NIH Research

1 month ago

Access to robust computing resources provides a critical foundation for advancing the wide variety of biomedical research taking place within the NIH’s Intramural Research Program (IRP). Whether performing molecular modeling simulations, generating whole-genome sequencing data, deducing the structures of biomolecules, or advancing drug discovery efforts, our ability to analyze large-scale biological and biomedical data strongly depends on our ability to employ computationally intensive approaches that produce interpretable results and advance translational efforts aimed at improving human health.

Andy Baxevanis

NIH Works Towards a More Diverse Community

1 month 1 week ago

Like many research institutions across the nation, the NIH has faced difficulties with establishing a strong and lasting community of diverse investigators. We have made remarkable gains in recent years, however, in attracting and retaining a diverse workforce that's more reflective of the U.S. population.

One of many movers and shakers in this realm is Hannah Valantine, a cardiologist recruited from Stanford University who, in addition to maintaining a lab in NHLBI, is the NIH's first Chief Officer for Scientific Workforce Diversity. And one of her many ideas that the NIH Scientific Directors hope to adopt is the creation of a cohort program with both mentors and mentees committed to issues of scientific diversity and inclusion. Our goal is to guide this cohort of tenure-track investigators through the tenure process to be sure they have access to the mentoring, professional development, and networking opportunities to establish their careers, strengthen their science, and, in turn, recruit and mentor future generations of scientists.

Michael Gottesman

Taming Immune Cells with a Molecular “Switch”

1 month 1 week ago

The most important step to solving any problem is to choose the right tool for the job. Just like a heavy fur coat will keep you comfortable in the Arctic but slowly roast you in the Sahara, your immune system’s response can be helpful or harmful depending on the specific invader it’s fighting off. A new IRP study has identified a molecular “switch” that shifts an important type of immune cell between two different approaches to protecting the body.1

Brandon Levy

Lasker Scholar Program Achieves “Steady State”

1 month 1 week ago

The NIH Lasker Clinical Research Scholar Program, an initiative to support early-stage clinical researchers, has reached a milestone. First announced in December 2010, the program provides scholars with up to ten years of support: five to seven years as NIH tenure-track investigators, followed by three years additional funding at an extramural research institution, pending review, if they choose to leave the NIH. Our goal was to recruit a few scholars each year and have a “steady state” of 15 to 20 scholars on campus. We indeed are now up to 15 scholars, which meets this goal.

Michael Gottesman

NIH Women Lead Nation in Patents

1 month 2 weeks ago

A fascinating statistic crossed my desk this month: Among U.S.-based institutions, the NIH has the highest representation of women scientists and engineers on filed international patent applications. I can believe it, and there’s a report documenting it from the World Intellectual Property Office (WIPO), a UN-affiliated organization.

Michael Gottesman

Barbra Streisand Talks Up Women’s Heart Health

1 month 2 weeks ago

Barbra Streisand knows how to command an audience, whether she’s behind a microphone, a camera, or a podium. After a storied career beguiling theater-goers, Streisand’s new goal is not just to warm hearts but to save them from disease as well.

Brandon Levy

Remembrances: Theodor Kolobow (1931-2018)

1 month 3 weeks ago

Theodor Kolobow, M.D., passed away on March 24, 2018. He was 87 years old. His contributions while at the NHLBI to the field of cardiovascular and pulmonary research fall nothing short of extraordinary, and include advancements in the development of artificial organs, and the pathophysiology of acute lung injury. Over the course of his career he was actively involved in the innovation and development of new dialysis machines, cuffless endotracheal tubes, and devices to prop open right-sided heart valves, thereby preventing left heart distention during percutaneous cardiopulmonary bypass. He designed special low-resistance endotracheal tubes to limit the necessary ventilatory pressure, in addition to endotracheal tubes that would help to limit bacterial colonization and methods for preventing ventilator associated pneumonias.

Michael Gottesman

Urban Upbringing Flips Genes’ Effects on Brain Activity

1 month 3 weeks ago

It might seem easy to blame your parents for the way you turned out; after all, they raised you and gave you all of your DNA. But, before throwing blame around, consider saving some for the place where you grew up. According to new IRP research, being raised in an urban environment can dramatically alter how your genes influence your brain.1

Brandon Levy

Honoring Two Legendary IRP Scientists

1 month 3 weeks ago

NIH history is rife with legends, scientists who have made remarkable discoveries and incalculable contributions to the health and longevity of humankind. There are living legends; just peruse the “Honors” page on the IRP website to see what I mean. And there are greats who are gone but certainly not forgotten.

Michael Gottesman

Remembrances: James Holland (1925-2018)

1 month 3 weeks ago

James F. Holland, M.D., a renowned cancer expert who was a major figure in the development of cancer chemotherapy, died on March 22, 2018, at the age of 92. Dr. Holland was among the first group of research physicians recruited to the NIH Clinical Center, serving as a senior surgeon at the National Cancer Institute from 1953 to 1954. In that short year at the NIH, he initiated a clinical trial to compare continuous or intermittent treatment with two chemotherapy agents for acute leukemia in children: methotrexate and 6-mercaptopurine. Dr. Holland moved to Roswell Park Memorial Institute in Buffalo before the trial was completed, but he continued to collaborate. His work ultimately turned an incurable illness into one with an 80% survival rate. In 1972, he and his NIH collaborators shared the Albert Lasker Clinical Medical Research Award for "outstanding contribution to the concept and application of combination therapy in the treatment of acute leukemia in children."

Michael Gottesman

Postbac Poster Day Highlights Budding Researchers

2 months 1 week ago

On Wednesday, May 2, hundreds of researchers gathered at NIH’s Natcher Conference Center to show off their recent discoveries. But unlike a typical scientific conference, the letters “M.D.” and “Ph.D.” were noticeably absent from these scientists’ credentials. Instead, the event — NIH’s annual Postbac Poster Day — celebrated the accomplishments of individuals participating in the NIH Postbaccalaureate Intramural Research Training Award (IRTA) Program.

Brandon Levy

Which Neurons Are Responsible for Anxiety-Related Behaviors?

2 months 1 week ago

Most people experience anxiety at some point in their lives, whether it’s pre-speech jitters or sweaty palms when their plane takes off. While mild feelings of nervousness are completely normal and can even be beneficial, anxiety can also have negative repercussions if it causes somebody to completely avoid situations like social encounters or taking a flight to visit distant family.

Brandon Levy

Francis Collins, NIH Director, Answers Reddit’s Genomics Questions

2 months 3 weeks ago

Ever since the Human Genome Project (HGP) launched in 1990, patients and members of the public have been inundated with predictions about how unraveling the mysteries of genetics will revolutionize healthcare. Today, many of these promises remain unrealized, prompting some to become skeptical of the true utility of this research for improving human health. But, while more work is needed to fully realize the potential of genome-focused medicine, it remains true that patients are benefiting from our knowledge of the human genome in numerous, sometimes under-appreciated ways.

Brandon Levy

In Utero Exposure to Immune Molecules May Affect Neurocognitive Development

2 months 3 weeks ago

In the midst of the 1957 Asian flu pandemic, doctors and researchers were understandably focused on treating patients and developing ways to contain the outbreak. It wasn’t until 30 years later that scientists began reporting that women who were pregnant when they caught the virus were more likely to have children who would later be diagnosed with schizophrenia.1 While that relationship remains controversial,2 numerous studies have since linked activation of a pregnant woman’s immune system with an increased risk that her child will develop certain psychiatric disorders, including not just schizophrenia but also autism spectrum disorder and major depressive disorder.3 A new IRP study has now expanded on this work by showing that exposure to higher levels of two immune system molecules in utero can noticeably alter the neurological and cognitive development of young children.4

Brandon Levy

IRP Scientists Curb Inflammation to Protect Brain Cells From Stroke

3 months ago

Every forty seconds, someone in the United States suffers a stroke, and researchers across the country are hunting for a way to help brain cells survive these traumatic events. A group of IRP researchers recently discovered a promising new tool to aid in this effort. By blocking the action of a brain chemical called monoacylglycerol lipase (MAGL), the scientists markedly reduced stroke-related brain damage and disability in rats.1  

Brandon Levy