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Speaking of Science
23 minutes | Jun 7, 2021
Dr. Anna Nápoles — A New Dawn for Minority Health
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, racial and ethnic minority groups were disproportionately hit. The health inequities pulled at the seams of a system that was already frayed. Dr. Anna Nápoles works to close gaps in healthcare as the first Latina scientific director of the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD). She is reducing the types of hurdles that once hindered her parents so that all populations can live long, healthy, and productive lives. Learn more about Dr. Nápoles's research at https://irp.nih.gov/pi/anna-napoles.
30 minutes | May 3, 2021
Dr. Diana Bianchi — Caring for Two: The Mom-Baby Unit
Pregnancy is by no means necessary for motherhood, but it is necessary for life. And it's no picnic. A pregnant person can experience complications like anemia, UTIs, hypertension, diabetes, and exhaustion. Maintaining maternal health during pregnancy can be challenging, but it is integral for the health of the fetus. Dr. Diana Bianchi is a physician-scientist and the director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), where she works to improve care for the mommy-baby unit. Learn more about her research at https://irp.nih.gov/pi/diana-bianchi.
29 minutes | Mar 31, 2021
Dr. Louis Staudt — The ABCs of B Cell Lymphomas
Small errors can quickly escalate to have large repercussions. When it comes to cancer, molecular changes to DNA can trigger chain reactions that cause cells to go awry and spread uncontrollably. Dr. Louis Staudt works to identify such changes, known as genetic mutations, and find ways to stop them from snowballing into a deadly disease. In this episode, Dr. Staudt recounts the story of how he differentiated subtypes of lymphomas to develop a treatment for patients as an early success of precision medicine. Dr. Staudt is a principle investigator and the director of the Center for Cancer Genomics at the National Cancer Institute. He was recently elected into the National Academy of Medicine. Learn more about his research at https://irp.nih.gov/pi/louis-staudt.
33 minutes | Mar 2, 2021
Dr. Kevin Hall — Dueling Diets
Nutrition is a contentious topic. It’s hard to tell fact from fiction. One day eggs are good for you, the next they have too much fat. But what about the keto craze? Doesn’t it say you should eat mostly fats? Fortunately, there are scientist like Dr. Kevin Hall who are working to debunk the myths and give us the real skinny on how the foods we eat affect our health. Most recently, Dr. Hall published a study that put two well-known diets head-to-head to see which led people to consume more calories.
30 minutes | Jan 8, 2021
Dr. Carlos Zarate — Ketamine to Combat Depression
Ketamine is often thought of as an illicit party drug—something people take for a momentary high. But it wasn’t designed to be a mind-altering drug. Originally, ketamine was developed as anesthetic to relieve temporary pain. And now it seems the drug can provide solace not just from physical distress. At the NIH, Dr. Carlos Zarate is investigating how ketamine can rapidly reduce depressive symptoms in people with treatment-resistant depression or bipolar depression, for whom other options have not helped.
24 minutes | Oct 7, 2020
Drs. Heidi Kong and Ian Myles — Derm Germs: The Human Skin Microbiome
In nature, strategic alliances can mean the difference between life and death. For humans, such vital partnerships exist between us and the trillions of microbes we unwittingly host in and on our bodies - together called the microbiome. Dr. Heidi Kong uses genomics to uncover the microbe-host interactions taking place all over our skin. Building on her work and a growing understanding of the skin microbiome, Dr. Ian Myles has developed a bacterial spray that improves eczema, an inflammatory skin disease.
31 minutes | Aug 31, 2020
Dr. Peter Bandettini — Mr. MRI
Dr. Peter Bandettini spends a lot of time peering into people's heads. Not because he is clairvoyant, but because he is a biophysicist. Using functional MRI (fMRI), a revolutionary neuroimaging technique he helped pioneer in the '90s, Dr. Bandettini delves into the mysteries of the human brain. He is working to advance fMRI technology to parse out more information about the neural connections that are constantly and spontaneously active even when we think our minds are blank. Dr. Bandettini is a principal investigator at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and the director of the Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging Core Facility. Learn more about his work at https://irp.nih.gov/pi/peter-bandettini
36 minutes | Jul 30, 2020
Dr. Hannah Valantine — At the Heart of Diversity
Time and again, diversity and inclusion initiatives have proven to boost productivity and overall well-being in the workplace. But despite countless studies and although there have been significant strides in recent history, the struggle to ensure equal opportunity persists. At the NIH, the Scientific Workforce Diversity (SWD) Office is expanding recruitment and retention with Dr. Hannah Valantine as its first chief officer. She emphasizes how proper resources, mentorship, and community are essential for progress in the biomedical field. Dr. Valantine is also a cardiologist and Senior Investigator of the Laboratory of Transplantation Genomics in the National Heart, Blood, and Lung Institute (NHLBI). Learn more about her research at https://irp.nih.gov/pi/hannah-valantine
22 minutes | Jun 22, 2020
Drs. Richard Childs and Matthew Hall — Remdesivir Therapy for COVID-19
In this episode, Dr. Richard Childs, a senior investigator and Clinical Director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), recounts his experience using the antiviral remdesivir to treat patients with COVID-19 in one of the early hot zones of the pandemic. He led a team sent to care for passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship that was held in quarantine in Yokohama, Japan at the start of the outbreak. Since then, remdesivir has continued to gain traction as a possible standard of care. Dr. Matthew Hall, biology group leader at the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), explains the development of the drug and its newfound purpose in the battle against the novel coronavirus.
44 minutes | Feb 24, 2020
Dr. Frank Lin — Radioactive Drugs for Rare Cancers
Radioactive drugs carry radioactive substances that can be engineered to specifically target and kill tumor cells inside the body. In 2018, the FDA approved a radioactive drug called Lutathera to treat tumors that affect the pancreas or gastrointestinal tract. Now, scientists at the NIH led by Dr. Frank Lin are testing whether Lutathera can also be effective against rare tumors of the adrenal glands. Dr. Lin is a clinician and researcher focused on bringing radioactive drugs — also known as radionuclides — from bench to bedside. His work could accelerate the development of new therapies for patients with rare cancers who have few or no other treatment options. Frank Lin, M.D., is a Lasker Clinical Research Scholar in the Center for Cancer Research at the NIH’s National Cancer Institute (NCI). Learn more about Dr. Lin and his research at https://irp.nih.gov/pi/frank-lin
52 minutes | Jan 27, 2020
Dr. Jerry Yakel — Acetylcholine Receptors and Neurological Disease
The neurons in our brains use both electrical and chemical signals to communicate. When those signals are not generated or interpreted correctly, serious problems can arise. Dr. Jerry Yakel is a neurobiologist studying acetylcholine receptors, which allow neurons to turn signals transmitted using the chemical acetylcholine into electrical messages. Because acetylcholine receptors are found on so many nerve cells, numerous neurological disorders can arise when they fail to work properly, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and epilepsy. By studying these receptors, Dr. Yakel’s team hopes to better understand how they contribute to disease, which could eventually lead to therapies for a variety of neurological conditions. Jerry Yakel, Ph.D., is a Senior Investigator in the Ion Channel Physiology Group at the NIH’s National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). Learn more about Dr. Yakel and his research at https://irp.nih.gov/pi/jerrel-yakel
58 minutes | Dec 6, 2019
Dr. Armin Raznahan — Genes, Brain Structure, and Neuropsychiatric Disorders
Anybody who observes a person with a neurological illness like Tourette syndrome or schizophrenia can clearly see how these conditions affect behavior. What’s much more difficult to determine is how these ailments relate to changes in the brain. Dr. Armin Raznahan is a child psychiatrist who uses a genetics-first approach and state-of-the-art neuroimaging tools to examine how the size and shape of the brain differ in children and adolescents with neuropsychiatric disorders compared to healthy individuals. His discoveries about these illnesses could ultimately improve our ability to identify and treat people who have them, as well as predict which children might develop them. Armin Raznahan, M.D., Ph.D., is a Lasker Clinical Research Scholar in the Human Genetics Branch at the NIH’s National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Learn more about Dr. Raznahan and his research at https://irp.nih.gov/pi/armin-raznahan
50 minutes | Nov 18, 2019
Dr. Catharine Bosio — The Weird and Deadly Francisella Tularensis Bacterium
Our houses, workplaces, and even the air we breathe are teeming with microbes, some of which can cause severe illness. Dr. Catharine Bosio is an immunologist studying how airborne pathogens infect and alter cells in the lungs. Her work focuses in particular on a bacterium called Francisella tularensis, which causes a life-threatening disease called tularemia and has the unique ability to change how energy-producing mitochondria function in immune cells. Dr. Bosio's experiments with these deadly bacteria could lead to more effective ways to diagnose and treat tularemia and other infectious diseases. Catharine Bosio, Ph.D., is a Senior Investigator in the Immunity to Pulmonary Pathogens Section at the NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). Learn more about Dr. Bosio and her research at https://irp.nih.gov/pi/catharine-bosio.
65 minutes | Sep 29, 2019
Dr. Cynthia Dunbar — Stem Cell Therapies for Blood and Immune System Diseases
Our blood is made up of a diverse array of different cells, all of which originate from the same source: the ‘hematopoietic’ stem cells in our bone marrow. Dr. Cynthia Dunbar is a clinician working to understand how these stem cells grow, divide, and ultimately produce the cells that carry oxygen around the body and fight disease. Learning to safely transplant and manipulate hematopoietic stem cells could lead to treatments for a wide variety of diseases caused by a lack of properly functioning blood cells, including leukemia and aplastic anemia. Cynthia Dunbar, M.D., is a Principal Investigator in the Molecular Hematopoiesis Section at the NIH's National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). Learn more about Dr. Dunbar and her research at https://irp.nih.gov/pi/cynthia-dunbar
61 minutes | Sep 10, 2019
Drs. Ira Pastan and Michael Gottesman — Cancer Immunotoxins and Multidrug Resistance
This episode features two legends of biomedical research. In the realm of human health and longevity, cancer’s ability to mutate, grow, and thwart the body’s natural defenses presents one of the greatest scientific challenges of our time. In 2001, Dr. Ira Pastan led the creation of a new type of cancer drug, a recombinant immunotoxin, that promised to directly target and kill cancer cells. After years of research and clinical trials, this first-generation immunotoxin was approved by the FDA in September 2018 for certain adults with hairy cell leukemia, providing a promising new therapy to a group of patients who previously had few other options. And we have a special guest host for this episode, Dr. Michael Gottesman, who, as the NIH Deputy Director for Intramural Research, leads the thousands of researchers and clinicians working within the IRP each day — while also conducting groundbreaking research in his own laboratory into how cancer cells become resistant to chemotherapy and other anti-cancer drugs. Drs. Gottesman and Pastan are two guiding lights in our quest to overcome the obstacles to effectively treating cancer in order to improve and save potentially millions of lives. As friends and colleagues for many years, they also trained and collaborated with several of the most celebrated IRP researchers who made extraordinary breakthroughs for human health.
54 minutes | Jun 28, 2019
Dr. Dori Germolec — Environmental Chemicals Versus the Immune System
Dr. Dori Germolec is a biologist studying how the chemicals in our environment affect the immune system, including toxic or carcinogenic effects of molds and dietary supplements. From bisphenols and flame retardants to arsenic in the drinking water and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, we are all exposed to a mixture of different compounds on a daily basis. Dr. Germolec’s research as part of the National Toxicology Program informs agencies like the EPA and FDA about the potential hazards of environmental toxins so that chemicals and substances can be properly regulated to keep people safe and healthy, both at home and in the workplace. Dori Germolec, Ph.D., leads the Systems Toxicology Group of the NIH's National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) National Toxicology Program (NTP). Learn more at: https://www.niehs.nih.gov/research/atniehs/labs/tob/systems/index.cfm
57 minutes | May 1, 2019
Dr. Dennis Drayna — Part 2: Genetic Insights from Stuttering to the Taste for Menthol in Cigarettes
This is Part 2 of our conversation with Dr. Dennis Drayna, a human geneticist who has identified mutations in several genes that cause communications disorders, particularly stuttering, using family- and population-based genetic methods. Dr. Drayna's team studies the biochemical and cellular effects of these mutations and how they may cause specific neuronal pathologies. With so much to cover, we divided this episode into two parts. Here, we continue to explore stuttering research and delve into Dr. Drayna’s perspectives about research and research training at the NIH, as well as his lab’s ground-breaking work on how genetic variation affects the sense of taste and how population-specific genetic factors can influence preference for menthol in cigarettes, a common flavor additive that is particularly popular among African American smokers. Dennis Drayna, Ph.D., is a Senior Investigator in the Section on Systems Biology of Communication Disorders at NIH's National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD). Learn more about Dr. Drayna and his research at https://irp.nih.gov/pi/dennis-drayna
59 minutes | Apr 9, 2019
Dr. Dennis Drayna — Part 1: Genetics of Stuttering and Communication Disorders
Dennis Drayna, Ph.D., is a human geneticist who has identified mutations in several genes that cause communications disorders, particularly stuttering. With so much to cover, we divided his episode into two parts. Here, in part 1, we discuss Dr. Drayna’s research into the genetics of stuttering, including the use of family- and population-based genetic methods. In part 2 to follow, we continue to explore stuttering research and delve into Dr. Drayna’s perspectives about research and research training at the NIH. We’ll also discuss his lab’s ground-breaking work on how genetic variation affects the sense of taste, and how population-specific genetic factors can influence preference for menthol in cigarettes, a common flavor additive that is particularly popular among African American smokers. Dennis Drayna, Ph.D., is a Senior Investigator in the Section on Systems Biology of Communication Disorders at NIH's National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD). Learn more about Dr. Drayna and his research at https://irp.nih.gov/pi/dennis-drayna
83 minutes | Feb 5, 2019
Dr. Bill Gahl — Medical Genetics and Hope for Rare Diseases
When people refer to the NIH as the “National Institutes of Hope,” Dr. Bill Gahl is one of the many people who come to mind. Dr. Gahl is a medical geneticist working to help patients with rare and undiagnosed diseases. His research group focuses on inborn errors of metabolism, which include defects in the body’s biochemical processes caused by rare genetic disorders, such as cystinosis, Hermansky-Pudlak syndrome, alkaptonuria, and ciliopathies. Transcending biomedical boundaries to take advantage of the IRP’s unique team-science environment, Dr. Gahl led the creation of the NIH’s Undiagnosed Diseases Program to provide answers and possible treatments for people with mysterious conditions that have long eluded diagnosis. Since seeing their first patient at the NIH Clinical Center in July of 2008, the Program has expanded to become the Undiagnosed Diseases Network, which now includes 12 clinical sites along with supporting scientific facilities around the country. Even when no concrete answer or cure can be found, each patient shares new information that may in the future help other people facing similar health problems, and such hope can provide powerful meaning for people’s struggles that seem to occur without reason. William Gahl, M.D., Ph.D., is a Senior Investigator in the Medical Genetics Branch of the NIH's National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI). Learn more about Dr. Gahl and his research at https://irp.nih.gov/pi/william-gahl
63 minutes | Jan 29, 2019
Dr. Christine Alewine — Treating Pancreatic Cancer with New Immunotoxin Strategies
Pancreatic cancer kills more than 40,000 Americans each year, and just 6% of patients survive five years or more after diagnosis, because the disease metastasizes very early in its development and is resistant to most current treatments. Dr. Christine Alewine is a physician-scientist exploring new treatment strategies for pancreatic cancer. Her lab and clinic are testing and refining two recombinant immunotoxins that target a protein called mesothelin that is present on the surface of several types of cancer tumor cells, including pancreatic, ovarian, and some lung cancers. If clinical trials show that the drug is safe and effective, it could lead to much needed systemic therapies for these cancer patients. Christine Campo Alewine, M.D., Ph.D., is an NIH Lasker Clinical Research Scholar and a Principal Investigator in the Laboratory of Molecular Biology at the NIH's National Cancer Institute (NCI) Center for Cancer Research (CCR). Learn more about Dr. Alewine and her research at https://irp.nih.gov/pi/christine-alewine
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