December 31, 2012

2012 Research Highlights — Clinical Breakthroughs

Prevention, Diagnosis and Treatment of Human Disease

NIH conducts and funds wide-ranging research to improve the nation's health. With NIH support, scientists across the country and around the world uncover basic biomedical advances and conduct the clinical and translational research that transforms discoveries into medical practice. Groundbreaking NIH-funded research often receives top scientific honors. In 2012, these honors included the Nobel Prize in chemistry and several Lasker awards. Here is just a small sampling of the research accomplishments made by NIH-supported scientists in 2012.

Photo of an older woman with a glass of milk.

How Often Should Women Have Bone Tests?

Experts recommend that older women have regular bone density tests to screen for osteoporosis. But it had been unclear how often to repeat the tests. An NIH-supported study of nearly 5,000 women reported that patients with healthy bone density on their first test might safely wait 15 years before getting rescreened. These findings can help guide doctors in their bone screening recommendations. Pubmed Abstract »

Teenager holding eggs.

Hope for Beating Egg Allergy

Small daily doses of egg powder might help children with egg allergy to eat the food safely. An NIH-funded study showed that most children could eat eggs while receiving the experimental therapy. Some could continue eating eggs even after the treatment ended. Although promising, this approach is still in development and shouldn't be tried at home. Pubmed Abstract »

An older couple running down a sand dune.

Fending Off Cardiovascular Disease

An NIH-supported study of data from over a quarter of a million people confirmed that high blood pressure and other traditional risk factors for cardiovascular disease substantially raise the chance of major cardiovascular events like heart attack or stroke over the course of a lifetime. The finding reinforces the importance of controlling these risk factors. Pubmed Abstract »

A woman controlling a robotic arm to grasp a bottle.

Thought-Control Gives Paralyzed People Helping Hand

Paralyzed patients were able to reach and grasp objects by controlling a robotic arm with their thoughts. NIH-funded researchers taught 2 patients who were paralyzed by stroke—a 58-year-old woman and a 66-year-old man—to mentally control a robotic limb. The advance may help restore some independence and improve quality of life for people who've lost use of their limbs. Pubmed Abstract »

Speeding ambulance.

Using Autoinjectors to Treat Seizures

Drug delivery into muscle using an autoinjector—akin to the EpiPen that treats serious allergic reactions—can quickly and effectively stop prolonged epileptic seizures. The finding, funded primarily by NIH, offers first responders a safe and fast therapeutic tool during an emergency. Autoinjectors may also provide quick therapy during a widespread crisis, such as a chemical or biological attack. Pubmed Abstract »

Lungs with green, yellow and red areas.

Improved COPD Detection

An experimental technique developed with NIH support can distinguish between different types of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and track disease progression. The method could allow for more accurate diagnoses and lead to more effective treatments for COPD. Pubmed Abstract »

Women exercising in pool.

Diabetes Prevention A Good Investment

Researchers supported primarily by NIH found that programs to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes make sound economic sense. Despite the money spent on these interventions, they lower overall medical care costs and improve quality of life. Diabetes currently costs the nation an estimated $174 billion per year, including $116 billion in medical expenses and $58 billion in indirect costs like disability and work loss. Pubmed Abstract »

Chains of long, thin bacterial cells.

How Sulfa Drugs Work

Scientists finally found out how sulfa drugs—the first class of antibiotics ever discovered—work at the molecular level. The NIH-supported finding offers insights into designing more robust antibiotic therapies that also avoid side effects and other problems associated with sulfa drugs. Pubmed Abstract »