December 23, 2013

2013 Research Highlights — Promising Medical Advances

Findings with Potential for Enhancing Human Health

With NIH support, scientists across the country and the world conduct wide-ranging research to improve the health of the nation. Groundbreaking NIH-funded research often receives top scientific honors. In 2013, all 3 recipients of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, and all 3 awardees of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, received NIH funding at different times in their careers. Four NIH-funded scientists also won awards from the Lasker Foundation in 2013. Here's just a small sampling of the research accomplishments made by NIH-supported scientists in 2013.

Mild traumatic brain injury

Insights into Brain Injury

Concussions can have serious and lasting effects. However, the specific damage that occurs in affected brain tissue hasn’t been well understood. A study by NIH researchers provided insight into the damage caused by mild traumatic brain injury and suggested approaches for reducing its harmful effects. Pubmed Abstract »

Human blood vessels.

Stem Cells Coaxed To Create Working Blood Vessels

In an NIH-funded study, scientists were able to direct human stem cells to form networks of tiny blood vessels that can connect to the existing circulation in mice. The finding might assist future efforts to repair and regenerate tissues and organs, which need an adequate blood supply to grow and survive. Pubmed Abstract »

Diverse group of happy women friends.

Genomic Analysis of Endometrial Tumors

Pathologists currently classify endometrial tumors by examining tissue under a microscope. A comprehensive genomic analysis of nearly 400 endometrial tumors revealed 4 novel endometrial tumor subtypes and also found similarities to other cancers. The findings, by an NIH-funded research network, suggest that genomic classification of endometrial tumors could help guide treatment strategies. Pubmed Abstract »

Rear view photo of a family walking together in a park.

Common Genetic Factors Found in 5 Mental Disorders

Autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, major depression, and schizophrenia were traditionally thought of as distinct mental disorders. However, their symptoms can overlap, making it difficult to distinguish between them. An international research consortium funded by NIH discovered that these disorders share certain genetic glitches. The finding may point to better ways to diagnose and treat these conditions. Pubmed Abstract »

AIDS virus particles on a cell.

Vaccine Clears Away Monkey AIDS Virus

HIV, which causes AIDS in people, and the similar monkey virus SIV are thought to cause permanent infections in the body. Current therapies can control but not eliminate the virus. In an NIH-funded study, an experimental vaccine triggered a lasting immune attack in monkeys that eliminated all traces of SIV infection after a year or more. The finding points to a new strategy in the search for an effective AIDS vaccine. Pubmed Abstract »

Bacterial cells.

Method Quickly Assesses Antibiotics

Decades of widespread antibiotic use have encouraged the spread of bacteria with resistance to multiple antibiotics. To combat these multidrug-resistant bacteria, researchers have been searching for new classes of antibiotics that work by different mechanisms than current drugs. NIH-funded scientists developed an innovative method to quickly identify antibiotics that can treat multidrug-resistant bacteria—and reveal how these bacteria-killing medications work. Pubmed Abstract »

Photo of a medical team rushing a sick patient to the emergency ward.

Strategy May Improve Survival after Shock

Shock is a life-threatening condition in which blood pressure drops and not enough blood and oxygen can get to organs. Inflammation has been strongly linked with shock, and past research suggests that this inflammation involves the digestive system. An NIH-funded study of rats found that blocking digestive enzymes in intestines increases survival, reduces organ damage, and improves recovery after shock. The approach may lead to new therapies to improve patient outcomes. Pubmed Abstract »