December 21, 2023

2023 NIH Research Highlights - Promising Medical Findings

Results with Potential for Enhancing Human Health

With NIH support, scientists across the United States and around the world conduct wide-ranging research to discover ways to enhance health, lengthen life and reduce illness and disability. Groundbreaking NIH-funded research often receives top scientific honors. In 2023, these honors included two NIH-supported scientists who received Nobel Prizes. Here’s just a small sample of the NIH-supported research accomplishments in 2023. Also see this year's Human Health Advances and Basic Research Insights.

Printer-friendly version of full 2023 NIH Research Highlights

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Immune and hormonal features of Long COVID

About one in eight people who survive an acute SARS-CoV-2 infection go on to have persistent symptoms. The processes that give rise to this syndrome, known as Long COVID, remain unclear. Researchers found several immune and hormonal differences between people with Long COVID and those without. Another study found that infection with a common cold virus may predispose some people to develop Long COVID. This year, researchers also discovered how COVID-19 may damage cells’ energy production and potentially cause some symptoms of Long COVID.

Protein may be linked to exercise intolerance in ME/CFS

People with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) live with debilitating symptoms. These including exhaustion, exercise intolerance, cognitive problems and worsening of symptoms after even mild exertion. A study suggested that high levels of a protein called WASF3 may reduce energy production in the muscle cells of people with ME/CFS. Blocking this protein in cells in the laboratory restored energy production, suggesting a potential new strategy for treating the condition.

Engineering skin grafts for complex body parts

Advances in bioengineering have allowed researchers to grow new patches of skin in the lab. But these skin patches have been small and limited in shape. Using new techniques, scientists grew strong skin in the shape of a full human hand. This technology has the potential to help heal burns and other damage to complex body parts with less trauma and scarring.

Blood test for early Alzheimer’s detection

One of the first stages of Alzheimer’s disease involves the formation of toxic aggregates of a protein called amyloid beta (Aβ). The ability to detect these early would let scientists test new treatments before irreparable brain damage occurs. Researchers developed a blood test that could detect the toxic Aβ aggregates before Alzheimer’s symptoms appeared. This is one of several promising approaches to early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

Erythritol and cardiovascular events

Artificial sweeteners can help people reduce their sugar and calorie intake. But little is known about the long-term health consequences. Researchers found that elevated blood levels of the artificial sweetener erythritol were associated with increased risk of heart attack and stroke. When used as a sweetener, erythritol is typically added at levels more than 1,000-fold higher than those found naturally in foods. The results highlight the need to further study erythritol’s long-term effects on cardiovascular health.

Read more 2023 NIH Research Highlights: Basic Research Insights