NIH Research Festival celebrates wealth of scientific pursuits
By Kelly Lenox
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) celebrated research across its 27 institutes and centers at the 29th NIH Research Festival Sept. 16-18 on the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland. Several NIEHS scientists participated in the event, providing a glimpse into the institute’s rich array of in-house researchers and programs.
FARE award winners celebrated
NIEHS scientists presented eight posters (see text box) at the festival, representing research in immunology, cancer biology, and molecular biology and biochemistry. Four of the institute’s 16 Fellows Award for Research Excellence (FARE) winners were among the group. FARE award winners were recognized in a ceremony on the second day of the festival.
FARE awardee Alisa Suen, a visiting predoctoral fellow in the Reproductive Medicine Group headed by Carmen Williams, M.D., Ph.D., said this was her first time at the NIH campus, and she especially enjoyed the history tour and tour of the NIH Clinical Center. “The design of the clinical center facility is a true embodiment of bench-to-beside research,” Suen said, “with space for scientists, physicians, and patients to come together in one place for cutting-edge research and care.”
Sylvia Hewitt, senior biologist in the NIEHS Receptor Biology Group led by Ken Korach, Ph.D., also exhibited a poster at the festival. Visiting the NIH Clinical Center and attending the morning plenary sessions were among the highlights she noted. Referring to the session on Creating NIH Technology Incubators, Hewitt said, “It was really impressive — you’ve got these brilliant young engineer-biologists building amazing microscopes.”
Focus on public health emergencies
NIEHS and National Toxicology Program Director Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., participated in the Responding to Public Health Emergencies plenary session. Speakers focused on the crucial role of the NIH in-house, or intramural, research program in responding to public health emergencies, such as the Ebola crisis and foodborne disease outbreaks.
At NIEHS, such responses include the GuLF STUDY, a long-term study of workers involved in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill clean up. The institute also plays a leading role in the NIH-wide Disaster Research Response project (DR2). “The DR2 website has some of the materials that have been developed, including fit-for-purpose and ready-to-go protocols that have been pre-approved by the NIEHS IRB [institutional review board] for use in intramural research,” Birnbaum told the audience.
She also called attention to global health issues, especially those related to climate change and projected increases in extreme weather events and other public health emergencies.
Besides the plenary and poster sessions, the festival included workshops on topics such as the microbiome and drug resistance, and RNA biology and therapeutics. It also featured tours of NIH facilities, exhibits on resources for NIH researchers, and a vendor fair.
Posters by NIEHS researchers
“Aberrant uterine SIX1 expression may promote uterine adenocarcinoma following neonatal xenoestrogen exposure” by AA Suen [FARE Award winner], WN Jefferson, E Padilla-Banks, CE Woods, VL Bae-Jump, CJ Williams.
Excerpt: “These findings indicate that uterine SIX1 expression is a biomarker for exposure and disease, and suggests that SIX1 could play a role in carcinogenesis.”
“Dendritic and epithelial cell crosstalk in the lung: the impact of cell-specific Myd88 expression on consequent immune response to allergens” by SY Thomas [FARE Award winner], GS Whitehead, KM Gowdy, M Takaku, X Xu, JM Ward, K Nakano, H Nakano, P Wade, DN Cook.
Excerpt: “These surprising findings reveal that airway eosinophilia and neutrophilia are separable allergic events and suggest that new treatments can be developed to target specific forms of asthma.”
“Smith-Lemli-Opitz Syndrome reveals requirement for sterol biosynthesis in the innate immune response” by KA Gabor [FARE Award winner], CA Wassif, PR Bushel, MW Henderson, FD Porter, MB Fessler.
Excerpt: “We propose that deficient innate immunity may be a clinically relevant contributor to SLOS pathogenesis, and that SLOS highlights the importance of cholesterol biosynthesis to innate immunity.”
“The novel p53 target Tumor Necrosis Factor-α-Induced Protein 8 variant 2 is increased in human cancers and can offset p53-dependent tumor suppression” by JM Lowe [FARE Award winner], T Nguyen, MA Resnick, SA Grimm, KA Gabor, SD Peddada, CW Anderson, D Menendez, MB Fessler.
Excerpt: “We propose that TNFAIP8 v2 can promote human cancer through p53-independent mechanisms as well as by broadly repressing p53 function, in essence offsetting p53-dependent tumor suppression.”
“Disruption of endometrial NELF transcriptional pausing complex impairs early pregnancy” by SC Hewitt, W Winuthayanon, KJ Hamilton, L Donoghue, JF Foley, GW Muse, JP Lydon, FJ DeMayo, K Adelman, KS Korach.
Excerpt: “These findings indicate that Pol II pausing is not necessary to initiate but is required to maintain pregnancy.”
“Epigenetic Analysis of neonatal diethylstilbestrol (DES) exposure: whole-transcriptome expression and DNA methylation profiles of the adult mouse seminal vesicle (SV)” by Y Li, KJ Hamilton, T Wang, L Liu, K Gerrish, PA Wade, KS Korach.
Excerpt: “These findings provide a new approach toward further understanding the mechanism during developmental exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals in the reproductive system.”
“Profiling molecular changes in N,N-Dimethyl-p-toluidine-induced nasal cavity toxicity” by JK Dunnick, BA Merrick, G Flake, J Foley, A Brix, K Gerrish, KR Shockley.
Excerpt: “Cancer is a multistep process, and the early molecular changes in the nasal cavity after DMPT exposure are candidate markers for nasal cavity environmental toxins.”
“Soluble epoxide hydrolase regulates macrophage phagocytosis and lung bacterial clearance of Streptococcus pneumoniae” by H Li, JA Bradbury, ML Edin, JP Graves, A Gruzdev, J Cheng, SL Hoopes, LM DeGraff, MB Fessler, S Garantiziotis, SH Schurman, DC Zeldin.
Excerpt: “Defining the role of EETs in macrophage function may lead to development of new therapeutic approaches for bacterial diseases.”