NIH Director’s Lecture
The Director’s Lectures feature leading researchers from around the globe. Nominated by scientists and interest groups throughout NIH, the speakers are specifically approved by the NIH Director. There are typically three NIH Director’s Lectures per year.
Noncoding RNAs play critical roles in the metabolism of all cells. The Wolin laboratory studies how noncoding RNAs function, how cells recognize and degrade defective noncoding RNAs, and how failure to degrade these RNAs affects cell function and contributes to human disease. Their studies revealed new mechanisms by which defective RNAs are targeted for degradation and new classes of noncoding RNAs. Most recently, their work has contributed to a novel theory for how the autoimmune disease systemic lupus erythematosus may be triggered in genetically susceptible individuals.
Cancer and aging are intricately intertwined. Organisms with dividing cells are at substantial risk for developing cancer. Evolution "solved" the cancer problem by selecting for tumor-suppressive mechanisms, which protect these organisms from cancer—at least for the reproductively active portion of the life span. Beyond that portion of the life span, these mechanisms can drive pathologies associated with aging, including, ironically, cancer. For her lecture, Dr.
The major interest of Dr. Hotamisligil's laboratory is to study the regulatory pathways, which control glucose and lipid metabolism. His lab's biochemical and genetic studies focus on signal transduction using cultured mammalian cells as well as transgenic animals to identify specific abnormalities in these pathways, which are involved in human metabolic and inflammatory diseases including obesity, diabetes, fatty liver disease, atherosclerosis, and asthma.
Our laboratory studies structural plasticity in the adult mammalian brain. We are interested in identifying the environmental, hormonal and neural stimuli that drive changes in the number, shape and size of neurons, astrocytes and microglia. The ultimate goals of our work are to determine the functional consequences of structural plasticity and to identify factors that enhance plasticity and cell survival in the adult mammalian brain.
The gastrointestinal tract is home to a large number and vast array of bacteria that play an important role in nutrition, immune-system development, and host defense. In inflammatory bowel disease there is a breakdown in this mutualistic relationship resulting in aberrant inflammatory responses to intestinal bacteria. Studies in model systems indicate that intestinal homeostasis is an active process involving a delicate balance between effector and immune suppressive pathways. For her presentation, Dr.
Thomas Südhof is interested in how synapses form and function in the developing and adult brain. His work focuses on the role of synaptic cell-adhesion molecules in establishing synapses and shaping their properties, on pre- and postsynaptic mechanisms of membrane traffic, and on impairments in synapse formation and synaptic function in neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders.
Ion channels catalyze the diffusion of inorganic ions down their electrochemical gradients across cell membranes. Because the ionic movements are passive, ion channels would seem to be extraordinarily simple physical systems, yet they are responsible for electrical signaling in living cells. Among their many functions, ion channels control the pace of the heart, regulate the secretion of hormones into the bloodstream, and generate the electrical impulses underlying information transfer in the nervous system.
Suzuki’s lab studies the patterns of electrical activity in the brain that underlie our ability to form and retain new long-term memories as well as the effects of physical aerobic exercise to improve a wide of cognitive functions including mood, memory, and attention.
It is now well established that the immune system can control and eliminate cancer cells. Adoptive T-cell transfer has the potential to overcome the significant limitations associated with vaccine-based strategies in patients who are often immune compromised. Dr. June will discuss how the emerging discipline of synthetic biology—which combines elements of genetic engineering and molecular biology to create new biological structures with enhanced functionalities—can be applied to cancer.
Beginning in 2010, it became practical to sequence whole genomes extracted from DNA extracted from ancient human bones, and to analyze the data to understand changes in biology over time. Since then, the amount of ancient DNA data has increased at an extraordinary rate, with the number of samples with at least one-fold genome coverage being five in 2013, 18 in 2014, and 116 in 2015. Dr. Reich will begin his lecture by describing how present-day Europeans derive from a fusion highly divergent ancestral populations as different from each other as are Europeans and East Asians.
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