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The National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), one of the National Institutes of Health, supports all research featured in this digest. Although only the lead scientists are named, coworkers and other collaborators also contributed to the findings.

In This Issue... October 18, 2012

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Screenshot from the 50 Years of Biomedical Research video

Cool Video: 50 Years of Biomedical Research


This month, NIGMS turns 50. The institute has advanced diverse scientific fields, nurtured generations of researchers and supported dozens of Nobel Prize-winning investigators, including a recipient of the 2012 chemistry prize. This 2.5-minute video montage presents a colorful overview of the institute's scientific impact over the past 5 decades. Read more...

Melanoma and DNA Structure. Credit: Yujiang Geno Shi, Brigham and Women's Hospital.

Biomarker for Melanoma

Yujiang Geno Shi • Brigham and Women's Hospital

Melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer, and it's the leading cause of death from skin disease. New findings may aid the development of methods to detect the abnormal cells that cause this deadly disease. Scientists discovered that chemical tags called hydroxylmethyl groups found on the DNA of normal cells are missing from the DNA of melanoma cells. They also showed that introducing enzymes that fasten the chemical tags to DNA could curb the runaway growth of the cancerous cells. This research offers a new biomarker for malignant melanoma and suggests a possible therapeutic approach for the disease. Read more... Link to external Web site

This work also was supported by NIH's National Cancer Institute.

Caption: Researchers have made a connection between the loss of a specific chemical tag on DNA and the development of melanoma. Credit: Yujiang Geno Shi, Brigham and Women's Hospital. High res. image (JPG, 201KB)
Zebrafish intestinal epithelial cells (red), and lipid droplets (green). Credit: Ivana Semova, University of North Carolina School of Medicine

Gut Microbes Stimulate Absorption of Dietary Fat

John Rawls • University of North Carolina School of Medicine
Steven Farber • Carnegie Institution for Science

A vast community of microbes lives in the gut, and new findings suggest some of them may help their hosts extract calories from food. By studying zebrafish, researchers learned that members of a group of bacteria called Firmicutes aid the absorption of dietary fats in the gut. In a related finding, fish fed normally had more of the Firmicutes bacteria than fish denied food for several days. Other studies have linked an abundance of Firmicutes in the gut with obesity in humans. Understanding how the bacteria are able to stimulate the absorption of dietary fat—and their related calories—could inform methods to reduce it in the context of obesity and associated metabolic diseases. Read more... Link to external Web site

This work also was supported by NIH's National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disorders and National Human Genome Research Institute.

Caption: In zebrafish intestinal epithelial cells (red), the presence of a certain bacteria stimulates dietary fatty acid uptake and an accumulation in lipid droplets (green). Credit: Ivana Semova, University of North Carolina School of Medicine. High res. image (JPG, 61KB)
E-coli bacteria.

Structure Shows How a Protein Aids Tenacious Bacteria

Kim Lewis and Maria Schumacher • Duke University

Bacteria like E. coli and M. tuberculosis can lie dormant, re-awaken and then re-infect their hosts. Scientists have provided new details about how a protein called HipA kicks this process, called multi-drug tolerance, into gear. By obtaining a three-dimensional structure of HipA, the researchers were able to discover that the protein undergoes a process called phosphorylation, which influences the activity of molecules that control dormancy. By turning off HipA, scientists may be able to inhibit the dormancy of the "persister" cells, thereby reducing the cells' ability to evade drug treatments. Read more... Link to external Web site

Caption: E. coli bacteria can re-infect their hosts after a period of dormancy. High res. image (JPG, 81KB)
Emergency personnel loading a pateint into a helicopter. Credit: Federal Emergency Management Agency

Life After Traumatic Injury: How the Body Responds


Traumatic injury—the leading cause of death in Americans age 1 to 44—can disrupt organ function, behavior of genes and cognitive function. Researchers now better understand why, and their findings challenge existing theories, including the notion that people who take longer to recover (and often experience complications) have multiple surges of immune activity. Genetic studies now indicate that a single surge occurs in all severe trauma patients. Understanding what happens to the body's molecules, cells, organs and systems could further improve prognosis. Read more...

Caption: The chance of surviving a traumatic injury in the short term has greatly improved over the past few decades. Researchers now want to address what happens to trauma survivors in the long term. Credit: Federal Emergency Management Agency.

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For more information about Biomedical Beat, please contact the editor, Emily Carlson, in the NIGMS Office of Communications and Public Liaison at 301-496-7301. The text in this newsletter is not copyrighted, and we encourage its use or reprinting.

This page last reviewed on October 18, 2012