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Inside Life Science:
Articles That Bring You Inside the Science of Health

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The Inside Life Science article series is now published on the Biomedical Beat blog. You can subscribe to automatically receive new articles via e-mail or RSS feed. Articles published before November 2014 are available below.

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Human embryonic cells. Credit: Aryeh Warmflash, Rockefeller University.Stem Cells Do Geometry | 10/31/2014
Human embryonic stem cells confined to areas of precisely controlled size and shape start to specialize and form organized patterns, opening a new window for studying early development.
Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria. Credit: Centers for Disease Control/ Janice Haney Carr.Outwitting Antibiotic Resistance | 10/8/2014
Antibiotics save countless lives, but the bacteria and other microbes they’re designed to eradicate can evolve ways to evade the drugs. Here are a few examples of research efforts to combat this antibiotic resistance.
Mitochondria from the heart muscle cell of a rat. Credit: Thomas Deerinck, National Center for Microscopy and Imaging Research.Mighty Mitochondria | 9/25/2014
Meet mitochondria: cellular compartments that are best known as the powerhouses that convert energy from the food we eat into energy that runs a range of biological processes.
MicrotubuleThe Microtubule: A Multitasking Cellular Worker | 9/3/2014
Meet microtubules, cellular employees that work many important jobs, and watch how they work.
Doctors with a patient. Credit: Stock image.Improving the Odds of Surviving Sepsis | 8/18/2014
Sepsis is an overwhelming immune response to infection that can lead to organ failure. Recent research focuses on detecting it early, treating it quickly and reducing its later effects.
Icelandic hot spring. Credit: Stock image.How Heat-Loving Organisms Are Helping Advance Medicine | 7/30/2014
Heat-loving microorganisms that can survive under extreme conditions are helping scientists study medically important membrane proteins.
Skin cell. Credit: Torsten Wittmann, University of California, San Francisco.The Fireworks Inside Us All | 7/9/2014
Here are just a few glimpses into cells captured by scientists in the course of their NIH-funded research.
Antibiotic-resistant strain of Staphlyococcus aureus bacteriaOn the Trail of Drug-Defying Superbugs | 6/11/2014
Studying how bacteria can become resistant to the antibiotics we use to combat them could aid efforts to curb the emergence of antibiotic resistance.
Artists rendition of a network diagram. Credit: Allison Kudla, Institute for Systems Biology.Knowing Networks | 5/14/2014
Systems biologists study living networks to learn how the individual parts work together to make a functioning whole and what happens when these complex, dynamic systems go awry.
Pills and a bottleA Medicine’s Life Inside the Body | 5/1/2014
To aid the design of medicines that are more effective and that produce fewer side effects, scientists are studying each stage of a medicine’s life inside the body.
Genetic change that causes myotonic dystrophy type 2Basic Research Fuels Medical Advances | 4/18/2014
Some 300,000 NIH-funded scientists are working on projects aimed at improving disease diagnosis, treatment and prevention, often through increasing understanding of basic life processes.
Bacterial proteinsBleach vs. Bacteria | 4/2/2014
Details about how bleach kills—and how bacteria can survive the attack—may lead to the development of new drugs.
Fat cellsCapitalizing on Cellular Conversations | 3/24/2014
Living things are constantly communicating using chemical signals that course through their systems—and that affect health and disease.
VIP in time-keeping brain cellsResetting Our Clocks: New Details About How the Body Tells Time | 3/6/2014
Piecing together the molecular mechanisms of biological clocks is leading to a better understanding of the intricate relationship among our clocks, circadian rhythms and physiology.
Blood vessels in a mouse retina.Visualizing Vessels | 2/24/2014
High-tech visualization tools and methods captured this image of retinal blood vessels, which are used to diagnose glaucoma and diabetic eye disease.
DNA.Evolution and Health | 2/6/2014
While Charles Darwin’s theory laid the groundwork, ongoing studies have deepened our understanding of evolution, including how it relates to health.
Contact lens.An Experimental Contact Lens to Prevent Glaucoma-Induced Blindness | 1/23/2014
A specially designed contact that lens can release a glaucoma medicine at a steady rate for up to a month offers numerous potential clinical advantages over the standard eyesight-saving treatment.
Pancreatic cancer cells grown in culture.Learning About Cancer by Studying Stem Cells | 1/8/2014
Researchers studying stem cells shed light on how pancreatic and esophageal cancer cells arise and develop into tumors.
Fruit fly spermatids.Holiday Season Cells | 12/24/2013
Scientists use imaging techniques that harness light-emitting molecules and compounds to illuminate cellular parts. Here are a few snapshots that glow red and green.
Protein-making ribosome in bacteria and elongation factor G.The Cell’s Protein Factory in Action | 12/11/2013
Structural studies offer new clues about how the ribosome—the cellular protein factory and the target of some antibiotics—moves.
Graph showing incidence of 56 infectious diseases in the United States.Now Trending: Mining Historical Data on Infectious Diseases | 12/2/2013
Researchers have collected, digitized and analyzed infectious disease data to uncover trends related to the availability of vaccines.
Flu virus copying itself.Playing Cat-and-Mouse with the Flu | 11/13/2013
Recent studies shed light on the inner workings of the flu—and might aid the development of more effective vaccines, as well as antiviral drugs to treat infection.
Misfolded proteins called amyloid plaques (blobs) and neurons (triangular structures).Monster Mash: Protein Folding Gone Wrong | 10/31/2013
Gooey protein clumps called amyloid plaques are associated with many chronic and debilitating disorders, and scientists now have a better understanding of how they form and contribute to disease.
Photo of a diverse group of people.Using Genes to Guide Prescriptions | 10/18/2013
Scientists in a research field called pharmacogenomics aim to understand how genes influence individual drug responses. Here are examples of their findings related to different medical conditions.
Mouse colon with gut bacteria.Gut Reactions and Other Findings About Our Resident Microbes | 9/23/2013
Advances in understanding our resident microbes are shedding light on how they function, thrive and contribute to our health.
XIST gene inserted into cells with three copies of chromosome 21.Chromosome Miscounts: Understanding Down Syndrome and Other Trisomies | 9/9/2013
Researchers are making strides in studying how chromosome errors occur and in applying their findings to the development of potential therapies.
Cells ingest and regurgitate various substances.How Cells Eat In | 8/21/2013
Researchers are learning more about how our cells ingest nutrients, and the details may lead to ways to prevent this process from malfunctioning.
HIV protease with saquinavir.Aspirin to Zoloft: Ways Medicines Work | 8/8/2013
Details about protein structure and function shed light on how some common medicines work.
Mouse taste bud cells.The Science of Sensation | 7/25/2013
Why do roses smell pleasant and strawberries taste sweet? Learn about some of the cells and molecules that help us detect these and other sensations.
Tumor cells and walls of blood vessels.Cell Migration: Right and Wrong Moves | 7/10/2013
Cells move from one location to another to help keep us alive and well. Here are three examples of cells’ right and wrong moves.
Computer-generated model of the HIV capsid.Imaging HIV’s Inner Shell | 7/1/2013
Scientists have determined the complete structure of the cocoon-like container that carries HIV’s genome. The details could aid the development of new HIV drugs.
Illustration of pain and itch response.Untangling the Source of Ouch and Itch | 6/12/2013
Using model organisms, scientists are uncovering the cellular source of two important sensations in hopes of resolving chronic pain and itch.
Actin stress fibers.Sticky Stem Cells | 5/30/2013
Scientists have learned how to use the adhesive properties of cells to create a highly efficient method of sorting stem cells, which could speed research on stem cell biology and related therapies.
Illustration of proteasome.How Cells Take Out the Trash | 5/15/2013
Understanding the garbage disposal systems that cells use to keep their interiors neat and tidy is shedding light on a range of diseases and potential treatments.
Biofilm growth and streamer formation.Oh What a Tangled Biofilm Web Bacteria Weave | 5/1/2013
Learning how microbial metropolises called biofilms clog up medical devices could help shape strategies to prevent such blockages.
GPCR family tree.Spotlighting the Ballet of Mitosis | 4/17/2013
A powerful light microscope captured this scene from mitosis, revealing details that could lead to a better understanding of how errors in cell division occur.
Mitosis.Exploring the Elusive World of Life's Most Vital Proteins | 4/17/2013
Take a peek at the structures of some G protein-coupled receptors. The details may help us understand how these important proteins work and design drugs that target them.
A Wolbachia cell infected with bacteriophages.Taking the ‘Bite’ Out of Vector-Borne Diseases | 3/27/2013
By studying a bacterium called Wolbachia, researchers are revealing the basic mechanisms that let infection-causing organisms flourish inside their hosts.
Gecko feet.Porcupine Quills, Gecko Feet and Spider Webs Inspire Medical Materials | 3/6/2013
Nature’s designs are giving researchers ideas for new technologies that could help wounds heal, make injections less painful and provide new materials for a variety of purposes.
Zebrafish fin.How Animals Offer Clues to Regeneration | 2/15/2013
Exploring the strategies that some organisms use to regrow missing cells, organs and appendages might help researchers find ways to regenerate lost or injured body parts.
Sick man in bed blowing his nose.Forecasting Flu | 1/25/2013
A technique that predicts when cities may experience the highest number of flu cases could aid preparedness efforts.
Plant embryo.Remarkable RNAs | 1/8/2013
RNA is a versatile molecule that is involved in many essential cellular functions. Here’s a quick rundown of types of RNA that scientists are discovering and learning more about.
Chromosomes in a dividing cell of an African globe lily.What Students Want to Know About Cells | 12/13/2012
NIH scientists answer questions from middle and high school students about the cell and careers in research.
Structure of a flu virus.Getting a Better Grasp on Flu Fundamentals | 11/26/2012
Studying the molecular structure of the flu virus and modeling how flu infection can spread are aiding efforts to keep people from getting sick.
Illustration of a biological clock.Tick Tock: New Clues About Biological Clocks and Health | 11/1/2012
Read about genes and proteins that run biological clocks and help keep daily rhythms in synch.
Blood vessels.Learning About Human Biology From a Fish | 10/15/2012
Learn why this small fish is a big friend to scientists—and how it’s offering important insights into our own biology.
Emergency personnel.Life After Traumatic Injury: How the Body Responds | 9/20/2012
Researchers are learning about what happens to the body--from its molecules and cells to its tissues, organs and systems—after a traumatic injury.
Inhibitor that binds to key sites on the human multidrug resistance protein.Computation Aids Drug Discovery | 8/29/2012
Learn about different computational approaches that aid the design of new drugs.
Cholesterol in a vein.The Big, Fat World of Lipids | 8/9/2012
Your body contains thousands of other types of fats, or lipids. With improved tools and methods, researchers are learning more about lipid diversity and function.
Illustration of Swan Princess.Once Upon a Stem Cell | 7/18/2012
Learn about some of the substantial strides that researchers have made in understanding different stem cell characters and their fates.
Cilia.Cilia: Biology’s Brooms | 6/28/2012
Learning more about basic cilia biology is leading to new insights into how problems with cilia cause diseases.
DNA that makes up genes is spooled within chromosomes .Genetics by the Numbers | 6/12/2012
Get stats on what scientists have learned so far about genetics
Cell undergoing apoptosis.Five Ways Your Cells Deal With Stress | 5/17/2012
Find out how cells respond to rising temperatures, toxins, infections, resource shortages and other stressors.
MRSA.Armpits, Belly Buttons and Chronic Wounds: The ABCs of Our Body Bacteria | 4/26/2012
Understanding how and why bacteria colonize particular places on the body could point to ways of treating skin and other conditions.
Bread mold.Five Foul Things That Are Also Good for You | 4/4/2012
Usually, we think of mold, feces, nitric oxide, hydrogen sulfide and rat poison as rank, toxic or both. But scientists are learning more about the helpful roles these substances can play.
Molecules.The Greening of Chemistry | 3/14/2012
Researchers are developing new reactions that make the chemical processes used to manufacture medicines, plastics and other products cleaner, faster and cheaper.
Chromosomes with telemere tips.Chromosomal Caps Count Down to Cell Death—Or Cancer | 2/23/2012
Every cell in your body has a clock called a telomere that ticks down the number of times it can safely divide. If scientists could make drugs to control telomeres, they could perhaps treat diseases of aging as well as cancer.
Different metals in cubes.Metals: In Sickness and in Health | 2/1/2012
We're not quite Iron Man, but metals are intricately entwined with our bodies. They make vital functions like respiration, circulation and reproduction possible.
Illustraion of a superhero.Helicases: Unwinding While Staying on Track | 1/11/2012
Like 'The Little Engine That Could,' helicases are hardworking enzymes that don't give up. Without them, your cells would stop dividing and many other important biological processes would come to a halt.
Glycans light up in the jaw of a zebrafish embryo.Why Sugars Might Surprise You | 12/8/2011
Sugars are well known as an energy source for our bodies. But did you know that sugar chains made within the body, called glycans, play important roles in just about every aspect of how our cells work?
Illustration of a drake.Drakes: A Mythological Model Organism | 11/16/2011
With the aid of Web-based programs that use dragons, high school students are learning about complex genetic concepts and gaining an appreciation for how science is done—all while having fun.
Frog engineered to express GFP in its muscle cells.How a Jellyfish Protein Transformed Science | 10/27/2011
From its humble beginnings in glowing jellyfish to its phenomenal success as a tool in labs around the world, green fluorescent protein, or GFP for short, has transformed biomedical research.
MRSA bacterium.Everyday Evolution | 10/6/2011
When you head out to get your annual flu shot, you might be thinking about the brief prick of pain or possible side effects. But are you thinking about evolution? After all, it's why you're getting jabbed.
Rat.Virtual Rats to Help Researchers Study Disease | 9/7/2011
Most lab rats have to be housed, fed and bred. But not the group Daniel Beard has in mind for his new systems biology center. They'll be virtual.
llustration of a human brain.New Uses for Old Drugs | 8/17/2011
Using computers and genome databases, researchers have predicted new uses for drugs already on the market—identifying potential treatments for 53 human diseases.
Vibrio cholerae.The Quake that Brought Back Cholera | 8/10/2011
New tools such as water contaminant sensors and computer models are better equipping scientists, policymakers and public health workers to contain infectious diseases like cholera after disasters strike.
Arabidopsis thaliana.One More Way Plants Help Human Health | 7/13/2011
This is the latest in a long line of research, much of it supported by the National Institutes of Health, that uses plants to solve puzzles in human health.
Illustration of a typical animal cell.The Amazing World Inside a Human Cell | 6/29/2011
Imagine you've shrunk down to 3 millionths of your normal size. At this scale, a medium-sized human cell looks as big as a football field. Let's take a quick trip inside to see how it works.
Cytokine TNF crystal structure.Seeking the Causes of Sepsis: Life-Threatening Bacterial Infection Remains Mysterious | 6/15/2011
Like using a machine gun to kill a cockroach, the immune system can overreact to an infection in a potentially deadly condition called sepsis. Researchers are working to find the causes and develop better treatments.
A map of surface proteins in E. coli.Living Laboratories: How Model Organisms Advance Science | 6/1/2011
Think you don't have much in common with slime molds and mustard plants? Think again. Research using model organisms like these continues to lead to new ways to maintain health and diagnose and treat disease.
Silhouette of people.A New Use for Census Data: Disease Simulations | 5/18/2011
Researchers have been transforming anonymized census data into a virtual or "synthetic" U.S. population to better model the spread of infectious diseases and improve public health.
A shell from the venomous cone snail.Nature: The Master Medicine-Maker | 5/4/2011
Plants, bacteria, fungi and other organisms are a prolific source of new drugs. Chemists seek to discover, examine and modify natural products with the hope of developing new medicines to improve human health.
 Myosin walks along actin.Cool Tools: Visualizing the Invisible | 4/21/2011
From fluorescence imaging that lights up proteins to electron microscopy that pinpoints cellular structures, visualization techniques have illuminated the inner workings of cells.
Illustration of a biomedical ontology.What Is an Ontology? | 4/6/2011
Biomedical researchers face a growing problem in trying to manage their knowledge. To make it easier for them to understand and share data, computer scientists are building virtual libraries called ontologies.
Illustration of the structure of HIV.For Proteins, Form Shapes Function | 3/23/2011
Every protein has a shape that helps a molecule do its job. Understanding protein shape allows researchers to learn more about protein function in health and disease and how to design new drugs.
Illustration of circadian rhythm.The Rhythms of Life | 3/8/2011
A system of biological clocks controls the daily, or circadian, rhythms of the body. These roughly 24-hour cycles of physical, mental and behavioral changes are found in humans and fruit flies, plants and even tiny microbes.
A mitochondrion undergoes the death throes of apoptosis.Cellular Suicide: An Essential Part of Life | 2/23/2011
Apoptosis, sometimes called "cellular suicide," is a normal, programmed process of cellular self-destruction. Even though it involves cell death, apoptosis serves a healthy and protective role in our bodies.
Map showing the presence of the tsetse fly across Kenya.Solving the Sleeping Sickness 'Mystery' | 2/9/2011
Since before the 1300s, people living in Africa have been dying from a disease known as sleeping sickness. Epidemiologists are working toward eradication by predicting where cases will emerge next.
Replica of the inhaler used by William T. G. Morton in 1846.Understanding Anesthesia | 1/26/2011
Anesthesia helps many of us during our lives. But even though anesthetics have been used for more than 150 years, doctors and scientists still don't know exactly how these medicines work in the body.
 Lab dish with densely packed areas of marine bacterium glow blue.Learning From Bacterial Chatter | 1/12/2011
What do digestion, cholera and tooth plaque have in common? They're all made possible by quorum sensing, a form of bacterial communication.
Structure of a flu virus.What Drives Seasonal Flu Patterns? | 12/30/2010
Theories abound as to why seasonal flu outbreaks happen in the colder months. Now a single culprit may explain it best: absolute humidity, or the amount of water vapor in the air.
Lipid droplets store fat in the cells of the tobacco hornworm.What Do Fats Do in the Body? | 12/15/2010
It's common knowledge that too much cholesterol and other fats can lead to disease, and that a healthy diet involves watching how much fatty food we eat. However, our bodies need a certain amount of fat to function.

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This page last reviewed on July 6, 2015