Research Highlights from the Division of Intramural Research (DIR): Text Alternative

Elucidating How Mitochondria Obtain Magnesium

Three-dimensional graphic shows the inset mitochondria in the top left; the organelle is bean-shaped with folds inside. The MRS2 channel is shown as a cross-section embedded in a lipid bilayer. The intermembrane space of the mitochondria is shaded blue, and the mitochondrial matrix is shaded purple. Magnesium ions are small green spheres.

Magnesium is required for many critical biological processes, and its dysregulation can result in various diseases, including cardiac diseases, immunodeficiency, Parkinson’s disease, and cancer. Mitochondria—the energy producers in cells—obtain magnesium through the MRS2 channel, but the details of how this magnesium transport is regulated have remained unclear.

Read about how the Matthies Lab used cryo-electron microscopy to gain insight into how MRS2 transports magnesium and how its function is regulated.

Creating a Genetic Atlas of Early Zebrafish Development

Drawing of a single zebrafish with streams of cells arranged artistically and grouped by color and type.

NICHD scientists create a variety of research tools and resources to aid understanding of early development. Learn about a recent resource developed by the Farrell Lab at NICHD.

Studying the Effect of Social Stress on Eating Behaviors

A young woman with overweight sitting at a table and looking through a window.

Adolescents, particularly girls, are vulnerable to social stressors. Studies have suggested that girls with loss-of-control eating—the experience of being unable to control what or how much one eats—may have atypical brain responses to social threats.

Read about work from the Yanovski Lab to understand the relationship between responses to social stress and food intake.

Linking Maternal Depression to Placental Health

A young woman with a sad expression looks outside while holding a mug.

NICHD researchers study various factors that influence healthy pregnancies and optimal outcomes. Learn about recent findings from the Epidemiology Branch at NICHD on how maternal depression impacts the placenta.

Understanding How Flagella Synthesis Is Regulated

Left panel shows rod-shaped bacteria; some have a few whip-like appendages. Right panel shows rod-shaped bacteria, each with multiple whip-like appendages.

A whip-like appendage called the flagellum helps bacteria move. The flagellum is composed of many proteins, the production of which is tightly regulated.

Read about work from the Storz Lab describing the role of small RNAs in regulating flagella synthesis.

Developing Reversible Male Contraceptives

Microscopy image of sperm, each of which have a round head and long, thin tail.

NICHD researchers are developing new, reversible types of male contraceptives. Learn about recent findings from the Contraceptive Development Program.

Manipulating Cell Signaling to Study Early Development

Five transparent zebrafish embryos lined up vertically. The top three each contain a red dot, and a red pipette tip is inserted in the third from the top.

Signaling pathways allow cells to orchestrate fundamental biological processes, including early development. Experimental methods to manipulate cell signaling help scientists understand how signaling is interpreted in different contexts. 

Read about an optogenetic method developed by the Rogers Lab to assess cell signaling in zebrafish embryos.

Understanding How Immune Cell Activity is Regulated

Scanning electron microcopy image of a cell is colorized blue. The cell has a lumpy, messy surface, and there are more cells like it, but blurred, in the background.

NICHD researchers study how immune activity is regulated through receptors found on cell surfaces. Learn about recent findings on T cell receptors from the Love Laboratory at NICHD.

Highlighting the Utility of Animal Models in Neuroscience Research

Microscopy image of yellow cells against a black background. The center junction contains many vessel-like projections. The axons of the two neurons are thicker and run from top left to bottom right.

For decades, neuroscientists have relied on animal models to understand how the nervous system works. Yet it remains unclear whether the properties of different types of neuronal junctions, or synapses, discovered in mice are relevant to human synapses and neurological conditions that occur in people.

Read about work from the McBain Lab comparing the properties of mossy fiber synapses in mice and humans.

Studying Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and Children’s Health

An adult and three children sit together in a grassy field, smiling and facing forward in a posed position.

NICHD researchers study women’s health conditions and how they may affect pregnancy, maternal health, and the health of children. Learn about recent PCOS findings from the Epidemiology Branch.

Identifying Gene Combinations Critical for Bacterial Virulence

Microscopy image of a large, pink cluster of rod-shaped bacteria against a blue background.

Identifying factors responsible for the virulence of disease-causing bacteria is often complicated by the existence of multiple genes that perform similar functions. Experimental methods to disrupt a single gene may not produce detectable effects, hindering further analyses.

Read about a new method developed by the Machner Lab to simultaneously disrupt multiple genes.

Understanding the Causes of Vascular Conditions

Vessels are colored orange against a black background. They start off with thicker branches on the top right and become more fibrous and narrow at the bottom left.

NICHD researchers study rare diseases, including malformations in blood vessels. Learn about recent findings from the Sheppard Lab on vascular conditions in individuals affected with Turner syndrome.


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