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Snapshots in NICHD Science 1962-2012: Adult and Family Health

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Adult and Family Health

Expanding knowledge about reproductive processes, the role of population dynamics in influencing health and human development, and ways to enhance rehabilitation is critical to the NICHD research mission because they influence the health of adults, families, and individuals across the lifespan.

By freezing ovarian tissues while keeping them viable, then thawing the tissue, growing human ovarian follicles, and implanting the viable follicles into animal models, researchers successfully preserve the fertility of the tissues and follicles. Additional research furthers the process by growing mouse secondary ovarian follicles in vitro, fertilizing them, and implanting into host mice, which then produce healthy offspring.
After data establish a link between high urine levels of the human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) hormone and pregnancy, researchers develop technology that detects high hCG levels and that forms the basis for the first home pregnancy test. Using similar technology, researchers create a simple and inexpensive test for sperm count, providing a fast, inexpensive, and private way for men to determine their fertility.

Studies find that a 2-week repetitive rehabilitation exercise regimen, called constraint-induced movement therapy, helps stroke survivors regain arm control. Building on these data, researchers then create a portable robotic device to assist with upper extremity therapy and to help stroke patients regain the ability to perform basic tasks.
A collaborative project results in a brain-machine interface system that uses hardware and software signal processors to transmit signals from the motor cortex of the brain to a computer system. The interface allows paralyzed individuals to control a robotic arm that reaches and grasps using their thoughts. Researchers help adolescents with type 1 diabetes better manage their condition and develop the healthy behaviors needed to control their blood glucose levels by engaging the entire family in the treatment process. In a mouse model of diabetes, converting adult stem cells from the human endometrium into insulin producing cells successfully controls the condition, offering the promise of a possible treatment that could control or eliminate diabetes in humans.
Research to develop new and effective contraception identifies possible therapeutic targets in males, including: progestin- and testosterone-based gels that reduce gonadotropin levels and inhibit sperm production; enzymes that affect sperm motility; and compounds that disrupt signaling pathways.

Evidence shows that uterine fibroids, the most common noncancerous tumors in women of childbearing age, lack dermatopontin, a key protein in the extracellular matrix that holds cells in place. Additional work in rats predisposed for the tumors reveals that treatment with vitamin D, which is critical for healthy bone and other tissues, reduces the size of the fibroids. These and other findings suggest that understanding the structure and growth of these tumors might provide new avenues for treatment. Research shows that specific variations in a particular gene can increase a man's risk of familial testicular germ-cell cancer, the most common form of the disease; these findings may lead to new ways to identify men at risk.
Because traumatic brain injury (TBI) includes a full range of injuries–from 'mild' concussions to severe damage that causes significant disability–researchers need new tools for detecting and treating the spectrum of TBI. The Institute's wide-ranging efforts to understand TBI include the development and delivery to market of a new system for measuring head impacts and accelerations that can be mounted in athletic and military helmets.

Looking to the Future

As we look to the future, we aim to develop knowledge and tools to predict or prevent a range of human structural and functional variations and to better understand the developmental origins of health and disease.

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Last Reviewed: 10/21/2013
Vision National Institutes of Health Home BOND National Institues of Health Home Home Storz Lab: Section on Environmental Gene Regulation Home Machner Lab: Unit on Microbial Pathogenesis Home Division of Intramural Population Health Research Home Bonifacino Lab: Section on Intracellular Protein Trafficking Home Lilly Lab: Section on Gamete Development Home Lippincott-Schwartz Lab: Section on Organelle Biology