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Snapshots in NICHD Science 1962-2012: Furthering the Scientific Enterprise

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Furthering the Scientific Enterprise

Since its founding, the NICHD has not only supported and strengthened entire fields of research, but has also worked cooperatively with the scientific community to improve both the conduct of scientific research and its application to health and human development.

Diffusion-tensor magnetic resonance imaging (dt-MRI) improves on the capabilities of conventional MRI by measuring the random motion of water molecules to create detailed, three-dimensional maps of human tissues, including neural pathways in the brain. This new technology, an innovation from an   NICHD researcher, and other imaging methods not only provide a way to look at the normal and abnormal developing brain, but also give neuroscientists the means to study more complex behavioral and cognitive disorders, such as childhood schizophrenia and autism.

To conduct clinical research on vulnerable populations—pregnant women, their fetuses, and neonates—with adequate statistical power and diversity to be generally applicable, the NICHD creates cooperative networks in which multiple sites enroll patients for common protocols and use common data measures to quickly and cost-effectively respond to urgent clinical questions. These cooperative research networks become a model for conducting well-designed, large-scale clinical trials in vulnerable populations and allow for robust collaborative research on intellectual and developmental disabilities, rehabilitation, prematurity, infertility, pharmacology, and other topics
The Institute establishes programs to coordinate research on pharmaceuticals for pregnant and breastfeeding women, infants, children, and adolescents, and to improve the safety and efficacy of contraceptives for both men and women.
Investing in training and career development since its earliest beginnings, the NICHD builds career development programs in such areas as reproductive health, pediatrics, contraception and infertility, behavioral health, population science, rehabilitation, and systems biology of development. These efforts strengthen research capacity and ensure the evolution of highly trained researchers and physician-scientists who conduct cutting-edge research to enhance understanding of the entirety of human development.

NICHD researchers develop, for the first time, photoactivatable fluorescent proteins, which 'switch on' in response to ultraviolet light, and devise technology that employs these proteins to break the diffraction limit of light using photoactivated localization microscopy (PALM). The advances expand
researchers' abilities to investigate biological processes at the molecular level, permitting analysis of protein trafficking, protein diffusion, and organelle structure/dynamics at nanometer resolution based on single-molecule detection.
Recognizing the importance of making data and related resources widely accessible, the NICHD establishes data- and specimen sharing networks, along with best practices, to guide Institute activities, accelerate research progress, and leverage research investments. These efforts make large-scale and complex databases, protocols, secure archiving, model organisms, biological specimens, and other information and tools available to researchers around the world, allowing broader use of these resources in key mission areas: population science, epidemiology, behavioral and social sciences, intellectual and developmental disability, structural birth defects, and other topics.

Looking to the Future

As we look to the future, we focus our collective strengths and resources on novel approaches for culling and utilizing the wealth of scientific data that result from research and on translating scientific advances into practices and technologies that can improve health.

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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