News Archives: October, 2015
The midnight sun still gleamed at 1 a.m. across the brilliant expanse of the Greenland ice sheet. Brandon Overstreet, a doctoral candidate in hydrology at the University of Wyoming, picked his way across the frozen landscape, clipped his climbing harness to an anchor in the ice and crept toward the edge of a river that rushed downstream toward an enormous sinkhole.
If he fell in, “the death rate is 100 percent,” said Mr. Overstreet’s friend and fellow researcher, Lincoln Pitcher.
But Mr. Overstreet’s task, to collect critical data from the river, is essential to understanding one of the most consequential impacts of global warming. The scientific data he and a team of six other researchers collect here could yield groundbreaking information on the rate at which the melting of the Greenland ice sheet, one of the biggest and fastest-melting chunks of ice on Earth, will drive up sea levels in the coming decades. The full melting of Greenland’s ice sheet could increase sea levels by about 20 feet.
The research could yield valuable information to help scientists figure out how rapidly sea levels will rise in the 21st century, and thus how people in coastal areas from New York to Bangladesh could plan for the change.
Long-time NIGMS grantees Aziz Sancar, M.D., Ph.D., and Paul Modrich, Ph.D., along with Tomas Lindahl, M.D., Ph.D., will share the 2015 Nobel Prize in chemistry "for mechanistic studies of DNA repair."
Every day, our DNA is damaged by environmental assaults, as well as copy errors during cell division. And yet, despite this constant barrage of insults, our genomes remain largely intact. This year’s Nobel laureates in chemistry are recognized for detailing, at the molecular level, how cells repair DNA to preserve the genome.
“By following their curiosity about basic cellular processes, these scientists have given us a detailed understanding of molecular repair mechanisms that are essential to life,” said Kristine Willis, Ph.D., a geneticist who manages NIGMS research grants on DNA repair.
The National Institutes of Health announced its second wave of grants to support the goals of the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative, bringing the NIH investment to $85 million in fiscal year 2015.
Sixty-seven new awards, totaling more than $38 million, will go to 131 investigators working at 125 institutions in the United States and eight other countries. Montana State University (MSU) is a recipient of BRAIN Initiative funding in 2015 while West Virgina University (WVU) and Gray Matter Research in Bozeman, MT received awards in 2014. These awards expand NIH’s efforts to develop new tools and technologies to understand neural circuit function and capture a dynamic view of the brain in action. Projects include proposals to develop soft self-driving electrodes, ultrasound methods for measuring brain activity and the use of deep brain stimulation to treat traumatic brain injuries.
In 2014, President Obama launched the BRAIN Initiative as a large-scale effort to equip researchers with fundamental insights necessary for treating a wide variety of brain disorders like Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, autism, epilepsy, and traumatic brain injury. These new tools and this deeper understanding will ultimately catalyze new treatments and cures for devastating brain disorders and diseases that are estimated by the World Health Organization to affect more than one billion people worldwide.
Planning for the NIH component of the BRAIN initiative is guided by the long-term scientific plan, BRAIN 2025: A Scientific Vision that details seven high priority research areas. Last year NIH awarded $46 million to BRAIN Initiative research.