Affecting an estimated 1 in 88 U.S. children, autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complicated and diverse group of developmental brain disorders that interfere with language, normal communication, and social interaction. Unlike some other conditions that are caused by mutations in a single gene, as many as 1,000 genes, as well as various environmental factors, are suspected to contribute to the risk of developing ASD. That’s daunting because before we can develop broadly-applicable treatments, we need to figure out which are the key genes, what brain cells they control, and when they are active.
While this may look like one of those bold canvases from the brush of an Abstract Expressionist, it’s actually a close-up of the biology underlying a rare, but relentless, group of conditions known as amyloidosis. This winner of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology’s 2013 BioArt contest traces in exquisite detail the damage that amyloid, which is the abnormal accumulation of specific extracellular proteins, can inflict on the heart.
What costume to wear for Halloween? For many kids, it’s a difficult choice, but not so for 7-year-old Landon Browne. This year, he’s not going as a zombie or an action hero—he’s going as an NIH-funded researcher!
Landon, who was born almost completely deaf, has decided to dress up as his real-life superhero: Jay Rubinstein, M.D., Ph.D., a physician-scientist at Seattle Children’s Hospital who performed the surgeries that have enabled the boy to hear.
Most parents and kids wouldn’t consider strep throat the subject of high art. But the judges of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology’s 2013 BioArt competition think it is. In this silver-toned scanning electron micrograph, you can see hundreds of tiny spheres—bacteria called Group A streptococci—attached to a human pharyngeal (throat) cells grown in a lab dish. These bacteria are responsible for a very nasty type of pharyngeal inflammation commonly known as strep throat. Strep infections are usually treated with antibiotics; left untreated, they can lead to rheumatic fever, rheumatic heart disease, and even kidney disease.
High-risk research isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s for fearless researchers who envision and develop innovative projects with unconventional approaches that, if successful, may yield great leaps in our understanding of health problems and/or biological mechanisms. It takes nerve and creativity to conceive such projects—and, often, special support to bring them to fruition. And, as the name implies, there is a significant chance of failure.