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Less TOR Protein Extends Mouse Lifespan

Posted on by Dr. Francis Collins

Mouse walking towards a fountainThe average life expectancy in the United States currently is about 79 [1]. And, unsurprisingly, more than two-thirds of Americans say they’d like to live another 10 to 20 years longer [2].

One possible route to a longer life is to cut calories drastically. Not much fun perhaps, but there’s evidence it works in yeast, worms, and mice—but probably not in monkeys [3]. The potential life-extending strategy that I’d like to tell you about today focuses on the drug rapamycin, which blocks the activity of a protein called “target of rapamycin,” or TOR. Recently, a team here at NIH discovered that—at least in mice—reducing production of this protein through genetic engineering can add about 20% to the lifespan [4].


MRSA in a New Light

Posted on by Dr. Francis Collins

colorized scanning electron micrograph of a white blood cell being infected by an antibiotic resistant strain of Staphylococcus aureus bacteria
Credit: Frank DeLeo, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, NIH

At first glance, this image looks like something pulled from the files of NASA, not NIH. But, no, you are not looking at alien orbs on the rocky surface of some distant planet! This is a colorized scanning electron micrograph of a white blood cell eating an antibiotic resistant strain of Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, commonly known as MRSA.

MRSA stands for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, and it’s one nasty bug. You’ve probably heard about the dangers of MRSA infections, but what’s the easiest way to prevent one? Just like with the flu, you should wash your hands – frequently! Personal hygiene is key. And while MRSA infections are more common in people with weakened immune systems, other folks, such as athletes who share towels, are also vulnerable. To learn more about MRSA and how to protect yourself and your loved ones from this increasingly common health risk, go to http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/007261.htm.