Cool Videos: Insulin from Bacteria to You

If you have a smartphone, you’ve probably used it to record a video or two. But could you use it to produce a video that explains a complex scientific topic in 2 minutes or less? That was the challenge posed by the RCSB Protein Data Bank last spring to high school students across the nation. And the winning result is the video that you see above!

This year’s contest, which asked students to provide a molecular view of diabetes treatment and management, attracted 53 submissions from schools from coast to coast. The winning team—Andrew Ma, George Song, and Anirudh Srikanth—created their video as their final project for their advanced placement (AP) biology class at West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South, Princeton Junction, NJ.

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Creative Minds: A Baby’s Eye View of Language Development

Click to start videoIf you are a fan of wildlife shows, you’ve probably seen those tiny video cameras rigged to animals in the wild that provide a sneak peek into their secret domains. But not all research cams are mounted on creatures with fur, feathers, or fins. One of NIH’s 2014 Early Independence Award winners has developed a baby-friendly, head-mounted camera system (shown above) that captures the world from an infant’s perspective and explores one of our most human, but still imperfectly understood, traits: language.

Elika Bergelson

Elika Bergelson
Credit: Zachary T. Kern

Elika Bergelson, a young researcher at the University of Rochester in New York, wants to know exactly how and when infants acquire the ability to understand spoken words. Using innovative camera gear and other investigative tools, she hopes to refine current thinking about the natural timeline for language acquisition. Bergelson also hopes her work will pay off in a firmer theoretical foundation to help clinicians assess children with poor verbal skills or with neurodevelopmental conditions that impair information processing, such as autism spectrum disorders.

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Cool Videos: Alzheimer’s Disease

NIH logo, surrounded by a filmstrip border

To keep everyone energized during the hot, hazy days of summer, I’ve decided to start a new series called Cool Videos. This virtual mini-film fest will feature a variety of videos—some even produced by researchers themselves—in which biomedical science plays a starring role.

Throughout August, you’ll have a chance to screen some of the winners of a recent video competition celebrating the Tenth Anniversary of the NIH Common Fund. These short clips, created by NIH-funded researchers, include a parody of “Breaking Bad,” some underwater camerawork reminiscent of Jacques Cousteau, and even a rap video.

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Tracking a Deadly Virus

If you think that studying the deadly Ebola virus is all about donning a biohazard suit in a high-tech lab, think again. Check out these scientists from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and their collaborators as they travel to a remote village in the Republic of the Congo to search for Ebola and other emerging viruses. Watch them set up camp in the jungle and take blood samples from animals that may harbor these viruses.

Celebration of Science

Biomedical research has had a major positive impact on nearly all of our lives. Due in large part to NIH-supported research, a baby born in the United States today can expect to live to nearly age 79—about three decades longer than one born in 1900.  But, with so many people still in desperate need of treatments and cures, much more remains to be done.

To show you a few of the many ways in which researchers are now working to save, extend, and improve lives, I’d like to share this video from the recent “Celebration of Science” forum at NIH. Not only will you hear from a leader in Congress, you’ll see how research is touching the lives of some ordinary people: an HIV-positive woman with dreams of having children, a young man using his brain waves to control a robotic arm, and teenage twins up against a mysterious disease. Take a look—we even have a celebrity cameo from a Seinfeld star!