‘New Democrat Coalition’ Members of Congress Get NIH Lab Tours
Four congressional representatives recently visited NIH for an afternoon of research briefings and lab tours. Reps. Don Beyer (D-VA), Susan Davis (D-CA), Scott Peters (D-CA) and Kathleen Rice (D-NY)—all members of the New Democrat Coalition in Congress—met recently in the Clinical Center with NIH leadership, including NIH director Dr. Francis Collins, principal deputy director Dr. Lawrence Tabak, deputy director for extramural research Dr. Mike Lauer and NIAID director Dr. Anthony Fauci.
The group then departed the medical board room for lab tours at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases and the National Institute of Nursing Research.
NHLBI director Dr. Gary Gibbons gave an overview of NHLBI and introduced Dr. Courtney Fitzhugh, a Lasker clinical research scholar in the Laboratory of Early Sickle Mortality Prevention. She talked about her research exploring new avenues of hematopoietic stem cell transplantation for sickle cell disease, while also studying the currently underexplored cardiovascular complications arising due to this genetic blood disorder. Two of her patients also attended the gathering to discuss the experience of participating in research. Dr. Hans Ackerman, a Lasker clinical research scholar, gave the group a tour through the lab and discussed genetic factors that change the severity of sickle cell disease.
The group next heard an overview of NIAMS from institute director Dr. Stephen Katz. Also during that session, NIAMS scientific director and chief of the Molecular Immunology and Inflammation Branch Dr. John O’Shea talked about development of the rheumatoid arthritis drug tofacitinib through a public-private partnership between his lab and Pfizer. He also discussed how our understanding of the human genome is providing evidence to repurpose tofacitinib for other autoimmune diseases, such as lupus.
NIAMS Systemic Autoimmunity Branch chief Dr. Mariana Kaplan then described how a type of white blood cell, called neutrophils, contributes to development of autoimmunity. She explained recently identified sex differences in how neutrophils behave, which may explain why cardiovascular disease is often seen in young women with autoimmune diseases.
Finally, the delegation met with NINR director Dr. Patricia Grady for an overview of her institute. She introduced Lasker clinical research scholar Dr. Jessica Gill of the NINR Tissue Injury Branch. Gill discussed efforts to reveal the mechanisms underlying differential responses to combat trauma and traumatic brain injury in combat veterans and athletes.