Lots of Mechanobiology and Cell Mechanics @ BPS

There were a a lot of talks and posters on this session and I obviously cant cover all of them, but here are a few highlights!

The Mechanobiology subgroup is growing over the years.
It ranged from cell clusters to single cells, from engineering techniques to mathematical modeling and more… It was an action packed day and here are some of the highlights.

Vinculin catch bond is directional! Alex Dunn’s lab has now done neat experiments to show that Vinculin forms a catch bond very neatly in the direction of actin flow. This allows the binding to the rearward flowing actin and slowing it down.

Another neat talk by Kristian Franze (who is also the president elect for 2018 – Congratulations ☺) showed their interesting work on how neurons migrate through repellant gradients. They show that during development, when neurons enervate the area of the brain, they do so even though there is a chemical repellant present there. Using both imaging and biophysical manipulations invitro and invivo (AFM cantilever) they show that the neurons require a particular range stiffness to migrate and reach their final destination. This led to interesting speculations about the reason for poor neuronal regeneration in scar tissue in the brain, which is actually stiffened by the glial cells.

There were two talks talking answering questions of cell division – one dealing with kinetochores in chromosome segregation and another about the acto-myosin contractile ring. Mary Elting’s work answered questions about where are the spindles anchored or rather where are the K fibers, just at the tip or throughout the entire spindle during chromosome segregation? They used Ptk2 cells – as these cells have very few chromosomes hence easier to work with. She cut the spindles at different distances from the chromosome and measured chromosome recoil. These experiments suggest that the K fibers are anchored almost throughout the length of the spindle.

Binh An Truong Quang from Ewa Paluch’s lab, took to the theme of acto-myosin ring contraction. The major question was how does the ring contract. Using double-labeled myosin they devised a nice way to measure the angle of myosin with respect to actin. They show that as the tension in the ring increases about 2 fold during contraction, they myosin angle changes with respect to the actin, explaining the increase in tension.

Lisa Manning gave a great talk no their modeling studies, where the magic number was 3.81. What is 3.81, that’s the ratio of perimeter:square root of area (model parameter). Of densely packed cells. What does this tell us, that by just measuring these parameters, one can actually tell if the cells are stationary or fluid like. This was an interesting problem from the physics perspective as cells have no gaps so how can they flow – by interacting with their neighbours and it turns out that these interactions can change the model parameter. Hence just by looking at the value of the model parameter one can easily determine the state of cells. Further, she had developed a very a neat phase diagram where cell shapes were determined as a function of stiffness and what would happen in a cell sheet.
Otter Campas has developed a very nice method to forces in an intact tissue. They use magnetized oil droplets roughly 3 times the size of the cell and insert it in the tissue (they were focusing on developing zebra fish). Using this they can apply pair forces to the cells and measure local strain maps without perturbing morphogenetic movements.
Switching gears here, I went to attend Miriam Goodman’s talk, as I would be co-chairing the session with her the next day. It was amazing, where they set out to understand how worms respond to touch. The assay they use is to poke the worm with an eyebrow hair. They show that the force generated by this, though variable between humans – is enough to saturate the response of the worm (2pN). This is primarily mediated by MEC4 (ENAC Channel proteins). Worms expressed these channels in the epidermis near the skin and those lacking these channels are touch dead. Further, they can make stiff (using glue) or soft worms (dissecting the gut) and measure how the touch response is modulated.
Great! That was Saturday, a relatively short day as it ended by 6pm.. And then it was Mardi Gras festivities. Ofcourse the political satire themed parade was on everyone’s agenda! What Can I say it was fun! Lots of people wrote about that, but here is what I found – A monument on the banks of Mississippi to guess what? That’s right! Immigrants! Woah!

Enjoy the big and easy 🙂

Rishita Changede

Introducing the 2017 BPS Annual Meeting Bloggers

Once again, we are lucky to have several meeting attendees serving as Guest Bloggers during the upcoming 61st BPS Annual Meeting.   These individuals will be coming to New Orleans from around the world and with a variety of research backgrounds and experiences.  They will be providing you with their take on the Meeting’s events throughout the week. Please check back regularly to see what is going on-we are so lucky to have them!

pictureforbpsblogellenaveryEllen Avery is a master’s student in the Department of Biomedical and Molecular Sciences at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. She specializes in the field of cardiac electrophysiology under the supervision of Dr. Shetuan Zhang. This is her first time at the BPS annual meeting, and she looks forward to meeting other biophysics enthusiasts that share her love of cardiac ion channels. She is excited to attend the networking and career development events in search of advice, as she anticipates searching for PhD supervisors and planning for a career in biophysics.

Outside of the lab, Ellen loves staying active by going to spin class, running outside, and walking her dog, Penny. Ellen has been known to run outside in the dead of winter, in Canada, so you can bet she’ll be getting outside and taking full advantage of the warm New Orleans weather while at the BPS meeting! Ellen also loves music and has played the flute for 12 years, so she hopes to hunt down some jazzy tunes on Bourbon Street while in town. Stay tuned for posts about food related adventures as well—as an avid foodie, Ellen plans to eat her way through the Big Easy one bowl of gumbo at a time.

Ellen is presenting at the Ion Channels, Pharmacology and Disease II poster session on Wednesday, February 15th, between 2:45 and 3:45 pm in Hall B2-C. She encourages blog readers to drop by her poster and keep her company!


David Bunck
is a postdoctoral fellow at the California Institute of Technology with Prof. davidbunckJames Heath. He is working on developing small molecules that rationally perturb the energy landscape of target proteins. He is excited to attend BPS 2017 for the great conversations at the poster session that range gritty experimental details to broader perspectives on a range of fields. On the swag circuit, he is looking forward to the Thor Labs and Avanti Polar Lipids T-shirts. Krewe du Vieux, Bourbon Street, and the World War II museum are also on the top of his list to visit.

David will be giving a talk on Monday, 13 February at 10:00 AM (Room 208/209) in the Protein Stability, Folding, and Chaperones II Platform session on modulating the folding landscape of superoxide dismutase 1, a protein implicated in Lou Gehrig’s disease. You can follow him on Twitter @dnbunck.

gumpperGreetings! I am Kristyn Gumpper, a 5th year PhD Candidate in Biomedical Sciences at The Ohio State University. My research interests lie in cell physiology, specifically in the transport of cytoplasmic vesicles driven by TRIM family proteins. My goal is to be a Professor of Biology at a liberal arts institution, similar to my undergraduate school, Allegheny College. I am looking forward to a variety of things at the BPS Annual Meeting including: the application of new and emerging methods, networking with potential employers, presenting my research during the poster competition, and colleagues, and learning how I can be successful in the next stages of my career, amongst other things. I am extremely excited that this meeting is in New Orleans, LA because it is a chance for me to visit a new and historical city while also engaging in high-quality scientific discussions. Staying in the French Quarter, although a little walk away from the conference, will allow me a chance to experience the local culture and, of course, the food. I look forward to trying real Cajun cuisine. I just hope it is not too spicy! Although I am traveling to “N’Awlins” for the science, I hope I will have time to take at least one historical tour while I am here!
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My name is Chitrak Gupta and I am a graduate student studying structural biology, biomolecular simulation and data science at West Virginia University.  BPS provides me the opportunity to discuss my research with scientists with different areas of expertise. Last two BPS meetings has been extremely fruitful in this regard, and I am looking forward to another exciting BPS annual meeting. Additionally, being a guest blogger for BPS is an excellent opportunity for me to showcase my writing skills and communicate with a broader audience.  I was a guest blogger for BPS 2015 and 2016 Annual Meetings. My blogs from the previous meetings can be found at the following link https://biophysicalsociety.wordpress.com/author/chgupta/

I am expecting this BPS meeting to be extremely busy for me. However, I am a foodie and enjoy trying out different cuisines.  I also love to travel. This BPS would be my first time at New Orleans, and I am hoping to find some time for local sightseeing. Definitely want to see the National WWII Museum.

I am scheduled to present my poster on Tuesday, February 14th, from 2:45 to 3:45 PM.

herneisen_alMy name is Alice Herneisen and I am a senior undergraduate student at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, double majoring in biology and chemistry. I intend to pursue graduate studies in biophysics and structural biology. (In fact, I’ll be coming to the Annual Meeting directly after two interviews!) My current research uses EPR spectroscopy to investigate the structure and dynamics a membrane protein, influenza A M2. The M2 protein has a surprising array of functions encoded in its short, 97-residue sequence. While many biophysical studies have investigated the transmembrane and membrane-proximal region of M2, less is known about the conformation and dynamics of the remaining residues of the C-terminal cytoplasmic tail. I will present a poster on our research, which has characterized a part of this region at the residue-specific level.

This is my first time to the Annual Meeting – actually, it’s my first academic conference! I do have the good fortune to attend the meeting with two other undergraduates who also work in the lab. I attend a liberal arts college, so I look forward to meeting graduate students, faculty, independent researchers, and of course other undergraduate students. I also intend to take advantage of the networking opportunities offered at this year’s Meeting. This is a big meeting for me – there will be more attendees than the entire student population at my school – so I hope that this blog will encourage me to try new things and reflect on my experiences.

I will be presenting a poster, Site-Directed Spin-Labeling EPR Spectroscopy of the Cytoplasmic Tail of Influenza A M2, at the Undergraduate Mixer and Poster Fest from 4-5 PM on Saturday, Feb. 11, and as a part of the Membrane Protein Structures II session from 11:30-12:30 on Wednesday, Feb. 15.

When I am not in the lab, I like to play ultimate Frisbee! I even have an alter ego team nickname.

iwanickiMartin Iwanicki is a third year PhD candidate at the University of Pennsylvania, where he is studying protein design and engineering.  This is his first Biophysical Society Meeting, so he is excited to participate in the meeting both as a poster presenter and as a blogger. At BPS17, he is looking forward to attending the symposia, learning about new topics within biophysics, and meeting other scientists/graduate students. During his free time, he hopes to check out the French Quarter, Bourbon Street, the National WWII Museum, eat delicious food, and also, try to catch some pre-Mardi Gras festivities! His sister recently visited New Orleans and has given him a to-do list of what restaurants to try out every night (don’t worry – he’ll make sure to include what he eats in his blog posts for all you foodies).  Outside of science, Martin enjoys playing piano and flute, spending time with his recently adopted kittens (the cutest kittens in the world), traveling, eating new food, and kayaking. Martin will be presenting a poster on Monday, February 13, from 2:45-3:45 PM. Please stop by and visit!

 

jahanMerina Jahan is a fourth year Graduate Student at the University of South Carolina. Her research work focuses on Molecular modeling of biomaterials for advanced drug delivery and biosensing. She has been working on designing aptamers and polymers with a statistical thermodynamic approach. She is looking forward to learn about new advancements in computational drug design and molecular modeling in this meeting. She also plans to attend the sessions related to Career development.

She loves traveling. Her favorite time of the year is mid-fall with beautiful colors everywhere when she could have a long drive across the magnificently and vibrantly colorful Blue Ridge Mountains. She also loves to eat, specially Bangladeshi cuisine – food from her homeland. And being a food lover, she also likes to cook, but her food does not get “a soul” like they do at home.

This is the second BPS meeting for Merina and she is even more excited this time to have New Orleans, the city of Mardi Gras as the venue. She wants to walk around the famous Bourbon Street and the Jackson Square during her stay at the meeting. She will also look out for restaurants to try the local cuisine.

Merina has a presentation in the “Computational Methods and Bio-informatics” session titling “Molecular design of a nanoparticle-polymer conjugated drug delivery system for PD-166793 in cardiovascular repair”   on February 12 Sunday at 5.15pm.

chrislockhartChristopher Lockhart is a postdoctoral fellow at George Mason University, where he uses replica-exchange molecular dynamics simulations to probe the binding of the Alzheimer’s disease Aβ peptide to model lipid bilayers. At the Biophysical Society 61st Annual Meeting in New Orleans, Christopher is looking forward to interacting with other researchers who work in the field of biomolecular simulations and learning about how their simulations have been used to gain novel insight into biology—particularly amyloidogenic diseases. During his stay in New Orleans, aside from participating in the conference, Christopher plans to engage in quintessential activities such as walking down Bourbon Street at night, eating beignets for breakfast at Café Du Monde, and asking the elusive question: “Why is Blue Dog blue?”

Christopher is presenting a poster on Tuesday, February 14, 2017 at 1:45 PM. This poster will investigate the difference in binding of the Aβ peptide to the zwitterionic DMPC bilayer with or without calcium salt and the anionic DMPS bilayer. During the meeting, you can keep up with Christopher by following him on Twitter @doclockh.

mittalMy name is Shriyaa Mittal.  I am a second year graduate student at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. I was a computer scientist but got blown away when I was first introduced to molecular biology and the Smith-Waterman algorithm in my bioinformatics class 4 years ago. Since then I have been working on the periphery of biophysics and now getting my PhD researching protein conformational dynamics via computational simulations. Apart from research, I paint (but do not draw) and have recently taken to learning Latin where I am the only graduate student in a class of freshmen and sophomores.

I will be giving a talk titled “Optimal Probes: An Efficient Method To Select DEER Distance Restraints Using Machine Learning” on February 14 (Tuesday), 11:45 AM at the Membrane Protein Dynamics Platform session.

prithviraj_nandigrami_photoMy name is  Prithviraj Nandigrami and I am a PhD candidate in biophysics at  Kent State University.  My specialty areas are physics, computational biophysics, statistical physics, and molecular dynamics simulations.  At the Meeting, I am most looking forward to the career fair, poster sessions, and all the talks relevant to my research area. I am also very much looking forward to networking with peers as well as experts in the field. I plan on defending my PhD Dissertation during Summer 2017. I am actively looking for Postdoctoral positions and believe this meeting will be great opportunity to find potential employers. I am presenting a poster on my work on Sunday, February 12, 1:45 – 3:45 PM. The title of my poster is: “Thermodynamic and kinetic representations of cooperative allosteric binding in calmodulin.”

I also plan on exploring downtown New Orleans and possibly going on a river cruise. I  want to visit local area attractions and explore Southern cuisine! This will be my first time in New Orleans!

When I am not in the lab, I like to swim, play racquetball, watch movies, listen to music.

ariane2Ariane Nunes-Alves is a PhD student at the University of São Paulo in Brazil, where she studies protein unfolding and ligand unbinding through molecular dynamics simulations. This is the second time she attends a BPS Annual Meeting. One of the things she enjoyed the most in her first time at BPS was the poster sessions, where she met new people and got in touch with new ideas. She is interested in learning more about ion channels and transporters, so she is looking forward for the Permeation and Transport subgroup meeting on Saturday and for the platform sessions about ion channels and transporters this year. At BPS17, she also expects to make contacts for a future postdoc position outside Brazil.

Ariane is scheduled to present her work ‘Weighted ensemble of pathways for ligand unbinding from T4 lysozyme’ in the Protein-Small Molecule Interactions platform session on Tuesday February 14th.

In New Orleans, Ariane is planning to visit the French quarter to see the old buildings and to walk along the famous Mississippi River.

Besides science, Ariane also enjoys coffee, wine, Greek sculptures, traveling, watching French movies and reading.

schifferMy name is Jamie Schiffer. I am a postdoctoral researcher in the Center for Aerosol Impacts on Climate and the Environment. My research focuses deciphering the roles of biological species and molecules in climate change based on atomic level insight from simulations. As a passionate writer and reader, I have found that integrating science, arts, and communication has helped me improve each of these skills individually. Outside of science and work, I enjoy cooking, frequenting breweries and wineries with friends and family, and teaching/practicing yoga.

 

weidemanHello Everyone!  My name is Gregory Wiedman.  I am a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Public Health Research Institute at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.  I study Peptides and short Oligonucleotides, specifically those generated by means of combinatorial chemistry.  I am attending the 61st Annual Biophysical Society Meeting to present my recent work on small molecule aptamers, and I will give a poster presentation during the Sunday evening poster session on Nucleic Acids.  Science outreach and bringing science to the public is especially important to me.  While in NOLA I hope to try to spend some time speaking to people and presenting outside of the conference.  I encourage everyone to do the same; don’t just leave your science back at the convention center but take it out with you wherever you go!  I hope to meet a lot of you at the conference and I’m sure that it will be a great opportunity to share our common excitement for biophysics!  If you’d like to keep in touch or keep updated with what I’m doing please feel free to follow my blog at: https://molecularyoga.wordpress.com/ See you in New Orleans!  Cheers!  Greg

 

 

 

 

Opportunity to Engage: Biophysics Week 2017

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You are scientist. It is your job to be an expert in what you study, to know and understand the tiniest details of your subject matter. You work with others in your field, and teach/mentor students and postdocs with some background related to your work.  You publish your work in specialized publications so that scientists with similar backgrounds and knowledge of your specialized vocabulary understand what you do. But when was the last time you explained your work to someone outside of your very specific field?  Or talked about biophysics and all it encompasses in general?

The second annual Biophysics Week, March 6-10, 2017, is an opportunity to do just that. The Biophysical Society will be hosting a series of events, including webinars on topics ranging from mentoring to getting a biophysics paper published,  and a Congressional briefing.  Lesson plans and profiles of women in biophysics will be released.  Cell Press will create a picture show, illustrating the beauty unveiled by biophysics research.

But to really reach people, the Society needs you to get involved.

We encourage you to plan an educational outreach event , such as a seminar, webinar, information session, lab tour, open house, or other activity that allows you to share what you and your colleagues do with others. The Biophysical Society will advertise your event on its website, in member communications, and through  social media.

And you will have taken your science out of the lab and engaged.  Maybe the effort will result in a student deciding to take a biophysics class, or find a biophysics lab to work in.  Maybe it will introduce a high school student to the term biophysics and teach him to not be intimidated by it. Or maybe your efforts will result in a non scientist developing an appreciation of basic research.  All are important outcomes.  And they will only happen when we all  engage.

Plan your event and register it here.

Stay up-to-date on Biophysics Week 2017 here.

 

BPS Members Making a Difference Beyond the Lab: Karen Fleming

Society members make a difference in their communities in many ways.  BPS member Karen Fleming a faculty member and undergraduate program director in biophysics at Johns Hopkins University, has taken on the barriers facing women in science, and decided to do something about it on her campus. 

Know a member making a difference in their community that should be featured here?  Let us know. We would like this to be the first of a series!

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Pictured, (Left to Right), all of Johns Hopkins University: Dominic Scalise, graduate student in chemical and biomolecular engineering and Women’s of Hopkins Exhibit team member; Erin Gleeson,  Project and Events Specialist, Office of Instituional Equity; Gail Kelly, one of the Women of Hopkins; Ron Daniels, President; Karen Fleming; and Jeannine Heynes, Director, Office of Gender Equity.*  Photo Credit: Will Kirk, homewoodphoto.jhu.edu

Role Models.

We hear it over and over again—the need for diverse role models so that diverse students can see themselves succeeding in science. This includes gender.  Women often are underrepresented on panels, at conferences, and as recipients of prestigious awards.  BPS member Karen Fleming decided to do something about it.

Fleming, along with a handful of other JHU staff and graduate students, formed a committee, successfully sought institutional funding and support, and put together an exhibit entitled “Women of Hopkins.” The purpose of the exhibit was to highlight the many successful women that have graduated from the university and been pioneers in their fields, especially for current students.   Nominations were accepted and vetted by the committee, resulting in a photographic exhibit of 23 Hopkins graduates, displayed on the walls of Hopkins buildings. The women highlighted represent many different fields-not just science—and include Bonnie Basler, Bernadine Healy, Carol Greider, Mary Guinan, Nitza Margarita Cintrón, and Florence Sabin.  The project also includes a Women of Hopkins website, which has a biography for each woman included in the exhibition, as well as a presence on social media platforms Facebook and Twitter, giving the project greater visibility.

*Women of Hopkins team members not pictured are:  Anna Coughlin, graduate student in chemical and biomolecular Engineering; Jeff Gray, Professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering; and Valerie Hartman, instructional designer at JHMI.

Be a Voice for Science in Washington, Apply to be the Next BPS Congressional Fellow

 

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Randy Wadkins, BPS’s 2016-17 Congressional Fellow, in the Halls of Congress.

With the election two weeks away in the United States, it is almost impossible to miss talk of politics.  Even if it is missing from the public discussion at the moment, what these politicians are tasked with doing when they are in office is set policy.  While the public and the mainstream media aren’t focused on science policy, it is something that elected leaders have to consider.  So, where will these elected Senators and House members, most who don’t have a science background, get their information?

From their staff.

And the Biophysical Society want to make sure that scientists are among those staff members.

 The Society is currently accepting applications for the 2017-2018 BPS Congressional fellowship.  The individual selected for the Fellowship will spend a year working in a Capitol Hill office advising the senator or congressman for whom they are working on science-related issues.

The BPS fellow will be one of 30+ AAAS Congressional Science and Technology Policy Fellows.  The AAAS Fellowship program has been bringing scientists to Washington DC to work both on Capitol Hill and in federal agencies for 43 years.  The purpose of the program is two-fold:  1) provide scientific expertise to policymakers and 2) have scientists understand the policy making process.

Worried you wouldn’t have a clue what to do in a congressional office? The AAAS has that covered. The program kicks off each September with two weeks of intense training on how the government operates, who the players are, and what your roll will be.  The program also guides you through the process of finding a placement for your fellowship.  The training continues throughout the year.  In addition, each cohort of fellows usually form a pretty tight bond.

This is a very unique opportunity, open to BPS members that hold a terminal degree (PhD, MD). Fellows could have just graduated, or have 20 years in the lab under their belt.  Individuals that have completed the AAAS fellowship have found the experience to be professionally rewarding—whether they have chosen to return to bench science or use their science knowledge in other fields.

Have we peaked your interest?  Learn more about the BPS fellowship and the AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellows.  Applications are due December 15!

 

Introducing BPS Mechanobiology Blogger Rishita Changede

Rishita is a senior research fellow at the Mechanobiology Institute, National University of Singapore (MBI).. Her primary interest is to understand the design principles that allow the cells and organisms to respond appropriately to their diverse physical (geometry and forces) and chemical (biochemical ligands) environment. With her experience in multidisciplinary approaches, she is aspires to address challenging questions to understand nature of cell matrix interaction and the complex signal integration of the varied signals the cell receives within the cell in response to its local environment and tissue maintenance. Understanding these fundamental questions has implications in regeneration and progression of major diseases such as cancer and ageing related diseases. Her postdoctoral studies with Professor  Michael Sheetz, she developed quantitative super resolution imaging based assays to understand the emergent properties of nascent adhesions. Her work showed that these adhesions form on all substrates of as discs of 100nm with about 50 integrins. These cell matrix adhesions are universally laid down as loose aggregates of modular units of densely packed integrins.

With the satellite meeting in this beautiful tropical island, Rishita is hoping to enjoy the perennial summer with excellent scientist from all around the world. Among other things, she recommends a walk around Clare Quay to see the city or Macritchie reservoir for a walk in the tropical rain forests. Feel free to join her along these trips. For the foodies Singapore has lots to offer and feel free to ask her about it and if you ask nicely, she might ‘bring you to the kampong’ as the locals would put it.

She loves nature in every form, understanding it through science, listening to music in it, playing that music, traveling to see it, photographing it, growing it in her house, and perhaps getting bitten by jelly fish along the path…

In addition to the her posts on this blog, and visiting her poster (if you are attending the meeting)  you can follow Rishita’s understanding of this meeting on Twitter @RishitaChangede.

 

 

From the Field—The Rally for Medical Research

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Eric Jakobsson (far right) visits the office of Senator Mark Kirk to advocate for NIH funding as part of the Rally for Medical Research.

On September 21 and 22 I attended the Rally for Medical Research in Washington DC, as a representative of the Biophysical Society.  We visited legislators with the request to fund the National Institutes of Health at a $34.1 billion level for the coming fiscal year, a $2 billion increase from the present year, and to argue for sustainable and robust increases for out years to ensure continued momentum in supporting foundational research and translating those results into cures.

The Rally was dramatically unlike other scientific meetings that I go to.  There were some scientists there, like me.  And Ellen Weiss was there from the Biophysical Society staff and staff from other biomedical science organizations.  But we were all there in support of the patients who came to urge their legislators to support NIH.  There were pancreatic cancer survivors, of whom there are far too few.  There were people living with hydrocephalus, who had undergone twenty or more surgeries to maintain appropriate fluid flow in their brains.  A mother of a child with hydrocephalus.  An older man who had received a lung transplant, the only available treatment for pulmonary fibrosis.  A young woman who is at high genetic risk for developing pulmonary fibrosis, because of her family history.  The list goes on and on.  Each story is different, but a common thread connects them.  For each of these diseases, research at the NIH provides a foundation on which to base a reasonable hope for a cure.

The patient whom I got to know best, because the accident of geography led us to the same schedule of office visits, was Ginger.  Ginger is a single mother with a 13 year old daughter.  She has lived for four years with Stage 4 lung cancer, through a series of clinical trials.  We went to Senate offices in the morning and House in the afternoon.  During the afternoon coffee break Ginger was exhausted, having had therapy the previous day and flying in to DC the previous evening.  But in the congressional office she stiffened up and her voice was firm.  She was on a mission.

In the offices I presented myself as a patient, a parent, and a researcher.  As a patient I have benefited from NIH supported research that led to the understanding of the regulation of smooth muscle governing intraocular pressure, and led in turn to the chemical nature of the eye drops that are preserving my sight.  NIH-supported research has also informed the pattern of treatment of my prostate cancer, I am sure to my benefit.  As a parent however, I became tragically aware that there is as yet neither curative nor palliative effective treatment for Frontotemporal Dementia, with the result that my wife and I helplessly watched our son move from happy, successful, mid-40’s to death in a little over two years.  As a researcher I talked of my hope that the computational work we are now doing on binding affinities of mutated virus coat proteins with complementarily mutated antibody fragments will lead to the ability to rapidly redesign synthetic antibodies to combat evolving pathogenic viruses.senate-group

I believe we may be at a turning point in congressional support for the NIH.  In one office where we received a cool reception last year, this year the member not only expressed support for us but opened up about the health crises that his mother and his wife had encountered.  Every office that I visited seems to finally get the story: The NIH pipeline of basic research, translational research, and clinical research lengthens lives and improves the quality of lives.

It would be great if everybody who reads this would write to your Congressional Representative and your Senators, telling what the NIH has done for which you and your family are grateful, and what you hope the NIH will be able to do in the future if there is enough support.

-Eric Jakobsson