News & Events

NIAMS Update October 2015

An online resource for the NIAMS Coalition, Council, and Colleagues
October 22, 2015

The NIAMS Update is produced and distributed monthly by the NIAMS Office of Science Policy, Planning and Communications.


Letter From Dr. Stephen I. Katz: NIH Common Fund Launches Program to Understand How Physical Activity Improves Health

 Stephen I. Katz, M.D., Ph.D

Dear Colleagues:

This month, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced that it is accepting applications from researchers across the country who wish to participate in a six-year, $170 million effort to discover how physical activity helps people live longer and be healthier. Successful applicants will work together as members of the Molecular Transducers of Physical Activity Consortium (MoTrPAC) to map the molecular changes that occur when people are active. As part of the agreement, they will deposit all of the information into a user-friendly database that any investigator can access to develop and test hypotheses about how physical activity improves or preserves health.

Read more.

Image: Stephen I. Katz, M.D., Ph.D.


NIH Framework Points the Way Forward for Building National, Large-Scale Research Cohort, a Key Component of the President’s Precision Medicine Initiative

NIH framework

The NIH Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD) presented to NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., a detailed design framework for building a national research participant group, called a cohort, of 1 million or more Americans to expand our knowledge and practice of precision medicine. Dr. Collins embraced the design recommendations made by the ACD, noting the need to remain nimble and adaptable as the initiative progresses. The NIH plans to move quickly to build the infrastructure so that participants can begin enrolling in the cohort in 2016, with a goal of enrolling at least 1 million participants in three to four years.

NIH Awards ~$144 Million in Research on Environmental Influences on Child Health and Development

children playing with a ball in a field

The NIH has awarded nearly $144 million in new grants to develop new tools and measures that can be used to investigate more effectively environmental exposures from the womb through later years in a child’s life. These projects will enhance the next phase of research on the effects of environmental exposures on child health and development. Among the new projects funded is the Validation of Pediatric Patient-Reported Outcomes in Chronic Diseases (PEPR) Consortium, which will capitalize on recent advances in the science of patient-report outcomes to improve pediatric health and well-being by capturing the voice and experience of children and their families living with a variety of chronic diseases and conditions. The NIAMS is one of several NIH Institutes involved in the PEPR Consortium.

Plucking Hairs in Dense Pattern Can Prompt Hair Regrowth

Plucking a high density of hairs within a small region prompts regrowth of all hairs in that area, whereas plucking more widely spaced hairs does not lead to regeneration, according to a study conducted in mice and funded in part by the NIAMS. The study, which was published in the journal Cell, suggests that hair follicles located adjacent to each other can coordinate a response to an injury in a way that widely spaced follicles cannot.

Dormant Viral Genes May Awaken To Cause ALS: NIH Human and Mouse Study May Open an Unexplored Path for Finding Treatments

dormant viral genes

Scientists at the NIH, including NIAMS intramural investigators, discovered that reactivation of ancient viral genes embedded in the human genome may cause the destruction of neurons in some forms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The results, published in Science Translational Medicine, suggest a link between human endogenous retroviral genes (HERVs) and ALS. The findings also raise the question of whether antiretroviral drugs, similar to those used for suppressing HIV, may help some ALS patients.

Image: Viral genes in ALS. Scientists studied human and mouse brains to show that genes for a seemingly inactive and inherited virus may be linked to ALS. Photo credit: Avindra Nath, M.D., National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

NIAMS To Host Twitter Chat on World Psoriasis Day External Web Site Policy

In recognition of World Psoriasis Day, the NIAMS will host a Twitter chat on the topic of psoriasis on Thursday, October 29, 2015, from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. Eastern time. Co-hosts for the chat will include the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI); the National Psoriasis Foundation; and the American Academy of Dermatology. The chat will focus on the symptoms and impact of psoriasis, available treatments and current research. Followers will also learn how they can participate in NIH clinical studies. Experts from the hosting organizations will answer questions from the audience.

Drug Used To Treat HIV Linked to Lower Bone Mass in Newborns: NIH Study Finds Mothers’ Use of Tenofovir Tied to Lower Bone Mineral Content in Babies

Infants exposed in the womb to a drug used to treat HIV and reduce the transmission of HIV from mother to child, may have lower bone mineral content than those exposed to other anti-HIV drugs, according to an NIH study.

Undiagnosed Diseases Network Launches an Online Application Portal: UDN Gateway Enables Patients To Apply to National Network of Clinical Sites

The Undiagnosed Diseases Network (UDN), a clinical research initiative of the NIH, has opened an online patient application portal called the UDN Gateway. Introduction of this application system sets the stage for the network to advance its core mission: to diagnose patients who suffer from conditions that even skilled physicians have been unable to diagnose despite extensive clinical investigation. These diseases are difficult for doctors to diagnose because they are rarely seen, have not previously been described or are unrecognized forms of more common diseases.

3D Bone Marrow Made From Silk Biomaterials Successfully Generates Platelets: NIH-Funded Research Successfully Imitates the Bone Marrow Environment Where Platelets Form

A microscopic image of the 3D silk bone marrow structure. Photo credit: David Kaplan, Ph.D., Tufts University

Researchers funded by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering at Tufts University and their collaborators have successfully developed a 3-dimensional (3D) tissue-engineered model of bone marrow that can produce functional human platelets outside the body (ex vivo).

Image: A microscopic image of the 3D silk bone marrow structure. Photo credit: David Kaplan, Ph.D., Tufts University.

NIH Grants Seek Best Ways To Combine Genomic Information and EHRs: Researchers Seek To Better Understand Genomic Basis of Disease, Provide Tailored Care to Patients

A dozen awards from the NIH will support research that incorporates DNA sequence information into electronic health records (EHRs). The goal of research conducted by the Electronic Medical Records and Genomics (eMERGE) network is to better understand the genomic basis of disease and to tailor medical care to individual patients based on their genomic differences.

Short Bouts of Activity May Offset Lack of Sustained Exercise in Kids: NIH Study Finds Interrupting Sitting With Short Walks Lowers Blood Sugar, Insulin and Blood Fats

Brief intervals of exercise during otherwise sedentary periods may offset the lack of more sustained exercise and could protect children against diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer, according to a small study by researchers at the NIH.

NIH Awards Nearly $35 Million To Research Natural Products: Innovative Research Centers Program Investigates Botanical Dietary Supplements and Other Natural Products

Five research centers will focus on the safety of natural products, on how they work within the body and on the development of cutting-edge research technologies. The centers, jointly funded by the NIH’s Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) and the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), include three Botanical Dietary Supplements Research Centers and two Centers for Advancing Natural Products Innovation and Technology. Natural products include a wide variety of substances produced by plants, bacteria, fungi and animals that have historically been used in traditional medicine and other complementary and integrative health practices.

Genomic Data Sharing: Part II – Playing by the Rules

Under the Poliscope

The discussions surrounding the Precision Medicine Initiative have highlighted some of the policy challenges inherent in balancing the sharing of valuable research data with the protection of participants whose data is being shared. How do you ensure that researchers, and even participants themselves, have appropriate access to data while making sure that the data is not inadvertently or deliberately released or misused in a way that might present a risk to participants?

NIH Director’s Blog

Bold Blueprint for Precision Medicine Initiative’s Research Cohort

#PMINetwork Twitter chat with @NIHDirector Francis Collins, NIH Media Branch’s @RenateMyles, and, in the background, PMI Cohort Program Acting Director @NCCIH_Josie Briggs.

Readers of this blog know how excited I am about the potential of precision medicine for revolutionizing efforts to treat disease and improve human health. So, it stands to reason that I’m delighted by the positive reactions of researchers, health professionals and the public to a much-anticipated report from the Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI) Working Group of the Advisory Committee to the NIH Director. Topping the report’s list of visionary recommendations? Build a national research cohort of 1 million or more Americans over the next three to four years to expand knowledge and practice of precision medicine.

Image: #PMINetwork Twitter chat with @NIHDirector Francis Collins, NIH Media Branch’s @RenateMyles, and, in the background, PMI Cohort Program Acting Director @NCCIH_Josie Briggs. Photo credit: @KathyHudsonNIH.

LabTV: Curious About Chronic Infection

Kyle Allison

If you or a loved one has ever struggled with a bacterial infection that seemed to have gone away with antibiotic treatment, but then came back again, you’ll probably be interested to learn about the work of Kyle Allison. What sometimes happens when a person has an infection—for instance, a staph infection of the skin—is that antibiotics kill off the vast majority of bacteria, but a small fraction remain alive. After antibiotic treatment ends, those lurking bacterial “persisters” begin to multiply, and the person develops a chronic infection that may be very difficult and costly to eliminate.

Other Federal News

Draft Plan for Screening for Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis Now Available for Review and Public Comment

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has posted a draft research plan on screening for adolescent idiopathic scoliosis. The draft research plan is available for review and public comment until October 28, 2015. The Task Force believes that soliciting outside input will help to ensure that their final recommendations are valid, reliable and useful to clinicians, patients and family members.

HHS Announces Proposal To Update Rules Governing Research on Study Participants: Proposed Changes Enhance Protections for Individuals Involved in Research, While Modernizing Rules and Improving Efficiency

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced proposed revisions to the regulations that govern research on individuals who participate in research. The current regulations that protect individuals who participate in research have been in place since 1991. The expansion of research into new scientific disciplines, such as genomics, along with an increase in multisite studies and significant advances in technology, have highlighted the need to update the regulatory framework. The proposed changes to the Federal Policy for the Protection of Human Subjects have been posted in the Federal Register. Comments should be submitted by December 7, 2015.

U.S. Surgeon General Launches Campaign With National Call to Action on Walking: Effort Highlights Health Benefits of Walking While Addressing Barriers to Access


The U.S. Surgeon General issued a call to action to address major public health challenges such as heart disease and diabetes. Step It Up! The Surgeon General’s Call to Action To Promote Walking and Walkable Communities articulates the health benefits of walking while addressing the fact that many communities unacceptably lack safe and convenient places for individuals to walk or wheelchair roll.

FDA Announces First-Ever Patient Engagement Advisory Committee

Illustration: people with speech bubbles

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is establishing an advisory committee focused on patient engagement. The Patient Engagement Advisory Committee will provide advice on complex issues relating to medical devices, the regulation of devices and their use by patients. See the Notice of the Establishment of the Patient Engagement Advisory Committee and Request for Comments. Comments are due by November 21, 2015.

Tool Created To Help Developers Navigate the Difficult Road To Approval of Drugs for Rare Diseases

With the vast majority of rare diseases still without FDA-approved treatments, the FDA has recently released a new resource for drug developers—a draft guidance document [PDF - 306 KB]—designed to help them navigate the difficult and unique challenges of developing and bringing to market new FDA-approved drugs to treat rare diseases.

Injectable Skin Lightening Products: What You Should Know

Some consumers seeking to change their skin color are turning to injectable products marketed to whiten or lighten their complexion. These products are potentially unsafe and ineffective, and might contain unknown harmful ingredients or contaminants. The FDA has not approved any injectable drugs for skin whitening or lightening.

New Publications and Products

Spotlight on Scientific Imagery: Lab-Grown Muscle

lab grown muscle

This is a microscopic view of lab-grown human muscle bundles stained to show patterns made by basic muscle units and their associated proteins (red), which are a hallmark of human muscle. These are the first lab-grown human muscle tissues and will allow researchers to test new drugs and study diseases in muscle tissues outside of the human body. Image courtesy of Nenad Bursac, Ph.D., Duke University, NIAMS grants R01AR055226 and R01AR065873.

LabTV: Highlighting Careers in Science External Web Site Policy

Michael Ombrello and Amanda Ombrello

LabTV has been working with the NIH to produce a series of minidocumentary videos featuring promising young researchers at the NIH. This month, we are introducing Michael Ombrello, M.D.External Web Site Policy Head, Translational Genetics and Genomics Unit, NIAMS Office of the Clinical Director, and Amanda Ombrello, M.D., from the National Human Genome Research Institute.

National Health Observances and Related NIAMS Resources

The NIAMS National Multicultural Outreach Initiative webpage highlights upcoming national health observances and related NIAMS resources. November is National American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month and National Healthy Skin Month.

AHRQ Issue Brief: Harnessing the Power of Data on Joint Replacement

doctor checking knee

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s (AHRQ’s) Issue Briefs examine important national health care issues to produce evidence to make health care safer, higher quality, more accessible, equitable and affordable. A recently released Issue Brief includes a discussion of the Total Joint Replacement (TJR) Project, which established a national sample of U.S. patients and surgeons to conduct studies comparing the effectiveness of TJR procedures and various implants and to examine patient outcomes.

NIH Research Matters

NIH Research Matters is a review of NIH research from the Office of Communications and Public Liaison, Office of the Director, NIH.

Bone Risks Linked to Genetic Variants

xray of man running

Over 10 million people nationwide have osteoporosis, in which bones become susceptible to fracture. Osteoporosis tends to run in families, and genetics is known to play an important role in bone mineral density, a major risk factor for fractures. Scientists have already identified many genetic factors associated with bone mineral density. But these factors likely represent just a small fraction of the underlying genetic variance.

Image credit: Eraxion/iStock/Thinkstock.

The Interactome: Mapping Protein Interactions

protein complexes

Genomics is the study of an organism’s complete set of DNA, including all of its genes. Researchers have identified more than 20,000 human genes that code for proteins, the body’s building blocks. The study of the body’s proteins and their functions, proteomics, is even more complex. Each gene doesn’t simply code for one protein; stretches of DNA can be read and translated into proteins in different ways. Proteins also interact to form functional complexes that can be tricky to study.

Image: The researchers arranged protein complexes, shown here, by the average estimated age of their components to yield insights into how they evolved over time. Photo credit: University of Toronto.

NIH News in Health

Read practical health information in NIH News in Health, which is reviewed by the NIH’s medical experts and is based on research conducted either by the NIH’s own scientists or by its grantees at universities and medical schools around the country.

Health Newsletter for Native Americans

A new online newsletter, titled Honoring Health: Resources for American Indians and Alaska Natives, features a different health topic in each issue. The e-newsletter highlights health-related resources, events, training and funding opportunities from the NIH and other federal agencies. Subscribe to this free email newsletter.

Checking the Symptom Checkers

When something’s ailing you, do you turn to the Internet or an app on your phone to help figure out what’s wrong? Free symptom checking programs usually don’t give the correct diagnosis first, a study found, and their advice on when to seek help usually errs on the side of caution.


The September 8 NIAMS Advisory Council Archived Videocast Now Available

The September 8 NIAMS Advisory Council archived videocast is now available in the Past Events section of the NIH Videocasting website.

NIAMS Advisory Council Meeting

NIH Director’s Wednesday Afternoon Lecture Series

The NIH’s Wednesday Afternoon Lecture Series offers weekly lectures every Wednesday at 3 p.m. in Masur Auditorium, Building 10, NIH Campus. Renowned scientists from around the globe present research on a variety of topics. The lectures are Continuing Medical Education-certified, open to the public and available live via webcast.

Upcoming Lecture:

November 18, 2015
Sanjay Jain, M.D., Johns Hopkins University
“Bugs, Drugs and Star Trek!”

NIH Science Lectures and Events Available Online

The NIH hosts a number of science seminars and events that are available online through real-time streaming video. You can watch an event at your convenience as an on-demand video or a downloadable podcast. Most events are available to all; a few are broadcast for the NIH or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and are marked as such. See additional details on events.

Funding Announcements

NIAMS Announcement

Notice of Participation of the Office of Research Infrastructure Programs in PA-14-157 “Early-Stage Development of Technologies in Biomedical Computing, Informatics and Big Data Science (R41/R42)”


NIH Common Fund Initiative Announcements

Molecular Transducers of Physical Activity Genomics, Epigenomics and Transcriptomics Chemical Analysis Sites (U24)

Letter of Intent Receipt Date: February 18, 2016
Application Receipt Date: March 18, 2016

Molecular Transducers of Physical Activity Metabolomics and Proteomics Chemical Analysis Sites (U24)

Letter of Intent Receipt Date: February 18, 2016
Application Receipt Date: March 18, 2016

Molecular Transducers of Physical Activity Bioinformatics Center (U24)

Letter of Intent Receipt Date: February 18, 2016
Application Receipt Date: March 18, 2016

Molecular Transducers of Physical Activity Preclinical Animal Study Sites (U01)

Letter of Intent Receipt Date: February 18, 2016
Application Receipt Date: March 18, 2016

Molecular Transducers of Physical Activity Consortium Coordinating Center (CCC) (U24)

Letter of Intent Receipt Date: February 18, 2016
Application Receipt Date: March 18, 2016

Molecular Transducers of Physical Activity Clinical Centers (U01)

Letter of Intent Receipt Date: February 18, 2016
Application Receipt Date: March 18, 2016

Other Funding Announcements

Abuse Liability Associated With Reduced Nicotine Content Tobacco Products (R01)

Letter of Intent Receipt Date: October 30, 2015
Application Receipt Date: December 11, 2015

Notice of Correction to Budget Instructions to PAR-15-189 “Lasker Clinical Research Scholars Program Si2/R00”


OMB Approval for Form Changes Underway – Continue To Use Current Forms Until Further Notice


eRA Commons Help Desk Rebranded as eRA Service Desk


Civil Rights Protections in NIH-Supported Research, Programs, Conferences and Other Activities


ASSIST Now an Option for Small Business Grant Applications


NIH Research Involving Introduction of Human Pluripotent Cells Into Non-Human Vertebrate Animal Pre-Gastrulation Embryos


Precision Medicine Initiative Cohort Program Recommendations Issued and Accepted


Review of Grants Information for Fiscal Year 2015


If you would like to review information about funding opportunities more frequently than our monthly updates allow, see the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts, the primary source for information about NIH funding opportunities. You can also request a weekly Table of Contents from the NIH Guide.

Read More At NIAMS