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from DNA to Beer

From DNA to Beer: Harnessing Nature in Medicine and Industry is an online exhibition created by the National Library of Medicine and the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/digitalprojects.html.
Photo courtesy of NIH

From DNA to Beer: A Unique Look at the Mighty Microbe

A new online exhibition offers an engaging look at how microbes have changed history. Microbes are tiny organisms too small to be seen with the naked eye. Yet, they've had a big impact on our lives—from the medicines we take to the food and drink we consume. The exhibition is called From DNA to Beer: Harnessing Nature in Medicine and Industry. NIH's National Library of Medicine created it with the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. From DNA to Beer includes an interactive "Learn More" section, and more educational resources will be added. The online exhibition is part of the Library's collection of digital projects for research and education, http://www.nlm.nih.gov/digitalprojects.html.

Earliest Marker for Autism Found

Researchers have found what they say is the earliest sign of developing autism ever observed. A recent study suggests a baby's eye contact could be a key to early detection.

Scientists studied the eye movements of children as they watched a video of a caregiver. The children were followed from birth to age 3. The study found that children who were later diagnosed with autism looked less into people's eyes when they were infants than children who weren't diagnosed with the disorder. The decline in eye contact was noticed between two and six months.

Autism usually isn't detected until after age 2, when social behavior and language skills are apparent, notes Thomas R. Insel, MD, director of NIH's National Institute of Mental Health, which funded the study. "This study shows that children exhibit clear signs of autism at a much younger age," says Insel. "The sooner we are able to identify early markers for autism, the more effective our treatment interventions can be."

The next step is to replicate these findings in a larger study.

The researchers say the eye contact differences they saw require sophisticated technology and aren't something parents or health professionals would see with the naked eye.

Drug Abuse Information Goes Mobile

It's now easier for teenagers and the adults who care for them to get answers about drug abuse and addiction. NIH's National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has enhanced several of its web tools leading up to National Drug Facts Week, which begins January 27th, 2014.

NIDA has updated its popular "NIDA for Teens" website to provide a better view on smartphones and tablets. The website offers free interactive resources including a blog for teens. On NIDA's main website, the "Parents and Educators" webpage has been redesigned. It's now easier to find free, scientifically based prevention and education resources, including a "Family Checkup" tool for talking with children about drugs. In addition, there is now more Spanish language information available on NIDA's Easy-to-Read website.

NIDA for Teens:
http://teens.drugabuse.gov/
Parents and Educators:
http://www.drugabuse.gov/parents-educators
Easy-to-Read:
http://www.easyread.drugabuse.gov/index.php

Advances in Vaccine Development

NIH scientists report recent advances in developing vaccines for two common conditions: genital herpes and RSV infection.

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) causes lung infections. It can be serious for very young children and the elderly. There's no vaccine to protect against it. NIH scientists have developed an experimental vaccine and are planning early-stage clinical trials.

NIH scientists are starting an early-stage clinical trial to test a vaccine for genital herpes. Genital herpes is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases in the country. While treatable, it's a lifelong infection that can pass to a partner even when symptoms aren't showing. Researchers say a protective vaccine would significantly reduce the spread of the disease.

Winter 2014 Issue: Volume 8 Number 4 Page 28