The National Institutes of Health is a U.S. government institution that focuses on medical research. The institutes are located in Bethesda, Maryland. The predecessor of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) began in 1887 as a hygiene laboratory. It grew and was reorganized in 1930 by the Ransdell Act into the National Institutes of Health. Today it is one of the largest medical research centers in the world and the federal focal point for medical research in the United States. The NIH, headed by the Office of the Director and consisting of 27 separate institutes and centers, is one of eight public health agencies within the Health Service, which in turn is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The current Director of the NIH is Elias Zerhouni. Simply put, the goal of NIH research is to acquire new knowledge to help prevent, detect, diagnose and treat diseases and disabilities, from the rarest genetic disorder to the common cold. The NIH mission is to discover new knowledge that will lead to better health for everyone. NIH works toward this mission by: conducting research in its own laboratories; supporting the research of non-federal scientists in universities, medical schools, hospitals and research institutes across the country and abroad; assisting in the training of research investigators; and promoting the communication of medical and health science information.

NIH Institutes

National Cancer Institute (NCI): research and training aimed at eliminating suffering and death from cancer. East. 1937. National Eye Institute (NEI): conducts and supports research that helps prevent and treat eye disease and other vision disorders. Est. 1968. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI): provides leadership for a national program on diseases of the heart, blood vessels, lungs and blood; blood resources; and sleep disorders. Also has administrative responsibility for the NIH Women's Health Initiative. East. 1948. National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI): supports the NIH component of the Human Genome Project. Its intramural research program develops and implements technology for understanding, diagnosing, and treating genetic diseases. East. 1989.