The brain’s cerebral cortex produces perception based on the sensory information it’s fed through a region called the thalamus. “How the thalamus communicates with the cortex is a fundamental feature of how the brain interprets the world,” said Elly Nedivi, William R. and Linda R. Young Professor in The Picower Institute for Learning and Memory at MIT. Despite the importance of…
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Not all SARS-CoV-2 infections are created equal. We have learned this through multiple virus waves are taking their toll on the world’s population. Improving vaccines and new anti-viral therapies that target distinct viral molecules (antigens) and the changes they undergo over time have helped to soften this blow. However, to control the disease even better and everywhere, we have to…
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Tracing a Plant Chemistry Puzzle to Its Roots

Graduate student Colin Kim had been making good progress on a scientific puzzle that had fascinated him since he joined Whitehead Institute Member Jing-Ke Weng’s lab, trying to understand how coumarin synthase (COSY), an enzyme that plants use to make agriculturally and medicinally important molecules called coumarins, does its job. A series of successful experiments had illuminated many of COSY’s…
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Immunotherapy — drug treatment that stimulates the immune system to attack tumors — works well against some types of cancer, but it has shown mixed success against lung cancer.   A new study from MIT helps to shed light on why the immune system mounts such a lackluster response to lung cancer, even after treatment with immunotherapy drugs. In a…
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A common sign of Alzheimer’s disease is the excessive buildup of two types of protein in the brain: tangles of tau proteins that accumulate inside cells, and amyloid-β proteins that form plaques outside the cells. Researchers don’t know how these protein deposits are related to the other major hallmark of the disease: the death of neurons in the brain. A…
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Inside cells, events can unfold quickly. Sub-cellular compartments constantly re-arrange while proteins move along structural fibers and membranes fuse and divide. By attaching fluorescent tags to sub-cellular structures, researchers can watch events unfold in real time using light microscopes. But to see the finest details of these processes, scientists need to shift from using light microscopy to using beams of…
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Gel-like materials that can be injected into the body hold great potential to heal injured tissues or manufacture entirely new tissues. Many researchers are working to develop these hydrogels for biomedical uses, but so far very few have made it into the clinic.   To help guide in the development of such materials, which are made from microscale building blocks…
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Postdoc Spotlight: Adnan Syed

Postdoc Adnan Syed of the Losick Lab is community-oriented in his approach to academic life, as well as in his research on bacterial biofilms. He is a founding member of the Harvard’s FAS Postdoctoral Association (FASPDA) and became one of the first postdocs to co-lead the Harvard Microbial Sciences Initiative (MSI) in 2018. His efforts to foster communities both within and between departments have led to awards recognition…
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Thousands of proteins in a human cell are regulated by phosphorylation — the addition of small chemical groups to the proteins’ amino acids by enzymes called protein kinases. This process is known as phosphorylation. Abnormal protein phosphorylation has been implicated in a number of diseases, notably cancer and degenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Some 90,000 sites of phosphorylation on serine…
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Researchers at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and Massachusetts General Hospital have constructed a high-resolution cellular map of Crohn’s disease, a chronic condition in which a hyperactive immune system causes inflammation throughout the gut, leading to symptoms including abdominal pain, diarrhea, and weight loss. The disease is difficult to treat and often requires hospitalization.
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