Estimated to cause almost half a million infections per year, the bacterium Clostridioides difficile, also known as C. difficile or “C. diff,” can cause diarrhea and inflammation of the large intestine. Most often affecting patients who are older and/or have weakened immune systems, C. difficile infections are especially common among hospitalized patients and in patients who have recently completed a course of antibiotics. While several…
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A group of bacteria called TM7 live in the human body by growing on the surfaces of other microbes, known as host bacteria. Ever since this arrangement was discovered, many scientists have assumed TM7 were harmful to humans, while their host bacteria were health promoting. Studies have shown higher abundance of TM7 in diseases including vaginosis, inflammatory bowel disease, and…
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Dr. Richard Merkin is renewing support for transformative research at the Broad Institute. For more than a decade, Merkin has supported research at the Broad, enabling scientists to develop new genome-editing technologies, gain insight into how DNA is organized in cancer cells, and devise methods for discerning the function of genetic variants. Through the Merkin Institute Fellowship, he has helped nearly…
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Massages feel good, but do they actually speed muscle recovery? Turns out, they do. Scientists at the Wyss Institute and Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences applied precise, repeated forces to injured mouse leg muscles and found that they recovered stronger and faster than untreated muscles, likely because the compression squeezed inflammation-causing cells out of the…
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It can be difficult to get drugs to disease sites along the gastrointestinal tract, which spans the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small and large intestine, and anus. Invasive treatments can take hours as patients wait for adequate amounts of drugs to be absorbed at the right location. The same problem is holding back newer treatments like gene-altering therapies. Now the MIT…
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The 100 billion cells in the human brain have a vast array of specializations — distinct shapes, types, functions, and connectivities — all of which contribute to the cellular diversity underlying our complex behavior as humans. Yet scientists don’t know all the cell types in the brain. “In order to really appreciate how the functions of the brain are actually…
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Riaan Research Initiative, a non-profit organization, and UMass Chan Medical School are entering into an agreement to fund, research and develop a gene replacement therapy to combat Cockayne syndrome, a fatal autosomal recessive disorder. Cockayne syndrome, first identified in 1936, impacts a few hundred children around the world and is primarily caused by mutations in genes CSA and CSB, which…
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Lung immunity is essential to combat all pulmonary diseases, including COVID-19, pneumonia, lung cancer, asthma and COPD. Lung immunity differs from the systemic immunity which is the normal focus of biomedical investigations and interventions, but factors influencing the establishment and regulation of lung immunity are mostly still unknown. Now a new study reveals lung cell roles in guiding the immune…
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Using machine learning, a computer model can teach itself to smell in just a few minutes. When it does, researchers have found, it builds a neural network that closely mimics the olfactory circuits that animal brains use to process odors. Animals from fruit flies to humans all use essentially the same strategy to process olfactory information in the brain. But…
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Dealing with Uncertainty

As we interact with the world, we are constantly presented with information that is unreliable or incomplete – from jumbled voices in a crowded room to solicitous strangers with unknown motivations. Fortunately, our brains are well equipped to evaluate the quality of the evidence we use to make decisions, usually allowing us to act deliberately, without jumping to conclusions. Now,…
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