In 2013, neuroanatomist Charles “Chuck” Vanderburg received an unusual request. A sought-after expert in analyzing brain tissue on a micro-scale, Vanderburg was asked to study a unique specimen — a meteorite. Vanderburg went to work, using his microdissection skillset to study the composition of one of the oldest objects on Earth. At the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Vanderburg…
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As of the end of June 2021, more than 150 million Americans have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. But questions remain about how long vaccinated people are protected against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and whether they will be protected from the viral variants circulating in the United States and globally, including the new highly transmissible delta (B.1.617.2) variant.…
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Most of the tests that doctors use to diagnose cancer — such as mammography, colonoscopy, and CT scans — are based on imaging. More recently, researchers have also developed molecular diagnostics that can detect specific cancer-associated molecules that circulate in bodily fluids like blood or urine.   MIT engineers have now created a new diagnostic nanoparticle that combines both of…
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Terence D. Capellini has been interested in how joints work for almost three decades. Part of it is due to personal experience, as he suffered several joint injuries as a college ice hockey player and recently developed knee osteoarthritis. The principal investigator of Harvard’s Developmental and Evolutionary Genetics Lab has also seen the pain and limited mobility of loved ones…
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Thinking Without a Brain

If you didn’t have a brain, could you still figure out where you were and navigate your surroundings? Thanks to new research on slime molds, the answer may be “yes.” Scientists from the Wyss Institute at Harvard University and the Allen Discovery Center at Tufts University have discovered that a brainless slime mold called Physarum polycephalum uses its body to sense mechanical…
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Many cancers develop from cells that have a malfunctioning tumor suppressor gene, p53, which normally helps control unchecked cell growth and prevent cancer. Some scientists are pursuing a strategy of restoring p53 gene function in cancer cells to stop their unruly growth or kill them. The exact effects of reviving p53 activity in tumors are not yet fully understood. In some cancers, like lymphomas, reactivated p53 causes…
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New research in humans and mice identifies a particular signaling molecule that can help modify inflammation and the immune system to protect against Alzheimer’s disease. The work, which was led by investigators at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), is published in Nature. Cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer’s disease develops when neurons begin to die. “Neuron death can be caused by improper immune…
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Postdoc Spotlight: Haleh Fotowat

Postdoc Haleh Fotowat of the Engert Lab has always split her time between scientific and creative pursuits. “I always grew up with a strong hobby in my life—I always had something other than going to school or working,” Fotowat says. ”I’m not as happy if I do only one or the other. If I didn’t do art, I don’t think I’d be able to…
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Getting Closer to a Greener World

It sounds like science fiction: tweak the metabolism of microbes so that they can consume greenhouse gases and produce carbon-neutral products. But the Circe team of Shannon Nangle, Ph.D. and Marika Ziesack, Ph.D. is well on its way to making this dream a reality. Initiated in 2017 in the lab of Wyss Core Faculty member Pam Silver, Ph.D., Circe has been designated a Wyss Institute Project based…
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Researchers Develop Novel, Woman Controlled Contraceptive Product

Despite the availability of numerous effective birth control methods, more than 40 percent of pregnancies worldwide are unintended. In addition to contributing significantly to population growth, unintended pregnancies can have pronounced adverse effects on maternal physical, mental and economic wellbeing. BUSM researchers and ZabBio (San Diego, Calif.) have developed an anti-sperm monoclonal antibody, the Human Contraception Antibody (HCA), which they…
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