Faced by the growing enormity of the coronavirus pandemic, the global research community wasted no time. By the end of December 2020, more than 300,000 researchers from different countries and fields of inquiry have authored more than 81,000 publications on SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19. Now, the profiles of all these coronavirus experts and their network of collaborators are easily searchable through a newly released…
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Engineers at MIT and Imperial College London have developed a new way to generate tough, functional materials using a mixture of bacteria and yeast similar to the “kombucha mother” used to ferment tea.   Using this mixture, also called a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast), the researchers were able to produce cellulose embedded with enzymes that can perform…
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In 2020, the Sean M. Healey & AMG Center at Massachusetts General Hospital launched the first platform trial for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), in which multiple treatments are tested and evaluated simultaneously to accelerate the development of therapies for people with ALS. Drug candidates that enter the platform trial are chosen by a group of expert ALS scientists and members…
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While rare, botulism can cause paralysis and is potentially fatal. It is caused by nerve-damaging toxins produced by Clostridium botulinum — the most potent toxins known. These toxins often lurk in contaminated food (home canning being a major culprit). Infants can also develop botulism from ingesting C. botulinum spores in honey, soil, or dust; the bacterium then colonizes their intestines and produces the…
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Scientists at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Mass General Cancer Center have created molecular ON-OFF switches to regulate the activity of CAR T cells, a potent form of cell-based immunotherapy that has had dramatic success in treating some advanced cancers, but which pose a significant risk of toxic side effects. CAR T cells are immune cells genetically modified to recognize and attack tumors…
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The microbiome comprises trillions of microorganisms living on and inside each of us. Historically, some researchers have guessed at its role in human health, but in the last decade or so genetic sequencing techniques have illuminated this galaxy of microorganisms enough to study in detail. As researchers unravel the complex interplay between our bodies and microbiomes, they are beginning to appreciate…
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In September, Nergis Mavalvala PhD ’97, became the first woman to serve as dean of MIT’s School of Science, succeeding Donner Professor of Mathematics Michael Sipser. Born and raised in Pakistan, Mavalvala first got to know MIT during her undergraduate years at nearby Wellesley College. After earning her PhD at the Institute in 1997, she joined the faculty in 2002.…
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Nanoparticle Drug-Delivery System Developed to Treat Brain Disorders

In the past few decades, researchers have identified biological pathways leading to neurodegenerative diseases and developed promising molecular agents to target them. However, the translation of these findings into clinically approved treatments has progressed at a much slower rate, in part because of the challenges scientists face in delivering therapeutics across the blood-brain barrier (BBB) and into the brain. To…
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Pregnant people infected with SARS-CoV-2 appear to be at higher risk of developing severe cases of COVID-19 than infected people who are not pregnant. Yet newborns are mostly doing well. Reports indicate that only about 5 percent of babies born to COVID-19-infected mothers are themselves infected, and most newborns who test positive have mild or asymptomatic infections that rarely need…
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Sequencing Inside Cells

By bringing DNA sequencing out of the sequencer and directly to cells, MIT scientists have revealed an entirely new view of the genome. With a new method for in situ genome sequencing reported December 31, 2020, in the journal Science, researchers can, for the first time, see exactly how DNA sequences are organized and packed inside cells. The approach, whose development was led…
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