Harnessing the Immune System to Fight Cancer

Sometimes research takes scientists to unexpected places, even alpaca farms. Tobiloba Oni is one of two Valhalla Fellows at Whitehead Institute who are researching ways to harness our natural defenses to combat cancer, an approach called immunotherapy. Oni found himself at an alpaca farm last summer not to admire the alpacas’ fluffy coats and endearing underbites, but to draw blood.…
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An international team of scientists led by researchers at the University of Helsinki and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard examined the effects of 44,370 genetic variants on more than 2000 diseases in almost 177,000 Finnish biobank participants. The study focused on so-called coding genetic variants, i.e., variants that are known to change the protein product of the gene.…
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Denic Lab Discovers an Ancient and Essential Translation Factor Chaperone

Billions of years ago, the first eukaryotic common ancestor split from its archaeal lineage with a distinct set of genes, the majority of which many of us (eukaryotes) contain to this day. Recently, a high-throughput sequencing approach to identify the essential genes in an archaeal model organism, Sulfolobus islandicus, discovered only 80 genes conserved between present-day archaeal and eukaryotic organisms to…
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An international study 13 years in the making demonstrates for the first time that degradation in the way DNA is organized and regulated — known as epigenetics — can drive aging in an organism, independently of changes to the genetic code itself. The work shows that a breakdown in epigenetic information causes mice to age and that restoring the integrity…
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After three years of infections, lockdowns, and vaccinations, we know a lot about SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19—but we don’t know everything. Like, why are some variants weaker than others? Why does the Omicron variant spread fast, yet make people less sick? Do new virus mutations put us at fresh risk or bring us closer to the pandemic’s end?…
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Triple-negative breast cancer is notoriously hard to treat. Assistant Professor Madeleine Oudin’s lab at the School of Engineering studies how to tame those cancer cells into submission. With Laidlaw Scholar Deepti Srinivasan, a senior biomedical engineering major and an aspiring physician, Oudin investigated how manipulating potassium channel activity could alter those cells’ bioelectric signals—making the cancer less likely to spread.
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Common Brain Network for Psychiatric Illness Discovered

Psychiatric illnesses, such as schizophrenia and depression, affect nearly one in five adults in the United States and nearly half of patients diagnosed with a psychiatric illness also meet the criteria for a second. With so much overlap, researchers have begun to suspect that there may be one neurobiological explanation for a variety of psychiatric illnesses. A new study by investigators…
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Immune checkpoint inhibitors are important medications that boost the immune system’s response against various cancers, but some patients’ cancer cells are unaffected by the drugs or develop resistance during treatment. Researchers led by a team from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard recently identified an immune evasion gene that is turned on in some…
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The Molecules Behind Metastasis

Many cancer cells never leave their original tumors. Some cancer cells evolve the ability to migrate to other tissues, but once there cannot manage to form new tumors, and so remain dormant. The deadliest cancer cells are those that can not only migrate to, but also thrive and multiply in distant tissues. These metastatic cancer cells are responsible for most…
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