Inside the biosafety level 4 lab at the National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories (NEIDL) in Boston, researchers wear three sets of gloves and breathe air piped into moon suits through snaking tubes. Before them, under a plastic shield, are human lung-sac cells grown from organoids, blobs of cells that mimic organs. Now it’s time to infect them with the coronavirus.…
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Harvard Stem Cell Institute researchers have developed an engineering technique to precisely control the direction that neurons grow their axons, cable-like structures that allow nerve cells to connect with each other. In a zebrafish model, researchers used the approach to correct defective neural connections and restore the neuron’s ability to cause muscle contractions. The findings, published in the journal Developmental Cell,…
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Kristina Lopez, a first-year graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology working in Whitehead Fellow Kristin Knouse’s lab, has received the Ford Foundation Fellowship, an award designated by the National Academy of Sciences and funded by the Ford Foundation to encourage diversity in education. Lopez, a native of the mid-size South Texas city of McAllen is the first person in…
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More than a decade before people with Huntington’s disease (HD) show symptoms, they can exhibit abnormally high levels of an immune-system molecule called interleukin-6 (IL-6), which has led many researchers to suspect IL-6 of promoting the eventual neurological devastation associated with the genetic condition. A new investigation by MIT neuroscientists shows that the story likely isn’t so simple. In a…
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DIS3L2-mediated decay (DMD) is a surveillance pathway for certain non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs) including ribosomal RNAs (rRNAs), transfer RNAs (tRNAs), small nuclear RNAs (snRNAs), and RMRP. While mutations in DIS3L2 are associated with Perlman syndrome, the biological significance of impaired DMD is obscure and pathological RNAs have not been identified. Here, by ribosome profiling (Ribo-seq) we find specific dysregulation of endoplasmic reticulum (ER)-targeted…
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Object Origins

Every year, an estimated 48 million Americans get sick from foodborne illnesses, resulting in some 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This public health problem is compounded by billions in economic damage from product recalls, highlighting the need to rapidly and accurately determine the sources of foodborne illnesses. With the increasing complexity of…
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Affecting an estimated 22 million American adults older than 40, obstructive sleep apnea occurs when a sleeping person’s tongue and soft palate collapse against the back of the throat and close off breathing. Dipping oxygen (O2) levels and rising carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in the blood alert the sleeping brain to the problem, rousing the sleeper just long enough to…
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Researchers have discovered that a defective form of the protein aortic carboxypeptidase-like protein (ACLP) from patients with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS) is retained in cells and induces cellular stress. This finding may provide targets for pharmacologic and therapeutic interventions in treating individuals with EDS as well as wound healing disorders and fibrosis. EDS is a prevalent genetic disease that results in…
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In the last several years, excitement has surged for a promising class of drugs that work not by inhibiting the action of a molecular target, as most conventional drugs do, but instead by harnessing the cell’s recycling system to destroy the target. However, these unusual compounds, known as molecular glue degraders, have been difficult to find and engineer. Now, a…
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Sleep, Death and … the Gut?

The first signs of insufficient sleep are universally familiar. There’s tiredness and fatigue, difficulty concentrating, perhaps irritability or even tired giggles. Far fewer people have experienced the effects of prolonged sleep deprivation, including disorientation, paranoia and hallucinations. Total, prolonged sleep deprivation, however, can be fatal. While it has been reported in humans only anecdotally, a study in rats conducted by Chicago-based researchers…
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