Rett syndrome is a rare, progressive neurodevelopmental disorder that typically affects girls, causing severe intellectual disability, loss of motor skills, and autism-like symptoms, and there is currently no cure. Rett syndrome is caused by a loss-of-function mutation in the X chromosome gene MECP2. Females typically have two copies of MECP2—one on each X chromosome—and in most cases of Rett syndrome, only…
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Imagine being able to watch the smallest units of life—like cells and molecules—working together in real time. Seeing and measuring biological processes, a field called dynamic imaging, can help scientists unlock tremendous knowledge for treating diseases, from cancer to Alzheimer’s.  In an effort to take biological imaging to the next level, two Boston University College of Engineering researchers are spearheading…
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Finding HIV’s Hidden Reservoir Cells

Antiretroviral drugs have transformed the treatment of HIV/AIDS, extending the lives of patients and rendering a once deadly disease into a chronic, manageable condition. But currently available treatment does not cure HIV infection – instead, the virus persists lifelong, and antiviral treatment needs to be taken indefinitely to suppress the virus. HIV-1 reservoir cells – infected cells that are highly…
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Results from a new study by Harvard researchers just published in Cell offer insights into the relationship between inflammation and the cognitive impairment we experience as we age, and suggest the possibility that it may be a result of a kind of cellular chain reaction. “Understanding aging is one of the most important goals in biomedicine,” said Xiaowei Zhuang, David B.…
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Dr. Shiaulou Yuan's lab consists of a multidisciplinary group of biologists, biophysicists, and microscopists who aim to understand how fluid flows and biophysical forces shape the developing heart, and how these mechanisms underlie cardiac disease pathogenesis when gone awry. Specifically, they seek to illuminate how the cilium, a hair-like structure found on most cells in the human body, acts as an “antenna” to sense and translate extracellular signals into molecular processes that sculpt the early heart.
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Read the Publication This week we profile a recent publication in Nature Microbiology from the lab of Dr. Yonatan Grad (pictured, back left) at Harvard and Brigham and Women’s Hospital with first author Dr. Daniel Rubin. Can you provide a brief overview of your lab’s current research focus? We study how pathogens evolve and spread, from microbial genetics through epidemic…
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Food allergies are caused by IgE antibodies that are generated by the immune system and bind to allergens such as peanuts, triggering a reaction that in extreme cases can be potentially life-threatening. New research by scientists at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), University of Paris Saclay, and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) reveals why oral immunotherapy, which treats…
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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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