DNA in (Even More) Detail

The intricate, tightly wound structures of chromosomes condense about two meters of DNA so the complete instruction manual for growing a human can be tucked inside a cell nucleus just 10 microns wide. “This is like fitting something the height of the Empire State Building into a space no wider than a spaghetti noodle,” said Huy Quoc Nguyen, Ph.D, a research…
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New discoveries about the disruption of condensates in the neurodevelopmental disorder Rett syndrome provide insights into how cells compartmentalize chromosomes as well as new potential paths for therapies. Scientists have, for many years, conceptualized the cell as a relatively free-flowing space, where–apart from the organization provided by specific cellular structures–molecules float freely, somehow ultimately ending up in the right place…
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As cancer cells evolve, many of their genes become overactive while others are turned down. These genetic changes can help tumors grow out of control and become more aggressive, adapt to changing conditions, and eventually lead the tumor to metastasize and spread elsewhere in the body. MIT and Harvard University researchers have now mapped out an additional layer of control…
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Researchers at the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard, in collaboration with the global health non-profit PATH and pharmaceutical company GSK, have discovered two markers of immunity in response to the RTS,S/ASO1 malaria vaccine that correlated strongly with protection from infection. The ability to identify a successful immune response to the RTS,S/ASO1 vaccine could greatly reduce the amount of…
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Psoriasis, a chronic skin condition that causes itchy, red, scaly patches, afflicts more than 8 million Americans and 125 million people worldwide. Small molecule-based drugs like steroids can penetrate the skin to treat the condition, but they can cause skin irritation and thinning and their efficacy can decrease over time. Antibodies that target specific inflammation-related molecules associated with psoriasis have…
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A Versatile Vessel for Next-Gen Therapeutics

Harvard University’s Office of Technology Development (OTD) and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health today announced the launch of Vesigen Therapeutics, a startup company that aims to overcome the challenge of delivering next-generation therapeutics, such as gene-editing complexes, RNA molecules, and other large proteins, to intracellular targets in specific tissues of interest. Through an exclusive license agreement with Harvard, Vesigen will develop…
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Capturing SARS-CoV-2’s Shape-Shifting Spike Protein

The rod-like spike proteins on the surface of SARS CoV-2 are the tip of the spear of the COVID-19 pandemic. The spikes bind to human cells via the ACE2 receptor and then dramatically change shape. They jack-knife, folding in on themselves to fuse their own membrane with the membrane of our cells. And that opens the door to coronavirus infection.…
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A new technology that combines high throughput imaging and machine learning could speed discovery of drugs to fight tuberculosis, which for generations has killed more people worldwide than any other disease caused by a single agent—4,000 people every day. Current treatment requires multiple drugs for at least six months and sometimes years, and antibiotic resistance is growing, increasing urgency for…
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The aberrant buildup of misfolded proteins is a hallmark of a host of disorders, including neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Aggregates of these toxic proteins wreak havoc on the function of cells, tissues, and organs, and despite intensive research over many decades, there are still no effective means to remove or to prevent their accumulation in humans. One…
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Many people with autism experience sensory hypersensitivity, attention deficits, and sleep disruption. One brain region that has been implicated in these symptoms is the thalamic reticular nucleus (TRN), which is believed to act as a gatekeeper for sensory information flowing to the cortex. A team of researchers from MIT and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard has now mapped…
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