News Archive


Images of yeast containing prion-like proteins and controls

Revising the meaning of “prion”

October 6, 2016

Prions are infamous for causing Creutzfeld-Jakob disease, fatal familial insomnia, and bovine spongiform encephalopathy, commonly known as mad cow’s disease. Yet, it’s not likely that’s all they’re good for. Using an unbiased screen in yeast, a team of Whitehead Institute and Stanford University scientists have identified dozens of prion-like proteins that could change the defining characteristics of these unusual proteins. 

Still images of a microglia-like cell branching

Derived neural immune cells enable new facet of neurodegeneration research

September 26, 2016

Whitehead Institute scientists have devised a protocol for pushing human pluripotent stem cells to become microglia—the specialized immune cells that maintain the brain and care for it after injury. Microglia play an important role in neurodegenerative diseases, including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, and studying these cells has been very difficult until now.

Diagram of how editing methylation can change cells

Scientists use CRISPR/Cas9 to flip DNA methylation states in vivo

September 22, 2016

Whitehead Institute scientists have deciphered how to use a modified CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing system to change genes’ methylation state, thereby activating or silencing those genes. Proper methylation is critical for normal cellular operations and altered methylation has been linked to many diseases, including neurological disorders and cancer.

Image of mouse cerebellum section with cells having different imprinted methylation

Inherited parental methylation shifts over time, may have functional effects in the brain and other tissues

September 20, 2016

Inherited methylation—a form of epigenetic regulation passed down from parents to offspring—is far more dynamic than previously thought and may contribute to changes in the brain and other tissues over time. This finding by Whitehead Institute scientists challenges current understandings of gene regulation via methylation, from development through adulthood.  

Former Mass. Governor Deval Patrick, life sciences executive Amy Schulman join Whitehead Institute Board of Directors

September 15, 2016

Whitehead Institute announced today that Deval Patrick, a Bain Capital managing director and former Massachusetts governor, and Amy Schulman, a distinguished life sciences executive, have been elected to its Board of Directors.

Images of toxoplasma parasites inside of a host cell

Genome-wide Toxoplasma screen reveals mechanisms of parasitic infections

September 1, 2016

Whitehead Institute researchers have conducted the first genome-wide screen in Apicomplexa, a phylum of single-celled parasites that cause diseases such as malaria and toxoplasmosis. The screen sheds light into the vast, unstudied reaches of parasite genomes, uncovering for instance a protein common to all apicomplexans.

Microscope images of mitochondria

Novel method enables absolute quantification of mitochondrial metabolites

August 31, 2016

Whitehead Institute scientists have developed a method to quickly isolate mitochondria from mammalian cells and systematically measure the concentrations of mitochondrial metabolites. Mitochondrial dysfunction is found in several disorders, including Parkinson’s disease, cardiovascular disease, and mitochondrial diseases. Until now, peering into the inner metabolic workings of these vital organelles has been very challenging.

Images of yeast inside macrophages that have not and have been treated with Inz-5

Disrupting mitochondrial function could improve treatment of fungal infections

August 11, 2016

By identifying new compounds that selectively block mitochondrial respiration in pathogenic fungi, Whitehead Institute scientists have identified a potential antifungal mechanism that could enable combination therapy with fluconazole, one of today’s most commonly prescribed fungal infection treatments. Severe, invasive fungal infections have a mortality rate of 30-50% and cause an estimated 1.5 million deaths worldwide annually. Current antifungal therapies are hampered by the increasingly frequent emergence of drug resistance and negative interactions that often preclude combination use.

Whitehead Member Susan Lindquist

Whitehead’s Susan Lindquist to receive prestigious Albany Prize in Medicine

August 3, 2016

Whitehead Institute Member Susan Lindquist has been named one of three recipients of the Albany Medical Center Prize in Medicine and Biomedical Research for 2016.

Jaw-dropping research explains mouth formation during embryonic development

August 2, 2016

Whitehead Institute researchers have identified an area in the developing face of embryonic frogs that unzips to form the mouth. The scientists, who named this region the “pre-mouth array”, have also discovered the cellular signaling that triggers its formation. Elucidating this critical aspect of craniofacial development in a model organism enhances understanding of and potential treatment for human facial birth defects.

Whitehead Member Jing-Ke Weng

Whitehead’s Jing-Ke Weng receives 2016 Beckman Young Investigator Award

July 18, 2016

Whitehead Member Jing-Ke Weng is one of eight early-career scientists nationwide to be named a 2016 Beckman Young Investigator.

Graphical abstract of the research described below

Defining what it means to be a naive stem cell

July 14, 2016

Whitehead Institute scientists have created a checklist that defines the “naive” state of cultured human embryonic stem cells (ESCs).  Such cells provide a better model of early human embryogenesis than conventional ESCs in later stages of development.


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