News Archive

 

Image showing uninfected B cells and B cells infected with influenza

Flu virus wipes out immune system’s first responders to establish infection

October 19, 2013

Revealing influenza’s truly insidious nature, Whitehead Institute scientists have discovered that the virus is able to infect its host by first killing off the cells of the immune system that are actually best equipped to neutralize the virus.

schematic depicting super-enhancers controlling cell identity genes in embryonic stem cells

Super-enhancers seen as ‘Rosetta Stone’ for dialog between genes and disease

October 10, 2013

Having recently discovered a set of powerful gene regulators that control cell identity in a few mouse and human cell types, Whitehead Institute scientists are now showing that these regulators—which they named “super-enhancers”—act across a vast array of human cell types and are enriched in mutated regions of the genome that are closely associated with a broad spectrum of diseases.

Images of the size of Rett model cells and their nuclei compared to control cells

Rett syndrome gene dysfunction redefined

October 3, 2013

Whitehead Institute researchers have discovered that the protein product of the gene MECP2, which is mutated in about 95% of Rett syndrome patients, is a global activator of neuronal gene expression. Mutations in the protein can cause decreased gene transcription, reduced protein synthesis, and severe defects in the AKT/mTOR signaling pathway.

Photo: David Pincus and Sebastian Lourido

Two Whitehead Fellows snag prestigious NIH Early Independence Awards

September 30, 2013

Whitehead Fellows Sebastian Lourido and David Pincus have each been named a recipient of a 2013 National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director’s Early Independence Award, aimed at accelerating the careers of exceptionally creative junior scientists.

Artistic image of silhouetted heads

Gene essential for memory extinction could lead to new PTSD treatments

September 18, 2013

A new study from a team of Whitehead and MIT researchers reveals a gene that is critical to the process of memory extinction. Enhancing the activity of this gene, known as Tet1, might benefit people with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) by making it easier to replace fearful memories with more positive associations.

Images of the activity of the follistatin gene in a planarian after its head and tail were cut off

Tissue loss triggers regeneration in planarian flatworms

September 3, 2013

By investigating regeneration in planarian flatworms, Whitehead Institute researchers have identified a mechanism—involving the interplay of two wound-induced genes—by which the animal can distinguish between wounds that require regeneration and those that do not.

Image of cells with reporters added using CRISPR/Cas

CRISPR/Cas genome engineering system generates valuable conditional mouse models

August 29, 2013

Whitehead Institute researchers have used the gene regulation system CRISPR/Cas (for “clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat/CRISPR-associated) to engineer mouse genomes containing reporter and conditional alleles in one step. Animals containing such sophisticated engineered alleles can now be made in a matter of weeks rather than years and could be used to model diseases and study gene function.

Daigram of enzyme used in CRISPR-on

Novel approach to gene regulation can activate multiple genes simultaneously

August 27, 2013

By creating a powerful new gene regulation system called CRISPR-on, Whitehead Institute researchers now have the ability to increase the expression of multiple genes simultaneously and precisely manipulate each gene’s expression level. The system is effective in both mouse and human cells as well as in mouse embryos.

Slides of mouse brain tissue from CJD mice that are infected with prions compared to tissue from FFI mice.

New models advance the study of deadly human prion diseases

August 19, 2013

By directly altering the gene coding for the prion protein (PrP), Whitehead Institute researchers have created mouse models of two neurodegenerative prion diseases, each of which manifests in different regions of the brain.  These new models for fatal familial insomnia (FFI) and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) accurately reflect the distinct patterns of destruction caused by the these diseases in humans.  Remarkably, as different as each disease is, they both spontaneously generate infectious prions.

Slide showing planarian muscle cells expressing 19 position control genes

In regenerating planarians, muscle cells provide more than heavy lifting

August 15, 2013

By studying the planarian flatworm, a master of regenerating missing tissue and repairing wounds, the lab of Whitehead Institute Member Peter Reddien has identified an unexpected source of position instruction: the muscle cells in the planarian body wall. This is the first time that such a positional control system has been identified in adult regenerative animals.

Image of mouse lymph node

Helper cells aptly named in battle with invading pathogens

August 8, 2013

By tracking the previously unknown movements of a set of specialized cells, Whitehead Institute scientists are shedding new light on how the immune system mounts a successful defense against hostile, ever-changing invaders.

X chromosome

Sex chromosome shocker: The “female” X a key contributor to sperm production

July 21, 2013

Painstaking new analysis of the genetic sequence of the X chromosome—long perceived as the “female” counterpart to the male-associated Y chromosome—reveals that large portions of the X have evolved to play a specialized role in sperm production.

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