News Archive

 

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.

Thwarting protein production slows cancer cells’ malignant march

July 18, 2013

Protein production or translation is tightly coupled to a highly conserved stress response—the heat shock response and its primary regulator, heat shock factor 1 (HSF1)—that cancer cells rely on for survival and proliferation, according to Whitehead Institute researchers. In mouse models of cancer, therapeutic inhibition of translation interrupts HSF1’s activity, dramatically slowing tumor growth and potentially rendering drug-resistant tumors responsive to other therapies.

Image showing how a cell with a misaligned spindle corrects the problem

Bearing witness to the phenomenon of symmetric cell division

July 18, 2013

For more than 125 years, scientists have been peering through microscopes, carefully watching cells divide. Until now, however, none has actually seen how cells manage to divide precisely into two equally-sized daughter cells during mitosis. Such perfect division depends on the position of the mitotic spindle (chromosomes, microtubules, and spindle poles) within the cell, and it’s now clear that human cells employ two specific mechanisms during the portion of division known as anaphase to correct mitotic spindle positioning.

Diagram of the mechanism cancer cells use to convert into cancer stem cells

Scientists identify gene that controls aggressiveness in breast cancer cells

July 3, 2013

Whitehead Institute researchers have determined that in basal breast cancer cells a transcription factor known as ZEB1 is held in a poised state, ready to increase the cells’ aggressiveness and enable them to transform into cancer stem cells capable of seeding new tumors throughout the body. Intriguingly, luminal breast cancer cells, which are associated with a much better clinical prognosis, carry this gene in a state in which it seems to be permanently shut down.

Image showing difference in Nanog markers

Study challenges long-held assumption of gene expression in embryonic stem cells

July 3, 2013

Whitehead Institute researchers have determined that the transcription factor Nanog, which plays a critical role in maintaining the self-renewal of embryonic stem cells, is expressed in a manner similar to other pluripotency markers.

Image: Glucocorticoids stimulates the production of ZFP36l2, which promotes the self-renewal of BFU-Es.

Scientists identify potential drug target for treatment-resistant anemias

June 9, 2013

Researchers at Whitehead Institute have identified a key target protein of glucocorticoids, the drugs that are used to increase red blood cell production in patients with certain types of anemia, including those resulting from trauma, sepsis, malaria, kidney dialysis, and chemotherapy.

Image of GATOR1's location in cells where it is functional and nonfunctional

Protein complex in key cell-growth pathway could help predict response to cancer therapy

May 30, 2013

Whitehead Institute researchers have identified a protein complex that, when mutated, sends the master growth regulatory pathway known as mTORC1 into overdrive. Researchers believe that mutations in this complex could serve as biomarkers to predict response to rapamycin treatment in cancer patients.

Whitehead Member and new Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator

Whitehead Member Peter Reddien named an HHMI Investigator

May 9, 2013

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) announced today that Whitehead Member Peter Reddien is among 27 biomedical researchers nationwide to be appointed as HHMI investigators.

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