News Archive

 

Protein Folding and Calcium Binding Defects Account for Errors in Familial Hypercholesterolemia

August 28, 1996

Familial hypercholesterolemia, a genetic disease characterized by high levels of cholesterol and early mortality, is caused by defects in the receptor for the low-density lipoprotein (LDL)—the bad cholesterol. Now, Boston area scientists have found that this occurs because mutations in the LDL receptor prevent the protein from folding into its normal shape. This in turn impedes the receptor's ability to bind bad cholesterol and remove it from the bloodstream, causing the hypercholesterolemia.

Novel Assay Provides Researchers a Key Tool to Study Nervous System Development

June 6, 1996

For the first time, scientists have isolated embryonic tissue from zebrafish and successfully grown the tissue in culture. This assay will offer scientists a long-sought and powerful research tool, allowing them to study early development in ways that are not possible with other model organisms like frogs, mice, or chicks. Using this culture, the scientists also found key genes involved in the formation of the zebrafish nervous system.

Genetic Factors Cause Low Sperm Counts in Some Otherwise Healthy Males

May 11, 1996

Scientists have found that a specific defect in the male sex (Y) chromosome, known to cause azoospermia, or the inability to make sperm, can also cause the most common form of male infertility-low sperm production, or oligozoospermia. This study is the first to definitively show that genetic defects can cause low sperm counts in some males and suggests that intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI)—the now popular technology of injecting a single sperm into an egg to circumvent low sperm counts—may cause the sons of these men to inherit infertility.

Whitehead Member Dr. Rudolf Jaenisch Wins Prestigious German Prize for Pioneering Transgenic Technology

April 22, 1996

Dr. Rudolf Jaenisch, a Member of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, and Dr. Mario Capecchi from University of Utah in Salt Lake City have received the prestigious Molecular Bioanalytic Prize from the Boehringer Mannheim Group in Germany. In awarding this prize, the Group cited the scientists' pioneering work in establishing transgenes as a basic tool for research in molecular biology and medicine.

Whitehead Receives $26 Million NIH Grant to Begin Sequencing the Human Genome

April 11, 1996

The Whitehead/MIT Center for Genome Research has received a three year, $26 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to begin sequencing specific portions of the human genome. The Center's effort, along with others in the country, launches the final and most important phase of the Human Genome Project-decoding the exact sequence of the 3 billion DNA letters that make up the human being. Ultimately, sequencing the genome will help researchers identify disease-related genes and result in unprecedented advances in health care.

Clever Approach May Provide New Clues to Drug Design

March 28, 1996

Circumventing a long-standing problem in drug design, scientists have developed a novel way to identify a new class of protein building blocks that could serve as valuable leads for drug development. The new method, called mirror-image phage display, represents an important advance in the rapidly growing field of drug-design. It will also offer new insights into the structure and function of important proteins.

Whitehead Scientists Complete Major Goal of the Human Genome Project

March 13, 1996

Scientists at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research have achieved a major goal of the international Human Genome Project with the completion of the world's first comprehensive genetic map of the mouse genome. The mouse map appears in the March 14 issue of Nature along with a comprehensive genetic map of the human genome created by researchers at Genethon in France.

New Strains of BCG Could Lead to Better Vaccines and Cancer Therapy

January 12, 1996

Researchers at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research and Boston's Children's Hospital have found a new way to rev up the engines of the mammalian immune system. They have taken an organism used worldwide to vaccinate against tuberculosis and packaged inside it mammalian genes that stimulate immune cell function. This achievement could lead to more effective vaccines for a broad range of human diseases and also-because the same organism is used in immunotherapy for bladder cancer-to safer, more effective cancer therapy.

Whitehead Human Genome Map Ushers in Final Phase of U.S. Human Genome Project: Map Provides Landmarks Needed to Begin Large-Scale Sequencing of Human Chromosome

December 22, 1995

For the first time, scientists have created a map of the human genome that will allow them to begin the final phase of the Human Genome Project: decoding the exact sequence of all 3 billion DNA letters that make up the genetic instructions for building a human being. This powerful new map, described in the December 22 issue of Science, contains more than 15,000 distinct markers and covers virtually all of the human genome. It was created by scientists at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Cambridge, Mass., with support from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and major input from the genetic mapping group at Généthon in France.

Glue-Like Protein Provides New Key to Understanding Common Birth Defects

October 20, 1995

Scientists at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research have discovered a glue-like protein in fruit flies that ensures proper partitioning of hereditary material and could shed new light on the origin of some of the most common human birth defects, including Down syndrome. Dr. Terry Orr-Weaver and her colleagues describe the new protein, called MEI-S332, and its role in sexual reproduction in the October 20 issue of Cell.

Knockout Mouse Model Suggests New Directions for Treating Human Breast Cancer

August 25, 1995

Scientists have created a new strain of mice lacking cyclin D1, a vital component of the growth machinery in all cells, and found that knocking out this important cog causes surprisingly little damage. These results have implications for treating human breast cancer and should lead to a better understanding of the molecular basis of cancer. The study, reported in the August 25 issue of Cell, was carried out in the laboratory of Dr. Robert Weinberg, a cancer research pioneer at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research.

Genetic Factors May Account for Infertility in Otherwise Healthy Males

August 1, 1995

A team of U.S. and Finnish scientists has found that a specific defect in the male sex chromosome (the Y chromosome) may be responsible for 13 percent of cases of azoospermia, the complete inability to make sperm and the most severe form of male infertility. The study is one of the first to demonstrate that genetic defects can sometimes explain infertility in otherwise healthy couples and could lead to a better understanding of the molecular mechanisms required to make healthy sperm. This research, reported in the August issue of Nature Genetics, was led by Dr. David Page of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI).

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