News Archive

 

Diagram of  high-throughput sequencing-based method that measures the poly(A) tails of individual messenger RNA molecules

A protein-production tale of the tape: separating poly(A)-tail length from translational efficiency

January 29, 2014

Whitehead Institute researchers have determined that poly(A) tails on messenger RNAs (mRNAs) shift their role in the regulation of protein production during early embryogenesis. This finding about the regulation of mRNA translation also provides insight into how microRNAs control protein production. 

Microscope images showing different cellular phenotypes associated with cholesterol accumulation and autophagy impairment

Restarting stalled autophagy a potential approach to treating Niemann-Pick disease

January 8, 2014

Whitehead Institute researchers have determined that the lipid storage disorder Niemann-Pick type C1 (NPC1) disease is caused not only by defects in cholesterol processing but also in autophagy—a key cellular degradation pathway that malfunctions in many neurodegenerative diseases.

Image of scissors cutting DNA

New gene-editing system enables large-scale studies of gene function

December 12, 2013

Since the completion of the Human Genome Project, which identified nearly 20,000 protein-coding genes, scientists have been trying to decipher the roles of those genes. A new approach developed at MIT, the Broad Institute, and the Whitehead Institute should speed up the process by allowing researchers to study the entire genome at once.

Image comparing a surface form and cave form of the fish Astyanax mexicanus

Rapid evolution of novel forms: Environmental change triggers inborn capacity for adaptation

December 12, 2013

A team of researchers from Harvard Medical School and Whitehead Institute report that, at least in the case of one variety of cavefish, one agent of evolutionary change is the heat shock protein known as HSP90.

Image of a eraser erasing part of a neuron

Genetic mutation increases risk of Parkinson’s disease from pesticides

November 27, 2013

A team of researchers from Whitehead Institute and Sanford-Burnham Research Institute has brought new clarity to the picture of how gene-environmental interactions can kill nerve cells that make dopamine. The study uses patient-derived stem cells to show that a mutation in the α-synuclein gene causes increased vulnerability to pesticides, leading to Parkinson’s disease.

Image showing how cells with and without normal FLCN gene react to nutrients

Gene responsible for hereditary cancer syndrome found to disrupt critical growth-regulating pathway

November 7, 2013

Whitehead Institute scientists report that the gene mutated in the rare hereditary disorder known as Birt-Hogg-Dubé cancer syndrome prevents activation of mTORC1, a critical nutrient-sensing and growth-regulating cellular pathway.   

Microscope image of filamentation in Candida albicans with and without amphotericin B resistance

Understanding the evolution of drug resistance points to novel strategy for developing better antimicrobials

October 29, 2013

The most common fungal pathogen in humans, Candida albicans, rarely develops resistance to the antifungal drug amphotericin B (AmB).  This has been puzzling as the drug has been in clinical use for over 50 years. Whitehead Institute scientists have now discovered why.  The genetic mutations that enable certain strains of C. albicans to resist AmB simultaneously render it highly susceptible to environmental stressors and disarm its virulence factors.

Schematic showing nerve cells and person with Parkinson's disease within a yeast cell

Yeast, human stem cells drive discovery of new Parkinson’s disease drug targets

October 24, 2013

Using a discovery platform whose components range from yeast cells to human stem cells, Whitehead Institute scientists have identified a novel Parkinson’s disease drug target and a compound capable of repairing neurons derived from Parkinson’s patients.

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.

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