News Archive

 

Whitehead Study Supports Existence of Ancient RNA World

September 16, 1998

For decades, many researchers thought that ribonucleic acid, or RNA, was nothing more than a molecular interpreter that helps translate DNA codes into proteins. But research over the past 15 years, including studies at the Whitehead Institute, has been lending credence to the notion of a so-called “RNA world,” an era in early evolution when all life forms were based on RNA.

Image: Arabidopsis plants showing effect of a gene called EIR1 (Ethylene Insensitive Root 1) on root development

Putting Down Your Roots: How Plants Know How to Do It

July 15, 1998

The next time you pick up a bag of weed killer from The Home Depot, think about this: a chemical company probably spent years of testing and millions of dollars to develop an effective herbicide that is harmful to weeds but safe for you, your children, and your pets. Now a new study of root growth in a tiny weed called Arabidopsis thaliana suggests that genetics could help scientists save valuable time and money in developing better herbicides for the future.

Whitehead Study Establishes Role of DNA Methylation in the Stability of DNA

April 2, 1998

Scientists at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research have established for the first time that DNA methylation, a chemical process by which cells alter how genes are read without changing the basic text, may also be responsible for maintaining the integrity of the genome, or in other words, for ensuring that the 3 billion-letter DNA code is copied accurately when cells divide.

Robert Weinberg To Receive National Medal of Science From President Clinton

December 14, 1997

On Tuesday, December 16, President Clinton will present the National Medal of Science, the nation's highest scientific honor, to Whitehead Member and cancer research pioneer Dr. Robert A. Weinberg and eight other recipients. Dr. Weinberg is a founding member of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, the Daniel K. Ludwig Professor for Cancer Research in the Department of Biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and an American Cancer Society Research Professor at MIT.

Study Paints New Picture Of Y Chromosome as a Safe Haven for Male Fertility Genes

October 24, 1997

For decades scientists thought that the human Y chromosome, the male sex chromosome, was nothing more than a smaller, less stable version of its partner, the X (the sex chromosome present in both females and males). However, new research led by Dr. David Page, member of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, and associate investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, reverses this unflattering picture of the Y and reveals it as a crucial player in the evolution of sex chromosomes and also as a safe haven for male fertility genes. These results are not only generating a new respect for the Y chromosome but also could lead to novel diagnostic techniques for thousands of infertile men. The results also have profound implications for understanding the genetic differences between men and women and the genetic underpinnings of chromosomal disorders such as Turner syndrome.

First Images of Key Viral Protein Could Lead to New Strategies for Human Gene Therapy

September 12, 1997

New images of an L-shaped molecule on the surface of a mouse leukemia virus could help scientists realize the promise of human gene therapy—the effort to cure disease by inserting genes directly into human cells. The images, published in the September 12 issue of Science, show the crystal structure of a piece of the virus's envelope protein—the piece required to recognize and bind to receptors on the surface of a mammalian cell.

Discovery of Genetic Pathways May Provide New Ways to Combat Candida Infections

September 5, 1997

A new study has uncovered the genetic wiring diagram underlying the infectiousness of Candida albicans, a fungus that causes thrush in babies, vaginal infections in women, and life-threatening infections in chemotherapy and AIDS patients. The study, led by Dr. Gerald R. Fink, Director of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, reveals that one key to Candida's infectiousness lies in its ability to switch from a rounded form to filamentous forms. When the wiring diagram underlying this switch is inactivated, Candida infections are no longer deadly in mice.

Newly Discovered Human Protein Provides Important Target for Cancer Therapy

August 14, 1997

The discovery of a key molecule linked to the immortalization of human tumor cells provides an important new target for anti-cancer drug design. Researchers led by Dr. Robert A. Weinberg of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research have isolated and cloned the gene for the long-sought catalytic subunit of human telomerase, a molecule believed to play a major role in the transition from normal to cancerous growth.

Two Whitehead Faculty Elected to National Academy of Sciences

April 29, 1997

The National Academy of Sciences today announced that two faculty of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, Dr. Peter S. Kim and Dr. Eric S. Lander, have been elected to membership in the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). Dr. Kim, who is also Associate Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), recently discovered a structure on the surface of HIV that could lead to a new strategy for designing AIDS drugs. Dr. Lander, a pioneer in gene mapping and sequencing, is director of the Whitehead/MIT Center for Genome Research. Both are also professors of biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Deleted in Colorectal Cancer (DCC) Gene Plays a Role in Wiring the Mouse Brain and Spinal Cord

April 24, 1997

A new study has found that Deleted in Colorectal Cancer (DCC), a gene thought to play a role in human colorectal cancer, does not play a role in the development of mouse colon cancer. Instead, the mouse version of the DCC gene, called Dcc, functions as a receptor involved in the wiring of the brain and the spinal cord. DCC was first identified in 1990 as a candidate "tumor suppressor" gene that acts as a brake during normal growth of colonic cells but is missing in most colon cancer cells. The new mouse study, led by Dr. Amin Fazeli in the laboratory of Dr. Robert Weinberg at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, weakens the candidacy of DCC as a cancer gene and sho;ws that the gene helps establish connections in the developing nervous system.

Whitehead Structural Biologists Discover Vulnerable Region in HIV Envelope Protein

April 18, 1997

For the first time scientists have a high-resolution picture of the protein fragment that enables HIV (the AIDS virus) to invade human cells—work that has immediate implications for new drug design. In the April 18 issue of Cell magazine, Dr. Peter S. Kim and his colleagues at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute present the crystal structure of a key fragment of the HIV envelope protein.

New Strategy for Combating Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis

April 10, 1997

Using a method of surveying an entire mammalian genome, scientists have discovered that an immune system protein may play a previously unsuspected role in quelling the spread of tuberculosis infection. The finding has implications for devising new therapies for tuberculosis (TB), especially for the drug resistant strains that now affect some 50 million people world wide. The study, reported in the June 10 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was led by Dr. Richard Young at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research. "We believe this is the first time that scientists have used a survey of the entire genome to identify genes turned on by infectious agents. We suspect that this method (strategy) will become a powerful new weapon in the war against other microbes, including HIV," says Dr. Young.

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