Tag: Genetics + Genomics

Image of plants with curled leaves due to lack of gene methylation

Epigenetic rheostat helps uncover how gene regulation is inherited and maintained

December 14, 2017

DNA Methylation—the addition of chemical tags to DNA—typically reduces the expression of methylated genes. Whitehead Institute Member Mary Gehring and her lab have identified a mechanism important for maintaining methylation, that when disrupted, results in the demethylation of large sections of the Arabidopsis plant’s genome.

Illustration of neighborhoods within DNA loops

New study prompts rethinking transcription factor’s role in control of gene expression

December 7, 2017

Like proteins, genomes must fold appropriately to function properly; some transcription factors provide the structural support

Illustration of scientist picking molecules from a tree

Large-scale approach reveals imperfect actor in plant biotechnology

November 27, 2017

Whitehead researchers detect the chemical ‘mistakes’ of common herbicide-resistance enzyme, successfully re-engineer it for enhanced precision

Growth medium based on human plasma rewires cell metabolism

April 6, 2017

Cultured human cells are the foundation for disease and drug research. Now Whitehead Institute researchers have designed a growth medium that more closely resembles the cells’ environment in the body—and demonstrated that, relative to decades-old recipes that have remained the workhorses of cell culture studies, it significantly alters the cells’ inner workings.

Image of an invasive outgrowth of cancer cells

Biomarker identified for likely aggressive, early stage breast cancer

April 3, 2017

Whitehead Institute scientists have identified a gene that could help clinicians discern which patients have aggressive forms of early stage breast cancer, which could prevent hundreds of thousands of women from undergoing unnecessary treatment and save millions of dollars.

Scientists engineer gene pathway to grow brain organoids with surface folding

January 3, 2017

Whitehead researchers provide insight into a specific gene pathway that appears to regulate the growth, structure, and organization of the human cortex. They also demonstrate that 3D human cerebral organoids--miniature, lab-grown versions of specific brain structures--can be effective in modeling the molecular, cellular, and anatomical processes of human brain development. And they suggest a new path for identifying the cells affected by Zika virus.

Diagram of how editing methylation can change cells

Scientists use CRISPR/Cas9 to flip DNA methylation states in vivo

September 22, 2016

Whitehead Institute scientists have deciphered how to use a modified CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing system to change genes’ methylation state, thereby activating or silencing those genes. Proper methylation is critical for normal cellular operations and altered methylation has been linked to many diseases, including neurological disorders and cancer.

Image of mouse cerebellum section with cells having different imprinted methylation

Inherited parental methylation shifts over time, may have functional effects in the brain and other tissues

September 20, 2016

Inherited methylation—a form of epigenetic regulation passed down from parents to offspring—is far more dynamic than previously thought and may contribute to changes in the brain and other tissues over time. This finding by Whitehead Institute scientists challenges current understandings of gene regulation via methylation, from development through adulthood.  

Graphical abstract of the research described below

Defining what it means to be a naive stem cell

July 14, 2016

Whitehead Institute scientists have created a checklist that defines the “naive” state of cultured human embryonic stem cells (ESCs).  Such cells provide a better model of early human embryogenesis than conventional ESCs in later stages of development.

Cartoon of how a mutation in the genome's three-dimensional structure can activate previously silent oncogenes

Identifying a genetic mutation behind sporadic Parkinson’s disease

April 20, 2016

Using a novel method, Whitehead Institute researchers have determined how mutations that are not located within genes are identified through genome-wide association studies (GWAS) and can contribute to sporadic Parkinson’s disease, the most common form of the condition. The approach could be used to analyze GWAS results for other sporadic diseases with genetic causes, such as multiple sclerosis, diabetes, and cancer.

Cartoon of how a mutation in the genome's three-dimensional structure can activate previously silent oncogenes

There goes the neighborhood: Changes in chromosome structure activate cancer-causing genes

March 3, 2016

In a finding with enormous implications for cancer diagnostics and therapeutics, Whitehead Institute scientists have discovered that breaches in looping chromosomal structures known as “insulated neighborhoods” can activate oncogenes capable of fueling aggressive tumor growth. 

Diagram showing the frequency of mutations in the gene for RagC

Scientists identify mTOR pathway mutations in follicular lymphoma

December 21, 2015

A team of researchers from Whitehead Institute and Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) have identified in follicular lymphoma tumors a mutated protein that could serve as a biomarker to predict therapeutic response.

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