Tag: Immune System

Images of yeast inside macrophages that have not and have been treated with Inz-5

Disrupting mitochondrial function could improve treatment of fungal infections

August 11, 2016

By identifying new compounds that selectively block mitochondrial respiration in pathogenic fungi, Whitehead Institute scientists have identified a potential antifungal mechanism that could enable combination therapy with fluconazole, one of today’s most commonly prescribed fungal infection treatments. Severe, invasive fungal infections have a mortality rate of 30-50% and cause an estimated 1.5 million deaths worldwide annually. Current antifungal therapies are hampered by the increasingly frequent emergence of drug resistance and negative interactions that often preclude combination use.

Illustration of DNA helices in tubes

Engineers design programmable RNA vaccines against Ebola, influenza

July 4, 2016

MIT and Whitehead Institute scientists have developed a new type of easily customizable vaccine that can be manufactured in one week, allowing it to be rapidly deployed in response to disease outbreaks. So far, they have designed vaccines against Ebola, H1N1 influenza, and Toxoplasma gondii (a relative of the parasite that causes malaria), which were 100 percent effective in tests in mice.

Three images of human lung cells were infected with influenza A virus.

Tiny alpaca-derived antibodies point to targets preventing viral infection

June 20, 2016

Using tiny, alpaca-derived, single-domain antibody fragments, Whitehead Institute scientists have developed a method to perturb cellular processes in mammalian cells, allowing them to tease apart the roles that individual proteins play in these pathways. With improved knowledge of protein activity, scientists can better understand not only basic biology but also how disease corrupts cellular function and identify potential therapeutics to rectify these aberrations.

Image of mouse lymph node showing germinal centers

B-cell diversity in immune system’s germinal centers may hold key to broad-spectrum vaccines

February 18, 2016

The germinal centers that form in the body’s lymph nodes work as a fitness boot camp in which B cells evolve to produce antibodies of increasingly higher affinity to an invading pathogen. This new finding from Whitehead Institute scientists overturns a previously held notion that only a narrow range of B cells can survive this training and go on to secrete high-affinity antibodies. This revised understanding may aid development of effective vaccines against HIV, influenza, and other viruses that mutate rapidly.

Image showing tumors

Imaging immunity: Noninvasive imaging of immune system detects tumors, could monitor therapeutic response

April 20, 2015

A novel approach that allows real-time imaging of the immune system’s response to the presence of tumors—without the need for blood draws or invasive biopsies—offers a potential breakthrough both in diagnostics and in the ability to monitor efficacy of cancer therapies.

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.

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.

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.

Representation of MHV-68

Modified antibodies trigger immune response, point to novel vaccine design strategies

January 7, 2013

In an approach with the potential to aid therapeutic vaccine development, Whitehead Institute scientists have shown that enzymatically modified antibodies can be used to generate highly targeted, potent responses from cells of the immune system.

Electron micrograph of Ebola virus.

Scientists identify point of entry for deadly Ebola virus

August 24, 2011

Using an unusual human cell line of this type, Whitehead Institute researchers and their collaborators performed a genetic screen and identified a protein used by Ebola virus to gain entry into cells and begin replicating. The discovery may offer a new approach for the development of antiviral therapeutics.

Protein unmasks pathogenic fungi to activate immune response

August 8, 2011

Whitehead Institute researchers have uncovered a novel association between two fungal recognition receptors on the surface of certain immune cells, called macrophages.  The interaction of these receptors (dectin-1 and galectin-3) sheds new light on how the innate immune system discriminates between non-pathogenic and pathogenic fungi.

Novel method could improve the performance of proteins used therapeutically

March 9, 2011

Whitehead Institute scientists have created a method that uses the enzyme sortase A to site-specifically modify proteins. Using this technique, researchers were able to increase potency, slow the metabolism, and improve thermal stability of several proteins.


© Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research         Nine Cambridge Center    Cambridge, MA 02142