Faculty Member

Harvey F.

Harvey Lodish

Founding Member, Whitehead Institute

Professor of Biology, MIT

Professor of Bioengineering, MIT


Lodish Lab


We study red blood cell formation and diseases associated with this process; and the formation of fat cells and their role in diseases such as obesity and diabetes. Recently we discovered why patients with an underactive thyroid tend to have anemia: A lack of the thyroid hormone thyroxin inhibits maturation of red blood cell progenitors. We also identified a protein necessary for thyroid hormone stimulation, which regulates the final step of red blood cell production.

A leader in the fields of cellular and developmental biology, Harvey F. Lodish has isolated, cloned, and characterized numerous proteins and noncoding RNAs that play key roles in formation of blood and fat cells and that regulate metabolism of glucose and fatty acids. His results have important implications for the treatment of anemias, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.

In 1988, the Lodish laboratory accomplished pioneering work on erythropoietin (Epo), a hormone that controls the production of red blood cells. The lab identified and cloned the Epo receptor, leading to a lengthy set of ongoing projects on the activation of, and signal transduction by, the erythropoietin receptor in erythroid progenitor cells and the regulation of transcription, apoptosis, and cell division. The lab is currently characterizing many novel genes that are important for terminal stages of erythropoiesis, including chromatin condensation and enucleation. Other work focuses on the regulation of self- renewal, proliferation, and differentiation of early (BFU-E) erythroid progenitor cells by extracellular signals including glucocorticoids and oxygen. One goal is the development of novel therapies for erythropoietin-resistant anemias.

The lab recently discovered several microRNAs and Long Non-coding RNAs that are specifically expressed in developing red blood cells and that regulate important aspects of development including cell death. One microRNA causes leukemias when overexpressed in human or mouse stem cells.

Additionally, the Lodish lab studies hormones controlling fatty acid and glucose metabolism, broadening understanding of obesity and type 2 diabetes. In 1995, the lab cloned adiponectin, a hormone made exclusively by fat cells. A long and ongoing series of studies showed that adiponectin causes muscle to burn fatty acids faster—so they are not stored as fat—and increases the metabolism of the sugar glucose. More recently the laboratory has been focused on identifying and characterizing microRNAs and Long Non-coding RNAs that are specifically expressed in adipose cells. One miRNA unique to brown fat, which burns rather than stores fatty acids as triglycerides, triggers other progenitor cells to become brown fat.

A Founding Member of Whitehead Institute, Lodish joined the MIT faculty in 1968. He has been a professor of biology since 1976 and professor of bioengineering since 1999. He earned his PhD at Rockefeller University in 1966. He was elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1986, a member of the National Academy of Sciences in 1987, and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1999. He is a member of the Board of Trustees of Boston Children’s Hospital, and was Chair of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, charged with oversight of the state’s 10- year, $1 billion investment in the life sciences. He is also the lead author of the textbook Molecular Cell Biology.

Selected Achievements

  • Isolated key genes involved in diabetes, hypertension, leukemia, and obesity
  • Lead author of the textbook Molecular Cell Biology, now in its seventh edition and translated into eleven languages
  • Fellow of American Association for the Advancement of Science (1986)
  • Member of National Academy of Sciences (1987)
  • Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1999)
  • President, American Society for Cell Biology (2004)
  • Mentor Award in Basic Science, American Society of Hematology (2010)
  • Pioneer Award, Diamond Blackfan Anemia Foundation (2016)
  • American Society for Cell Biology WICB Sandra K. Masur Senior Leadership Award (2017)

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