Research at Whitehead

Whitehead Institute provides researchers with the resources and freedom to follow their scientific instincts, form novel collaborations, and conduct high-risk research. While probing basic biological processes, the Institute’s 17 faculty Members and 4 Fellows develop innovative technologies and lay the foundation for projects that improve human health. They run pioneering programs in cancer, immunology, developmental biology, stem cell science, regenerative medicine, genetics, and genomics.




Research News

Images of yeast containing prion-like proteins and controls

October 6, 2016

Revising the meaning of “prion”

Prions are infamous for causing Creutzfeld-Jakob disease, fatal familial insomnia, and bovine spongiform encephalopathy, commonly known as mad cow’s disease. Yet, it’s not likely that’s all they’re good for. Using an unbiased screen in yeast, a team of Whitehead Institute and Stanford University scientists have identified dozens of prion-like proteins that could change the defining characteristics of these unusual proteins. 

Still images of a microglia-like cell branching

September 26, 2016

Derived neural immune cells enable new facet of neurodegeneration research

Whitehead Institute scientists have devised a protocol for pushing human pluripotent stem cells to become microglia—the specialized immune cells that maintain the brain and care for it after injury. Microglia play an important role in neurodegenerative diseases, including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, and studying these cells has been very difficult until now.

Diagram of how editing methylation can change cells

September 22, 2016

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

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

September 20, 2016

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

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.  

Recent papers

August 29, 2016

Covalent targeting of remote cysteine residues to develop CDK12 and CDK13 inhibitors.

Nat Chem Biol. 2016 Aug 29.

August 25, 2016

Cell-type-specific alternative splicing governs cell fate in the developing cerebral cortex.

Cell. 2016 Aug 25;166(5):1147-1162.e15.

August 25, 2016

Absolute quantification of matrix metabolites reveals the dynamics of mitochondrial metabolism. 

Cell. 2016 Aug 25;166(5):1324-1337.e11.

All research papers

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