Research Achievements

Whitehead Institute research has delivered new understandings to fundamental problems in biomedicine and transformed the landscape of contemporary biology.

Over the years, Institute scientists have focused on human genetics, cancer, heart disease, immunology, and developmental biology. Whitehead was the core institution for one of the six original National Cooperative Vaccine Development Groups for AIDS (established by the National Institutes of Health to speed the development of an AIDS vaccine).

By the mid-1990s, the Whitehead/MIT Center for Genome Research emerged as the leading center for the newly organized U.S. Human Genome Project. The Center made the single largest contribution to the completion of the project by sequencing one-third of the reference human genome.

In recent years, Institute scientists have been recognized for their advances in stem cell research, protein folding, cancer stem cells, regenerative biology, disease modeling, non-coding RNAs and more.

For a glimpse at Whitehead contributions to these and other fields, click on the topical tabs above.


Cancer

Image of a breast cancer cell

OCTOBER 20, 2017

STUCK ON THE MEMBRANE: A PRO-METASTATIC TRANSCRIPTION FACTOR’S JOURNEY FROM ANONYMITY TO A PROMISING TARGET FOR BREAST CANCER THERAPY

Whitehead Member Piyush Gupta has identified a protein stuck in the cell membrane that plays an important role in a cellular pathway crucial for cancer metastasis. The protein is a potential new target for breast cancer therapy that targets the cancer cells' metastatic behavior. 


 


Genetics + Genomics

Illustration of scientist looking at a neuron

FEBRUARY 15, 2018

FRAGILE X SYNDROME NEURONS RESTORED USING CRISPR/CAS9-GUIDED ACTIVATION STRATEGY

Fragile X syndrome is the most frequent cause of intellectual disability in males, affecting 1 out of 3600 boys born. For the first time, researchers at Whitehead Institute have restored activity to the fragile X syndrome gene in affected neurons using a modified CRISPR/Cas9 system they developed.


Immune System

Design of red blood cell capable of carrying antigenic peptides

March 6, 2017

Cargo-carrying red blood cells alleviate autoimmune diseases in mice

Using red blood cells modified to carry disease-specific antigens, a team of scientists from Whitehead Institute and Boston Children’s Hospital have prevented and alleviated two autoimmune diseases—multiple sclerosis (MS) and type 1 diabetes—in early stage mouse models.  This research is an exciting step toward therapeutics for autoimmune diseases, which affect an estimated 23 million Americans.

Nervous System
Development + Function

Image of zebrafish

OCTOBER 6, 2017

GENETIC BODY/BRAIN CONNECTION IDENTIFIED IN GENOMIC REGION LINKED TO AUTISM

For the first time, Whitehead Institute scientists have documented a direct link between deletions in two genes—fam57ba and doc2a—in zebrafish and certain brain and body traits, such as seizures, hyperactivity, large head size, and increased fat content. Both genes reside in the 16p11.2 region of the genome, which has been linked to multiple brain and body disorders in humans, including autism spectrum disorder, developmental delays, seizures, and obesity.


Protein Function

Fluorescently-tagged IAPP oligomers can be seen trafficking through yeast cells

MARCH 8, 2018

TOXIC PROTEINS AND TYPE 2 DIABETES

New study in yeast implicates a molecular de-clogger in disease biology

Stem Cells +
Therapeutic Cloning

Three-eyed planarians

MARCH 15, 2018

A BLUEPRINT FOR REGENERATION

Researchers at Whitehead Institute have uncovered a framework for regeneration that may explain and predict how stem cells in adult, regenerating tissue determine where to form replacement structures.

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