Whitehead Institute Member Pulin Li receives NIH New Innovator Award
Whitehead Institute Member Pulin Li has received a New Innovator Award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The prestigious award supports unusually innovative research from early career investigators. It is part of an NIH initiative supporting exceptionally high-impact studies addressing major research opportunities or gaps.
Li’s New Innovator Award will fund her investigations of how the different cell types in the body interact to form organs. The project is part of Li’s broader study of how circuits of interacting genes in individual cells enable cell-to-cell communication, multicellular functions, and, ultimately, the development of specific types of tissues.
During embryo development, epithelial cells form the lining of organs, while mesenchymal cells differentiate into the connective tissue underneath the lining. “Addressing the question of how epithelial and mesenchymal cells work together is essential for understanding where different organs come from, and the answer should provide a crucial step towards engineering tissues for regenerative medicine,” says Li, who is also an assistant professor of biology and the Eugene Bell Career Development Professor of Tissue Engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her work aims to develop new ways to systematically reconstruct the “communication codes” between epithelial and mesenchymal cells, then explore how distinct codes lead to diverse cell types and unique tissue physiology.
“Pulin is an insightful and creative young scientist who takes full advantage of Whitehead Institute’s vibrant biomedical research environment,” says Institute director Ruth Lehmann. “She is doing innovative, integrative work, combining an array of research approaches—from systems biology, synthetic biology, and developmental biology to biophysics.”
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