CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Much as an anthropologist can study populations of people to learn about their physical attributes, their environs and social structures, some marine microbiologists read the genome of microbes to glean information about the micr…
Funding from an anonymous wealthy family has been the secret to progress, at long last, in developing drugs that show promise for helping millions of people worldwide with Fragile X syndrome, the most common genetic cause of autism. That’s the topic…
When a few weeds appear on your front lawn, you can easily pick them off one by one. But if they start taking over the yard, the picking becomes laborious, and you may need to turn to a chemical weed-killer to hold the invaders in check. After several applications of the herbicide, however, the weeds could become resistant, forcing you to use an even more powerful solution. Meanwhile, the survival of your lawn hangs in the balance. Like weeds in a lawn, pathogenic fungi and yeasts (single-celled fungi) can invade and overtake our bodies. In people with healthy immune systems, cells called macrophages and neutrophils engulf these pathogens, nipping them in the bud. But when the immune system is weakened by disease or drugs, fungi ? much like weeds in your garden ? can grow unchecked.
Researchers have developed a way to exploit RNA interference for the first time to silence genes in a wide variety of mammalian cells, including embryonic cells. The study will appear in the Feb. 17 edition of Nature Genetics. This new approach allows genes to be switched off by inserting short pieces of ribonucleic acid (RNA) into developing cells. It is currently being used to help researchers uncover the function of the more than 30,000 genes found in humans, as well as in animal models of important diseases.
MIT engineers and colleagues from the University of California are reporting a unique design of a “smart surface” that can reversibly switch properties in response to an external stimulus. The work paves the way for systems that could, for example, release or absorb cells and chemicals from surfaces on demand. In the Jan. 17 issue of Science, the researchers describe an example of their new approach in which they engineered a surface that can change from water-attracting to water-repelling with the application of a weak electric field. Switch the electrical potential of that field from positive to negative and the surface reverts to its initial affinity for water.
A young MIT professor’s basic research on complex sugars has led to a cascade of potential medical applications that could, for example, significantly improve outcomes for patients undergoing major operations such as heart bypass surgery and impact a multi-billion dollar drug industry. In the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences for the week of January 13, a team led by the professor, Ram Sasisekharan, reports the creation of designer drugs for preventing the blood clots that can cause strokes and heart disease during surgery. The resulting drugs have major advantages over the conventional form they are based on, which has an annual market of $2-3 billion. Further, an additional drug based on Sasisekharan’s work is presently in Phase III clinical trials for heart bypass patients.
William J. Mitchell, dean of the school of architecture and planning, has announced he will step down at the end of this academic year to concentrate on his new leadership role at MIT as head of the Program in Media Arts and Sciences, the Media Laboratory and the International Affiliated Media Laboratories. Widely credited as a source of inspiration and guidance in plans for MIT’s campus construction campaign, Mitchell will continue to serve as architectural advisor to MIT President Charles M. Vest, a position he has held since 1998.
Scientists racing the clock have snapped a photo of a gamma-ray burst event one minute after the explosion, capturing for the first time a particularly fast-fading type of “dark” burst, which comprises about half of all gamma-ray bursts. A gamma-ray burst announces the birth of a new black hole; it is the most powerful type of explosion known, second only to the Big Bang in total energy release. This latest finding may double the number of gamma-ray bursts available for study and rattle a few theories as well, said scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, based on an X-ray image taken by the MIT-built High Energy Transient Explorer (HETE) satellite, the first satellite dedicated to spotting gamma-ray bursts.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology today announced the worldwide launch of DSpace, a massive digital repository system which will capture, store, distribute and preserve the intellectual output of MIT’s faculty and research staff. Developed jointly by the MIT Libraries and the Hewlett-Packard Co., DSpace will transform how MIT distributes and archives the results of its research, and will serve as a model for other universities and institutions with similar needs.
MIT researchers have reported that a high-carbohydrate dietary supplement can help patients who experience weight gain while taking antidepressants. Even though the high-carbohydrate regimen altered serotonin levels, it did not alter the antidepressants’ effectiveness. The regimen, which includes a high-carbohydrate drink developed at MIT based on research conducted here, also helped non-medicated obese individuals, the researchers reported. All participants lost between 12 and 26 pounds during the 12-week study. Patients taking psychotropic medications such as antidepressants that increase the activity of serotonin in the brain sometimes gain weight by overeating sweet and starchy foods.