Invitation to an evening of science

Haley Bridger, July 5th, 2011 | Filed under

More than a hundred years ago, Austrian monk Gregor Mendel observed something astounding in flowering pea plants: a first glimpse of genetics. Today, Mendel’s observations about how physical traits pass from one generation to the next continue to inspire amazing discoveries.

Mendel’s pea plant also provides inspiration for the Broad’s Midsummer Nights’ Science series. Each summer, the Broad Institute holds this free, public lecture series at 7 Cambridge Center in Kendall Square in Cambridge, MA. This year, visitors will hear about the immune system, the connection between immunology and engineering, cancer drug discovery, and the microorganisms that live in the human gut. You can find the full schedule and register for the series here.

Nir Hacohen, a faculty member at the Broad Institute and Massachusetts General Hospital, will kick off the series on July 6 with a talk inspired by the intricacies and promise of the immune system. “The immune system gets involved in every situation where there is infection or injury in the body,” says Nir. In addition to fending off infections, the immune system plays a critical role in wound healing and is the source of allergies. The immune system even plays a role in neurological diseases and heart disease.

“It affects almost every disease process in some way,” says Nir.

Nir explains that the scientific community has learned a lot about immunity, developing vaccines against diseases like polio, measles, mumps, rubella, and more, but many important challenges remain such as making HIV, malaria, and TB vaccines, and eventually cancer vaccines. One way in which these problems are being addressed at the Broad Institute is by using tools that build on the human genome project, enabling comprehensive analysis of the immune response for the first time in history.

Nir will talk about these challenges and much more on Wednesday night. Check out the video below for a sneak preview and please join us Wednesday for the start of this year’s Midsummer Nights’ Science series.

Nir Hacohen describes the immune system and his work.
Video by Lars-Erik Siren, Broad Communications