Calculated risk

Paul Goldsmith, January 20th, 2016

Prion disease is the common name for a family of rare, progressive neurodegenerative disorders that can be caused by mutations in the prion protein gene (PRNP). These mutations produce misshapen proteins, which accumulate, destroying neurons and leaving the brain with sponge-like holes resulting in dementia, and ultimately death. More than 60 genetic mutations have been associated with prion disease—and until now, many physicians have assumed that all of these variants confer an identical, 100% likelihood of developing the associated prion disease.

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Machine learning approach improves CRISPR-Cas9 guide pairing

Veronica Meade-Kelly, January 18th, 2016

Some will say that finding just the right wine to pair with a meal can improve even the finest cuisine, transforming a pleasant gustatory experience into something approaching perfection. But with potentially hundreds of wines to choose from, picking the “right” one can be a chore for the casual wine-lover. That’s where the sommelier comes in, applying expertise to curate a list of only the best pairings to suit one’s needs.

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Stem cells push back the frontiers of psychiatric research

Leah Eisenstadt, January 6th, 2016

The human brain is notoriously difficult to study. The organ is home to billions of cells that come in hundreds of flavors, woven into a network of trillions of dynamic cellular connections that make it one of the most complex structures in the body. It is the seat of decidedly human traits like language, creativity, and higher cognition that set us apart from other organisms, making animal models less than ideal for studying human illnesses like psychiatric disease.

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A single gene spawning multiple disorders: Guoping Feng on Shank3 in autism, schizophrenia

Veronica Meade-Kelly, December 10th, 2015

Over the last few years, genetic datasets for psychiatric disorders have grown and many have merged, thanks in large part to the collaborative efforts of the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research at Broad Institute, their partners at the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium, and the tens of thousands of donors who have contributed biological samples with the hope of helping to combat these debilitating disorders.

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A biologist, a mathematician, and a computer scientist walk into a foobar

Jon Bloom, December 1st, 2015

Ryan Adams’ colloquium and machine learning at Broad

On November 12, the Broad welcomed a visit from Ryan Adams, a world leader in machine learning - a field at the intersection of applied math and computer science that develops models and algorithms to learn from data.

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Seeking common ground in cancer cell line data

Nicole Davis, November 19th, 2015

The field of pharmacogenomics lies at the scalpel’s edge of personalized medicine, harnessing genomic tools to guide the use of drugs to treat disease. The idea is to marry precision with power — the right drug at the right time in the right patient. In cancer, researchers across the world have created two massive databases to help propel the biomedical community toward this goal.

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CRISPR in the news

Paul Goldsmith, November 13th, 2015

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5 Takeaways: Genetic association studies improve red blood cell production in vitro

Angela Page, October 22nd, 2015

Access to lifesaving blood transfusions can be limited due to supply. And even when matched donor blood is available, it can still be rejected by the patient’s immune system. A more effective means of generating red blood cells (RBCs) from stem cells could be game-changing for a number of different patient groups.

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Five Questions with Chengwei Luo

Angela Page, September 10th, 2015

Our bodies are full of bugs — and as we’re learning, this is great news. These millions of microscopic species, collectively called the microbiome, outnumber our own cells and help keep us healthy and alive. Maintaining (and in some cases restoring) a healthy microbiome requires a solid understanding of what those bugs are and how they function. Complicating this is the fact that, just as there are genetically distinct families of humans, there are also many families, or strains, within a single bacterial, viral, or fungal species.

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Single-cell analysis helps sort out host-pathogen interactions

Veronica Meade-Kelly, September 10th, 2015

What: When bacteria invade the human body, immune cells rush to our defense, initiating a high-stakes tug-of-war in which macrophages – a type of immune cell that engulfs and digests pathogens and cellular debris – attempt to destroy the invaders while the bacteria look to survive and replicate. The outcomes of these cellular death matches vary from cell to cell: some macrophages engulf bacteria while others remain uninfected, and of those infected, some destroy their invaders while others allow bacteria to thrive.

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