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News / 02.8.19

Research Roundup: February 8, 2019

Erik Jacobs
Credit : Erik Jacobs
By Broad Communications

Putting out bait to CATCH viruses, a home for ALS genetic data, T cells poised for action, and more.

Welcome to the February 8, 2019 installment of Research Roundup, a recurring snapshot of recent studies published by scientists at the Broad Institute and their collaborators.

The cells that govern motion during fight or flight

To respond appropriately to external threats (i.e., decide whether to fight or flee), the animal brain needs to efficiently and faithfully relay contextual information to subcortical and brain-stem circuits. Through a series of experiments in mice, Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research associate member Amar Sahay and Antoine Besnard, both at Massachusetts General Hospital, generated evidence supporting a role for a subgroup of somatostatin-expressing interneurons in the dorsolateral septum in enabling the animal to decide whether to flee, helping calibrate behavioral responses to fear that are context-appropriate. Read more in Nature Neuroscience.

Microbial sequencing CATCHes up

A new computational method, known as CATCH, allows scientists to design molecular “baits” for groups of microbes or even all forms of all viruses known to infect humans, including those at very low levels in clinical samples. CATCH improves disease surveillance by allowing scientists to examine microbes more comprehensively than ever before, at sequencing centers both large and small. Hayden Metsky, Katherine Siddle, institute member Pardis Sabeti, and Christopher Matranga — all in the Infectious Disease and Microbiome Program — and colleagues described CATCH in Nature Biotechnology. Read more in a Broad news story.

A portal opens into ALS

The barriers to disease-related genetic discovery can be much lower when large volumes of data about a disease are aggregated into dedicated repositories or portals like the Type 2 Diabetes Knowledge Portal (T2DKP) or Cardiovascular Disease Knowledge Portal. Working with the T2DKP team, a group led by Sali Farhan and institute member Benjamin Neale of the Stanley Center and the Program in Medical and Population Genetics (MPG) have now launched a new portal focused on amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Their new ALS Knowledge Portal is a user-friendly public resource that catalogs genetic information from more than 3,800 ALS cases and 7,800 controls. Learn about some initial findings from the portal's data in this preprint.

Immune system chooses grappling over growth

Our body’s innate T cells (ITCs) recognize foreign pathogen signals and fight pathogens much earlier than conventional T cells, thus bridging the innate and adaptive immune responses. However, researchers did not completely understand how ITCs are able to maintain an unperturbed, poised effector state. A team led by Maria Gutierrez-Arcelus and MPG associate member Soumya Raychaudhuri, together with Brigham and Women’s Hospital's Patrick Brennan, addressed this question in a recent study published in Nature Communications. Using single-cell RNA-sequencing, the researchers found that ITCs prioritize transcription of genes encoding for effector roles over those involved in cellular growth.

To learn more about research conducted at the Broad, visit broadinstitute.org/publications, and keep an eye on broadinstitute.org/news.