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News / 05.18.18

Research Roundup: May 18, 2018

Erik Jacobs
Credit : Erik Jacobs
By Tom Ulrich

Gut-brain crosstalk, Southeast Asia's ancient genetic history, genetic windows into protein relationships, and more

Welcome to the May 18, 2018 installment of Research Roundup, a recurring snapshot of recent studies published by scientists at the Broad Institute and their collaborators.

Understanding and overcoming resistance to cancer therapy

Development of drug resistance among advanced cancer patients is one of the biggest challenges in cancer therapy. In a paper published recently in Cancer Cell Perspective, Broad Cancer Program senior group leader Cory Johannessen and coauthors review the mechanisms behind different types of therapy resistance and how some of these mechanisms coincide. The authors discuss the importance of characterizing drug resistance across tumor types and therapeutic categories to establish a framework of converging biological mechanisms to help cancer researchers develop strategies to overcome them. Understanding the highly complex and diverse landscapes of resistance mechanisms can help guide future therapeutic approaches for patients with advanced cancer.

Gene dependencies open a window into proteins' relationships

Proteins' interactions with each other drive nearly every cellular activity, but studying those relationships can be quite challenging, especially at scale. In this week's Cell Systems, a team led at the Broad by Joshua Pan, Robin Meyers, Cancer Data Science group associate director Aviad Tsherniak, and institute member and Epigenomics Program co-director Cigall Kadoch (from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute) revealed that they by merging protein interaction data with screening results from the Cancer Dependency Map project, they had created an approach for exploring protein complexes (assemblies of proteins that carry out coordinated tasks), their components, and how those components interact. Learn more in a Broad news story.

The brain’s inflammatory cells get a gut check

In the central nervous system (CNS), microglial cells control the inflammatory activity of astrocytes, but how that happens has been unclear. A team led by Broad associate member Francisco Quintana at Brigham and Women's Hospital describes in Nature how dietary metabolites produced by microorganisms in the gut travel to the CNS, alter the activity of microglia, and change their production of two molecules (VEGF-B and TGF-alpha) that the team identified as new microglia-secreted modulators of astrocyte activity. The phenomenon appears to be altered in multiple sclerosis (MS), suggesting potential new therapeutic avenues for MS and other neurological disorders. 

Genetic history of ancient Southeast Asia

By analyzing genome-wide DNA from the remains of ancient Southeast Asian individuals, a team led by Mark Lipson and Broad associate member David Reich at Harvard Medical School (HMS) has shed new light on the past 4,000 years of genetic history in the region. The researchers obtained DNA data from the remains of 18 Southeast Asian individuals dating from 4,100 to 1,700 years ago. Coupled with archaeological and linguistic data, the team identified multiple major waves of migration that likely shaped the population's agriculture and languages. Check out more detail in the Science paper, a HMS story, and news coverage in Science and Science News.

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