News

Researchers work to create kidney filtration barrier on a chip

Researchers work to create kidney filtration barrier on a chip

May 10, 2017

The kidney, made up of about a million tiny units that work to filter blood, constantly rids the body of undesired waste products to form urine. During the process, it also holds back blood cells and valuable proteins and controls the body’s fluid content.

Key to each of these units is a structure known as the glomerulus, in which so-called podocyte cells wrap themselves tightly around a tuft of capillaries. Separated by a thin membrane composed of extracellular matrix, slits are left between them to build an actual filtration barrier. The podocytes are also the target of… Read more about Researchers work to create kidney filtration barrier on a chip

Stem cell lines grown in lab dish may acquire mutations

Stem cell lines grown in lab dish may acquire mutations

April 26, 2017

Regenerative medicine using human pluripotent stem cells to grow transplantable tissue outside the body carries the promise to treat a range of intractable disorders, such as diabetes and Parkinson’s disease.

However, a research team from the Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI), Harvard Medical School (HMS), and the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard has found that as stem cell lines grow in a lab dish, they often acquire mutations in… Read more about Stem cell lines grown in lab dish may acquire mutations

New vistas opening for brain disorder research

New vistas opening for brain disorder research

April 26, 2017

In a culture flask, 45 lentil-sized globs of neurons swirl in a gentle eddy of liquid medium. These lumpy, 3-D networks of human nerve cells, called brain organoids, have generated more diverse and mature cell types than any other model system of brain tissue to date.

Scientists have increasingly turned to organoids, organ models cultured from induced pluripotent stem cells, to investigate human brain development and disease. However, most brain organoid models to date have been cultured on a scale of weeks to investigate early neural development under various conditions… Read more about New vistas opening for brain disorder research

Harvard video project channels wide range of climate change knowledge

Harvard video project channels wide range of climate change knowledge

April 24, 2017

We ignore the worst estimates of climate change — catastrophic warming topping 4 or 6 degrees Celsius — at our peril, says economist Martin Weitzman.

Climate change’s uncertainty — a product of the complexity of the natural systems involved and the vagaries of human efforts at mitigation — have led not to precise forecasts of future warming, but rather a range of likely temperature increases.

Discussion of the effects of climate change that would be classified as difficult — but manageable — are cited so routinely that the upper end… Read more about Harvard video project channels wide range of climate change knowledge
Harvard team leads breakthrough on the genetics of parenting

Harvard team leads breakthrough on the genetics of parenting

April 20, 2017

Why is it that some species seem to be particularly attentive parents while others leave their young to fend for themselves? For years, scientists have believed one of the major drivers is experience — an animal raised by an attentive parent, the argument goes, is likely to be an attentive parent itself.

A Harvard study is challenging that idea, and breaking new ground by uncovering links between the activity of specific genes and parenting differences across species.

Led by… Read more about Harvard team leads breakthrough on the genetics of parenting

Researchers study secrets of aging via stem cells

Researchers study secrets of aging via stem cells

April 18, 2017

Third in an occasional series on how Harvard researchers are tackling the problematic issues of aging.

“If only,” wrote an ancient Japanese poet, “when one heard that Old Age was coming one could bolt the door….”

Science is working on it.

Aging is as much about the physical processes of repair and regeneration — and their slow-motion failure — as it is the passage of time. And scientists studying stem cell and regenerative biology are making progress understanding those processes,… Read more about Researchers study secrets of aging via stem cells

Harvard scientists find evidence that ALS and SMA could be treated with a common drug

Harvard scientists find evidence that ALS and SMA could be treated with a common drug

April 14, 2017

Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI) researchers have identified a compound that helps protect the cells destroyed by spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), the most frequent fatal genetic disease in children under 2 years of age.

SMA is a neurodegenerative disease targeting motor neurons, the long nerve cells that relay messages from the brain to the muscles and that are, consequently, responsible for bodily movements, including walking, swallowing, and even breathing. Patients with milder forms of SMA experience muscle wasting that may… Read more about Harvard scientists find evidence that ALS and SMA could be treated with a common drug

Star analysts of Harvard College Observatory inspired new book by Dava Sobel

Star analysts of Harvard College Observatory inspired new book by Dava Sobel

April 11, 2017

Author of “Longitude” and “Galileo’s Daughter,” Dava Sobel in her latest book tells the story of the female “computers” who worked at the Harvard College Observatory from the late 19th through the mid-20th century analyzing stellar data captured on a growing collection of photographic plates. Using complicated calculations, the women classified the stars, determined their brightness, and even discovered new stars, nebulae, and novae. Many of their findings led to important discoveries about the universe, and their work helped clear obstacles for women in science. Sobel will discuss “… Read more about Star analysts of Harvard College Observatory inspired new book by Dava Sobel

The future of food will be proactive, efficient, and digitized — or else

The future of food will be proactive, efficient, and digitized — or else

April 7, 2017

The next great agricultural revolution is likely to come from information, not new plant breeds or genetic tinkering, as digital technology and big data help farmers make better decisions and drive up crop yields, according to the head of a “digital agriculture” company.

Michael Stern, president and chief executive officer of Climate Corp., told a Harvard audience on Monday that the ability to gather detailed information about farmers’ fields, coupled with advances in weather forecasting, computing power, and artificial intelligence… Read more about The future of food will be proactive, efficient, and digitized — or else

Harvard Origins of Life Initiative rings in 10 years with a trip to the stars

Harvard Origins of Life Initiative rings in 10 years with a trip to the stars

April 5, 2017

Ten years ago, Dimitar Sasselov worried that his graduate students studying the origins of life might have trouble finding jobs after leaving Harvard.

The past decade, however, has seen an explosion of exoplanet discoveries, rising excitement about the prospect of finding extraterrestrial life, and advances in understanding of life on Earth. Needless to say, those early worries have mostly vanished.

Sasselov is Phillips Professor of Astronomy and director of the Harvard… Read more about Harvard Origins of Life Initiative rings in 10 years with a trip to the stars