News Archive: 2012

National Medal of Technology and Innovation Awarded to KI Member

Robert Langer, David H. Koch Institute Professor, is one of eleven innovators to receive the award this year. Dr. Langer has received over 210 major awards to date, including the United States National Medal of Science in 2006. The National Medal of Technology and Innovation recognizes those who have made lasting contributions to America’s competitiveness and quality of life and have helped strengthen the nation’s technological workforce. more...

Bhatia Laboratory Nanoparticles Amplify Cancer Biomarkers to Enable Early Detection

The cleverly designed nanoparticles home to a tumor, interact with dysregulated cancer proteins, and act as synthetic biomarkers with levels easily detected in a patient’s urine.  The nanoparticles express several different peptides, which allows for the identification of specific types of tumors.  The biomarker amplification system could ultimately be used to monitor disease progression and tumor treatment response. more...

Exploiting Cancer Cells' Altered Metabolism to Deliver Toxic Molecules

KI and Whitehead member David Sabatini shows that cancer cells with a modified metabolic program have high concentrations of a transporter on their surface, which could be exploited to deliver lethal toxic molecules into malignant cells.  Monocarboxylate transporter 1 (MCT1)  acts as a transporter of 3-bromopyruvate’s (3-BrPA), a potential cancer drug in clinical development. This strategy would take advantage of the capacity of cancer cells to import 3-BrPA, resulting in the selective killing of cancer cells without affecting normal cells. more...

Hatching Ideas, and Companies, by the Dozens at MIT

The New York Times reports that KI member Robert Langer’s innovative ideas and discoveries have resulted in treatments and therapeutic devices to help a wide range of diseases including cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and schizophrenia. Dr. Langer and his lab, which typically includes about 60 postdoctoral and graduate students at any given time, have managed to successfully navigate the intersection of academic research with the world of industry, as demonstrated by 25 start-up companies and 811 patents. more...

KI Member identifies Flaw and Fix for Gene Expression Studies

Richard Young and his research team have found that widely used methods of gene expression analysis do not take into account the significant differences in the amount of mRNA produced by the cells being examined.   Aggressive cancer cells and certain additional cell types produce much more mRNA than other cells, and failure to account for these differences may affect the interpretation of thousands of biological studies.  The Young group also recommends the use of synthetically produced mRNAs, called spike-ins, as standardized controls to correct the oversight in future analyses. more...

KI Member Develops New Imaging Tag

Alice Ting and her research group have developed a new tag, dubbed APEX,  that lets scientists use electron microscopy to label and visualize proteins throughout cells. Allowing for unprecedented clarity, the technology could help scientists pinpoint the locations of many cell proteins and provide new insight into proteins’ functions, useful in understanding both normal and disease processes. more...

Adhesion Molecules Offer Potential Drug Targets

Researchers in the laboratory of KI member Sangeeta Bhatia identified two molecules, fibronectin and galectin-3, that can help cancer cells detach from tumors and spread throughout the body.  The team is now investigating the details of tumor cells’ interactions with the molecules, and working to develop new candidate therapeutics to inhibit those processes. more...

Dynamic Microstructures Help Recreate Tumor Microenvironments

KI member Robert Langer is a senior author of a paper appearing this month in Advanced Materials, profiling MIT researchers' new technique controlling spatial distribution of multiple cell types using tiny shapes made from a temperature sensitive polymer. Among their many applications the microstructures can be used to replicate tumor microenvironments, helping scientists understand complex associations like cell signaling and interactions between cell types, as well as advancing drug discovery. more...

Stand Up to Cancer Launches Pediatric Dream Team

The entertainment industry's most widely known effort to fight cancer raised $81M in September, including funds for a new pediatric cancer research “Dream Team.”  Overseen by a Scientific Advisory Committee, led by KI member Phillip Sharp, and the American Association for Cancer Researcht, SU2C supports several "Dream Teams" of researchers working to accelerate ground-breaking research and bring new treatments to patients as quickly as possible. Its Circulating Tumor Cell Chip Dream Team includes KI members Sangeeta Bhatia, Scott Manalis and Ram Saisekharan. more...

Team Uses Ultrasound to Boost Transdermal Drug Delivery

KI member Robert Langer is part of a team of MIT researchers that has combined two different frequencies of ultrasound waves to make the skin more permeable to therapeutics. The technology could pave the way for noninvasive drug delivery or needle-free vaccinations, and may enhance the effectiveness of transdermal patches already in use, like nicotine patches. more...

KI Member Advances Understanding of Pluripotent Stem Cells

Rudolf Jaenisch and his group have completed the first study tracking gene expression changes in single cells being reprogrammed to become pluripotent cells, which are able to become any other type of cell.  The Jaenisch laboratory identified predictive markers and has developed a new model of how genes interact to drive cells toward pluripotentcy.  The findings appear in the September 13 online edition of Cell. more...

High Risk High Reward

KI member Hidde Ploegh is one of four MIT researchers to win grants through the NIH's High Risk HIgh Reward program, which funds innovative, risk-taking research programs.  Ploegh plans to leverage unique protein-labeling technology developed in his lab to conduct a large scale identification of antibody targets, and to investigate the potential use of the antibodies to alter intracellular activity and cellular function. more...

New Target Candidates Found for Squamous Cell Lung Cancer

In the first comprehensive genomic characterization of the lung cancer subtype, researchers at MIT, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School have identified a large number of genetic alterations, including one that helps disable the immune system's ability to distinguish foreign invaders from its own tissue. Reported in the current issue of Nature, their findings point to several potential therapeutic targets, which the investigators hope will spur new clinical trials. more...

Electronic Sensors Enable New Tissue Scaffolds in Drug and Device Development

The sensors, made of silicon nanowires, were recently added to a new tissue scaffold and could be used to monitor electrical activity in surrounding tissue, control drug release or screen drug candidates. Using engineered cardiac tissue, a team of researchers from MIT, Harvard University and Boston Children’s Hospital was able to monitor cells' response to stimulants. The group's findings appear August 26 in Nature Materials. more...

Tumor Formation Blocked by Boost to Key Enzyme

Cancer cells devote most of their energy to reproducing themselves, triggering alternative metabolic pathways that produce new cellular building blocks. Compounds that disrupt an enzyme critical to this metabolic diversion prevent tumors from forming in mice, according to a study led by KI member Matthew Vander Heiden that appears in Nature Chemical Biology on Aug. 26. more...

New Nanoparticles Shrink Ovarian Cancer Tumors in Mice

Vast amounts of genomic data can be quickly screened in mouse models to identify new therapeutic targets, using an RNA-delivering nanoparticle system developed in the laboratory of KI researcher Sangeeta Bhatia.  The system may help remove a bottleneck in cancer drug development.  In their first mouse study, a joint effort with members of the Broad and Dana Farber Cancer Institutes, Ki researchers showed that nanoparticles targeting the ID4 protein can shrink ovarian tumors in the mice.   Their findings appear in the Aug. 15 online edition of Science Translational Medicine. more...

Engineered Cells Take Shape

Until now, differences in the effectiveness of cells implanted to heal vascular disease have not been well understood.  However, KI researchers have shown that implanted cells’ therapeutic properties depend on their shape, which is determined by the type of scaffold on which they are grown. Specifically, they find that the altered structure of cells grown on 3-D scaffolds results in greater adhesion, lower inflammation, and better tissue repair than in cells grown on flat surfaces. The work could allow scientists to develop even more effective implants to treat other diseases including cancer.  This study is reported in the latest issue of Biomaterials. more...

Bridge Project Workshops

In recent weeks scientists, engineers, and clinicians have shared insights on research and the collaborative process at spring and summer workshops held at the Koch Institute. The Bridge Project is a joint effort of the KI and the Dana Farber/Harvard Cancer Center. Workshops have focused on lung, ovarian, and melanoma cancer research, and on September 20th, a technology/engineering session workshop will be held at Dana Farber Cancer Institute (Yawkey 306-307). Please register in advance.  Proposals from the interinstitutional teams will be collected and funded via an end of year research summit.  They will join four teams working on brain and pancreatic research teams that were selected in 2011. more...

New Study Finds Cell Division Linked to Growth Rate

KI researchers' findings suggest that mammalian cells divide when their growth rate reaches a specific threshold, rather than when they reach a critical size as in simpler organisms. The team, including members from the KI, MIT, and Harvard Medical School, adapted a suspended microchannel resonator, which measures cells. They were then able to track cell growth and relate it to the timing of cell division.  The technique is now being used to determine how cell growth changes in response to therapeutic intervention. The report appears in the August 5 online edition of Nature Methods. more...

"Human Body on a Chip" Research

Four KI members are part of research team funded by Defense Advanced Research Project (DARPA) and the National Institute of Health (NIH) to create a versatile platform capable of accurately predicting drug and vaccine efficacy, toxicity, and pharmacokinetics in preclinical testing.  more...

Paula Hammond Named One of a Dozen Bostonians Changing the World

The Koch Institute member was one of a small group of Hub residents recognized for their contributions to society by the Boston Globe Magazine. Hammond was honored for the diversity and practical application of her lab's projects, which include a way of packing RNA segments into tiny but hardy spheres that can find their way to diseased cells and silence genes that have gone awry. more...

 New Drug Candidate Shows Promise for Cancer Treatment

A new drug containing platinum may be more effective in fighting cancer cells than commonly used cisplatin. KI researchers tested the compound phenanthriplatin against 60 types of cancer cells. It was found to be four to forty percent more potent than cisplatin, depending on the cancer type tested, and the team plans to begin additional testing soon.  The findings appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The researchers plan to begin tests on animals soon.

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3-D Printed Network May Help Grow Artificial Liver

BBC News reports that KI researchers, in collaboration with University of Pennsylvania scientists, have developed a synthetic blood vessel network structure that may one day be key in supporting liver and other organ transplants. The research was reported in the journal Nature Materials. more...

Enzymes May Be Key to Fighting Colon Cancer

KI researchers have found that three enzymes are essential in repairing DNA damage caused by chronic inflammation in the colon, a problem for those with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and other conditions. Those lacking or producing low levels of the enzymes are significantly more likely to develop colon cancer, according to the research. Measuring these enzyme levels in a particular patient could help predict that patient’s risk of colon cancer.

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Nucleic Acid Origami Improves Therapeutic RNA Delivery to Cancer Tumors

KI researchers have built tiny particles made out of DNA and RNA that can deliver snippets of RNA directly to tumors, turning off genes expressed in cancer cells. The particles' composition, together with their specialized construction, poses less risk of side effects and allows for better targeting. This research is reported in the June 3rd edition of Nature Nanotechnology. more...

Langer Honored by SCI

KI Institute Professor Robert Langer will receive the 2012 Society of Chemical Industry Perkin Medal in September, for his achievements in chemical engineering. He is widely recognized as a leading innovator in biomedical engineering, biopolymers and tissue engineering. more...

Staggered Drug Delivery Shows Promise in Treating Aggressive Breast Cancer

KI member Michael Yaffe and his laboratory team report finding, in the May 11 issue of Cell, that staggering the doses of two common cancer drugs dramatically boosts their ability to kill a particularly malignant type of breast cancer cells. Yaffe has been studying the complex cell signaling pathways of cancer cells and the ability of dysfunctional pathways to promote uncontrolled cell growth. He is now working with researchers at Dana Farber Cancer Institute to plan clinical trials of the novel approach. more...

Targeted Nanoparticles Deliver Antibiotics Directly  to Bacteria

KI researchers, together with physicians from Brigham and Women's Hospital, have engineered a nanoparticle that evades the immune system to fight bacteria.  They created the new nanoparticles from a polymer, originally developed under a CCNE grant for use in cancer treatment, capped with polyethylene glycol (PEG), which is commonly used for drug delivery because it is nontoxic and can help nanoparticles travel through the bloodstream by avoiding detection by the immune system. The well-designed vehicles deliver powerful doses of existing antibiotics and may have great potential for treating infectious diseases. This research recently appeared in the journal ACS Nano. more...

National Academy of Sciences Elects KI Member

The National Academy of Sciences announced today that Richard Young, a member of the Koch and Whitehead Institutes, is among 84 new Academy members elected in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research. Young was recognized for his work mapping the circuitry that controls the differentiation, development, and function of multiple cell types, including embryonic stem cells.There are now 16 Koch Institute faculty members elected to the NAS. One the highest hours accorded U.S. scientists and engineers, the elections were announced during the 149th annual meeting of the Academy. more...

Koch Institute Members Elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences

The American Academy of Arts and Sciences today announced the election of 220 new members, among them the KI's Angela Belcher and director Tyler Jacks. The new class of fellows continue a 230-plus year history recognizing some of the world’s most accomplished scholars, scientists, writers, artists, and civic, corporate, and philanthropic leaders. One of the nation’s most prestigious honorary societies, the Academy is also a leading center for independent policy research. Members contribute to Academy publications and studies of science and technology policy, energy and global security, social policy and American institutions, the humanities and culture, and education. more...

Cancer Drug Therapy Direct to Tumor

KI researchers devised new nanoparticles that, triggered by UV light, can synthesize proteins to fight cancer cells once they reach the tumor site. The proteins battle the cancer cells while avoiding healthy cells, reducing side effects of treatment. The research appears in the journal NanoLetters. more...

Targeted Drug Delivery Successful in Early Clinical Trials

KI researchers, along with scientists from BIND Biosciences and Brigham and Women's Hospital, have shrunk cancer tumors using targeted drug delivery nanoparticles that specifically attack cancer cells while avoiding the immune system. In this first human test, side effects were minimal and results achieved even in patients receiving substantially lower dosage than in typical chemotherapy treatment. The study appears in the April 4, 2012 edition of Science Translational Medicine. more...

KI Member Receives 2012 Pezcoller Foundation AACR International Award for Cancer Research

Robert Weinberg, KI member and founding member of the Whitehead Institute, will be recognized for his outstanding work in the fields of cell and molecular biology and cancer genetics in April at the annual meeting of the AACR. more...

KI Member Receives Kripke Legend Award  

KI’s Nancy Hopkins, noted cancer biologist and advocate of equality for women in science, was selected as the 2012 recipient of the Margaret L. Kripke Legend Award for Promotion of Women in Cancer Medicine and Cancer Science by The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. more...

AAAS Named President-elect for 2013

KI member, Nobel Laureate, and Institute Professor Phillip Sharp has been named the 2013 President-elect of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). He will begin the one year term in February 2013. The international organization is dedicated to advancing science around the world by serving as an educator, leader, spokesperson and professional association. more...

Collaboration Key in Unique Attack on Cancer

The Bridge Project collaboration between the Koch Institute at MIT and Dana Farber/Harvard Cancer Center (DF/HCC) awarded funding to four interdisciplinary teams on March 6, 2012 The teams will work together on two of the most lethal forms of cancer - pancreatic and glioblastoma, a type of brain cancer.  The unprecedented clinical research effort awards teams made up of biologists, bioengineers and clinical researchers from both cancer centers. It is the most extensive collaboration of its kind between Boston's two National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated cancer centers.  more...

Tiny Sponge-Like Spheres May Be New Way to Deliver Cancer Treatment

KI researchers have found a way to pack RNA into microspheres to knock down the expression of specific genes. The delivery system's dense arrangement can avoid degradation until it reaches its target and holds promise for cancer therapeutics and other chronic diseases. The findings are reported in the February 26th edition of Nature Materials. more...

KI Researchers' Implantable Device Succeeds in Clinical Trial

A drug delivery device implanted in patients proved first successful results of released drug delivery that could usher in new era of telemedicine. Along with scientists from MICROCHIPS, two David Koch professors report their findings in February 16th issue of Science Translational Medicine. more...

NAE Honors KI's Associate Director

K. Dane Wittrup was one of five MIT engineers elected to the National Academy of Engineering. The election is one of highest professional honors awarded to an engineer. more...

Liver-Like Cells Hold Promise for Studying Patient-Specific Responses

KI researchers, in collaboration with Rockefeller University and the Medical College of Wisconsin, have successfully modeled hepatitis C infection in the lab using cells derived from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). This represents the first described iPSC model of infectious disease, and could enable study of patient-specific responses to disease and treatment. The findings were reported in the recent edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. more...

Imaging Technology Could Improve Brain Tumor Treatment

A collaborative team of researchers from the KI, Mass. General Hospital, and Agios Pharmaceuticals has developed an imaging technology to detect a mutation found in up to eighty-six percent of the brain tumors known as low-grade gliomas. This technology could help researchers determine whether drugs targeting the tumors are actually working. more...