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Research at Mass General
News and notes about the investigators in the MGH Research Scholars program at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Welcome to the Spring 2018 edition of the MGH Research Scholars Notebook, a quarterly roundup of recent news about investigators in the MGH Research Scholars program.
In this edition:
Andrew Chan, MD, MPHStuart and Suzanne Steele MGH Research Scholar
Dr. Chan was quoted in an article on Health Day, “Study Confirms Lifesaving Value of Colonoscopy.”
Nir Hacohen, PhDMGH Research Scholar
Dr. Hacohen is quoted in the article “Promise Seen in Personal Vaccines Made Just to Treat Your Cancer,” which appeared on WBUR’s CommonHealth Blog. “I compare it to the tricorder in "Star Trek," where they measure some things and they're like, ‘Let me get back to you tomorrow with an antidote.’ And they create it, they synthesize it. Amazingly, this is exactly what we're doing. We're saying, ‘We're going to go and make the medicine for you that is the antidote to that.’"
Dr. Hacohen’s research “Beating Resistance to Immunotherapy in Metastatic Melanoma,” was also featured in the Mach 2018 Advances at Mass General Cancer Center newsletter.
J. Keith Joung, MD, PhDCharles and Ann Sanders MGH Research Scholar (2011-2015)Desmond and Ann Heathwood MGH Research Scholar (2016-present)
Dr. Joung was featured in this STAT article about gene editing technology. According to the article, although there are still concerns that CRISPR might run amok inside patients and cause dangerous DNA changes, recent advances suggest that the risk is not as high as earlier research suggested and that clever molecular engineering can minimize it.
Dr. Joung was also the co-author of an article in Science, “Gene therapy comes of age.” According to the article, nearly 50 years after the concept was first proposed, gene therapy is now considered a promising treatment option for several human diseases.
Sek Kathiresan, MDOfer and Shelly Nemirovsky MGH Research Scholar
Sek Kathiresan, MD, is quoted in this MIT Technology Review Article, “Forecasts of Genetic Fate Just Got a Lot More Accurate.” He is also featured in this Mass General video chronicling his journey to being named a 2017 Distinguished Scientist from the American Heart Association.
David Langenau, PhDMGH Research Scholar
Dr. Langenau’s study identifying a common protein that drives a highly fatal form of T-cell leukemia was highlighted in this article on the Mass General website, “Langenau Lab identifies a little-known protein with a big role in T-cell leukemia.”
Matthais Nahrendorf, MD, PhDWeissman Family MGH Research Scholar
A recent research study from the Nahredorf lab was featured in this Mass General press release and in this article on the Mass General Research Institute blog, “Macrophages Found to be the Source of a Ripple Effect of a Life-Threatening Heart Condition.”
Harald Ott, MDCharles and Sara Fabrikant MGH Research Scholar
Dr. Ott's research into organ regeneration was featured in his story on the Futurism website, “Refurbished Organs Could Save Millions on the Transplant List.”
Mikael Pittet, PhDSamana Cay MGH Research Scholar
A recent research study by Dr. Pittet was highlighted in this Nature news article.
Mark Poznansky, MD, PhDSteve and Deborah Gorlin MGH Research Scholar
The Mass General Giving Site recently featured an article on an innovative new approach to improve slow or ineffective wound healing that was developed by the team at Dr. Poznansky’s Vaccine and Immunotherapy Center. Slow or ineffective wound healing in diabetic and elderly individuals causes enormous discomfort, increases the risk of infection and increases the cost of care.
Jordan Smoller, MD, ScDTepper Family MGH Research Scholar
Dr. Smoller was featured in this article on suicide rates and prevention efforts in the Patriot Ledger newspaper.
Elsie Taveras, MD, MPHOfer and Shelly Nemirovsky MGH Research Scholar
The research of Elsie Taveras, MD, MPH, was featured in an article in the New York Times; “A Before-School Exercise Program May Help Children Thrive.” “In my experience as a pediatrician and parent, kids naturally love to move,” she says. “They revel in it. We have socialized that love out of them.”
Gary Tearney, MD, PhDMike and Sue Hazard MGH Research ScholarRemondi Family Endowed MGH Research Institute ChairThe research of Dr. Tearney, is highlighted by Bill Gates in this People Magazine article. Dr. Tearney’s work is supported in part by the Gates Foundation. “Almost half the kids who survive malnutrition don’t develop physically or mentally because of something that happens to the bacteria in their guts," Gates told People. "We are now working on a device that’s the thickness of a string, that can be swallowed and can show us exactly what’s going on in there. That’s very exciting.” Dr. Tearney’s research was also mentioned in the Gates Foundation’s annual letter for 2018.
Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPHSteve and Deborah Gorlin MGH Research Scholar
Dr. Walensky was featured in the article “Improving Health Care, Conference by Conference,” in MD Magazine®. “There’s no greater feeling than coming off the podium and having people say, ‘That was a great talk,” Walensky told MD Magazine®. “There’s a fulfilling component to that.”
Dr. Walensky was also quoted in this Forbes.com article detailing the impact of proposed federal budget cuts on infectious disease research.
Dr. Hacohen, Director of the Center for Cancer Immunology at the Mass General Cancer Center, has been appointed the inaugural incumbent of the David P. Ryan, MD, Endowed Chair of Cancer Research.
Dr. Joung is a co-founder of Pairwise, an agricultural company focused on using gene editing and leveraging natural diversity in agricultural crops in new ways to address global food challenges. Pairwise recently raised $25M in Series A financing to accelerate crop innovation.
Jordan Smoller, MD, ScDTepper Family MGH Research Scholar
Dr. Smoller has taken on a new leadership role as the Director of the Precision Medicine Research Unit within the Center for Genomic Medicine.
Gary Tearney, MD, PhD Mike and Sue Hazard Family MGH Research ScholarRemondi Family Endowed MGH Research Institute Chair
Dr. Tearney has been named the inaugural incumbent of the Remondi Family Endowed MGH Research Institute Chair. This endowed position was made possible through the generosity of the Remondi Family. This is the second endowed chair within the MGH Research Institute, and it will support the improvement of patient care through innovation at Mass General in perpetuity.
Dr. Tearney’s research is focused on the development and clinical validation of non-invasive, high-resolution optical imaging methods for disease diagnosis. Dr. Tearney’s lab was the first to perform human imaging in the coronary arteries and gastrointestinal tract in vivo with Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT).
He has also developed many other technologies, including a confocal endomicroscope capable of imaging whole organs at the cellular level, swallowable microscopes that traverse and image the entire gastrointestinal tract, the world’s smallest endoscope, a microscope capable of imaging at the nanoscale, and novel spectroscopy and multimodality chemical/molecular imaging techniques.
Jennifer Temel, MDHostetter MGH Research Scholar
Dr. Temel was promoted to Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.
Caroline Burns, PhDd'Arbeloff MGH Research Scholar
Dr. Burns gave the keynote address at the University of North Caroline Integrative Vascular Biology Training Program and McAllister Heart Institute’s joint Annual Research Program.
Dr. Poznanasky presented “Accelerated development of a T-cell based vaccine for Q-fever,” at the Keystone Symposia—Emerging Technologies in Vaccine Discovery and Development in Banff, Canada.
During their annual retreat on January 30, 2018, the investigators of the Vaccine and Immunotherapy Center, led by Dr. Poznansky, showcased the breadth of their research and the building momentum toward translating promising technologies to the clinic.
Six junior and senior scientists presented summaries of their work to colleagues and collaborators from across Mass General, and other institutions, and showed how different vaccine and immunotherapeutic approaches in infectious diseases, cancer and diabetes are moving toward the clinic.
Michael Talkowski, PhDDesmond and Ann Heathwood MGH Research Scholar
Dr. Talkowski will be presenting work from his group on functional changes associated with genomic disorders in humans at the Schizophrenia International Research Society Conference in Florence, Italy, this April.
Members of the autism consortium that Dr. Talkowski co-leads will also be presenting new discoveries in autism from whole genome sequencing to the Simons Foundation for Autism Research Initiative in April.
Lawrence Wald, PhDCharles and Sara Fabrikant MGH Research Scholar
Dr. Wald was an invited speaker at the 2018 International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine (ISMRM) workshop on imaging the placenta, where he presented on “Advanced fetal MR, hardware, pulse sequence and post processing developments.”
Leif Ellisen, MD, PhD Weissman Family MGH Research Scholar
Dr. Ellisen received the Douglass Foundation Prize for Excellence in Hematology-Oncology Laboratory Research. This award honors his research published in the journal Cancer Cell. The award is given annually recognizing the excellence in science publications.
Cammie Lesser, MD, PhD d'Arbeloff MGH Research Scholar
Dr. Lesser was elected as a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiologists.
Matthais Nahrendorf, MD, PhD Weissman Family MGH Research Scholar
Dr. Nahrendorf has received a $7M IO R35 “Outstanding Investigator Award” from the NHLBI. He notes that; “This is an interesting funding mechanism because it runs 7 years and gives intellectual freedom to pursue big ideas. Thematically, it is an extension of what I had proposed in my MGH Research Scholar application, so a 14-fold leverage of that philanthropic investment.”
Raul Mostoslavsky, MD, PhD Kristine and Bob Higgins MGH Research Scholar
Dr. Mostoslavsky received the Premio Raices (Roots Prize) from the Ministry of Science and Technology in Argentina. The prize recognizes Argentinian scientists abroad for their achievements and continued collaborations with scientists in Argentina. Read a Spanish-language interview about the prize.
Michael Talkowski, PhD Desmond and Ann Heathwood MGH Research Scholar
Dr. Talkowski has received a distinguished alumni award for early career advances in Public Health from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health.
Jennifer Temel, MD Hostetter MGH Research Scholar
Dr. Temel was honored with the 2017 John T. Potts, Jr., MD, Faculty Mentoring Award. This award recognizes a senior faculty member who demonstrates an outstanding commitment to developing a culture of mentoring at the hospital. According to the awards team, Dr. Temel embodies the characteristics of what makes a great mentor – good leader, role model, educator, listener and coach. Her guidance and support of junior staff members help ensure that Mass General continues to be an exceptional place to learn, thrive and grow.
Lawrence Wald, PhD Charles and Sara Fabrikant MGH Research Scholar
Lawrence Wald, PhD, has been awarded the Magnetic Particle Imaging U01 Grant from the Brain Initiative ($6.2M over five years). The grant will lead to the first ever human magnetic particle imaging scanner, which will be aimed at sensitive functional brain imaging studies. Dr. Wald notes that his MGH Research Scholar award provided the funding for gathering the preliminary results that led to this grant.
Dr. Wald has also been elected to the Board of Trustees, the Executive Committee and Vice Present of the International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine (ISMRM). He is rotating to President in 2020.
Dr. Wald’s Magnetic Particle Imaging Project (which was started by his MGH Research Scholar award) was chosen as one of 5 or so “Meeting Highlights” of the 2017 World Molecular Imaging Congress held in Philadelphia this year.
Caroline Burns, PhDd'Arbeloff MGH Research ScholarDr. Burns was part of a team that recently published a paper in Developmental Cell, “Myocardial Polyploidization Creates a Barrier to Heart Regeneration in Zebrafish.”
Lief Ellisen, MD, PhDWeissman Family MGH Research Scholar
The Ellisen team’s most recent paper, “Expressed Gene Fusions as Frequent Drivers of Poor Outcomes in Hormone Receptor-Positive Breast Cancer,” was featured as the cover article – together with a select editorial - in the March issue of Cancer Discovery, one of the top cancer research journals in the country.
Dr. Joung is the corresponding author of a new paper in Nature Methods, “Inducible and multiplex gene regulation using CRISPR-Cpf1-based transcription factors.”
David Langenau, PhDMGH Research ScholarDr. Langenau recently published a paper in Cell Stem Cell, Vangl2/RhoA Signaling Pathway Regulates Stem Cell Self-Renewal Programs and Growth in Rhabdomyosarcoma.
Hakho Lee, PhDHostetter MGH Research Scholar
Dr. Lee was part of the research teams on two recently published papers. The first, in ACS Nano, “Integrated Biosensor for Rapid and Point-of-Care Sepsis Diagnosis,” and the second, in Chemical Reviews, “New Technologies for the Analysis of Extracellular Vesicles.”
Jordan Smoller, MD, ScD, is part of a research team that recently published an article in PNAS, “Heritability analysis with repeat measurements and its application to resting state functional connectivity.”
Dr. Talkowski was part of a team that helped to identify the genetic causes of a rare disorder, X-Linked Dystonia Parkinsonism, that primarily affects individuals from the Filipino Island of Panay. The results of their research were recently published in Cell.
Elsie Taveras, MD, MPHShelly and Ofer Nemirovsky MGH Research ScholarDr. Taveras’ study, “Effects of Before-School Physical Activity on Obesity Prevention and Wellness,” was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. It was also featured in this Mass General press release.
Two of Dr. Wald’s MRI publications were chosen as “Editors’ Picks” in Magnetic Resonance in Medicine, and the papers appeared on the cover of IEEE Transactions on Magnetics and Magnetic Resonance in Medicine.
Lee Zou, PhDJim and Ann Orr MGH Research Scholar
The laboratory of Lee Zou, PhD, recently published a paper in Science, “A mitosis-specific and R-loop driven ATR pathway promotes faithful chromosome segregation.” Here is a summary of the team’s work:
"ATR is a master regulator of cellular responses to DNA damage and genomic instability. Because the genomes of cancer cells are unstable during proliferation, they are reliant on ATR for survival. ATR inhibitors are being tested in clinical trials for several cancer types. In this paper, we discovered a surprising function of ATR in mitosis. Upon ATR loss, cells cannot segregate their genomes properly when they divide. Thus, the cancer cells defective for chromosome segregation may be particularly susceptible to ATR inhibition and provide a new opportunity for cancer therapy."
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