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Scaling up cell imaging
Anne Carpenter | August 3, 2022
Scientists have learned a lot about human biology by looking at cells under a microscope, but they might not notice tiny differences between cells or even know what they’re looking for. Researchers at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, in the laboratories of Anne Carpenter and Stuart Schreiber, first started developing cell painting 13 years ago to take cell imaging to the next level. The method, further advanced by Carpenter, now senior director of the Broad’s Imaging Platform and senior group leader Shantanu Singh, and colleagues, uses six colored dyes to stain eight different cell organelles. Machine learning models recognize subtle differences in the images—changes in cell morphology that might indicate disease or a drug or genetic perturbation—which allows researchers to predict the effects of a drug or mutation.
The Broad team has recently made strides in scaling up the method. They have spent the last several years building a consortium of drugmakers and academic institutions to create the world’s largest public cell painting database, which drug developers hope will help accelerate their search for promising drug candidates.
Advances in Pesticide Screening Techniques
Shalini Prasad | July 29, 2022
Pesticides have become an integral part of the modern farming process due to their usefulness in preventing crop losses to pests, weeds and disease. With the United Nations “2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” goals placing a renewed emphasis on sustainable farming technologies and environmental safety, demand is increasing for screening techniques that can detect and monitor the presence of excess pesticide residues in the environment.
Despite such demand, it is still relatively rare for pesticide testing to occur on-site during farming. For pesticide residues on crops and foodstuffs, it is most common for samples to be sent away to analytical laboratories for testing. This may give accurate results, but it is a time-consuming process that can become quite impractical for routine screening. At the other end of the scale, environmental soil and soil runoff samples are rarely tested at all.
Controlling glaucoma: Eye drop therapy reaches posterior ocular tissues
Laura Ensign | July 22, 2022
A novel eye drop under development may provide neuroprotection to the retinal ganglion cells (RGCs). An added plus is that only once-weekly dosing is required, according to Laura Ensign, PhD, who headed up the research.
Ensign holds the Marcella E. Woll Professorship in Ophthalmology and is an associate professor of ophthalmology and vice chair for research at the Wilmer Eye Institute, Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland. This work is being conducted in collaboration with Justin Hanes, PhD, who is the Lewis J. Ort Professor of Ophthalmology and director of the Center for Nanomedicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and Donald Zack, MD, PhD, the Guerrieri Professor of Genetic Engineering and Molecular Ophthalmology and codirector of the Center for Stem Cells and Ocular Regenerative Medicine at the Wilmer Eye Institute.
Antiglaucoma eye drops are the mainstay of treatment for the disease, and they successfully and significantly lower the IOP. However, despite achieving a reduction of the IOP, glaucoma can continue to progress and threaten vision in many patients diagnosed with the disease. A therapy that protects the RGCs from damage was just a dream until recently. This new therapy developed by the Wilmer Eye Institute team is in the process of becoming a reality.
Scientists find molecular clues behind acute and chronic phases of traumatic brain injury
Sarah Stabenfeldt | July 22, 2022
Scientists find molecular clues behind acute and chronic phases of traumatic brain injury
Sarah Stabenfeldt | July 22, 2022
New research led by scientists at Arizona State University has revealed some of the first detailed molecular clues associated with one of the leading causes of death and disability, a condition known as traumatic brain injury (TBI).
TBI is a growing public health concern, affecting more than 1.7 million Americans at an estimated annual cost of $76.5 billion dollars. It is a leading cause of death and disability for children and young adults in industrialized countries, and people who experience TBI are more likely to develop severe, long-term cognitive and behavioral deficits.
How different cancer cells respond to drug-delivering nanoparticles
Paula Hammond | July 21, 2022
The findings of a large-scale screen could help researchers design nanoparticles that target specific types of cancer.
Using nanoparticles to deliver cancer drugs offers a way to hit tumors with large doses of drugs while avoiding the harmful side effects that often come with chemotherapy. However, so far, only a handful of nanoparticle-based cancer drugs have been FDA-approved.
A new study from MIT and Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard researchers may help to overcome some of the obstacles to the development of nanoparticle-based drugs. The team’s analysis of the interactions between 35 different types of nanoparticles and nearly 500 types of cancer cells revealed thousands of biological traits that influence whether those cells take up different types of nanoparticles.
What Can We Do to Combat Anti-Black Racism in the Biomedical Research Enterprise?
The recent deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, in addition to the disproportionate burden of COVID-19 on African Americans, are wrenching reminders of the many harms that societal racism, inequality, and injustice inflict on the Black community. These injustices are rooted in centuries of oppression—including slavery and Jim Crow, redlining, school segregation, and mass incarceration—that continue to influence American life, including the biomedical research enterprise. Despite leading an NIH Institute whose mission includes building a diverse scientific workforce, at NIGMS we’ve struggled with what an adequate response to this moment would be, knowing that the systems that mediate the distinct and disparate burdens Black students, postdocs, and scientists face are complex and often aren’t easily moved with the urgency that they demand. With that in mind, below we share thoughts on what each of us who is in the majority or in a position of power can do to help break the cycles of racial disparities that are woven into the fabric of the biomedical research enterprise and that limit opportunities Link to external web site for Black scientists Link to external web site.
Institutional structures, policies, and cultures Link to external web site, including those in the biomedical research enterprise, all contribute to racial inequality and injustice. This fact was laid bare for us by the responses to the request for information (RFI) we issued in 2018 on strategies to enhance successful postdoctoral career transitions to promote faculty diversity. Respondents cited bias and discrimination—including racism—most frequently as a key barrier to postdoctoral researchers attaining independent faculty positions.
Combating sexual harassment
Sexual harassment, including gender harassment, presents an unacceptable barrier that prevents women from achieving their rightful place in science, and robs society and the scientific enterprise of diverse and critical talent. As the largest single funder of biomedical research in the world, the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) bears a responsibility to take action to put an end to this behavior. In 2019, the NIH began to bolster its policies and practices to address and prevent sexual harassment. This included new communication channels to inform the agency of instances of sexual harassment related to NIH-funded research. This week, the NIH announces a change that will hold grantee institutions and investigators accountable for this misconduct, to further foster a culture whereby sexual harassment and other inappropriate behaviors are not tolerated in the research and training environment.
Last year, an Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD) of the NIH presented a report and recommendations to end sexual harassment. A major theme of this report was the need for increased transparency and accountability in the reporting of professional misconduct, especially sexual harassment. The cases of sexual harassment that surfaced in the wake of the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) 2018 report highlighted a substantial gap in the NIH’s oversight of the research enterprise: There was no straightforward mechanism for the agency to learn of sexual harassment or other misconduct taking place at grantee institutions in the context of NIH-funded research. It was not uncommon for the NIH to discover such cases through the media, amid rightful public outcry. Holding institutions and investigators accountable for this behavior was challenging.
White Academia: Do Better.
Over the past couple of weeks, our nation has been confronted with ugly truths and hard history revealing how systemic racism rears its head in almost every space. Since the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed down our typical lifestyles, people seem to be listening.
This moment feels very different from other situations when we had to address human rights in the context of race relations in the United States. With that comes a host of emotions that White people have rarely had to deal with because of their racial privilege, and this includes White people working in academia.
Like many Black faculty, and Black people in general, I have received messages and texts from White colleagues apologizing, expressing their guilt and remorse, and asking what they can do to support their Black colleagues and friends.
Guidelines for Diversity & Inclusion in Crisis
Juan E. Gilbert, PhD
I am writing these guidelines in response to the recent events that have impacted the Black community, specifically, the Black computing community. As the Department Chair of the Computer & Information Science & Engineering (CISE) Department at the University of Florida, I lead, one of, if not, the nation’s most diverse computing sciences (CS) department. We have the nation’s most Black CS faculty and PhD students. We are one of the top CS departments for the number of female faculty. As a researcher, I have had the honor of producing the nation’s most Black/African-American CS PhDs. I have also had the honor of hiring and promoting the most Black faculty in CS. My experiences span more than 20 years and those experiences are the foundation for these guidelines.
Scientists around the world are striking against racism in academia
Scientists around the world are striking to raise awareness of institutional and systemic racism against Black academics. This event comes in conjunction with widespread protests against police violence after the killing of George Floyd, who died on 25 May after a Minneapolis police officer pinned him to the ground by his neck.
The strike was organised by a group of academics, many of them physicists and astronomers based in the US, and promoted on social media with the hashtags #ShutDownAcademia, #ShutDownSTEM and #Strike4BlackLives. The organisers are encouraging academics across STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields to take the day away from their normal research and instead spend it educating themselves on racial disparities in their field and taking action against racial violence and discrimination. At least 5000 academics based at universities from around the world have joined the course.
“As academics, we do not exist in a vacuum and it is important to recognise the current events: Black members of our communities are being harassed and lynched with little to no consequence, as well as being disproportionately affected by the current pandemic,” says Tien-Tien Yu, a particle physicist at the University of Oregon who has helped organise the event through the Particles for Justice group. “We need to acknowledge that this takes a toll on the well-being of Black academics and that Black Lives Matter.
- RECOGNIZING EXCELLENCE
- TRACKING PROGRESS
- BUILDING EVIDENCE
- WHAT WORKS