When platelets go awry

David Christiani, ARDS, platelet

May 26, 2017. David Christiani, Elkan Blout Professor of Environmental Genetics, is senior author of a study published May 8, 2017 in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine that found that changes in platelet count predict acute respiratory distress syndrome mortality.

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Unraveling a medical mystery

Spring 2015. Boston, MA. Sepsis causes more than 500,000 deaths in the U.S. each year—more than prostate cancer, breast cancer, and AIDS combined. It develops when the immune system’s response to an infection cascades out of control. Cases are on the rise, and researchers are working to address the disorder’s many unanswered questions.

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New understanding of cell movement could spark new cancer treatment research

February 2011. Boston, MA. A new study co-authored by HSPH’s Jeffrey Fredberg sheds new light on the way that cells collectively move within a tissue during embryonic development, wound healing, and the spread of cancerous tumors. As layers of migrating cells move, they blend and flow collectively. Each cell, however, remains fixed and solid-like for short periods, crowded by the presence of its neighbors. The researchers compared this quality to the movement of glass, or as Fredberg told The Harvard Crimson, jostling fans trying to get into a crowded stadium.

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Chronic colds connected to asthma

Christalyn Rhodes, asthma, coldsApril 2017. Boston, MA. Christalyn Rhodes, PhD candidate, gave a talk on “Cold Migration: The Role of Viral-Induced Epithelial Cell Migration in Asthmatic Exacerbations" as part of the 2017 Harvard Horizons Scholar Symposium.

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No traffic jams in asthmatic cells

August 2015. Boston, MA. An unexpected new discovery—that, in people with asthma, the cells that line the airways in the lungs are unusually shaped and “scramble around like there’s a fire drill going on”—suggests intriguing new avenues both for basic biological research and for therapeutic interventions to fight the disease. The findings could also have important ramifications for research in other areas—notably, cancer—where the same kinds of cells play a major role.

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Unexpected discovery of the ways cells move could boost understanding of complex diseases

June 2013. Boston, MA. A new discovery about how cells move inside the body may provide scientists with crucial information about disease mechanisms such as the spread of cancer or the constriction of airways caused by asthma. Led by researchers at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC), investigators found that epithelial cells—the type that form a barrier between the inside and the outside of the body, such as skin cells—move in a group, propelled by forces both from within and from nearby cells—to fill any unfilled spaces they encounter.

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‘Jammed’ cancer cells may explain some tumors’ spread

August 16, 2016. Boston, MA. An article in Quanta Magazine outlines how research has been pointing to the importance of the mechanics, and not just the genetics, governing cell behavior. New findings about cell jamming suggest that there may be new avenues for fighting cancer that focus on tumor cells’ transitions between being jammed and unjammed.

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A bench scientist with a passion for the environment

May 2015. Boston, MA. On a Friday afternoon in May, Peter Wagner was about to give his dissertation defense. Quan Lu, associate professor of environmental genetics and pathophysiology—introducing Peter before a group of about 50 of his fellow students, faculty, friends, and family—flashed an on-screen photo of Peter as a young boy with a snake draped around his neck. Then came photos of Peter outdoors—in mountains, near lakes, under blue skies.

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The dance of the cells: A minuet or a mosh?

May 2011. Boston, MA. The physical forces that guide how cells migrate—how they manage to get from place to place in a coordinated fashion inside the living body— are poorly understood. Scientists at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC) have, for the first time, devised a way to measure these forces during collective cellular migration.

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