Professor Lydia Bourouiba featured on NPR’s Science Friday

In a Science Friday short film, “Breakthrough: Connecting the Drops,” Professor Lydia Bourouiba shows how she designs tests to study infectious disease transmission. First aired in April 2017, the video is one of a six-part series “Breakthrough: Portraits of Women in Science,” which Science Friday is releasing at select theaters nationwide in March for Women’s History Month.

Link: to audio series


MEMP PhD student Nil Gural is first author on paper in Cell Host and Microbe


Human malaria parasites grown for the first time in dormant form

Image: Nil Gural
Story: Anne Trafton | MIT News Office

One of the biggest obstacles to eradicating malaria is a dormant form of the parasite that lurks in the livers of some patients. This dormant form is resistant to most antimalarial drugs and can reawaken months or years later, causing disease relapse.

Malaria researchers know little about the biology of these dormant parasites, so it has been difficult to develop drugs that target them. In an advance that could help scientist discover new drugs, MIT researchers have shown they can grow the dormant parasite in engineered human liver tissue for several weeks, allowing them to closely study how the parasite becomes dormant, what vulnerabilities it may have, and how it springs back to life.

After verifying that they had successfully cultivated the dormant form of the parasite, the researchers showed that they could also sequence its RNA and test its response to known and novel antimalarial drugs — both important steps toward finding ways to eradicate the disease.

HST faculty member Ellen Roche featured in "Understanding and Treating Disease"

photo: John Reidah
story by: Mary Beth O'Leary 

Excerpt, read full story here

Treating Disease

Armed with more knowledge of how diseases grow and spread, researchers are better able to develop new ways to treat, and in some cases cure, disease. Among them is Assistant Professor Ellen Roche, who is taking a unique dual approach to treating heart disease using both mechanical and biological therapies.

“The idea is to mechanically assist the heart,” says Roche, who also serves as Helmholtz Career Development Professor at MIT’s Institute for Medical Engineering and Science. “Rather than take over its function we just assist and augment it using a biomimetic approach.”

Roche uses new techniques like soft robotics to develop devices that mimic both the tissue properties and the motion of the heart. One such device is a sleeve that wraps around the heart to assist with pumping. Soft robots like this sleeve use elastomeric materials and fluidic actuation to mimic an organ’s movement. “By smartly designing simple fluidics channels and reinforcing soft materials in just the right way, you can achieve very complex motion with just elastomeric changes, and pressurized air or water,” says Roche.

MEMP student Erica Mason and her work at the MGH Martinos Center

Graduate student Erica Mason is as diligent and industrious as they come. Since joining the Wald Group in the MGH Martinos Center in January 2015, she has immersed herself in a project developing an innovative technology for the imaging of breast cancer, tackling the many facets of the project with no small amount of skill and finesse.

MEMP Alumni Profile: Fighting Cancer and Disease, One Lymph Node at a Time

Timothy P. Padera, MEMP PhD, ‘03, Associate Professor of Radiation Oncology at Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School

Tim Padera works to fight cancer and disease by focusing his research on a far-reaching system of the body—the lymphatic system. As part of the Edwin L. Steele Laboratories for Tumor Biology at Massachusetts General Hospital, the Padera Laboratory uses novel intravital microscopy tools to examine how the lymphatic system drives the progression of cancer through metastatic spread as well as impairment in anti-tumor immune function. In addition, the Padera Lab studies the molecular control of lymphatic pumping and how pumping regulates antigen transport and the initiation of an immune response. These processes are dysfunctional in a variety of disease states including lymphedema and bacterial infections.

Although Padera’s research program is based in the lab, his clinical experiences as an HST MEMP student helped him define what is needed to have an impact on patient care. Patient care is ultimately what drives the work of the Padera Lab.