Nothing to Sneeze At: Inspiration and Respiration in a Dish

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Raghu Chivukula, David Mankus, Margaret Bisher, Abigail Lytton-Jean, David Sabatini

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Raghu Chivukula, David Mankus, Margaret Bisher, Abigail Lytton-Jean, David Sabatini
Massachusetts General Hospital, Whitehead Institute, and Koch Institute at MIT

Inspired by a patient’s mysterious breathing disorder, MGH and MIT researchers set out to understand it by growing human airway cells in a dish. Derived from adult stem cells, the resulting tissue (seen here) allows a detailed view of cilia (hair-like filaments) in a fully differentiated airway epithelium—the respiratory tract’s frontline defense system. By manipulating genes in the model, the clinician-scientists were able to discover and characterize a rare genetic condition in the patient responsible for impaired ciliary function.

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Raghu Chivukula shares the story behind his image at the exhibit opening ceremony on March 20, 2019.