In a single moment, the world can change—for a student and teacher, an audience captivated by a dance performance, or researchers opening a new window into a complex disease. These are Breakthrough Moments—stories of innovation and imagination that are inspiring the Kenneth Rainin Foundation’s second decade of funding in the Arts, Education and Health.
Deciphering The Viral Potential For IBD
The road to scientific discovery can be a long one. Immunologist Dr. Kate Jeffrey is undaunted by vast expanses of uncharted territory. With her lab at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, she has embarked on a new frontier to research the human virome. It holds promise for treatment breakthroughs for Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD).
“Viruses are considered the most abundant biological entity on earth—more numerous than stars in the sky.”
Viruses are considered the most abundant biological entity on earth—more numerous than stars in the sky. Yet, it’s only in the last five years that sequencing technologies have been able to even detect viruses in the gut. Very little of the viral genome has been sequenced, making it exceedingly difficult to distinguish one virus from another.
Struck by this gap, Dr. Jeffrey had a novel idea to use CLIP (cross-linking immunoprecipitation). This innovative technique creates genome-wide maps of host or virus RNA-binding protein interaction sites in living tissue. It could help speed the process to identify and sequence individual viruses and importantly understand how viruses, like the bacteria in the gut, may shape the immune system for health and disease.
“Her lab is working to identify specific viruses that might be promoting a healthy gut…”
Her lab is working to identify specific viruses that might be promoting a healthy gut and deciphering the messages they are sending to our immune system. The ultimate goal is to be able to artificially or synthetically trigger that beneficial viral pathway to treat IBD.
We continue our Breakthrough Moments video series to share the pioneering work of Dr. Jeffrey. The Rainin Foundation is proud to celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8 and honor the achievements of women like her around the world.