Past Stetten Lectures
10/25/2006 3:00 PM
10/25/2006 4:00 PM
Stetten Lecture videocast
Speaker: Richard A. Young, Ph.D.Professor, Department of Biology, MITMember, Whitehead Institute for Biomedical ResearchAssociate Member, Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard
Over the last decade, Richard Young has been a leader in moving biology from a focus on individual genes and proteins to an emphasis on mapping the complex networks by which genes and proteins work together. His attention has remained, as it has through nearly 30 years of research, on transcription factors, the proteins that bind on or near genes and turn their activity up or down. No longer studying the regulation of one gene at a time, Young is now working toward the goal of determining how transcription factors control all human genes. Such a comprehensive perspective could clarify the causes of diseases and inspire new medicines.
Using microarray tools that can scan many genes at a time, Young showed in 2002 that it is possible to work out the regulatory circuitry for an entire genome. His research team built a map showing how the transcription factors in yeast interact with all the genes in the yeast genome. In 2004, he extended the work to humans. He described how a set of transcription factors in the pancreas and liver control their target genes and how the transcription factors communicate with each other. As evidence of the complexity of gene regulation, he found that a single transcription factor can be involved in the regulation of nearly half of the 3,000 genes active in these organs. His objective, ultimately, is to build complete maps of the gene-protein regulatory pathways in every human tissue.
In 2005, Young started applying his approach of studying regulatory networks to human embryonic stem cells. His genome-wide analysis is helping to draw the molecular circuitry that defines these cells and keeps them young, as well as to identify the signals that allow them to differentiate into specialized cell types. Understanding the regulatory systems that give stem cells their potential and sway their development should help researchers steer the fates of these cells so they can be used to treat disease. At the same time, the research helps shed light on one of the fundamental mysteries of biology: how animals develop from single cells into the trillions of finely coordinated cells that make up an organism.
Since 1984, Young has been a professor of biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a member of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research. He is also an associate member of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. Young received a B.S. in biological sciences from Indiana University in 1975 and a Ph.D. in molecular biophysics and biochemistry from Yale University in 1979. He conducted postdoctoral research at the Swiss Institute for Experimental Cancer Research and at Stanford University. His honors include a Burroughs Wellcome Scholar Award and an NIH MERIT Award. Young has served as an advisor to NIH, the World Health Organization, and Science magazine. He has authored more than 200 research publications.
NIGMS has supported Young’s research since 1984.
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