A Look Back at a Strong Year in MBL Research

The Lillie Laboratory building, center, on the MBL campus. Credit: Matthew Barton

The engine of MBL research was strong in 2022, with abundant and significant grants awarded and papers published. Among the year's highlights were major scientific prizes received, positive media coverage, and a number of papers issuing from the MBL's Advanced Research Training Courses.

Award-Winning Science

In September, the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences was awarded to Clifford Brangwynne and Anthony Hyman for the discovery of a new organizing principle in cells, first recognized while they were teaching in the 2008 MBL Physiology course. Their observation of cells forming liquid-like compartments stimulated an exciting new paradigm in biology and biomedicine, with much of the field’s early groundwork laid at the MBL (see timeline here).

Soon after, MBL Trustee Timothy Springer received the Lasker Basic Medical Research Award, often considered a harbinger of a Nobel Prize. Springer, Richard O. Hynes and Erkki Ruoslahti were honored for original discoveries concerning the integrins, cell-adhesion proteins now related to an astonishing array of fundamental processes. Springer conducted collaborative research on the integrins in the MBL’s Whitman Center in the mid-2010s.

Clifford Brangwynne and Anthony Hyman
Clifford Brangwynne, left, and Anthony Hyman. Credit: Dee Sullivan; Breakthrough Prize

Speaking of the MBL Courses …

Living up to their reputation for creative science, the MBL’s Advanced Research Training Courses incubated several papers that were published in 2022. To name a few: A study in Nature Communications on improving resolution in fluorescence microscopy acknowledges the Analytical and Quantitative Light Microscopy course, in which co-author Alejandro Linares was a student. A protocol for live imaging of adult C. elegans sprang from the MBL Embryology course; and Neural Systems & Behavior faculty member Michael Brecht and student Senmiao Sun illuminated torpor in the smallest known mammal, the Etruscan shrew, in Scientific Reports. The fount of discovery in the MBL courses flows!

Imaging photo
MBL makes frequent and important advances in imaging research. Above is a figure from Torres-García et al., Nature Communications, 2022.

In the Media Spotlight

Cephalopod research at MBL continues to attract media attention and public fascination. Last spring, The New York Times profiled MBL's initiative to develop cephalopods as new research organisms in an extensive feature. Other big cephalopod news stories included coverage of octopus “death spiral” research led by MBL Grass Fellow/UChicago graduate Z. Yan Wang; and a major study in Nature Communications comparing the genomes of one octopus and two squid species, including the local squid Doryteuthis, led by MBL’s Carrie Albertin.

Among the other MBL stories garnering news and social media attention last year were the discovery of a novel DNA modification system by Irina Arkhipova’s lab in the Bay Paul Center; and the first model of how the day/night cycle affects marine phytoplankton, led by Joe Vallino in the Ecosystems Center.

Finally, both local and national media outlets reported on the Resilient Woods Hole initiative to prepare the village for climate change impacts. The MBL is a partner in the private-public initiative.

squid illustration
The genome of the iconic MBL research organism, Doryteuthis pealeii, was published in a tour-de-force comparative study of cephalopod genomes that was funded by the Grass Foundation. Illustration by B. Harmon