Harvard News

Harvard Fellow searches for extraterrestrial life

July 16, 2019

Laura Kreidberg’s work takes her out of this world to planets and solar systems light-years away, seeking the answer to the question posed by pretty much anyone who’s ever looked up at the stars: Is anyone else out there?

Kreidberg, a junior fellow with the Harvard Society of Fellows and an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, spends most of her time analyzing the atmospheres of distant planets to glean what information she can about their origin, nature, and current conditions — such as temperature and whether there is water present.

“A planet’s...

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Better screening for lung cancer

July 16, 2019

By examining blood samples and tumor tissues from patients with non-small-cell lung cancer, investigators at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) have identified markers that can distinguish between major subtypes of lung cancer and accurately identify lung cancer stage. Their proof-of-concept test accurately predicted whether the blood samples they examined came from patients with shorter or longer survival following lung cancer surgery, including patients with early stage disease.

Their findings could eventually help physicians decide whether lung cancer patients would benefit from...

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Carrot-and-stick system appears to slow growth of health costs

July 15, 2019

A new study led by Harvard researchers presents a rare long-term examination of a promising payment system for providers that appears to slow galloping health care costs while improving care for chronic diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure and reducing emergency-room visits.

Under the current method, insurers pay providers for each service rendered, a practice that critics say can encourage the use of increased treatment even when its benefit is dubious. A so-called global-payment program, on the other hand, gives clinical practices a yearly budget to care for a population of...

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Harvard symposium examines the science of longevity

July 12, 2019

Living past 100 could soon become a reachable goal, said Nir Barzilai of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine this week. Delivering Thursday’s keynote speech at Harvard’s Nutrition and Obesity Symposium on Longevity and Aging, Barzilai challenged the common wisdom that the secret to a long life is a healthy lifestyle. The real secret, he said, lies in the genes, and the key is research.

Organized by Professor of Medicine Steven Grinspoon of Harvard Medical School, the two-day symposium at Longwood Medical Center examined the...

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Doctor burnout costs health care system $4.6 billion a year, Harvard study says

July 12, 2019

Burnout among doctors is costing the U.S. health-care system an estimated $4.6 billion a year in billings because of reduced hours, physician turnover, and expenses associated with finding and hiring replacements, according to a first-time analysis of the overall economic impact of the problem.

That figure, calculated by an international team of researchers led by Harvard Business School visiting scholar Joel Goh, is likely an underestimate, researchers said, because it doesn’t include the costs of burnout’s...

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Max Planck-Harvard genome study shows extent, diversity of Roman plague

Max Planck-Harvard genome study shows extent, diversity of Roman plague

July 12, 2019

New research on one of history’s most devastating plagues shows that it spread farther than previously believed, reaching postRoman Britain, and provides new information about the plague bacteria’s evolution during a pandemic that lasted more than 200 years.

The work, conducted by an interdisciplinary team from Harvard University and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Germany, covered 21 archaeological sites across Europe and the Mediterranean that date to the time of the Justinianic Plague, which first...

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Researchers eye flashy coats of peacock spiders in pursuit of new solar products

Researchers eye flashy coats of peacock spiders in pursuit of new solar products

July 10, 2019

What makes their colors pop — almost glow — is the contrast with the tiny spider’s super-black velvet patches, according to a recent paper in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B by Dakota McCoy, a Ph.D. student in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and a researcher in the lab of George Putnam Professor of Biology David A. Haig. McCoy’s research is the first to suggest that the highly absorbent, anti-reflective black surface is...

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Harvard study suggests asteroids might play key role in spreading life

July 8, 2019

Picture this: A bacteria-carrying asteroid is ejected from the center of the galaxy into the far reaches of space only to be “captured” by a distant solar system, potentially bringing life to a new world.

It might sound like the stuff of pulp science fiction, but the evidence suggests it might happen far more often than scientists ever thought, according to Idan Ginsburg.

A postdoctoral scholar at the Institute for Theory and Computation, Ginsburg is the lead author, along with post-doctoral fellow Manasvi Lingam and Abraham “Avi” Loeb, the Frank B. Baird Jr. Professor of Science...

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Focal Point: Harvard Professor Avi Loeb wants more scientists to think like children

June 28, 2019

This is part of a series called Focal Point, in which we ask a range of Harvard faculty members to answer the same question.

Focal Point

Abraham “Avi” Loeb

Question: What is one thing wrong with the world that you would change, and why?

The one thing I would change about the world is to transform my colleagues in academia to kids all over again, so they...

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New ATAC-seq method from Harvard accelerates single-cell research

New ATAC-seq method from Harvard accelerates single-cell research

June 27, 2019

Scientists at Harvard University have developed a way to vastly accelerate single-cell sequencing, an advance that promises to give a major lift to biomedical genomics research.

The new approach combines microfluidics and novel software to accelerate single-cell ATAC-seq, which identifies parts of the genome that are open and accessible to regulatory proteins. Detailed in a June 24 article in Nature Biotechnology, the innovation was the product of a collaboration between Harvard’s Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative...

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