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R O Hynes

Department of Medicine


R O Hynes is the Daniel K. Ludwig Professor for Cancer Research at the Koch Institute and Department of Biology at MIT, Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Senior Associate Member of the Broad Institute.  He was formerly Associate Head and then Head of the Biology department and was Director of the MIT Center for Cancer Research (now the Koch Institute) for 10 years.  He is a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) of London and a Member of the US National Academies of Sciences and Medicine, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the AACR Academy. Dr. Hynes did his undergraduate work in Biochemistry at Trinity College, Cambridge, UK, and his PhD in Biology at MIT on the segregation of maternal mRNAs in early sea urchin embryos.  He then returned to the UK as a postdoctoral fellow at Imperial Cancer Research Fund in London.  By investigating the molecular changes on cell surfaces that distinguish cancer cells from normal cells, he discovered fibronectin, a cell adhesion protein present on normal cells but noticeably absent on cancer cells. Dr. Hynes returned to MIT in 1975 as an Assistant Professor and one of the founding members of the MIT Cancer Center.  There he continued to work out the biology of fibronectin, showing that fibronectin affects cellular adhesion, migration, morphology and cytoskeleton and that fibronectin and actin fibrils coalign across the cell surface.  These discoveries established the extracellular matrix (ECM), previously viewed largely as a structural entity, as having a vital role in controlling cell adhesion, morphology and migration.  Dr. Hynes also made major contributions to the discovery and first cloning of integrins, a family of receptors that bind fibronectin and other cell adhesion molecules and form transmembrane links to the cytoskeleton.  He and his colleagues also discovered the activation of FAK through integrins, thereby establishing integrins as true signaling receptors.  The Hynes laboratory cloned and analyzed many of the key molecules involved in cell adhesion (e.g., fibronectin, thrombospondin, integrins, talin, plakoglobin) and generated the first knockout mice lacking adhesion molecules (fibronectin, a5 integrin, P-selectin) and subsequently many others (e.g., other integrins and selectins, cadherins and multiple ECM proteins) and exploited them to dissect the roles of cell adhesion in normal development, hemostasis, thrombosis, leukocyte traffic and inflammation, angiogenesis and cancer.  Most recently the Hynes laboratory has focused on metastasis, particularly contributions of platelet-tumor cell interactions and ECM in promoting metastasis and has developed methods for systematic characterization and analysis of ECM changes in vivo. 

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