January 25: “Treating Autism: Promising Insights and Discoveries”

We are delighted to offer a special cocktail reception and presentation for members of the Board of Associates and friends featuring Whitehead Institute Member Hazel Sive. On January 25th in Manhattan, Hazel will discuss her latest autism research in a talk entitled “Treating Autism: Promising Insights and Discoveries.”

  • What “Treating Autism: Promising Insights and Discoveries” with Hazel Sive
  • WHEN January 25, 2012, 6:30 pm
  • WHERE New York, NY

For more information about attending the event, please contact Sonja Plesset at (617) 258-5103 or splesset@wi.mit.edu.

About Hazel Sive

Whitehead Institute Member Hazel Sive, an expert in nervous system and brain development, is studying the mechanisms underlying autism and other mental health disorders. Sive studies autism in a unique model—a transparent zebrafish—allowing her to observe the brain as it develops. By visibly comparing normal brain development to the development of a brain at risk for autism, Sive is gaining insight into the root causes of this disorder.

Latest Findings

The Sive lab is focused on a region of the genome active during development that is susceptible to spontaneous deletions (known as “copy number variations”) that greatly increase the risk for development of autism. Sive has identified 21 zebrafish genes in this region, and she is systematically evaluating their role during development.

The results have been remarkable. By selectively blocking individual gene expression, she discovered that 20 of 21 genes are directly involved in proper brain development; blocking these genes causes abnormalities related to nerve growth, neuromuscular connections, and the shape of the brain itself. Strikingly, abnormal zebrafish can be repaired by introducing a corresponding human gene homolog, demonstrating that fish and human genes have similar functions. “Genes in this region are incredibly active during brain development, which may be why this is a target for development of mental health disorders,” Sive says.


Hazel Sive is a Member of Whitehead Institute, Professor of Biology at MIT and Associate Dean for the School of Science at MIT. Sive received her B.Sc. Hons. in 1979 from the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa and her Ph.D. in 1986 from Rockefeller University in New York. She carried out postdoctoral research at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle, WA before joining the MIT faculty in 1991.